Imagine for a moment that it’s March 1971 – the very same month Nissan’s two-door KPGC10 Skyline GT-R is released for sale – and you’re stepping off a plane in Tokyo for the first time as an ambitious yet impressionable 21-year-old.
With its great-sounding twin cam 2.0-litre straight-six engine, 5-speed gearbox, rear flares, front disc brakes, independent suspension and race-winning pedigree, the Hakosuka would surely leave an indelible impression. It certainly did for Peter Landon.
Fast forward to 2016; Pete’s garage needed a new project so the decision is made – it’s time to build the car he promised himself he one day would. Following the tried and tested cookie-cutter restoration path was never an option. Instead, a plan was drafted up for an outlaw-style Skyline that would honour the KPGC10 Skyline GT-R’s amazing motorsports heritage.
Where to start, though? Well, it had to be a coupe, and even though the GT, GT-X, and GT-R variants all shared a common body, finding one in clean condition was never going to be easy.
Fortunately for Pete, even though he’d returned to Australia decades prior, he talked frequently with friends and family still in Japan and was able to connect with Jamie Kendall, a fellow Aussie with a mechanical shop in Kyoto called The Secret Factory. On Pete’s behalf, Jamie spent the next 18 months searching all over Japan for the ‘right’ car, eventually finding it in Gifu Prefecture via a private sale.
“The major issue with old Japanese cars is rust and dodgy repairs. It’s often better to buy a non-‘restored’ car; that way you know better what you’re getting,” says Pete. “The one I selected was a white, two-door GT with minimal rust, wild flared guards, Watanabe wheels and a mild L28 motor. It was tired but was the ‘right’ price.”
Once the car purchase was completed but before the Skyline was shipped to Australia, Jamie began hunting down all the replacement parts required for the restoration. It may have meant some additional double handling was to follow, but the savings in shipping were significant.
M Speed in Osaka proved to be a great source of parts, including coilover front suspension, rear shocks and adjustable spring perches, front and rear (conversion) disc brakes, period race-look Recaro front seats, new master cylinder, hardware and lines, new interior trim, new carpets and chrome work. Other items were either restored locally after arrival or sniped from Japanese auction sites when they came up.
In August 2017, the car was shipped to Australia, but it wasn’t in Pete’s hands straight away. First, it detoured interstate to spend some time with Chris at Spraydat in Toowoomba, Northern Queensland for body and paint work.
“The brief was to go back to bare metal, take out any rust and ultimately build an over-the-top Hakosuka ‘outlaw’, tipping its hat at the racing GT-Rs and the Japanese tuning scene,” says Pete. “I knew it had to be low with stance, have a hot motor, bespoke interior, go hard and stop well.”
If you’re unable to do most of the work yourself, a full restoration or custom job for a car like this is financial suicide in a country as expensive as Australia. But the cost of buying somebody else’s finished work is that it’ll never truly be your project, especially if you’ve got a unique vision or a wild style you’d like to create.
“To do a resto properly, it does not pay to cut corners,” Pete adds. “I generally try to stay away from doing restorations, but once you embark on a pathway you must follow it to the end. My general rule is that they will take twice as long and cost twice as much. When we ultimately took it [the Skyline] back to bare metal, it revealed few surprises. There was some rust, but that’s all been cut out and replaced with fresh metal.”
Strangely, Pete knew from day one that his Hakosuka had to be yellow. He’d underestimated the difficulty in finding a yellow hue that was just obnoxious enough to stand out while also still feeling like it could be a true 1970s period-correct shade, but I’m sure we can all agree the final colour was worth the extra time spent.
While the bodywork was being completed, Pete turned his attention to the engine. Knowing that S20 engines – those fitted to the C10 and C110 GT-Rs and the Fairlady 432Z – are pure unobtanium, he opted to build a period-correct race motor with local experts MIA Engines in Sydney.
A Nissan L28 was bored out and stroked from 2.8-litres to 3.1-litres. This amazing little motor runs triple OER 48mm carburettors, MSD ignition, bespoke stainless steel headers and a full stainless exhaust. There’s also a Carter return-flow fuel system and full alloy sump, plus a triple-core radiator to keep things cool.
I can confirm the stroked L-series sounds absolutely incredible all the way to 8,000rpm, both in and outside of the cabin. It’s not the deepest of notes, but its lumpy idle and angry rasp provides a level of character and aggression that’s completely devoid in modern engines.
The 3.1L engine makes more than just pretty noises though – it produces a reliable 309rwhp at 7,100rpm and 431 ft/lb at 5,700rpm. It’s not pushed to achieve these numbers, so Pete can rag on it all day when he so desires. I’ve had a lot of fun chasing this thing down on mountain roads in Project Nine.
An FJ20ET gearbox, Torsen-style Subaru 4.1 LSD, CV shafts and beefier axles were fitted to ensure the drivetrain can safely handle the new engine output.
The Skyline came from Japan on a set of 14×9-inch (front) and 14×12-inch (rear) RS Watanabes, and although they’re not currently fitted to the car, they were refurbished and rebuilt alongside the three-piece Panasport G7s it currently wears. These wheels measure 15×10-inch and 15×12-inch front and rear respectively.
To complete the interior, the front Recaros were restyled with ’70s-correct material and eyelets also sourced from Japan. It was a lot of work to find the right products to use for the retrim, but you’d have to agree it was worth the time and effort.
The original door trims and hood lining were tidied up, while the entire electrical and lighting systems were replaced with newer items or refurbished where possible. The upgrades are subtle and tasteful, creating a real OEM+ feel.
The first year on the road was a period of continual development and refinement. One of the biggest problems for Pete to overcome with his Skyline was striking a balance between the Japanese kyusha ride height and Australia’s unforgivingly rough roads. The first set of coilovers saw numerous revisions, but were ultimately scrapped for a better idea.
After stumbling across some media of a Datsun 510 with an Air Lift Performance suspension setup in the US, Pete got in touch with the owner to compare vehicle dimensions with a view to adapt the same setup for his Skyline.
Even with a few extra steps to ensure the process would be completely reversible, the front end conversion to air was relatively straight forward. The rear was not so simple; top and bottom suspension hats had to be drawn up and manufactured from scratch to secure the rear bags safely in place while leaving the chassis unmarked.
“It [the Air Lift Performance setup] has been trouble-free for two years now and I would never go back,” says Pete. “The bottom of the sump sits 50mm off the road when aired out and it rises to a pre-set drive height of 100mm as soon as you start the engine. The ride quality is so much better than the coilovers and the handling is good too. The shocks have 30-way adjustability up front and 15-way adjustability in the rear; I set the front and rear 1/3 from full soft and have not changed it. It’s driven across our mountains and ran up the drag strip a few times with no problems at all.”
The Skyline’s final touch may very well be its most identifiable. If rolling around in a bright yellow Hakosuka wasn’t already enough, in preparation for Speedhunters Live at Meguiar’s Motorex in Melbourne a couple of years back, Pete explored bringing some of Jose Gonzalez’s retro racing renders to life through an unapologetic livery applied by Jez at Sydney’s Prowraps and some blacked-out bright work. The end result is an instantly recognisable homage to the birth of the GT-R’s racing legacy.
Not only has Pete’s Skyline won numerous awards across the Australian scene, it’s also probably the most replicated ‘real ride’ I’ve found online in recent years. Almost every car game with the ability to customise paint has at least one or two homegrown digital renders of Pete’s self-promised project.
It’s not often you’ll hear an owner tell you a project is finished, but the only left on Pete’s list is to get out there behind the wheel and enjoy pushing his ‘Downunder Kyusha‘ creation as often as possible. It’s pretty hard to argue with that logic.
Peter Landan’s 1971 Nissan Skyline GT
Engine: L28 stroked to 3.1L by MIA Engine Services, triple OER carburettors, cast alloy finned & baffled sump, Carter fuel pump, pressure regulated return system, custom stainless steel equal-length headers, MSD ignition, triple-core radiator with electric thermo fan
Driveline: FJ20 5-speed gearbox, quick shift, Subaru 4.4 LSD, CV rear driveshafts, billet diff axles
Suspension/Brakes: 30-way adjustable Air Lift Performance struts with bags, 15-way adjustable GAZ shocks with custom-mounted Air Lift Performance air bags, Air Lift Performance management, twin compressors & tank, MK63 front disc brakes, M Speed rear disc brake conversion
Wheels/Tyres: Panasport G7 rims refurbished by Barrell Bros., 15×10-inch -15 front, 15×12-inch -55 rear, Bridgestone Potenza RE003 205/55R15 tyres front, Toyo Proxes R888 265/45R15 tyres rear
Exterior: Custom bright yellow by SprayDat, body standard but fitted with semi-works flares front & rear, custom Jose Gonzalez (Detroit) graphics by Jez Morris of Prowraps
Interior: Genuine C10 GT-R steering wheel, retrimmed Recaro front seats, rear seats trimmed to match