The NISMO division of Nissan has a reputation for using innovation and a love of competitive motorsports. And the result is fast, record-breaking, crowd-leading race cars. For more than half of a century, this dynamic engineering team has consistently created automotive champions, earning a place among all of the world’s fastest car manufacturers.
Of course, this 50-year record of ingenuity and success had to start somewhere. The story of Nissan NISMO (and its trail of pavement-burning supercars) begins in Japan during 1964, with an old automobile manufacturer named Prince Motor Company.
The Timeline of Legendary Nissan NISMO
1964: Prince Motor Company, a local Japanese auto manufacturer, decided to pursue sales through participation in competitive motorsports. They performed an engine transplant, taking the engine from a large luxury sedan and putting it in a much smaller car called Skyline. This car was officially dubbed the Prince Skyline 200GT, competing in its first race on May 3, 1964.
1966: Nissan acquires Prince Motor Company, and with it, acquires its newfound interest in the mechanics of racing cars. A year after the acquisition, the Skyline (S57) was launched, adding to the colorful history of the Skyline name.
1969: The popular GT-R badge emerges for the first time as first a sedan, then soon after as a coupe called the KPGC-10. The two GT-Rs shared 50 racing victories between 1969 and 1972.
1984: Nissan decides to make its competitive engineering unit official.
FUN FACT! For those wondering “What does NISMO even stand for?” Here’s your answer. The team was named “Nissan Motorsports International Co. Ltd” and abbreviated to NISMO. While it was established as a separate company, Nissan continues to fully own NISMO as one of its subsidiaries.
1986: Nissan enters a car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race for the first time. This endurance race has been held annually since 1923 in France, and it is often called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency.” It is one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport (the other two being the Indy500 and Monaco Grand Prix).
Since the first NISMO car attended Le Mans, the company has continued to enter cars in the race, enjoying much success and beginning the climb to the outstanding reputation the Nissan NISMO group and its cars enjoy today.
1991-1998: Buzz about NISMO spreads to the U.S. and Europe.
1991: A Skyline GT-R takes the overall win in the Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance race.
1995: NISMO GT-R LM comes in 10th place at 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1998: Nissan R390 GT1 finishes 3rd at Le Mans.
Around this time, racing titles and competitive edge weren’t the only thing fueling the NISMO fire. The GT-R found a fan base off the track, becoming the center of Sony’s Gran Turismo® video game series. Though the GT-R was not yet for sale in the U.S., it’s reputation was already being built through the fandom of digital gaming.
1999- 2003: The Skyline GT-R competes in the yearly Fia GT Championships, a racing series held mostly in Europe until 2009, earning wins for both driver and team in 1999 and 2003.
2004-2005: Enter the Fairlady Z, known as the 350Z in the U.S. and Europe. The Fairlady Z competed in the Japan Super GT series, winning its first race and taking home the driver and team titles.
Though these decorated cars continued to make a name for themselves on the track, Nissan followed through on its vision to make high-performance cars available to car enthusiasts who wanted the experience for themselves. Starting in Japan, Nissan began a business where you could buy NISMO parts. The engineers began tuning cars with purchased NISMO parts for added performance boosts.
2008-2012: The GT-R R35 model hits the road, winning titles in the Japan Super GT championship in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
2013: The GT-R continues to compete in races all over the world, but the NISMO team gets to work on another project. The DeltaWing project aims to produce a car with half the weight, half the horsepower, and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical Le Mans sports car, but with all the speed.
This falls in line with Nissan’s continued efforts to create more environmentally friendly vehicles. NISMO also played a role in the development of the electric Nissan LEAF and NV200.
2016: Today, Nissan NISMO boasts a collection of powerful NISMO cars that have a niche both on and off the track. The 370Z Nismo®, GT-R Nismo® and Juke Nismo® continue to live up to the NISMO precedent, leading the way in races, making appearances at car shows, and stirring up talk among car enthusiasts.
NISMO: Innovation is Standard
The NISMO division of Nissan continues to take strides towards producing the fastest, smartest cars and making them accessible for those who want them. Since its start in Japan 50 years ago, the NISMO team has been unwaveringly ambitious, curious, and successful.