Whenever I told my 17 year old mates that I owned a Skyline on my Provisional license I got the same reaction. “Oh man that’s awesome! Is it an R34?”
In the post-Fast and Furious world the late R34 Skyline, no matter whether it was a non-turbo sedan or the holy grail that is the GT-R, is the ultimate “JDM” car, unless you happened to know a rabid fan of the Toyota Supra.
So imagine the quizzical reaction when I tell them it’s actually an R31.
Developed in the late-80s and introducing a whole range of technological advancements for the Skyline range, the R31 was a natural evolution of the sixth generation R30’s styling. Today, the R31 epitomises the phrase “box-on-wheels.”
For the Australian market the Skyline was marketed in five trim levels: the base GX, the Executive and GXE, the sports Silhouette (which spawned two GTS limited editions) and the luxury Ti. 5-speed manual (except for Executive and Ti models) and 4-speed automatic transmissions were on offer; my car was a Series 3 GXE with the 4-speed automatic.
The R31 was the first Skyline to come with Nissan’s legendary range of RB-series straight-sixes, the primary one for Australian models being the 3.0L RB30E. Fitted with Nissan’s then-new Engine Concentrated Control System (ECCS), fuel injection and a single overhead cam, it produced a modest 117kW of power and 252Nm of torque.
Performance was tardy – 0-100 is dealt with in 10 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 16.7, but the engine itself is laid back and happy to just do whatever you want.
Like the powerplant, the ride and handling is laid back and carefree. This Skyline is far more a cruising machine than its tarmac-munching halo contemporaries, happy to just waft along at 110km/h while you relax in the fabulously 80’s (and extremely comfortable) flat-bottomed velour chairs in the front row or the bench seat in the back row.
The interior is about what you’d expect from an 80’s Japanese vehicle that isn’t a Lexus LS: expanses of grey, lifeless plastics, not that much equipment (except for that highly inviting “PowerShift” button on the gear selector), and a very high bias towards function over form. Air conditioning was standard though, as well as a good ol’ cassette player.
One thing you can guarantee with an R31 Skyline though is that it will last for several eons. The 3.0L straight-six is relentless in its longevity, and it’s incredibly easy to work on and find parts for. Which for the more cash-strapped teenager looking for their first car makes this a Godsend.
Overall while the Skyline doesn’t win any awards for its performance, interior finish or looks, the insanely low prices you can pick these up for now make them an excellent choice for those who want something that will stand the test of time and many kilometres of wear. Plus it was the precursor to the Skylines that made the nameplate so popular.