Today is great. Today is fun. Because, today, I get to talk about my favorite car.
Once upon a time, Nissan created a car called the Skyline GT-R. They raced it against the world’s best.
It won. And won. Over, and over again.
It was so dominant in these matches that people coined a nickname for the car: Godzilla.
Because, like the monster it’s named after, the GT-R crushes everything in its path.
To be clear, that was the R32 Skyline GT-R and this is the R35. Nearly twenty years separate the two, but ‘Zilla has only become more powerful over time. The R32 broke the grounds, the R33 broke 8 minutes on the ‘Ring, and the R34 is currently breaking the hearts of fanboys who are patiently waiting for 2024 to come around (see: U.S. import laws). ‘Skyline’ is no longer part of its name, but the R35 is still blood. It’s the first GT-R to be officially sold here in the states, and it’s a big deal.
When you talk about the most influential cars throughout automotive history, there’s a fairly standard list that you’ll get from people. That list most likely includes cars by the names of the Ferrari 250 GTO, McLaren F1, Bugatti Veyron, and so on.
Allow me to put in one more: the Nissan GT-R.
When the R35 debuted in 2007, it (like I said) was a big deal, and not just because Godzilla finally decided to swim across the ocean. It was a big deal because this was a $70,000 car that could smoke any Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini. This was a supercar killer. It could kill cars that cost two, five, or ten times as much. It stirred up the automotive industry like no other car has done before, bringing out hurt feelings galore. Porsche whined that Nissan was falsifying the GT-R’s lap times. The European and American car crowds couldn’t stand being outdone by the new kid on the block, who also comes from the same manufacturer that makes Sentras and Altimas.
But in the end, you know who the winner was? All of us.
The GT-R pushed the limits of not only itself, but the rest of its competition. It pushed other manufacturers to do better, to build faster cars, if for no other reason than bragging rights. It single-handedly accelerated the growth of the high-end sports car and supercar business and made groundbreaking performance easily accessible for all.
I mean, the Bugatti Veyron was nice in that it set the top speed record at one point, but does anyone actually care? Last I checked, no one’s bothered trying to usurp it from its throne. But, the minute Nissan proudly boasted to the entire world that their GT-R clocked 7:26 around Germany’s famed Nurburgring, automotive warfare ensued. Chevy and Dodge pulled out all the stops with the Corvette ZR1 and Viper ACR, respectively, their versions of the bargain supercar - cars that probably wouldn’t exist had the GT-R not paved the way first. Not to be outdone, the legendary marques took up arms. The hypercar holy trinity (LaFerrari, McLaren P1, Porsche 918) can now get the job done in under seven minutes, but only if you have more than a million bucks to spare. These days, ‘Ring times are considered obligatory for any remotely performance-oriented car, ranging from ultra-exotics to luxury sedans to high-powered SUV’s, and you can thank Godzilla for that.
The Nissan GT-R will forever be the true king of Japan. Sorry, Lexus LFA and Honda NSX. Everything about it embodies the spirit of the Japanese, from its technological innovation to its macho, Gundam-esque looks. It’s a calculated, almost cold, machine that attacks a racetrack with brutal efficiency. To Godzilla, running a lap is a game of numbers, and you know what they say about numbers: they don’t lie. It’s got that magic box called the ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system that receives feedback from each wheel and calculates the amount of power to apply so that the car remains firmly planted to the pavement as you’re rounding the corners. It’s a forgiving machine that will pull you out of a turn unscathed even if you accidentally went in too hot. As the legend goes, an amateur can take a GT-R to track day and outrun the rich snobs with the Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Even the pros are stunned by its physics-defying capabilities. “There’s no way a 3,800-pound car should be able to turn like this!” Detractors want to call the car “soulless” and “boring”, but Godzilla is just doing its job as a precision instrument.
That’s what makes the GT-R amazing; it’s, simply put, an engineering marvel.
I was just a naive high-schooler when the R35 GT-R made its debut, without a clue what my place in this world was or what my future would look like. One thing I am certain of, though, is that there will be one of these in my future. I’m not talking about the one you see here, or any of the other fake ones residing on my bookshelf. I aspire for the real deal. All car nuts have that one car that they long for, the car that motivates them to get up every morning and get things done, and this is mine.
There’s a poster of one of these on my wall. I grabbed it from the Nissan booth at the auto show back in 2008, and it’s never left the wall in the decade-plus since. It reminds me, every day, not to lose sight of my goals. The hundreds of articles and reviews that I’ve read about this car over the years - one day I’ll finally know what they’re talking about.
The model here, an AUTOart, is the cream of the crop if you want an eighteenth-scale miniature of the original R35 GT-R, before it underwent a series of nosejobs and performance tweaks (and price hikes!) to become the beast that you find in showrooms today. Through it all, the original will always be the more handsome one. Nissan has added more angles and vents to the design of the GT-R over the course of its 11-year-plus run, but there’s beauty in the simplicity. No more needs to be reiterated regarding AUTOart’s credentials as diecast’s gold standard. It’s fantastic. The Kyosho is a solid contender and an exceptional alternative, but it isn’t as proportionally accurate or intricate.
Having long been out of production, this scale model of Godzilla has become increasingly desirable and a challenge to find. Like the real thing, it’s available in six different colors: black, white, silver, dark metal grey, titanium grey, and red. I’ve made it a personal mission to track down every iteration that AUTOart cranked out - it’s my favorite car after all - and, with the silver one here, have just knocked out the first four on the list. Titanium is a dealer-exclusive colorway, maybe the rarest of the colorways and red is perhaps the most valuable of them all. They also have limited-edition variants with matte black wheels as well as the SpecV versions in Ultimate Opal Black (got it!) and white. There’s a lot of work left to do, but that’s what makes it all the more fun. Let the hunt continue!