The Nissan Skyline is one of the most celebrated Japanese performance cars of all time – particularly the legendary, fire-breathing Skyline GT-R, popularly known as “Godzilla” (read more here about why the Nissan Skyline GT-R is called Godzilla – the answer may surprise you)
But why is the Nissan Skyline so popular? What is it about this car that makes it so desirable and loved, all these years later?
Considering that fairly few Skylines were ever produced – and most of them were not GT-Rs but in fact lower grade cars that often came without turbochargers or AWD systems – how is it that this car has become such an icon?
What has made this car a “JDM hero” and one of the all-time great icons of Japanese motoring performance?
In this edition of Car Facts we take a look at why the Skyline has become such a popular car, despite it having been illegal in the United States (you can learn more here about why the Nissan Skyline is illegal if you’re interested).
Please note that this article isn’t scientific fact – it’s just our opinion on why the Skyline has become such a desirable and popular car, despite it always having been a fairly niche proposition.
If you have any additional insight or opinion about why the Skyline is still so popular in the current day, then feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this article.
Now, let’s get stuck in to understand:
Why Is The Nissan Skyline Popular? 5 Reasons Why!
In our opinion, there are several key reasons for the Nissan Skyline’s continued popularity.
In no particular order, they are:
Pop Culture Influences
The Nissan Skyline has featured heavily in video games, such as the Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport series.
Perhaps more importantly, the R34 GT-R also featured in the Fast & Furious franchise, as driven by the late Paul Walker. Here’s the great race from 2 Fast 2 Furious featuring the Skyline up against the Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7 and Honda S2000:
Considering that this franchise helped to ignite the passion for all things “JDM” (learn more at the following link about what JDM truly means) it is little surprise that one of the hero cars from the movies helped to make the Skyline more popular, in particular with the American audience who hadn’t had so much previous exposure to the car.
Popular culture has therefore inflated the perception, desirability and popularity of the Nissan Skyline.
Prices on all sorts of classic cars have been going crazy in recent years, especially following the start of the Covid pandemic. In fact, prices on “normal” cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla have also been climbing, making buying a new car a right pain in the proverbial for anyone who wants to score a deal.
With the Skyline – particularly the GT-R – prices have reached such dizzying heights that this is helping to fuel further popularity in turn.
Although the GT-R Skyline is past the point of attainability for the average car enthusiast, the ever-growing prices on these modern classics is drawing more mainstream attention.
Mainstream news outlets are starting to feature articles on the Skyline in their motoring sections when these cars go to auction and feature eye-watering prices.
Basically, the collectible/investment nature of these cars is helping to fuel growth in popularity and desirability – everybody wants a ticket aboard the Nissan Skyline price express.
Another reason for the Nissan Skyline’s popularity is the tuning potential that comes with this car.
The RB26DETT in the top GT-R models is capable of substantial gains through modification, and even some of the more basic motors that were fitted (particularly the turbocharged ones) can be modified to churn out serious performance.
This tuning potential/capability has helped to make the Nissan Skyline a popular choice with those looking for a solid platform to build on.
There’s a reason why YouTube is crammed full of videos showing tuned Skylines pumping out hundreds more horsepower than what came from the factory, such as this complete beast R32 GT-R with around 1000hp:
It’s not just the top GT-R models that are tuneable either. Here in New Zealand (where this site is based) it was once a fairly common sight on the roads to see heavily-modified “basic” Skylines, such as the GTS-T … or even NA cars that had been converted to turbo after-the-fact. Thanks to age, mileage and decay you don’t see as many of these souped-up Skylines as you used to, but they still make an appearance from time to time – often accompanied by the sound of police sirens in the distance, trying to play catch up!
Long story short, the fact that the Nissan Skyline provides an excellent platform for modification is one of the reasons why it has become such a popular car. Those looking for a base from which to build their dream performance car could do far worse than picking a Nissan Skyline.
No discussion of the Nissan Skyline’s popularity would be complete without reference to its performance capability – particularly the GT-R variants.
The R32 GT-R, for example, was so good it was basically banned from competing in Australian motorsport (or so the popular legend goes … the truth is somewhat more complex).
All of the JDM hero cars of the 1990s/early 2000s (such as the Toyota Supra MK4, Mazda RX-7, Mitsubishi 3000GT etc) are great performers, but the Skyline GT-R can arguably lay claim to being the “best of the best” – you can learn more here about JDM’s meaning and history.. With perhaps the exception of the RX-7, it was definitely the most focused in terms of what it set out to achieve – being capable of the best possible performance on the race track.
While cars like the 3000GT or Nissan 300ZX weren’t too far off when it came to straight line speed, it is the combination of handling prowess and raw performance that made the Skyline GT-R so great (the 3000GT, for example, was really more of a grand tourer designed for high speed cruising and real-world bends, as opposed to the racetrack).
Nissan really did build this car to be as competent and as capable as possible.
This excellent performance has helped to make the Skyline so desirable and popular. Although modern cars have bypassed the Skyline, it is still undeniably quick even by today’s standards. At the time it was revolutionary, and truly at the cutting edge of what could be achieved in terms of automotive performance.
Although it’s definitely open to debate, there is an argument to be made that the Nissan Skyline GT-R was the absolute pinnacle of 1990s Japanese performance motoring – and as such has the popularity to suit!
In much the way that Muhammad Ali is the most popular boxer of all time, because he was the best (or so he liked to claim) the Nissan Skyline is one of the most popular Japanese performance cars of all time, because it was the best of its era too.
If you grew up playing Gran Turismo on your PS1, then you’ll probably look at the Nissan Skyline with rose-tinted glasses.
The nostalgia factor is one of the reasons for the continued popularity of this car.
Those who were too young at the time the Nissan Skyline was new are now of an age where they might be able to buy these cars, which helps to drive desirability and popularity (although let’s be fair, they are getting so pricey now that they are fast becoming unobtainable)
In the same way that the cast of Friends continue to be popular and celebrated to this day as their audience of the time has aged (but looks back on the show through the lens of nostalgia) so has nostalgia helped to enhance the popularity of the Skyline!
And just like Friends has found popularity with younger viewers – some whom weren’t even born at the time the show finished – the Skyline has found fresh popularity with younger car enthusiasts as well.
In an age where cars are almost absurdly good, but increasingly detached from the driver thanks to endless electronic aids and gadgets, the Skyline is a turbocharged nostalgia rocket that harkens back to a time where the driver could more easily be connected to the machine, and to the road in turn.
The Nissan Skyline GT-R was the real deal. It looked good, it went incredibly well, it sounded great, and it was a true masterpiece of design and engineering. No wonder people still lust after these cars to this day!
Conclusion – Why Is The Nissan Skyline Popular All These Years Later?
As you can see, there are numerous reasons why the Nissan Skyline is so popular and desirable.
In our view, the fact that the Skyline GT-R always represented the pinnacle of Japanese performance motoring – in conjunction with featuring in movies and video games like the Fast & Furious franchise – is what has cemented this car’s role as such a desirable and ever-popular car.
There is just so much to love about the Nissan Skyline, that it’s not hard to see how it has become such a beloved and popular vehicle.
Multiple factors combine to make this car such a legend, and it has legendary popularity to suit.
If you’re into Japanese modern classic cars, then surely a Nissan Skyline of some description must be in your dream garage!
If you’d like to learn more about the Nissan Skyline, we have many more articles on our site about Skylines. In particular, you might like to read:
- Why the Nissan Skyline is illegal in the United States
- Our R34 GT-R buyer’s guide
- Our R33 GT-R buyer’s guide
- Why the Nissan Skyline is so expensive now
If you have any questions, queries or concerns, then feel free to leave a comment below – we would love to hear from you!