Another Day At The Museum Part 2: The Nissan Guest Hall and Engine Museum Second Floor Engine Gallery


Welcome to Part 2 of my guide to the Nissan Guest Hall and Engine Museum. Part 1 covered the entrance hall and the second hall featuring Nissan's current engine lineup but that still leaves the entire second floor to go over.

While the first floor focused on Nissan's present, the upper area is more concerned with Nissan's storied past. 



One section of the floor contains the bulk of the actual Engine Museum with a wide variety of Nissan's back catalog of motors on display.

As you can see from the pic above there are a lot of engines in just this one hall and we'd be here until 2021 if we discussed them all so I'll just try to highlight a few of them here. Besides, going to see the rest is a good incentive to try and visit the Museum yourself in person, right?




The info plaque for this Model NB engine says it was manufactured in 1953 but the basic design of the motor dates back to Nissan Motor's earliest beginnings in the '30s. To get a good start on the technology they needed for automobile manufacturing Nissan actually licensed technology from an American company - Graham-Paige of Indiana. Nissan made several car and truck designs using that know-how including the earliest version of this Model NB truck engine which stayed in production even into the post-war period and actually outlived the company that originally came up with the design since Graham-Paige would be sold to Kaiser-Frazer in 1947.




Graham-Paige wasn't the only company that shared their designs with Nissan in those early years. After the war, the British Austin company agreed to let Nissan build licensed copies of their sedans locally from kits shipped over from the UK - needless to say this was after both sides had agreed to forgive and forget all the nastiness that had gone down during the conflict. Austin was even kind enough to let Nissan use their patents to eventually make their own designs from them and that led to the 210-series Bluebird that used this Model C motor shown in the pics. It was only good for 37 horsepower but hey, it was a tiny thing - with less displacement than the Super Big Gulps 7-11 peddles to future diabetics all over the US of A - so we'll cut it some slack. Besides, looking at it makes me think of a happy little teapot for some reason.



Nissan of course had bigger ambitions than making happy little teapots based on designs they cribbed from British gaijin. Oh yes, Nissan wanted to make ANGRY little teapots that would slay their foreign competition. To help them get to that point Nissan would merge with the Prince Motor Company in the late 60's. Before the merger Prince had already successfully made engines like this Model GA4 four-banger that was good for about 70ish hp in the second-generation S54 Skyline...but after the merger the gloves would come off.



In 1969 Nissan would unleash upon the world the S20 inline-six. This was no happy little teapot, it was a beast of a race-ready production motor with dual overhead cams and triple Mikuni carbs that was good for 160 hp from just 2 liters of displacement. The basic design was actually taken from the GR8 race engines that powered the R380 race cars to victory at the Japanese GP over Porsche and also was used to set several land-speed records. 


Later versions of the S20 with Lucas fuel injection would be good for 225-250 hp in race trim. All that juice would power the original Hakosuka Skyline GT-R to 49 straight race victories and start the legend that surrounds the GT-R name to this day. 




The straight-six powerplant that would really cement the GT-R legend however is, of course, this one - the RB26DETT from the R32 to R34 generations. If you're reading this blog then you're probably already very familiar with the super stout iron block and forced induction that allowed stock motors to have 330ish hp while modified ones would rage with up to a thousand. You may be tempted to give the display motor a hug as a sign of affection like I was but I didn't want Mr. Nice Japanese Security Guard to get salty with me.




Standing proudly beside its bigger brother is another famous Nissan motor from the '90s - the SR20DET. While the RB26 would see use only in the Skyline GT-R (at least as far as regular production models) the SR20DET saw a much bigger range of applications. Everybody knows it as the sexy Silvia coupe's preferred motor, some also know of it from the wonderful Pulsar GTi-R, but the manic turbo four-bangers also found their way into stuff like the Bluebird sedan, Avenir station wagon, and Liberty MPV.

With the help of its trusty snail the SR20DET was good for 200-240ish hp in stock form and this version is still a common weapon of choice for drifters of all skill levels and budgets but without a turbo the SR20 also made a big name for itself as the heart of the beloved B13 Sentra SE-R. With 140hp, four wheel disc brakes, fully independent suspension, and an LSD wrapped up in a lightweight body for an econo-car price, the 1990 SE-R was one of the best performance bargains of its day. It's just too bad the latest Nismo Sentra has been a pale imitation.





While most of the engines on exhibit at the Guest Hall are actual motors, some of them like this VG30DETT are obviously display models.





Aside from the clear timing belt covers and the transparent fan this model also has a cutaway to show the inside of one of  the turbochargers, in case you've ever been curious about the witchcraft that goes on inside. It is pretty amazing when you think about it how a turbo takes exhaust gas that's normally just useful for speeding up climate change or giving yourself carbon monoxide poisoning and turns it into that magical substance we call BOOST.

With the help of said boost the VG30DETT was ready to belt out 300 horsepower - a very healthy output for the late 80s and the early 90s. 

One fun factoid about the VG series is that it was actually the first mass-produced V6 engine in Japan. It was a ubiquitous motor for Nissan in its day and was used in everything from the Z to the Maxima to the Pathfinder and even the Quest. If that sounds similar to another engine that's not a surprise because the VG's successor - the VQ - would be even more ubiquitous for Nissan and Infiniti models of the late 90s and into the 21st century.


I already mentioned the VQ in part 1 of this guide since there was a display unit on the first floor but just in case you didn't get how this engine has been such a cornerstone of Nissan's product line it gets a special display on the second floor as well. Particular emphasis is made of the fact the VQ has been listed on Ward's 10 Best Engines list the most times of any powerplant since the listing began.



Another thing I've mentioned already is that the first floor was supposed to be the showcase for Nissan's current engine lineup while the second floor display focused on the legacy designs so it was curious that the VR30DDTT was on show upstairs. 

The VR30 as you can probably guess is a smaller displacement sibling of the VR38 but it's direct injected instead of port injected as indicated by the DD instead of DE in the name. It's the powerplant of the awesome Q50 and Q60 Red Sport - also known as the current V37 Skyline in Japan. It's also the logical successor to the VQ and like its predecessor, it's already made it onto the Ward's 10 Best List.

Seeing it on a display stand allows you to appreciate some interesting technical details. I for one found it fascinating how beefy the wiring loom is on a current state-of-the-art motor compared to older designs such as the RB26.





Here you can see one of the twin turbochargers that are integrated into the exhaust manifold, similar to its bigger brother VR38. This makes for a more compact setup and eases packaging the motor in the car. Aside from the newer direct injection setup, the 30 has another major difference from the 38 in that it uses  water-to-air intercoolers rather than air-to-air ones. The former are seeing more use now than before in performance cars because even though they can be more complex due to the need for fluids, they're also more efficient so they can be made smaller for the same level of thermal efficiency and they're more flexible in placement since a clear airflow path isn't a necessity.

Being one of Nissan's latest engine designs it was odd that it was situated upstairs with the other older models. Maybe 'cause this particular example was from an Infiniti instead of a Nissan so all the other new motors didn't want to be seen with it? Man, that's harsh. They really need to stop this crazy engine racism. #takeavee




It's not just road car engines on display at the Engine Museum - there are several historic race engines too. This one catches your eye immediately because of the amazing turbo plumbing it has. The VRH35Z would prove to be a winner for Nissan in the heady days of Group C sportscar racing in the late 80's and '90s. First designed in 1989, the VRH35 was good for almost 800 horsepower and all that oomph would take Nissan to the top of the podium at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1992 as well as championship wins in the Japan Sports Prototype Championship.




The VRT35 was nowhere near as successful in racing as the VRH35. Nissan had been competing in the World Sportscar Championship at the time with the turbocharged VRH but rules changes required a switch to NA motors instead. Nissan initially pulled out of the WSC for 1991 but decided to have another go in 1992 with a new car - the P35 - and an entirely new engine. The VRT35 that was developed by Nismo was a 12-cylinder engine that was claimed to be good for 630 hp AND screamed all the way to 12000 rpm. I'm sure this thing would have sounded absolutely glorious but Nissan ended up pulling the plug on the project before the P35 even entered any races due to the severe economic issues Japan suffered in the '90s (a time now referred to as the Lost Decade).

The engine would be used in anger once though, at the last ever race of the Japan Sports Prototype Championship, but a lack of development meant the car and motor performed poorly. 1992 would see the end of the JSPC, to  be replaced by the Japan GT Championship or JGTC, the predecessor to the current Super GT series. Nissan would continue to participate in the JGTC after 1992 but they pulled out of prototype racing.



The VRT engine program may have fizzled out but the VRH series would continue on for much longer. After their departure from prototype racing in 1992, Nissan would return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans under the new GT1 rules in 1995. For the first two years, 1995 and 1996, Nissan would use race cars derived from the R33 Skyline GT-R since the GT1 cars were supposed to be based on production cars. A lot of rival manufacturers played fast and loose with the definition of "production car" though so the R33 GT-R LM would see itself matched up against cars like the Porsche 911 GT1 and Mercedes CLK GTR whose production versions were basically race cars in street car cosplay.

With all of that silliness going on Nissan decided to abide by the old saying "If you can't beat 'em, impeach 'em"  - oh sorry, meant to say "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em", and in 1997 they introduced the R390 GT1, powered by the VRH35L twin-turbo V8 that was good for 641 hp. To develop both the car and engine Nissan partnered with British racing and engineering firm Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). The R390 wouldn't win Le Mans but it did record Nissan's best finish of 3rd in 1998.



In 2010 the VRH would return to the winner's circle by powering Nissan's Super GT GT-Rs. The VRH34A was a naturally-aspirated 3.4 liter version based on the original VRH series design. With around 500 hp the 34A and it's successor the 34B would notch many race wins and back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012.

In case you're curious, the GT-Rs that race in Super GT's top tier GT500 category have never been powered by the road car's VR38DETT motor since the rules allow you to use a different motor as long as it's from the same brand. So the original 2008 GT500 GT-R had a VK45DE V8, then in 2010 the VRH34 took over, and then in 2014 the rules specified the turbocharged 2 liter four-cylinders that are still used today. The GT300 GT-Rs do use the VR38 since they stick to FIA GT3 rules that require more commonality with the road version.

As a further testament to how good the basic VRH engine design was, TWR would modify it to form the basis of an Indycar engine but the company became insolvent and the rights were sold to McLaren. Yes, that McLaren. That design would be revamped and form the basis for the M838T and M840T motors that's sat inside everything from the MP4-12C to the P1. In other words, pretty much every roadgoing McLaren supercar owes its powerplant to Nissan - except of course for the F1 which happened to race against Nissan's VRH powered cars in the '90s.

All of that's quite a lot of info in one sitting so I'm going to end this post here but I hope it's all been interesting for you. For the next post we'll finish off the series on the Guest Hall by focusing on the opposite gallery which focuses on Nissan's history both in Yokohama and all over the world. Until then, drive safe everybody!



Comments