A Day At The Museum Part 2: The Cars of the Prince And Skyline Museum

At the end of the last post I stopped after I got to the very first car on display at the Prince and Skyline Museum. It was a Nissan Prince S57D Skyline from 1967 and it was the only car on the first floor of the museum. Today we'll go down the stairs and check out the main display hall.



When you start heading down the stairs you'll probably notice the ginormous portrait right front and center. Recognizing this man is sort of a test for true Skyline nerds. Who is he? Is he the guy who founded Prince Motors? Is that Crown Prince Akihito himself? Or is he The Most Interesting Man in Japan and mascot for Asahi beer?

If you guessed Shinichiro Sakurai, give yourself a huge pat on the back. I'll give you a minute to do that 'cause you deserve it. 

Sakurai-san is considered the father of the Skyline. He was one of the engineers for the original ALSI-1 Skyline back when Prince was still separate from Nissan but he stayed on as a head engineer when the merger took place. He was responsible for the Hakosuka and was the big cheese for Skyline engineering up until the R31. If you want to know more about him then here's an article on Japanese Nostalgic Car from when he passed away in 2011:


There are various Skyline portraits all over the stairway walls as well. Copies of them can be purchased in the museum's store.
At the bottom of the stairs you get to this anteroom with a cornucopia of stuff on display.
This large model will probably catch your eye right away. If you're wondering what it's a model of, it represents the original Musashimurayama factory in west Tokyo that Prince used from 1962. It's where the Skyline was made until 2001 when the factory was closed down as part of the Nissan Revival Plan to bring the company out of its poor financial state at the time.

It's now the site of a mall plus a Nissan showroom. I wonder what they did with the cool test track you can see on the right hand side of the model?

At the foot of the stairs you'll see this display case just chock full of Choro-Q models. If you've never heard of Choro-Qs they're adorable little caricatures of various vehicles. They're not just fun to collect because they look cute but they're also pull-back toys so they're great for amusing toddlers, cats, dogs, and the occasional pet anteater with. I have a few of my own including a Hako, R32, R34, and R35 but I've never seen this many in one place, especially the humongous ones at the end. The typical Choro-Q like the ones in the front is only about an inch long so you can guess how big the Hako and R34 are!
Over to one side are other display cases with yet more model cars but these ones are realistic in design. Most of them are Tomicas - the Japanese equivalent of Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars. You'll also find various other little collectibles mixed in like badges and keychains.
Opposite from the model cars you had these various Skyline parts on display. I was busy checking out the cars so I didn't really examine them in detail but I was tempted to try making off with one of the carbon driveshafts - they had two, surely they could spare one, right?
More parts were further on. I believe these are for the C210 generation Skyline sold from 1977 to 1981. They definitely gave off this "shoulder pads and spandex" vibe and prove that bling is definitely an age-old concept.
This case had a variety of things in it but the brochures on top are notable for being European ones for the R33 and R34.

I've always liked the look of vintage car club and rally badges. It's too bad they look sorely out of place on modern cars but I'd love to rock these if I had a Hako or Kenmeri or even just a 510!

Okay, I promised you cars and now we'll get to them because you're probably tired of me droning on about assorted random parts and kid's toys.

There ya go! Who totally loves you? 

Yes, that's a for real PGC10 GT-R. In case you didn't know, the OG version of the GT-R was actually a four-door sedan that came out in 1968, a year after the first C10 generation Skyline debuted. The first C10s got a pedestrian 1.5 liter I4 motor good for 88hp but the car was designed to get a straight six from the beginning so eventually the GT-X models got a 120hp L20.

Sakurai-san wanted to go racing though and stuffed an even more potent S20 straight six in the C10 which proceeded to absolutely murder every other car it encountered. 160hp may not sound like much today but for a normally-aspirated, carbureted car with only 2 liters back in 1969, that was pretty lit. A Porsche 911 of the same vintage had the same output so to put that into perspective that would be like Nissan putting 500ish horsepower in a modern Maxima (if it had AWD and a manual how many shades of awesome would that be?). And 160hp was in street trim - the race cars made 225 to 250!

The GT-R sedan racked up 33 consecutive victories by the time the KPGC10 coupe version took over the racing duties. The coupe made it 50 wins in just two years (49 of which were consecutive) which is why the red and white KPGC10 Hako race car beside the roadgoing sedan has Victory 50 written on its windshield banner since it won the 1972 Fuji 300K Speed Race to make that even number. After that Sakurai-san got tired of beating up everybody and let the new Mazda RX-3 take some wins.

The Kenmeri was supposed to be the answer to the RX-3 and other new competitors but by the time it came around the '70s gas crisis hit and Nissan shelved its racing program.
This tasty red number is a rare 1964 Prince Gloria Convertible. The Gloria was the larger, more luxurious counterpart to the Skyline ever since the first generation debuted in 1959 up until the model was discontinued in 2004. Couldn't you just see yourself straight pimping in this sex machine back in the '60s with your bell bottoms, long hair, and weed-induced aura of coolness? 

Nope, neither could I - but it's a great-looking car nonetheless.
When you think Nissan taxi you'll probably think of the Cedric which remained unchanged in cab form from 1987 to 2015 (or maybe you'll think of those odd NV200s they use now as yellow cabs in the Big Apple) but the Gloria also had its share of use in the pre-Uber days when you had to pay more to risk getting sexually assaulted and/or just plain assaulted (oh wait, this is Japan, not New York).

Further along you had a first-gen Gloria. Initially released in 1959, it was known by the chassis code BLSI-1 - remember that for later when we get to the first-gen Skyline.

It's no coincidence it looks like a 3/4ths scale version of a contemporary Chevy because American cars were considered the style leaders back then. Apparently the very first production BLSI-1 Gloria was given to Prince Akihito and his wife back in '59 as a wedding anniversary. Dang, all that level-grinding was paying off for his highness. 
And tucked away in the corner was this Prince pickup truck. Not sure why the rear-view mirror had to be so high on the passenger side - maybe to smack unsuspecting cyclists like douch-canoes in modern pickup trucks seem inclined to do nowadays? I mean, this is an old truck so maybe cyclists still rode around on those ludicrously tall penny-farthings back then?

If you watched the video I'm sure you'll remember the two other Prince trucks I mentioned - the Light Miler and the Homer. Yeah, you wouldn't forget the Homer would you? 

Unfortunately since they were tucked away in a small garage it wasn't easy getting a good photo of them - especially the Homer since it was on the far side. You're probably curious what it looked like though so here's a pic from Wikipedia (this one has much blingier wheels than stock though):
So why's it called a HOMER? I mean, was there some sick bastard in Nissan management back in the '60s that could see the future and decided THIS was a good source to name their new truck?
Image credit: Wired.com
Sadly, the story is more mundane than that. The HomER was simply the light truck version of the HomY van that were both based on the same chassis. I couldn't find any source that could definitively explain where the names came from but knowing how the Japanese like to play around with English I assume it was a play on the word HOME.

Yeah, that's a lot more boring than thinking some time-travelling lunatic watched The Simpsons then went back to the '60s and brainwashed the Nissan board of directors. Hey, at least they didn't call it the Prince Millhouse, right?

This trio of cars shouldn't need much introduction if you're reading this blog, after all they're some very clean examples of the last generations of the Skyline GT-Rs and the ones most familiar to Americans - the R32, R33, and R34.

The R32 mostly seemed like your typical R32 GT-R in the ubiquitous Gun Metal Gray paint but it did have one unique feature I noticed:
It had these Nismo wheels that I'd never seen before. They have the period-correct logo for Nismo in the early '90s and they're also in a period-correct size of 16 inches, which looks ludicrously small by today's standards. I'd much rather have a more contemporary set of 18-inch LMGT4s myself but for someone else who's a stickler for era-authentic parts these would probably be as desirable as Gal Gadot slathered in a gallon of coconut oil (or Chris Evans slathered in a gallon of coconut oil if that's your thing).
Speaking of desire, I feel bad for the guy who had to mop up my drool from lusting after this gorgeous R34 V-Spec 2. The classic Bayside Blue paint was lustrous (even without the benefit of a gallon of coconut oil) and I really love the V-Spec 2 carbon hood with its OEM paint with a single NACA duct to give it a little spice. I need an R34 in my life, so very, very much.

I can't really complain though 'cause I already have a sibling to these cars in my garage. The white car is an N1 R32 while the blue car is notable for being number 1 of the 560 Nismo R32's made. If you'll remember from my article on rare R32s, 60 Nismos were made first to be used by race teams and then a further 500 road cars were made for homologation purposes. The Nismo I have in my possession is number 167 while this car at the museum was el numero uno. Sweet.


Another R32 race car in striking yellow and green BP livery kept company with this ARTA R33 from the 1998 Japan GT championship, decked out in Autobacs' trademark flourescent orange. ARTA stands for Autobacs Racing Team Aguri - as in Autobacs, the massive Japanese car parts chain that makes our Pep Boys and Autozone stores look hopelessly lame by comparison, and Aguri Suzuki, former F1 and Le Mans driver. ARTA is better known now for racing Hondas in Super GT but they got their start in 1997 with the Skyline.
Tucked away in a corner across from the ARTA R33 was this little theater. At the time I visited it was playing old footage from the Japan Super Silhouette series of the early '80s - look closely at the screen in the picture and you can see Masahiro Hasemi's famous and totally insane-looking #11 Tomica DR30 Skyline. The wild fender flares and crazy lips you see on bosozoku-style cars drew a lot of inspiration from the wild race cars of the Super Silhouette series.
Beside the theater was this very significant car - the very first generation of Skyline produced by Prince from 1957 to 1964. Known as the ALSI-1 it looks very similar to its BLSI-1 Gloria sibling and sports the same mini-Chevrolet look. This particular example is an ALSID-1 or "Deluxe" model, as you can see spelled out on the side badge attached to the rear fender. When new this car would have had a 1.5 liter four-cylinder engine good for 60 hp - modern GT-Rs come with ten times that power from the factory nowadays, showing just how massively times have changed.
Yet more nostalgic Skylines lined the back row of the museum - the leftmost three cars are all second-generation S50s, followed by a sixth-gen R30, a fifth-gen C211, and then another R30 - a 1983 Paul Newman Version. The Paul Newman Version was a limited edition with unique upholstery and decals to commemorate the famous actor's long association with Nissan as both an advertising spokesperson and racer.

All of these cars represented points in time when there wasn't a GT-R on sale - the ALSI-1 and S50 predating the start of the name with the third-gen C10 and fourth-gen C110, while the C210 and R30 were in between those cars and the eighth-gen R32 that was the stunning comeback of the GT-R nameplate.
One generation shy of GT-R goodness was the R31 but it came close by one letter as shown by this nice example of a GTS-R. It's easy to forget about the R31 that debuted in 1985 and was sold until 1990 since the legendary R32 GT-R was its successor but the R31 has its fair share of historic significance.

For one thing it debuted the RB series of motors with the RB20, as well as the HICAS four-wheel steering system. It also enjoyed racing success. No, it didn't slay all before it like the R32 would do later on but it did manage to win the 1990 Australian Touring Car championship. Successive years of that series would see the R32 utterly dominate and lead to it being called Godzilla.

The styling is very 80s but I actually kind of like the R30 and R31's looks. I wouldn't pick one over the later GT-Rs but I certainly wouldn't kick one out of my bed...err, I mean garage.


Still not a GT-R but interesting nonetheless was this TommyKaira M20. Anyone who's played Gran Turismo will find the name TommyKaira familiar. The company was named after the two founders Yoshikazu Tomita and Kikuo Kaira but was originally known as Tomita Yume Kojo hence the Tomita sticker on the trunklid (no, it doesn't say Toyota like some ricer Sentra with TRD stickers on it).


TommyKaira specialized in taking stock cars then putting their own body kit on them and tossing in extra performance. Then they'd rebrand the cars as their own with the manufacturer's consent in the same way that other specialist tuners like Ruf and Alpina are referred to by those brands instead of the original Porsche or BMW branding they originally had.

So this M20 is an R32 GTS-t underneath while subsequent GT-R creations would be known simply as a TommyKaira R. When I used to play the older Gran Turismos I absolutely adored the black TommyKaira R34s and would love to have one like this example that Harlow Jap Autos in the UK had some time ago:
Ooh, that's sexy. It's just missing the big TommyKaira script logo on the side that most of these cars seemed to have. Of course, black is my absolute favorite color for a car even though it's such a pain in terms of upkeep. 


They say once you go black you never back so before we move on to other exhibits I have to show you these two black beauties that were situated just across from the TommyKaira M20. Black R34, black R33 = so much want!

In the second photo you can see an RB26DETT motor beside the R33. That was just one of a series of engines on display lined up along that pathway.
Here's a better look, and then in this photo below you can see the rest of the engines with an RB20 in the foreground:
Wrapping up the cars on display were two sedans:
The first one as you can see is an R34 sedan which shares a similar front end to the GT-R version but lacks the aggressive ducting and width of the sportier coupe. Underneath the hood is an RB25, either in non-turbo or single turbo configuration depending on the model.


The car beside it was even more interesting to me since it was a V35 Skyline sedan. The 11th-generation V35 introduced in 2001 was a huge departure from previous Skylines because it had a new VQ35 V6 instead of the inline six engines of prior generations. Nissan decided to make the change because as good as the RB26 was it just couldn't meet the mileage and emissions targets that were now needed.

Another departure from previous Skylines was that the V35 generation wouldn't have a GT-R model included in the line-up. Instead, seven years later Nissan would reveal that it had decided to split off the GT-R as a separate model but keeping the R series of chassis codes. That, of course, was the R35 GT-R that we now know and love.

American readers are going to be more familiar with this car as the Infiniti G35. With the arrival of the G35 in 2002 Infiniti finally had a legit contender in the mid-size sport sedan category that was ruled by the BMW 3-series. The G35 proved to be so good that for the first time ever a 3-series Bimmer would lose a Car and Driver magazine comparison test to a Japanese model. 

The sedan had good looks but the G35 coupe was even better. The gorgeous lines won me over so much that in 2005 I traded up from a 2002 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V to a brand new G35 6MT coupe which I still miss to this day (I traded it in for the R35 GT-R that I still have now though so it wasn't an entirely regrettable loss!). Since the G35 coupe was known in Japan as the Skyline 350GT technically that car was the very first Skyline I ever owned. Of course she was black since as I already told you it's my favorite color!
After finishing my tour of the main gallery I headed back up to the first floor and spent some time shopping in the museum store. It was hard to narrow down what to get especially since I knew I'd have to carry all of it on the train back with me. Ultimately I settled on the caricature of a black R35 that I showed in part 1, some postcards with Skyline sketches, and a clear file with some more caricatures of various Skyline models.

I couldn't leave the museum however without scoping out the view from the hill behind the building.
 Behind the museum you have this lovely lawn...
...and beyond it is this great view of Lake Suwa and the city of Okaya. Thankfully the rain that had been falling almost constantly since I left Tokyo relented and I could enjoy the scenery before heading out.

Heading out would prove to be an issue as I hit the only real snag of the trip. I hadn't realized beforehand that there were no buses or taxis passing through the park so I was now left to my own devices as far as getting back to Okaya Station. 

The only option available to me was a long walk. At least the 1.8 mile trek back to the train station was downhill and was pretty scenic. Not really all that bad if you like nature and have done a lot of hiking like me. 

If you're not like me and are more of a normal person then I would plan ahead to avoid the long walk and either take a car to the museum or maybe arrange for the taxi that dropped you off to come back at a pre-arranged time. I probably would have taken the second option if I'd known beforehand.


If I'd done that though I would have missed the interesting sights on the way down like the traditional Japanese cemetery perched on the hillside.

Eventually I made it back to the station and then faced the challenge of scoring a late lunch. Beside the station was the local department store where I found a traditional Japanese restaurant but it was closed by the time I arrived. Luckily the station itself had a small convenience store so I grabbed a couple of ekiben - short for eki bento (train station lunch box). After taking care of my growling stomach - and letting my poor feet have a breather for a bit - I showed my rail pass to the helpful ticket agent and he handed me a ticket for the next train to Nagano City.
Why head to Nagano City instead of taking the Chuo Line directly back to Tokyo? Well, I hadn't had the chance on my previous Japan visit to ride the famous Shinkansen or bullet train so I used this trip as my chance to tick that box off my bucket list. Okaya's too small to have a Shinkansen stop but Nagano City on the other hand is a major tourist stopover on the way to the famous hot springs and snow monkeys of Nagano prefecture.
After getting to Nagano Station I still had some time to kill before boarding the bullet train so I wandered around for a bit. Ultimately I made my way to the Shinkansen waiting room where they had this cool mural...
 ...and they'd named their chairs after me! Aww, I'm touched.
Soon enough it was time to board the Hokuriku Shinkansen that sped me off to Tokyo at speeds up to 160 mph! It really made me wish the US had its own efficient high-speed rail network so that we could all enjoy quick and relaxing inter-city trips without going through the unpleasantness of modern air travel. Oh well, next time maybe I'll just try getting drunk after TSA has had its way with me and have the alcohol-induced haze wash away the PTSD that they've inflicted.

And that concludes my little day trip from Tokyo to the Prince and Skyline Museum in Okaya. I hope you enjoyed the articles and the accompanying video. My Japan trip wasn't over yet so please keep an eye out for the continuation of my travelogue when I head over to another little-known but just as cool Nissan museum - the Nissan Guest Hall and Engine Museum at Yokohama Plant #1!



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