1987 Nissan Skyline on Cars & Bids is the GT-R's long-lost cousin


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Spoken in a reverential tone by enthusiasts, the name "Nissan Skyline" is often associated with the fire-breathing GT-R. We likely wouldn't have the GT-R without the Skyline, but there are other, more humble members of the family that Americans didn't get to meet. Nissan sold sedan and wagon variants of the Skyline in global markets, and a seventh-generation model listed on Cars & Bids shows what we missed.

The Skyline's family tree traces its roots to a little-known Japanese carmaker called Prince Motor Company. The original model released in 1957 wasn't envisioned as a sports car; it took the form of an upmarket sedan whose design was vaguely reminiscent of an American car's. The lineup began shifting towards performance when the elegant, Michelotti-designed Skyline Sports made its debut in 1962 (two years after its presentation as a concept at the Turin auto show), but the GT-R nameplate didn't appear until the Hakosuka model arrived in 1969.

By that point, Prince was history; it merged with Nissan in 1966. Several of its nameplates lived on including Skyline, Gloria, and Homy. Nissan continued updating the Skyline range, the fourth-generation model arrived in 1972, but it consigned the GT-R to the attic after the short-lived second-generation model retired in 1973. The nameplate didn't return until the R32-generation model made its debut in 1989.

The Skyline thrived during those years. It sold relatively well in Japan due in part to the panoply of variants that Nissan offered. The seventh-generation model (called R31 internally) was released in 1985 and ultimately available as a four-door sedan, a four-door hardtop, a coupe, and a wagon. Rear-wheel-drive was the only configuration offered but buyers could choose a four- or a six-cylinder engine and a manual or an automatic transmission depending on the variant that they selected. This example listed on Cars & Bids comes from this generation.

Painted in dark gray metallic, it's a four-door hardtop so it has a gorgeous pillarless design that adds a touch of flair without veering into ostentatious territory. Its boxy lines exemplify the styling trends of the 1980s, but it's fairly interesting to look at: The rear end notably features the four round lights that characterized its predecessors, its successors, and, later, the born-again GT-R. It may sound like a stretch to say that this angular sedan helped influence Godzilla's back end, but it's cars like this one that kept this styling cue alive while the GT-R slept.

Beyond the design, part of this Skyline's appeal is that it looks like a real survivor. It has covered about 97,800 kilometers (around 59,500 miles) since new, it hasn't been modified, and it appears to be in better shape than the average 36-year-old sedan — it's even still fitted with its four plastic hubcaps. The cabin features comfortable-looking seats upholstered in blue velour and the factory-fitted cassette player. Pop the hood and you'll spot a 2.0-liter straight-six rated at approximately 115 horsepower and bolted to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Nissan never sold this version of the Skyline in the United States, so finding one on this side of the Pacific is easier said than done. The one being auctioned on Cars & Bids is titled in Maryland, and it's being offered with no reserve, so the highest bidder will take it home.

As for the Skyline nameplate, it lives on: The 13th-generation model made its debut in 2014 as a Japan-specific version of the Infiniti Q50.

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