Curbside Classic: 1984 Nissan Skyline (R30) RS Coupé – The Masked Cruise-Aider

It never ceases to amaze me how many classic (i.e. 20-plus-year-old) Skylines are out and about in Japan. Some are in perfect as-new condition, some are dying carcasses and others are modded for street racing – the variety is quite stunning, too. Very old ones from the Prince days are rare, of course, but the ‘80s and ‘90s “R-3X” generations (R30, R31, R32, R33, R34) are still incredibly popular.

The funny thing about the Skylines is they really were Japan’s own darling car. I lived in several countries prior to Japan, and I had never really seen any before. I realize that certain countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan or Indonesia got some of these Skylines back in the day (sporadically, for some markets), but we in Europe received some anonymous-sounding Datsun 240Ks in the ‘70s and that was more or less it. Virtually nobody outside Japan figured the Skyline was such a hot car.

Well, one exception was Paul Newman. He was kind of putting his acting career on the backburner in the early ‘80s and started getting involved in racing. I’m not sure how he and Nissan found each other, but they certainly did and Newman raced R30 Skylines with a lot of success back then. Paul Newman also featured in the Japanese TV adverts for the R30 Skyline, leading to this generation being dubbed the “Newman Skyline.” This generation Skyline was also raced in Australia quite extensively and had the most convincing racing bona fides since the GT-R days of the early ‘70s.

But even more than Paul Newman, Japanese people associate the R30 coupé with a TV cop show, albeit the pre-facelift and turbocharged R30 RS in red and black – just like the one I wrote up a couple years back. Today’s R30 hardtop is less potent, being a non-turbo car, but it still looks the part.

The facelift was limited but very significant. All Nissan did was to give the Skyline a drastically revised grille consisting in two small slits and those slim rectangular headlights. It kind of makes the car look like it’s squinting, or as if it is wearing a weird kind of medieval great helm. Hence the Japanese nickname for these is Tekkamen, or iron mask.

They also gave the interior a bit of a once-over, while they were at it. Our feature car, being apparently a museum piece (out and about, for some reason), is doubtless in period-correct condition. Seems that a CB radio is included here – perhaps that TV police procedural being referenced again.

It’s a pretty tight fit in the back, but the JDM was always more tolerant of cramped seating than European or North American markets. And it’s a sports coupé after all – not a two-door sedan. The big question, for me, is that carpeting. That blue bit seems like it’s protecting the original (and doubtless grey) floor, but should the transmission hump be wearing stripes like that? If so, that’s pretty bold of Nissan!

Our CC is a sporty RS, though not a 200-some-hp turbo version. All RSs were born with a DOHC 2-litre 4-cyl., but the turbo made all the difference. Our non-turbo car makes do with 150hp, which is still decent for the times and 10hp better than the turbo 2-litre straight-6 available on luxury-oriented Skylines.

Short of really breaking the mold, this 6th generation Skyline still stands out for its slight oddities. The hot engine was the 4-cyl., after years of focus on the 6-cyl.; the traditional coupé, saloon and wagon variants were augmented by a five-door hatchback; the so-called “surf line” that adorned the rear fenders of Skylines past just disappeared.

The 6-cyl.’s dominance was eventually (and justly) re-established and the hatchback was gone by the time the R31 came around in 1985, but the surf line was gone for good. And it’s not like they changed everything. The round taillights remained firmly in place (except for wagons, but those are always slightly apart from the saloon/coupé Skylines) and would stay there until the mid-‘00s, by which time the Skyline had become a rebadged V6-powered Infiniti Q-Something or other, as opposed to a straight-6 JDM sports car.

This loss of essence took place after the Renault merger, when Nissan were forced to give up most of their old-school ways and nameplates. The Skyline name survives, but it is now so zombified as to have become meaningless. The other super long-running nameplate of big JDM cars, the Toyota Crown, has aged more gracefully by contrast. Still, as long as there is a large fleet of R30-R34s prowling the streets here, people will remember what a Skyline used to be, at the very least.


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Curbside Classic: 1983 Nissan Skyline (DR30) RS-Turbo Coupé – Straight Out Of Central Casting, by T87