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Country of origin:Japan
Produced from:1962 - 1964
Numbers built:Around 60
Introduced at:1960 Turin Auto Show
Designed by:Giovanni Michelotti for the Prince Motor Company
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 21, 2010
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDuring the 1950s car production in Japan started in earnest. The fledgling manufacturers built small and efficient cars aimed almost exclusively at the domestic market. One of the few companies to focus on high end models was the Prince Motor Company. Established in 1952, Prince emerged from the ruins of the Tachikawa Aircraft Company, which had built the legendary Zero fighter planes during the War.

In 1957 Prince expanded the range with a four door sedan, labelled the 'Skyline'. Richly appointed with chrome trim, it looked like a smaller scale version of the American Chevrolets from many angles. Following the latest American design trends, the Skyline received twin headlights a year later. Appearances often deceive; this luxury saloon was a lot more than just another clone.

Hidden underneath the chrome-laden body was a sophisticated chassis. The front suspension was by double wishbones and coil springs while the rear end featured a state-of-the-art DeDion axle. Powered by a simple 1.5 litre four cylinder engine, the original Skyline did have only 60 bhp to get the fine chassis moving. A 1.9 litre version followed a few years later, giving 96 bhp and a 150 km/h top speed.

In a quest to add some credibility and style to the Skyline, Prince executives approached Giovanni Michelotti to style a two-door version. Calling in outside help like that was unheard off at the time in Japan. The talented designer created similarly styled coupe and convertible versions of the Skyline. The twin-headlights were mounted at an angle and far less chrome was used for the trim.

The first prototype of the 'Skyline Sport' was unveiled at the 1960 Turin Motor Show. Despite its Japanese roots, Michelotti's styling must have made the two-door Prince look strangely familiar to the Italian crowd. Although the two-door Skyline received the green light, it took another two years before production commenced. The bodies were hand-built by Michelotti's men in Italy.

Prince recognised the power of exposure and employed some of the country's finest marketing men. Their efforts resulted in many cameo appearances of the Skyline Sport and other Prince models in Japanese movies and television series. Unfortunately it did not proof enough to convince potential buyers to part with the 1,950,000 yen that Prince demanded for the exotic Italian bodied Skyline.

Production ceased in 1964 and it is believed that only 60 examples were ever constructed. Most of these never sold and were used as daily transport for Prince executives. When they had outlived their use almost all of them were destroyed. This was a rather crude attempt to erase the costly failure from history. Fortunately some examples have managed to escape destruction and still exist today.

In 1966 Prince merged with Nissan and the Skyline has lived on as Nissan model ever since. In its various guises, the Skyline has become one of Nissan's most famous and loved cars. The Michelotti bodied Prince Skyline Sport forms only a footnote to the Skyline's rich history. It should nevertheless be remembered as one of the first, if not the first European styled Japanese car.

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  Article Image gallery (17) Specifications