Shinichiro Sakurai – The Father of the Legendary Nissan Skyline

The Nissan Skyline was created and borne of one’s brilliant mind and passion, and it continues to make an impact on an entire industry. This is a feat rarely accomplished by any man or woman. To do these, and at the same time leave an indelible mark on a country as a whole, could be the pinnacle of anyone’s work.

In the world of automobiles and motorsports, where historical victories and lap records are broken by the literal and proverbial seconds, one such man’s work has continued to inspire and serve as the spirit of what could be one of the most well-known names in Japanese car history: that is the Skyline.

How Godzilla came to be from the Nissan Skyline

Nissan Skyline Shinichiro Sakurai Inline 01 Min

Photo: Nissan

Shinichiro Sakurai, a Japanese engineer, was born into what we can call an academic family. When most children at that time would share their dreams of dedicating themselves to the country, Shinichiro secretly kept his real dream only to himself. It was that he wanted to work in the automotive industry. It took time before this was realized, and he had to wait until he earned his degree. In 1952, his course towards becoming a, and creating a legend was set.

While working with the Prince Motor Company, he helped develop what would be the first Nissan Skyline. Two generations later, Shinichiro was appointed as the head of the development team of the already-iconic model. 1969 saw the Hakosuka GT-R take to the streets, and more importantly, into the racing scene. This particular model paved the way for Shinichiro to stay at, and on top of the next iterations of the Skyline models, well into Prince’s merger with Nissan Motor Company.

Nissan Skyline Shinichiro Sakurai Inline 02 Min

Photo: Nissan

Taking nothing away from the Hakosuka, other Skylines have also caught the eyes and hearts of the masses and enthusiasts alike – the “KenMary”, the 5th generation “Japan”, and the 6th generation “Newman”, to name two more of the respected and recognized Nissan Skylines.

Sakurai was a very dedicated engineer, and he was a man who loved his craft very, very deeply. Most of of those he worked with, colleagues and subordinates alike, remember one thing about their taichou, and this was that for him, mediocrity is never acceptable. From the newbies and greenhorns to the seasoned designers and engineers, he treated all with the same fire that he himself showed when helming projects and production. He pushed and drove all those working around and with him hard in order to succeed, and they all agree that this tempering made them and the new Nissan Skylines what they are today.

Nissan Skyline Shinichiro Sakurai Inline 03 Min

Photo: Nissan

During the development of the 7th generation Nissan Skyline, Sakurai had already fallen ill, and the mantle was inevitably passed on. There were still many times that he would still come in to look at and oversee his dreams during that time and, as he truly deserved, he was inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame in 2005. His passing six years since his induction may have left a gaping hole in what is now part and parcel of Nissan’s motorsports glory, but make no mistake about it: Shinichiro Sakurai has left his permanent mark for many more generations to come.

Mikko Juangco
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