RACING IMPROVES THE BREED
The old adage that ‘racing improves the breed’ must have been quietly written somewhere in Datsun history. Datsun built its first race car in 1936, a 747cc midget, which raced at Tamagawa Speedway in Japan. World War II ( WWII) interrupted any racing, and it was not until 1952, with the newly launched DC-3 roadster, that Datsun raced at club level in Japan.
Nissan’s acquisition of Prince Motors in 1966 brought a company with vast technical expertise into the fold. Formerly the Tachikawa Aircraft Company, it produced a number of aircraft for the Japanese Army in WWII but was dissolved after the war. After various name changes, the Prince Motor Company was formed in 1952, and, in 1954, it merged with its engine supplier to become Fuji Precision Industries. In that same year, noted aircraft engine manufacturer Nakajima merged with the group, and, in 1961, the company again changed its name to ‘Prince Motor Company’ once more. It was here that the origins of Datsun’s motor sport success really took off. Prince was actively involved in motor sport, and it was the first Japanese company to field a works team of cars in a rally, the Liege-sofia-liege, in 1962, with its Prince Skyline cars. With this company on board, Nissan had the opportunity to develop some great cars and engines. Prince also used a fair bit of Mercedes-benz technology of the time. Skyline GTS had competed well in the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix (GP), placing in second to sixth positions, with a lone Porsche taking out the honours. The decision was made to build a custom sports car for the 1965 event, the R380. It was powered by a 150kw (201bhp) in-line six-cylinder engine, the G8, a full race upgrade of the G7 used in the previous year’s Skyline saloons. Nissan took over the project and substantially altered the bodywork. When the GP was cancelled that year, Nissan used the car for high-speed aerodynamic testing, and broke five E-class world speed records. Such was the success of the design that four R380s fronted for the Japanese GP in 1966, lining up against three of the new Porsche 906s. At the finish, it was one-two to Nissan (Prince).the following year, Porsche came back to reverse the result, with the R380s in second, third, fourth, and sixth. An R380-II set seven new world land-speed records in October of that year. Developed as the Nissan R381, in 1968, it went on to record good placings in the Japanese GP, and also the 1969 Chevron Paradise 6 Hour race at Surfers Paradise in Australia. In 1969, one was second in the 1000km of Fuji race, and another placed second in 1970 in a 200-mile (320km) event at Fuji. In 1969, Nissan introduced the R382, powered by an amalgam of two in-line sixes in a formidable V12, and took the chequered flag in the Japanese GP. It went on to build the GRX-3, with the V12 now putting out more than 447kw (600bhp). As a race-oriented company, it was wellplaced to develop the engine for the 240Z.