The Nissan Skyline is one of the most celebrated Japanese performance cars of all time, particularly the Nissan Skyline GT-R aka ‘Godzilla’.
One thing we have always found interesting is that the American market seems to have a strange fascination with the Nissan Skyline, which is somewhat bizarre when you consider that the car is – for all intents and purposes – illegal in the United States (read our article here on why the Nissan Skyline is illegal in America for more information).
If you are interested in the Nissan Skyline, you will probably have noticed that just about all Skylines are right hand drive (I.e. the steering wheel is on the right for the purpose of driving on the left hand side of the right).
We see more of Halley’s Comet than we do of left hand drive Nissan Skylines.
But are ALL Nissan Skylines right hand drive?
In this short edition of Car Facts we take a look at whether or not all Skylines have the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car.
The Skyline Was Built For RHD Markets
Fundamentally, the Nissan Skyline – across all trims – is a car for right hand drive markets.
Skylines were primarily sold in Japan (for the Japanese Domestic Market/JDM) although some found their way to other RHD markets, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
For example, here’s an NZ news article from 2018, talking about the no-reserve auction of three Australian-new R32 GT-Rs; these were 3 of the 100 R32 GT-Rs originally imported into Australia for sale when new.
The lion’s share of Skylines in all trims went to the Japanese Domestic Market, with many examples that have wound up in countries like New Zealand being used imports from Japan.
These were not cheap cars when new either. For example, you can see what the Skyline R34 GT-R cost new here.
Nissan Never Went Down The Path Of LHD Conversion
Unlike many other Japanese manufacturers, Nissan never bothered to convert their “hero” car into left hand drive and sell it new in LHD markets like North America.
The two main reasons for this were that Nissan didn’t believe sales volumes would be sufficient to justify re-engineering the car to be built in LHD, and also that the design of the car and its components would have required substantial modification to allow for the production of a factory left hand drive version.
Nissan also had other performance cars like the 300ZX that were sold new in America with LHD configuration, which meant they were not neglecting the market.
Had Nissan wanted to sell the car new in America, this would have required significant cost and complexity in terms of modifying the Skyline to easily take an LHD configuration.
Just making an LHD version wouldn’t be enough either – Nissan still would have had to go through the rigmarole of testing and complying a left hand drive car for sale in America.
Complying with US regulations would certainly have necessitated a number of changes to the car from a safety equipment and emissions perspective, which would have increased costs for Nissan and made achieving profitability more challenging.
The Nissan Skyline – particularly the GT-R variant – was always the pinnacle of Nissan’s output and a niche vehicle, designed to be the class leader. They weren’t volume sellers and so when factoring in all of the additional complexity that would have been required to design, manufacture, comply and then sell a left hand drive variant in America, it’s understandable why Nissan never bothered in the first place.
Are There Any Left Hand Drive Skylines At All?
Yes, there are some left hand drive Nissan Skylines in existence around the world.
You might have seen the odd photo online of a left hand drive Skyline.
For example, on Reddit this user recently purchased an LHD R34 GTR:
Just bought a left hand drive r34 GTR, I want to hear people’s opinion on the swap. Is it less appealing because of lack of purity, or just interesting because almost none have this done. from SkyLine
How is this this possible, considering that Nissan never made the car in LHD configuration?
Basically any LHD Skyline will be a conversion.
This was most commonly done in the Middle East, where getting permission to drive a RHD car on the road is apparently very challenging.
Therefore, wealthy car buyers who fancied a bit of Nissan Skyline action decided to get their cars converted to LHD before using them on the road.
Some of these cars have wound up in the North American and other LHD markets following importation.
However, there are also companies in the United States that have done LHD conversions on Skylines, including GT-Ts and GT-Rs.
LHD Conversion Can Be Challenging
One thing to note about left hand drive conversion for Nissan Skylines is that the process can be challenging and expensive, and most believe it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to achieve a “factory finish” when it comes to workmanship on LHD conversions, especially for the GT-R models.
Nissan themselves never went through the hassle of making the required changes to the mechanical components and layout of the Skyline that would enable factory LHD manufacturing.
Compare this to a car like the MK4 Toyota Supra, which was sold new in both left hand drive and right hand drive configurations. It is much easier to do a steering wheel side swap for a Supra than for an R34 GT-R, for example, because the Supra was intended to have the steering wheel on the left from the factory (dependent on your local market).
There are some horror stories out there of poorly-converted Skylines with shoddy, potentially dangerous workmanship when it comes to things like steering components, as well as panel gap, paint and interior finish issues.
For example, on the GTR USA blog we saw this interesting example of a converted R34 GT-R.
You can clearly see from the image below that the glovebox finish on the right hand side (where the steering wheel would have originally been) is not up to standard:
If you are thinking of buying a converted Skyline of any trim/value, we would suggest doing the most thorough inspection beforehand (including paying for a pro to examine everything with a fine tooth comb) as a lot of converted cars are inferior in terms of fit, finish and safety.
Road Legal Imported USA Skylines Were Still RHD
If you know your Nissan Skyline GT-R history (or you have read our article on why the Nissan Skyline is basically illegal in the United States) then you will know that the Skylines that were road legal at the time of import/compliance are right hand drive as well.
For example, the infamous MotoRex Skylines remained right hand drive, even though a number of other modifications were made – to the cars that were actually modified to legal standards in the first place! Despite all the other modifications required e.g. changing side impact protection and the catalytic converters, US regulations do not require a car to be left hand drive to use legally on the road, so this complication was avoided by MotorRex.
The same goes for Skylines imported under “show and display” regulations; as far as we can tell, these all remained right hand drive.
Conclusion – Are All Nissan Skylines Right Hand Drive?
Yes, to our knowledge all Nissan Skylines in all trims are right hand drive from the factory (for sure the Skyline GT-R is RHD, across the R32/R33/R34 generations).
There exist some left hand drive Skylines, but these have been converted after original production for markets such as the Middle East where it is difficult to be allowed to drive a right hand drive car on the road.
If you are on the market for a Skyline, we would strongly recommend avoiding a converted example unless you are able to independently certify the quality of the workmanship and its durability.
Make sure you read our Nissan Skyline buyer’s guides for more information on sourcing yourself a good example:
The R35 Nissan GTR is available in left hand drive, but as you might be aware this isn’t actually a Skyline (read our article here on why the GTR isn’t a Skyline for more information).
Have you ever seen a left-hand drive converted Skyline? If so, where did you see it? Did the conversion job look as good as what would be expected from the factory, or was it a clear aftermarket conversion?