Messing With Perfection: Rick Ishitani’s 1971 Skyline 2000GT-X

Drew Manley

  • The third-generation Nissan Skyline is arguably the most significant and desirable car from the early classic era of Japanese performance cars.
  • A 1972 Nissan Skyline H/T 2000GT-R ‘Hakosuka’ sold at a 2014 RM Sotheby’s auction for a record-breaking $242,000.

The last decade has been a wild ride for automotive culture. Ten years ago, car culture blogs were taking off, curating content from all around the world in a way that was accessible and interesting for even the most casual observer. While niche automotive publications had been sharing fascinating builds for decades, the speed at which editors could pull together and share a feature online was exponentially more rapid. Whether it was simply reposting images found in the deep trenches of online forums or commissioning photoshoots for the site’s own original features, these sites showcased both breadth and depth of builds that would have only existed in the shadows years before.

Of course, the automotive scene was not immune to change from this phenomenon. As more and more online avenues appeared, the pace at which trends morphed, split, and intensified accelerated. While extreme builds, be it aesthetic or performance, had always existed, their increased visibility encouraged others to push the limits. The easy example, of course, is the stance scene, where aggressive fitment one year became barely acceptable the next. Whether they were passive as observers or active as builders, automotive enthusiasts were always on the lookout for the next big thing. Some dived into wilder and wilder mods, while others looked for different platforms to modify, even those that previously might have been considered untouchable.


While this idea of social one-upmanship could be viewed cynically, in reality, this new ecosystem gave birth to a reinvigorated community. Some may have dove in with a spirit of competition, but others were simply inspired to go where others had not ventured before. No model was off-limits. Porsche 911s showed up with wild widebody kits and wider wheels typically reserved for Japanese cars, Italian supercars were slammed with air suspension systems, and a new generation of enthusiasts discovered classic Japanese cars that previously most mainstream car guys had no idea even existed.


The third-generation Nissan Skyline is arguably the most significant and desirable car from the early classic era of Japanese performance cars. While Toyota’s 2000GT trumps the Nissan in value, it is accessible only to the wealthiest of collectors. The Hakosuka generation, as it has come to be called by fans, saw the debut of the first GT-R model, the earliest relative of the now-iconic GT-R models of the 1990s. Although, the GT-R was not the first Japanese sports car, with previous models from Honda and Toyota following European sports car recipes. In contrast, Nissan’s idea of an enthusiast-spec pedestrian model established ideas that would dominate not only OEM Japanese performance sensibilities but defined tuning culture for import enthusiasts for the next sixty years.


So when Rick Ishitani purchased this 1971 Skyline 2000GT-X, a respectable performance spec beneath the GT-R, he had a decision to make. Is this a project solely for preservation or one of modification? Like so many other enthusiasts, he admits, “I can not keep any cars I own stock. I wanted the Skyline to be reliable with today’s technology but yet have the nostalgic look.” That being said, this Nissan is hardly a modern dismissal of the original design. The original L20 straight-six engine has been rebuilt with 40mm Mikuni carburetors but is enhanced with sixty years of research and development of aftermarket parts to get the most out of the original power plant.


Rick credits his friends Masaya from JP USA and Taka from Kyusha House for much of the guidance on modifying the classic Nissan, as hakosuka parts are hardly a click it and ship it affair. At first glance, the Skyline’s improved stance stands out as a drastic and welcome change from the OEM setup. The rebuilt 17-inch Watanabe RS8s are an obvious nod to the past, but the sizing helps bring the car into the modern era. Fitting those wheels is made possible by adding the SpeedForme flares that echo the same era’s GT-R. A combination of Victory and GAB coilovers bring the car lower while also blessing it with a much more modern driving feel. This overall theme of respect for the chassis, while acknowledging that automotive design and engineering has improved over the past half-century, makes a solid case to even the most ardent purist that modification can be done in a way that celebrates these hero cars without ruining the original spirit of the automobile.


Rick’s favorite memory of the car was his first visit to an exotic car meet with the modified hakosuka. There will always be a touch of nervousness for owners when they bring a vehicle to an event with high standards, but he recalls that even with “several multi-hundred-thousand/million-dollar cars parked everywhere, the crowd stopped and all crowded around the Skyline. Although my car is worth 1/20th of their exotics, they all thought it was a cool ride.”


The modern era of car collecting and modification has, in a sense, democratized appreciation for so many more styles of vehicles. As enthusiasts have been exposed to more and more models and a litany of avenues for modding, they have accepted what was once, at best, on the fringe, and at worse, heretical. The hakosuka is among the oldest ancestors of the modern Japanese car community and deserves all of the respect and care purists demand of its owners. Rick has absolutely executed on that standard, and in the process, he has improved it and made it his own.

Related Links
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