Curbside Classic: 1983 Nissan Skyline (DR30) RS-Turbo Coupé – Straight Out Of Central Casting

Skyline at night, CC’s delight. I saw this ‘80s-looking coupé in the dusk and snapped it up quickly, without knowing I was photographing the JDM equivalent of the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee. Actually, that show was not exactly a police procedural, so that’s the wrong car. This Skyline is more like the JDM equivalent of a red 1976 Ford Gran Torino with a white vector stripe, a maroon Mark 2 with a vinyl top or a ragged gray Peugeot 403 cabriolet.

Cop show car legends seem to fall into two categories: scruffy classics and spiced-up coupés


The show in question is called Seibu Keisatsu (“Western Police”). It ran from 1979 to 1984 and prominently featured a triplet of red and black Skyline RS-Turbo coupés in its last couple of seasons. This one is doubtless a recreation, just like those unfortunate DeLoreans that get Back-to-the-Futurized. But in the case of this Skyline, the modifications are pretty tame. The hardest part, as with the DeLorean example, is finding the car itself.

Not that this 6th generation Skyline is as rare as a DMC-12. But in RS-Turbo coupé form, perhaps things get a little tricky. This precise version was produced for about six months, after which the RS-Turbo got a new grille and noticeably thinner headlights, earning it the nickname Tekkamen (Iron Mask). Our CC is a pre-Iron Mask model, so I’m guessing it’s fairly rare (if genuine).

Although this specific model is associated with this Japanese TV show, the 6th generation as a whole is usually referred to as the “Newman Skyline” due to its promotion being made on TV by Paul Newman. These adverts are fun to watch. They kind of remind me of Bill Murray doing those Suntory whisky ads in Lost in Translation. Before we hit the bottle though, let’s review background of this Newman (no, not Paul).

The 1981-85 Skyline’s four body variants, including the Iron Mask (1983-85) RS hardtop


The R30 Skyline appeared in August 1981. The platform was offered as a saloon, wagon and coupé like its ‘70s predecessors, but this time Nissan added a five-door hatchback to the mix. In Japan, the Skyline was available in 26 variations, with three different 4-cyl. engines (1.8 to 2 litres), one 2-litre 6-cyl and a 2.8 litre Diesel six.

More broadly, the range was divided between the lower-spec TI, the 6-cyl. 2000GT and the sporty RS. Not all body variants were spread across these three denominations: wagons were only available as TIs and kept the old live axle; the RS was only available with in notchback saloon and coupé variations.

Unlike previous generations, the high-performance RS model, which arrived in late 1981, had the FJ20 engine – a DOHC 2-litre 4-cyl., as opposed to a 6-cyl. This allegedly explains why it was called “RS” and not “GT-R,” as Nissan felt that name was only fitting for 6-cyl. cars. The RS-Turbo arrived in February 1983, just prior to a range-wide facelift. For some reason, Nissan felt the Turbo needed its own special model code, which is DR30. “D” for dangerous?

The RS-Turbo was lighter than the standard hardtop coupé and the addition of the turbocharger gave the 5-speed transmission 188 hp to send over to the semi-trailing arm IRS. Later Iron Mask versions were heavier, but also more powerful (with an intercooler), at just over 200 hp. So not only was this Skyline something of a TV star, it also went like a bullet train.

Compared to the previous generations, the Newman Skyline does look a tad more anonymous-looking. The preceding three Skylines always had a distinctive oblique crease (dubbed the “Surf line” by Skyline enthusiasts) over the rear wheelarch. Shinichiro Sakurai, head designer of all Skylines since the Prince days, felt that the Surf line, which he had introduced by pressing a coat hanger on a clay model of the C10, had had its day. The quad round taillamps, however, remained – though camouflaged within a rectangular housing.

Inside, the ‘80s had also arrived. There was no way I could take a decent photo of the interior given the diminishing light, so here’s a Nissan-made photo instead. The interior is quite Spartan, in these early RS-Turbos, as well it should be. Later cars had A/C, radio / tape deck, electric windows and many other luxuries, which explains how they gained about 100 kg.

Truth be told, this is one of those CCs that impresses more after the fact than when you’re out there taking the photos. To me, this was just another ‘80s Nissan. It looked pretty sporty and all that, but I had no idea I was in the presence of automotive royalty. Well, maybe not royalty, more like glitterati, but still – any Japanese person 40 and over would instantly recognize this car. I’ve shown it to a few, and it does seem to be the case.

In its class and in its day, this was the fastest and most powerful car on the JDM. For that reason alone, it deserves a modicum of respect. Then you factor in the Starsky & Hutch factor, the quirky rear window wiper, the genuine hardtop – top it all off with a very cool “I’ve got a 2-litre” license plate number and you get a pretty damn perfect CC subject. Still, it’s not as exciting a design as the C10 or the old Prince Skyline – too ‘80s for my taste. But I’m sure I’ll be in a minority.