Godzilla, Japan’s king of the monsters, evolved over decades and 35 films to become a cult character. The same principle is true of its automotive namesake, the Nissan GT-R.
The turbocharged Godzilla has played hero and villain at Bathurst and beyond, breaking records, challenging supercars and establishing its legend around the world.
Nissan marks its half-century in sports cars with this year’s editions of the GT-R supercar and 370Z sports coupe. Joining the local celebrations on a Queensland track, we drive classic models including the 240Z coupe unveiled in 1969.
Taking inspiration from Jaguar’s evocative E-Type, the 240Z challenged perceptions of cut-price Japanese cars by combining attractive styling and strong performance. It no longer feels particularly quick but the 240Z’s glamorous styling and proportions still command a loyal following.
Powered by a 2.4-litre inline six-cylinder producing about 114kW, the original Zed proved successful in race and rally events around the world.
The grumpy idle and worn gearbox of a 1971 example reinforces the need to be sympathetic to a machine near 50 years of age.
But it feels strong on the move, with a creamy howl from the exhaust and richly textured induction note reminding you how sanitised modern cars have become.
A pristine 1981 280ZX with little more than 30,000km on the clock feels more comfortable and refined than the 240Z, underpinned by a touch of bordello in a cabin with red carpets, seats, steering wheel and dash.
From the 1990s, there is the big 300ZX coupe, with V6 power and a focus on luxury, followed by a 2002 350Z presented as a smaller and altogether more focused machine.
Today’s 370Z is a close relative of the 350Z, with a similarly raw experience from its raucous if strained V6, turret-like cabin and short wheelbase.
Then again, the 370Z is almost old enough to be considered a classic.
You can draw a neat line between two camps at Nissan’s heritage day. Folks aged over 40 are drawn to the Zeds and the younger crowd focuses on the GT-R.
The latter coupe is a local legend, taking two Bathurst wins and three touring car titles.
The original boxy “Hakosuka” Skyline GT-R models were available to Japanese buyers from 1969 — it took another 21 years for the first official imports to reach Australia, in the form of the twin turbo, all-wheel drive R32 series.
Fittingly for a pop hero, the automotive Godzilla is associated with more than a few stretches of the imagination, including a claimed 206kW peak power figure and a speedo on Japanese models that tops out at 180km/h. It’s much faster than that.
The original car doesn’t feel earth-shattering today, even if it is much more potent than a 30-year-old V8 Holden or Ford — which is why Bathurst rules were rewritten to ban the GT-R.
We try three examples of the 1990s GT-R family, soaking up effortless torque with all-wheel drive traction and the unmistakeable whoosh of forced induction.
A tuned version feels ready to rumble with modern sports cars — it’s precise, fast and a lot of fun when the boost kicks in. It’s every part the PlayStation fantasy of Gran Turismo brought to life.
It’s easy to see why good-condition examples of Australian-delivered R32 or later Japanese-market R34 GT-Rs fetch well more than $100,000 today.
And there are clear parallels with the heavy-hitting R35 series now in showrooms, including a famous triumph over European supercars at the Bathurst 12-Hour in 2015.
Earn the stripes
Just like its ancestors, the 50th Anniversary GT-R is a monster to drive, with 419kW of power and 632Nm of torque capable of rocketing it from rest to 100km/h in 3.0 seconds.
More comfortable and refined than earlier R35 GT-R versions, the big beast leaves circuit work to the GT-R Nismo or Track Edition. Priced from $209,300 plus on-roads, the 50th Anniversary model costs $9500 more than an equivalent Nissan GT-R Premium Luxury coupe, adding plaques, badges, stickers and two-tone leather trim.
The 50th anniversary 370Z coupe, with 254kW/363Nm, costs $53,490. The $3000 premium gets you two-tone white or silver paint, distinctive seats and badges.
Originally published as Tested: World’s most monstrous car