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Clarkson on: the Nissan Skyline GT-R
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.