Jeremy Clarkson

jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the Skyline

The Japanese car makers should take a long hard look at Linford Christie and Barbara Cartland. One does not attempt to win 100 metre races and the other does not try to look like a big, pink crow.

They should say to themselves, "All the best looking cars in the world are European or American and if we try to copy them, we end up with hopeless facsimiles like the Supra."

And they should go further: ‘Boys, we do not understand ‘soul', so let's not try to replicate it.'

‘Soul' is what you get when you've won the Formula One World Championship and Le Mans 99 times. You can't design ‘soul' or ‘character'. You earn it.

Cars are like friends. I have many, many acquaintances, but friends are people whom I've known for years and years. ‘Soulful' friendships are forged when you've been drunk together, arrested together.

That said, there are shortcuts. I'd be pretty matey with someone who gave me a million pounds. And I wouldn't slam the phone down if Princess Diana rang, feeling a bit horny.

The Nissan Skyline GT-R is just such a shortcut. Nissan accepted they could never match European finesse and style so decided to go where Europe can't follow - into the auto cyber zone where silicone is God and Mr Pininfarina is the doormat.

It worked. The Skyline is not a facsimile of something European. It is as Japanese as my Nintendo Gameboy, only more fun.

I was smitten by the old model, but now there is a new version which, after a week-long orgy of big numbers and lurid tailslides, has left me in no doubt. Forget the Ferrari 355. Forget the Lotus Elise.

For people who want their car to be the last word in ball-breaking ability and to hell with style and comfort, the Skyline is Mr Emperor Penguin. King of the hill. The biggest cheese in Stiltonshire.

"The Skyline is not a facsimile of something European. It is as Japanese as my Nintendo Gameboy, only more fun"

Whether its ability is down to the four-wheel-drive system or the four-wheel steering or the peculiar diffs and electronic whizz bangs, I don't know, I don't care.

The Skyline goes around corners faster than anything else. And when it does get a bit skew whiff, it's a doddle to reign in again.

Unfortunately, the price tag has gone right above the Skyline; from £25,000 for the old model to a stratospheric £50,000 for this one.

But the biggest problem is not the price, it's bloody Nissan GB. As before, they won't import the Skyline officially, saying it would cost a million quid to make it Euro legal, they add that if 100 people show real interest, they may take the plunge.

A miserable hundred people. For heaven's sake, thousands spend a fortune every year on golfing trousers and thousands more spend every surplus penny in their bank account on model aeroplanes.

Surely, there are a paltry hundred people out there who would make the very sensible decision to buy a Skyline instead of a Porsche, or an M3 or even a Ferrari.

I fully understand that the Nissan badge is a turn off but the Volvo badge wasn't something you shouted about until the T5 came along.

Once a few people have a Skyline and word gets out, you will be seen as a wise and thoughtful person with immense driving skill. Women, almost certainly, will want to spend the night with you.

At the same time, your customers will see you as a restrained person with no need for frills. They will double their orders, enabling you to spend even more money with Andy Middlehurst, taking the motor up to perhaps 420bhp. Including the cost of replacement turbos - the ceramic ones can't cope - this will set you back £3,200 - beer money in Porsche land.

As far as reliability is concerned, I understand that there are no real problems. The Marquis of Blandford says that his old model with 390bhp never went wrong in 40,000 miles.

He pointed out that there is no other comparable car that can handle the snow in Verbier, a family, and the need to maintain a low profile. All that and a top speed of 180mph.

I know I go on about this car, but every time drive it I can't wait to get a computer to write about it. Wordsworth was moved by flowers, I get all foamy about the Nissan.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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