Photos by Daniel Piker. Words by Riley Koidahl.
Nicknamed "Tekkamen" (Iron Mask) for it's distinctive, grille-less front end, the DR30 Skyline was a turning point in Nissan's history books. It signified a shift from producing economical, compact cars to menacing sports cars. This lineage permeates in Nissan's design language today, as seen with the GTR, 370Z, and the likes.
The DR30 checks all the right boxes for any JDM car enthusiast: a turbocharged 4-cylinder, rear wheel drive, 5-speed manual, right hand drive, and only available in Japan. Compounding the desirability, this particular car is 1 of 400 Anniversary Editions ever made, commemorating Nissan's 50th Anniversary. The Anniversary Edition came with two-tone red and black interior, chrome mirror caps, special badging, and rain-sensing wipers. Yes, you read that right, rain-sensing wipers in 1983!
The car was imported to the US in late 2010 from the Fukushima Prefecture in northern Japan. Just a couple months later, in March of 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster destroyed the car's home. This Skyline is a survivor in the truest sense. If it were not imported, it would likely be at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The car is in remarkable original condition, having covered only 92,000 kilometers over the past 35 years. Martin Lee, the current caretaker, purchased the car in 2012 off Craigslist, of all places. "I had never known about this generation of Skyline until that point. It was so clean and original, I couldn't pass it up." Opportunities like this don't come up often, so acting quick is the name of the game. "I test drove it once and bought it the next day."
Martin's vision for the car is to keep it fairly stock and preserve the incredible originality. The only minor, bolt-on modifications include Jenesis lowering springs and a strut bar. Staggered 16" Rays TE37V give the car a more aggressive look, whilst maintaining the period-correct, OEM+ vision.
Weighing in at just 2700 lbs with 190hp from the factory meant the car was pretty quick in its heyday. The 2.0L DOHC turbo 4 cylinder (FJ20ET) was well-known for being a robust, high-potential platform for modifications. Martin says it's "not a fast car by today's standards, but still fun to drive for the nostalgia and cool-factor."
The car has a distinctive "speed chime" that plays above 100km/hour, reminding the driver to keep their speed in check. Common in performance cars today, but unheard of in 1983, the DR30 also came with electronically adjustable suspension - "soft" for around town, "hard" for tearing up backroads. The DR30's technical innovations paved the way for decades to come and undoubtedly influenced other Japanese car makers.
JDM cars get a bad rap, with obnoxious exhausts, sticker-bombed windows, and often-negligent, pubescent drivers at the wheel. Like Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid, the Skyline is the disciplined father figure, showing us the way.
"You remember the lesson about balance? Lesson is not just karate only. Lesson is for whole life."
No single feature screams "look at me," yet the car commands attention and incites curiosity. It is "subtle but very unique and appreciated by JDM fans," says Martin. The Skyline's rarity, good looks, and amalgamation of unique features cements its status as a great collector car.