This week Nissan's racing and performance tuning arm Nismo is celebrating its 30th birthday. We look back at some of its greatest cars
Darren Moss
19 September 2014

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Nissan’s Nismo performance tuning arm. 

However, the brand's roots can be traced back a further decade to 1964, when Prince Motor Company launched a Skyline into which engineers had installed the 2.0-litre engine from a much larger luxury saloon. The result was a performance car with a vastly improved power-to-weight ratio, called the Prince Skyline 2000GT.

Just 100 examples owere made in order to meet motorsport homologation rules. The car was officially launched on 1 May 1964, and a number of examples made their racing debuts at Suzuka two days later – taking second to sixth places behind a Porsche 904.

Prince was bought by Nissan in 1966 – and in the following year the Skyline S57 was launched. Power came from a 1.5-litre engine producing 87bhp.

In 1969 the first Skyline GT-R emerged from the firm, the KPGC-10. Powered by a 158bhp 2.0-litre engine, both road-going versions and stripped-out race cars were produced. The GT-R racked up 50 racing victories between 1969 and 1972.

Up until now, Nissan’s motorsport activities had been split in two, with one division taking on work for the factory teams and the other dedicated to privateer outfits. In 1984 the two sides were merged, creating Nissan Motorsports International Company – or Nismo for short.

After focusing primarily on racing in the early years – it created the Saurus sports racer and entered Le Mans for the first time with its R85V Group C prototype in 1986 – Nismo was charged with developing the Skyline R32 for both the race track and road.

The car gained a cult following as it dominated touring car racing in the Far East and Australia, where the nickname 'Godzilla' was first coined. Its successor, the Skyline R33, was the first production-based car to lap the Nürburgring in less than eight minutes.

In 1999, Nismo launched the R34 Skyline in new V-Spec guise. Built to honour the model’s impressive racing heritage, just 20 examples were made, with each car getting almost 493bhp from its 2.8-litre engine.

It would be another nine years before a new generation of Nismo model was ready for the road. The GT-R arrived in 2008, powered by a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine producing around 485bhp. The model was a hit almost universally and also had success on track, winning the Japanese Super GT championship in 2008, 2011 and 2012.

With Nissan seeking to expand its range of performance cars on the road, Nismo has broaden the scope of its activities. On track, it has developed cutting-edge products such as the Leaf electric car and the Zeod RC hybrid Le Mans racer. In the summer it also unleashed the GT-R Nismo, which has 591bhp and can cover 0-62mph in a supercar-baiting 2.6 seconds.

Road cars like the 370Z Nismo and upcoming Juke Nismo continue to push brand recognition for Nismo, and the next GT-R – hinted at in this year’s Vision 2020 Gran Turismo project – will inspire another generation of enthusiasts.

Watch some of Autocar's favourite Nismo videos below.

What’s your favourite Nismo car? Let us know in the comments section below.

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