NISSAN SKYLINE 1500 Deluxe
Inline 4 cylinder pushrod Capacity:
1.5 litre pushrod
67bhp @ 5000 rpm
107.8Nm @ 3500rpm
Quarter Mile Best: 20.9 seconds @ 106km/h
38.3 seconds @ 136km/h
Trial Mountain Best Lap: 2’11.841
SS Route 7 Best Lap: 10’55.922
Suzuka Best Lap:
Top Gear Test Track: 1'58.792
Best Lap: 11’21.725
The Prince Skyline of 1961 had proven an expensive lesson for Nissan as the car
had evidently been seen as too big, too fancy and ill-suited to Japanese tastes. The hand-built body and custom craftsmanship
was ill-suited to Nissan’s desire to build cars for the Japanese masses. The second generation Skyline was a vastly
different car to the original, lacking all of the flair of Michelotto’s Euro charm that had made the BLRA-3 so unpalatable
to the conservative Japanese. However, whilst Nissan worked hard to modernize and tone down the looks, they had to ensure
that enough detail remained to keep the Skyline as a premium car in their model line-up.
No longer a 2-door coupe, the Skyline 1500 was a 4-door sedan that laid the
foundations for future Skylines and generations to come. Quad-headlamps, a feature many associated with expensive cars like
Lincolns and Cadillacs, were kept. Fine chrome detail surrounded the window trim and a chrome strip ran down the belt-line
of the car to help break up the boxy look. Twin mirrors were standard and polished full wheel hubcaps completed the upmarket
feel. The rear end was also treated to chrome and many astute fans will easily pick the round taillights – a feature
that would become trademark Skyline in years to come.
Under the bonnet the Renault-derived 1.9 litre four
cylinder was gone, replaced with Nissan’s own 1.5 litre overhead valve pushrod unit. Power was down from 91bhp to a
mere 67 horsepower, a 25 percent drop, but Nissan cleverly marketed the reliability factor as the major draw card. The 1.5
litre engine had been in use in other applications for quite some years and had proven a near bulletproof unit. Mated to a
3 speed gearbox, the engine was able to haul the lithe 960kg chassis onto a top speed of 85mph. It was certainly capable of
100mph or more, but there was virtually no place in Japan where such speeds were attainable and to do so was regarded as insanity.
The lithe chassis also offset the power deficit, as weight was down by
more than 30% over the BLRA-3, giving the 1500 sprightly performance. With 100Nm of torque on offer, it was happy to pull
from 2nd gear standing starts and 60mph was over and done in under 20 seconds. By the time the standing quarter was over,
the ’63 Skyline was almost lineball with its predecessor.
Many purists point at the S50 as the beginning of the Skyline’s heritage and
were it not for the visuals, you’d be a fool to disagree. But the Skyline as a pedigree sports car leaves the 1500 Deluxe
with a lot to desire. The car rolls, pitches and understeers out on the track, with none of the grace or mannerisms befitting
the nameplate. And it certainly isn’t pretty, not from any angle, with a heavy upright grille, a cabin as forgettable
as a glass elevator and a stance that’s altogether too high and purposeless. It shouts the word chintzy from the top
of its 1.5 litre lungs, a cheap car dressed up to look more expensive than it really is.
The driving experience says as much too and the biggest killer of the Skyline’s
performance is undoubtedly the ludicrously short ratio 3 speed gearbox. The car begs for a 4th cog around almost any circuit
and with a limited speed of 138km/h (140 downhill), you get the feeling that a Fiat 500 will swallow you at any moment. Suzuka’s
main straight is a painful lesson in throttle control and the back straight down the Nürburgring is agonizing.
The steering feels wooden
and the skinny bias-ply tyres give up the ghost almost too early for comfort. Push the Skyline hard and you’ll be rewarded
with an armful of understeer through the tight and twisty stuff. Get on the brakes too hard and the rear end dances away with
all the grace of a hippopotamus out of water.
Make no mistake, the ’63 Skyline has
more shortcomings than a politician on a campaign trail. The gearbox is stubborn and lacks full synchromesh, making shifts
a chore, the engine has all the character of a lawnmower and the chassis is decidedly less than impressive. The brakes, all
four drums do a half-reasonable job of pulling you up but when you look at the kerb weight of the car, it’s more of
an expected given rather than an accolade.
Even with such a unanimously dreary score,
the old Skyline still manages to pull some things out of the bag. The car is surprisingly just as quick as some modern Kei
car efforts around the shorter tracks like the Top Gear circuit (anything under 2 minutes for a car like this is impressive)
and it certainly pulls one back around the Nürburgring, despite a quick lap feeling like you’re coasting as those downhill
sections redline the engine in 3rd.
I’d love the see the S50D run an unfettered lap with 4 forward gears, but to ruin the originality of such a quaint car
in the pursuit of “what ifs” is hardly worthwhile. And let’s be thankful that the ’63 isn’t
the only classic early Skyline we get – the vastly improved ’67 model with an uprated engine, gearbox and styling
isn’t far away.
Truth be told though,
I prefer a Bluebird.