Sunday, October 11, 2020

Prince & Skyline Museum

Nestled inside Toriidaira Yamabiko Park in Nagano, Prince & Skyline museum hosts a nice little collection of historic and period correct Skylines and GT-Rs from all eras. This was a long overdue visit that I had planned for a while, but postponed to early September to spare the car the brutal Japanese summer heat we had in August.

So, during Silver Week, I took the opportunity to link-up with fellow GT-R owner Tad - with his car fresh from being fitted with a set of Öhlins - and headed towards Nagano after meeting up at Ishikawa PA.

Our genius idea of dodging the holiday traffic by going on Saturday revealed a complete fail. I will spare you the details, but it took us roughly 5 hours to reach our destination and even longer to get back to Tokyo. At least my choice of waiting for cooler temperatures was a good call because sitting at idle in the summer heat would have been brutal for the engines. Oh well, at least we made it there and the weather was excellent! 

As you can see from the lineup in the parking lot we weren’t the only Nissan and Skyline aficionados who visited the museum that day. And if my memory doesn’t fail me I think we also spotted a BNR34 and a BNR32.

Interestingly, part of this collection was located in another museum close to Tsukuba Circuit until circa the early 2000s. 

The building certainly shows its age and if you are expecting the clean, modern architecture of Omori Factory or Nissan Global may be in for a surprise.

The collection is also not very big - probably around 30 models - but the relevance of the cars on display is very significant and includes some that are part of the GT-R development history.

There is also plenty of memorabilia, parts, engines, posters, model cars and anything in between. Again, the way some of these items are displayed is not exactly pretty, but let’s not forget that the place is operated and maintained by senior citizens (and pretty much located on mountainside).

The BCNR33 family tree was one of my personal highlights of the visit. From left to right you have: GT500 JGTC ARTA R33, the 1993 Tokyo Motor Show concept car, a very clean production-series V-spec and the famous (yet unknown to many) car used to for the BNR34 development.

These older GT cars are still very impressive today and easier to look at in a way. Still based on heavily modified tubular chassis they shared several cues with their road-going counterparts.

One thing I couldn’t wrap my head around with this BCNR33 though was (what seemed to be) the inlet pipes apparently positioned after the front axle; to my knowledge the engines on these cars were pretty much sunk as close as possible to the firewall. Maybe some connecting pipes?

I’ll be honest, besides the color, which could have been a very interesting option had it made into production, I am not a big fan of the 1993 BCNR33 concept car. The front is heavily R32-influenced and just doesn’t work nearly as well as the revised design we all know.

The BBS rims actually look quite nice and while they weren’t retained on the final model you can see how perhaps the light silver finish inspired the one of the OEM production wheel.

I couldn’t find any difference on the production V-spec model, besides the fact that it’s finished in the rarer Super Clear Red II. As for the stealthy, matte black car, there is just too much to cover that will probably require a dedicated post...

Moving on from the R33 section there was quite a bit to look at, especially if you are into older models. 

I am simply too young (it’s all a matter of generations I guess) to be emotionally attached to these models, but I surely appreciate them and it’s always fascinating to look at how cars were crafted decades ago. I really liked the front grille of this 2000GT - AII.

One thing that surely comes to mind though, is how much technology has improved in 50 years. Simply incredible to think that people used to race in cars like this!

But it’s from these older Skylines that the legend of the GT-R was born, and the Hakosuka needs no introduction: with over 50 wins in the JAF Grand Prix series in less than 3 years it was one of the centerpieces of the collection.

Moving onto more modern generations a production series R31 with its racing counterpart where on display just after the entrance.

Of course no collection would be complete without some R32s and surely there was no shortage of them.

Is there anything more iconic than the Calsonic livery? Probably not, and supporting Team IMPUL since 1982 it’s the longest running sponsorship in the history of motorsport.

This particular car is the double champion machine (1990 and 1993) driven by Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Masahiko Kageyama (older brother of JGTC GT-500 Masami Kageyama, who is a regular instructor at Omori Factory track days and really cool guy to talk to!).

Of course, as you guessed, I had to save the best for last: the section dedicated to the 5th generation of the Skyline.

There were only two BNR34 on display, both relevant to the history of the model and its development.

Chassis number BNR34-010107 is the famous last model built at Murayama plant, before production was moved to Tochigi (where my car was built in 2002). It’s regularly displayed at events or Nissan Global Headquarters.

The car is a V-spec II, but has some subtle differences compared to models built at Tochigi, such as old Nissan rear badge, different carbon construction for the rear diffuser, some V-spec interior bits, etc. Apparently there are a handful (officially 7, but probably more) of cars with the same features, but the differences are really minimal and, honestly, a “downgrade” compared to the standard production cars.

The black model is the famous Nürburgring test mule: fitted with a quick release bonnet, a roll cage and some reflective bits on the rear bumper for increased visibility, this V-spec based car was on development duty on the Nordschleife.

Definitely a piece of history in the development of the BNR34, although I remember photos of it next to a Midnight Purple III car at the trackside Nissan facility in Germany. I wonder where that car is and, would love even more to see some of the very early pre-production test mules.

Ironically, the piece that caught my attention the most in the whole museum (except for the R33 Karasu) was this promotional dealership poster for the launch of the M-spec model. Taken in front of Tokyo bay, the photo really hit home (pun intended) since I live 10 minutes away from the location. It has a nostalgic feeling to it and reminded me of my journey and how somehow I ended up where I am today.

Japan borders are still closed to many and I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Prince & Skyline Museum. Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! Thank you for sharing the photos.
    Would be fun to talk with the seniors who manage this museum and listen to their stories on these cars.


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