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The Box Project – Speedhunters

Pedigree

It was 1964 when Prince entered their S50D-1 2000GT Skyline in the Japan GT-II race, aiming to make a name for themselves amongst the other heavy-hitters from the region.

The car was merely a family saloon, but showed promise leveraging its hefty G-7 SOHC straight-six against the competition. Unfortunately for Prince, it was this very same race where the Porsche 904 GTS was also entered, triumphing the Skyline and taking home the checkered flag (go figure, right?). But much to the surprise of the Prince Motorist Club, the Skylines weren’t too far behind, finishing 2nd through 6th, dominating everything else on the grid.

Why is this important? Well, I’d argue that if it wasn’t for the success of this race, the almighty Skyline as we know it may have dwindled off into another chapter of lost Japanese history.

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The 904 GTS that won the ’64 race is what pushed Prince engineers to develop the Prince R380, which took on, and defeated the updated Porsche 906 at the Japanese Grand Prix two years later, leading to the acquisition of Prince by Nissan.

Yes, there are some stories about political influence somewhat forcing the merger, but needless to say, Nissan embraced Prince’s success in motorsport. Nissan dropped the Prince name, however, the Prince Motorist Club was said to have been handling their motorsport division hidden deep within the company for years after. They even worked out of the old Prince headquarters in the Mita district of Tokyo, rather than the Nissan headquarters in Ginza.

Nissan continued with the Skyline after the acquisition, but this time under its own badge and with a facelift. Though it wasn’t just a facelift, it was an entire redesign that took a couple of years to complete.

The initial C10 was powered by the old Prince G15 inline four-cylinder engine and was only offered as a sedan or wagon. They’re considered the pre-facelift cars despite sharing key ‘Hakosuka’ design characteristics like the ‘surf line’ above the rear quarter panels, aggressive Pininfarina-like belt line, and quad headlights to name a few.

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As the facelifting process continued, the Skyline eventually ended up in its final form, or at least final Hakosuka form. The almighty as we’ve come to know it is the KPGC10, which is the two-door, pillar-less coupe variant of the late-model Hakosuka. It was stripped of everything to be as light as possible and was the first Skyline to have rear fender flares to contain wider steel wheels and tires, while also retaining fully independent suspension on all four corners.

But I can’t leave out the most important part about the car – the S20 engine, which was a Prince GR-8 inspired DOHC inline-six that came from the factory with hemispherical combustion chambers, four valves per cylinder, and of course triple carburetors, leading it to a claimed 160hp and something like an 8,000rpm redline. It’s one of the best-sounding engines I’ve ever heard. Thus, the KPGC10 was and still is the most race-bred Skyline of them all.

Manifesting

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This lineage with all of its historical significance and remarkable design is what led me here. A 10-year non-stop search that concluded with what was quite literally the acquisition of my dream car. Yes readers, the KGC10 Nissan Skyline 2000GT above is mine, and I still can’t believe it when I type that out.

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It all started out back in high school. I can’t point out the specifics of when exactly, but I’d estimate sometime around sophomore year is when I looked through my first Japanese Option magazine, and the first time I saw the C10 Skyline. I may have been a late bloomer to this compared to some of the other owners, but cut me some slack. After all, I picked the right car to fall in love with, right?

Anyway, I remember flipping through the pages, having not a clue what any of the words meant since it was all in Japanese. All I knew was that I loved the cars that were in it. They were inspiring and different, and heavily focused on the drift and stance scene at the time. But I vividly remember stopping dead in my tracks the moment I laid eyes on the page with the Hakosuka on it. It was low, it had flares, and these tiny little wheels with bubbly tires. Most notably though, it looked muscle car-like, almost American if you didn’t pay it too much attention. And it was a KPGC10 GT-R tribute.

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I was in awe of the countless little details and intricacies of its design. It was so simple but also so elegant and yet retained this aggressive demeanor. To this day, the design is the key characteristic that literally makes me melt when I look at it. I would consider it the most beautiful car penned out of Japan, parallel to the Toyota 2000GT.

I told myself that day that I would own one just like the one in the picture, flares with bubbly wheels and all – the full KPGC10 tribute.

Securing The Bag

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The search was probably the most difficult task I’ve endured in my entire life. As mentioned, it took me a decade to find the right car, of which the first five years were absolutely fruitless. With Instagram barely making its emergence and Facebook still in its adolescence, social media searches were damn near out of the question.

With my hopes crushed, I stopped and waited, though I didn’t really know what I was waiting for. I would occasionally peek around Craigslist here and there, and a few forums too, but nothing would ever come up. Or if they did, they were rusted to absolute death.

Luckily though, it seemed that others in the Datsun world were also gauging their interests for these cars in the United States, and as time progressed, so did the number of Hakosukas that were imported from Japan.

(Fun fact: I came across my R32 Skyline GT-R whilst searching the internet for a Hakosuka a few years back, and the only reason I bought it was to be a placeholder while I continued my search.)

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Fast forwarding to about a year and a half ago, my R32 GT-R was long gone and though I had Project 912SiX at the time still, I was itching to get back into some sort of Skyline.

By this point, importing rare cars was somewhat normal in the US. I was seeing R32s and R33s and even R34s posted for sale frequently. I figured the timing was right, so I scavenged the internet, all social media, and for some reason decided to post a ‘WTB’ thread in the Hakosuka owners group. Low and behold, the latter was what destiny had in store for me…

I received a PM from a social media friend who managed to connect with me through R32 ownership, and he noted that someone at a local track nearby to him in one of the southern states happened to have a Hakosuka listed for sale, and it was only a few miles away from him. You can probably guess how skeptical I was of this, given that I’d been searching for such a long period of time. But my skepticisms were put at rest the moment the seller connected with me and started discussing the details of the car.

The KGC10 had already been ‘restored’ (I say that as loosely as I can) once in Japan and presented itself fairly well. It had been in the US for a long while before I inquired, but the seller never really did anything with it, so he was compelled to let it go to someone who would do proper justice in bringing it up to its well-deserved glory. I think it’s safe to say, I was that guy.

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After an excruciatingly long six-month sale cycle (the details would bore you, trust me, so I’m leaving them out), on December 11, 2019, I took delivery of my dream car.

First Month

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The first thing I did was drive the absolute hell out of the car. I’m talking damn near using it as a daily driver, whether that was to the coffee shop, the grocery store, or even just around the block for giggles. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I cannot express enough how much I love this car. It lived up to everything I was expecting it to. The character, the charm, the smell, and let’s not forget that absolutely gorgeous design. There would even be days where I’d just go stare at it while drinking my coffee. We literally went on dates together.

But the honeymoon was short-lived. A month into ownership, and the flaws began to pop out. Some suspension bits became so worn out that the car became undrivable. After discovering some questionable bodywork, I made the decision to put ‘The Box Project’ under the knife, ultimately aiming to achieve that end vision of the low and aggressive car that had the flares and bubbly tires that I initially fell in love with at 16. It was time for my version of the tribute to come to life.

The Box Project Lives

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The Hakosuka went to my friend’s bodyshop almost immediately after the decision was made, and it made itself quite comfortable living there too. With parts taking months to arrive from Japan and a full windows-out paint job in the roadmap along with metal restoration and suspension/drivetrain upgrades, the car separated itself from me for exactly one year. But the outcome couldn’t have been any more perfect.

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That being said, it almost looks the part aside from some details that are still in the pipeline. And of course, there’s an entire list of other upgrades that are also in the works to bring The Box Project to where I would consider it complete. But I’ll spare the details for a future update. Stay tuned…

Naveed Yousufzai
Instagram: eatwithnaveed
Email: [email protected]

Gallery

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