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Classic cars: Skyline 'Kenmeri'

Hakosuka was an instant legend, and succeeding it wasn't going to be easy. But Nissan had an interesting plan to ensure that the C110 Skylines were a success, writes Sony Thomas

Image Credit: Supplied picture
Only 197 examples of the C110 2000 GT-R were ever made.

Behind every car that's gone on to be popular among petrolheads, there's sure to be some interesting stories. But none would be as fetching and unusual as the one associated with the Nissan Skyline ‘Kenmeri'. Sure, petrolheads were looking forward to seeing the successor to the ‘Hakosuka' GT-R Skyline of 1969, which had earned legendary status in just a matter of two years. Powered by a 160bhp, 2.0-litre inline six engine that was good for 180Nm of torque, these Nissans were stripped of needless equipment making them extremely capable track cars. And with both saloon and coupé versions together recording close to 50 racing victories against Toyotas, Mazdas and even Porsches, the GT-R Skyline had become an icon by 1972.

But it wasn't lightness or racing victories that made the second generation C110 Skylines a household name in Japan. Instead, it was a pair of American teens, Jimmy Zinnai and Diane Krey who caught the fascination of the Japanese youth and sent them on a Skyline buying spree. The two played Ken and Mary in a series of advertisement videos that heralded the C110 model and before anyone knew, these videos became a national rage, resulting in the model being sold in huge numbers and even earning the nickname Kenmeri, which sort of became how the model has been known since.

The C110, which was launched at the Tokyo motor show in 1972, was available in three versions — the 1600, 1800 and 2000 that came in four-door saloon, two-door hard-top coupé, and five-door estate guise. The 1600 GT and the 1800 GT were powered by a 100bhp 1.6-litre and a 105bhp 1.8-litre engine respectively. Meanwhile, the GT and GTX trims of the 2000 Series were both powered by the 2.0-litre L20E engine with an output of 130bhp.

Then in early 1973 came the much-awaited 2000 GT-R, with the same 160bhp straight-six S20 engine from the Hakosuka. Major changes were the use of disc brakes on all four corners and the fact that it was available only in coupé form. It was actually the first Japanese domestic market car to feature disc brakes front and rear. It also had round taillights, a trend which was continued in the later Skylines and even in the current GT-R.

Advanced and popular as it was, the second generation GT-R was unfortunately short-lived, as production had to be ceased following the Seventies fuel crisis and the subsequent stricter emissions regulations. Only 197 units were made and they were sold exclusively in the Japanese domestic market, which makes this generation GT-R one of the rarest and most sought-after among classic car buyers. But not only is it very difficult to get hold of a clean example, it will command an extremely high premium, making it a car that's out of reach of the average collector. The lesser C110s are a lot easier to find and come with a lower price tag, and the fact that a few minor replacements such as mirrors, grille, badges and spoilers could make these look like the GT-R adds to their appeal.