LAYING IT OUT
So to herald in a new era of these posts, the last of which I wrote a full year ago… I thought, lets freshen up the format a tiny bit. To start it out I figured lets use the three year old fresh release of Hasegawa’s somewhat new tool Nissan Skyline R31. A woefully underdeveloped market, even though it has been touched upon quite literally since the actual car has seen the day of light. Fujimi, the market leader in pumping out garbage as often as they pump out beautiful kits, has done every single version of the road-going Skyline R31 since 1986. They’ve done the GT, GTS, GTS-X and the GTS-R and for the racing versions they’ve done the famed Calsonic and Reebok ones as well as the TommyKaira road racer and the elusive Diesel Kiki. Heck they even done all the four door ones and a odd-as-heck Hartge version. Yeah, the defunct-as-of-2019 German tuners.
So what’s wrong with the Fujimi versions? Well, kinda everything. They’re the epitome of “it’ll do“, which in itself isn’t inherently bad. It’s just under-fuckin’-whelming. The chassis plate is underdeveloped, the interior is plain and chunky, the body proportions while nearly entirely accurate always feel and look just a little off and so it goes on. Nevermind the concept of the quality of life upgrades that post 1990s modeling has granted us. Hasegawa since the mid naughties has been plenty spoiling us with those, when they amped up development on their “Historic Cars” series in 2005. They have been around since 1992, when they did the Toyota 2000GT as “HC-1” but as of 2008 they have ramped it up to developing a whole new tool every single year, sometimes two. Then they also are kind enough to give every fuckin’ variation that has ever been thought up of that particular car thanks to the ease of 3D modeling. The Nissan Skyline is no different, the R31 is their first generation in the proper Skyline market and thus far as of 2021 they have eight unique models on the market. Two under the “Historic Cars”; label, namely the base R31 GTS-R(HC29) and the Group A Calsonic Skyline(HC27). The rest all sit under the Limited Edition label, which essentially means they get one shot at being on the market and that’s roughly it.
I opted for the NISMO release for two reasons. One, I think the quad-tail light R31 with the lenses visible to be the more attractive of the two. Two, it has those bitchin’ BBS wheels. And technically there would be a third reason, and that’d be the fact that it is a limited edition. Exclusives can eat my ass but there certainly is an appeal there. So up above you could see the parts lay out in all its glory. First thing you’ll notice is the plastic is in the deep marine blue as the box art car, that right there is nice. Though often, the “swirl” of the hot plastic being forced into the tool causes the paint and especially metallic material collect in one place but on this particular model it isn’t so bad. Heck it’s so not-that-bad that I simply laid over a thick layer of Tamiya pearl clear to add to it a little. I know the original, rare as balls car is just plain marine blue but c’mon, sometimes a little metallic or metal flake only adds, right?
Another thing you’ll notice is just how Goddamn crisp it is. Right? Right! Not an ounce of flash, anywhere. This, this right here is why I adore these kits in my ambiguously named “Year of Hasegawa” that now spans a year and a half. Cue the golfclaps for this boy. Anyway, the kit and the detail is borderline beautiful. The technology of 3D designed blueprints and factory data being used to ensure it is as correct as can be, and where possible a LiDAR scan, you just cannot ever again say “oh this to me looks like the angle is off”. It grinds my fuckin’ gears to metallic dust whenever I see the announcement of a whole new foray into model territory by a company and it is immediately shat upon by people left, right and center about how ‘it looks off’. With this, it is now practically impossible. However! The plot twist cometh! Now, we reached a new possible “hurdle” in the model kit business which is known as ‘factory convenience’. For Revell, and a fair amount of other model kit developers, this is mostly around the wheels. They often, if not outright always design a wheel to match a pre-designed type of tire. So this usually leads to wheels being hilariously undersized with thick rubber wheels for a car that in reality would have low profile, thin tires with huge wheels. In other cases it could be skipping on door card detail or making certain details vanish from the chassis like brake lines or such. Those are just examples, and in one pitchfork-raising instance, this caused people to flatout refuse to purchase a kit. The new-tool Jaguar E-Type is a good example, it was designed with a convertible in mind and they for the sake of convenience and not having to tool up two bodies angled the windshield to be of the convertible and just edited the roof to match. If that’s the price to pay for affordable kits and never ever needing to look at car shaped amalgamations of plastic(’69 Firebird and ’69 Camaro by MPC, holy shit), it’s not a bad deal.
Click to enlarge
LAYING IT ON
Now, being a bit of a Skyline lover, I bought the R32 Skyline they had released last year straight after this one and will likely be on this site in a few weeks. That being said, the soft spot I possess for R31 Skylines is just indescribable. It’s the perfect zeitgeist of the 1980s, in the shape of a car. Loud-ass decals, more square than a Picasso made on acid, strange automotive technology that sounded like someone was reading a spec sheet of a Commodore 64 and best of all, the phrase ‘it was fast, for the time‘. Don’t underestimate the era that ended with the 1990s being lauded in by a GMC truck being faster than a Ferrari. This was the era of cars getting dynamic four wheel steering(in this case, the R31 was equipped with a HICAS, standing for Hi-capacity Assisted Steering), turbos were slapped on every single thing, insane methods enhance low RPMs and stabilize hitting the gas(the early R31s with the RB engines got NICS, “Nissan Induction Control System”) and it just goes on and on. Airdams that help suck air into the gargantuan intercooler? Check, heck put a label on it. Wings that reduce drag on a car that shares 90% of its shape with the White Cliffs of Dover? Sure! Lightweight BBS alloys? Oh now hold on, no we need ‘aerodynamic’ wheels that look like hub-caps. Ugly as hell but efficient! Put ’em on there!
The Skyline’s always been more to me than just ‘that car from the Fast & The Furious’, far more than just the box-art car for every racing game since 1993. While I don’t fetishize the car like Kazunori Yamauchi who over the years had over seventy five Skyline models added into the game Gran Turismo, I do adore the Skylines of yore. Now officially split apart, the R35 is no longer a “Skyline” but just a “GT-R”, which to me always sounded like the young man grew up and wanted his own identity but whatever. From the GT-R’s humble beginnings in 1969, it too nearly died off like so many budget powerhouses in 1973 when the oil crisis curbed interest in expensive cars, especially those that drank fuel and were more track focused. Off topic but that is the thing that fascinates me about the Skyline GT-R, the Fairlady Z and such models… They ran parallel to the US explosion of muscle cars and internally they focused on the same principles. Large engine, good track capability, stripped of most its luxuries and most importantly whilst expensive, it was still affordable. With some saving up, or the right payment plan, Joe Schmo could have his ’70 Challenger R/T or in this analogy, a ’72 2000 GT-R. Actually, that’s not true. Whilst most American muscle sold for reasonably attainable prices, the GT-R sold for ¥1,5 million which in 1972-1973 US dollar value( ¥271/1$) would amount to 5535$ list price. For reference, the most expensive muscle car was a 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda convertible with the HEMI and all added luxuries which gave it a sticker price(last one sold in ’72) ran at a mind-boggling 4,348$.
And that’s where the paths diverge. Granted, the GT-R was a full grand more expensive to a ordinary Japanese or Australian person but it immediately became a legend. Whilst the US market was sinking in the quagmire that was known as rushed production, the Japanese car market began to really find its place. The reason why the GT-R was axed in 1973 even though it dominated street and track races, was known for its high reliability and ease of tuning, is because it was expensive and driving a chugger for rich folk in ’73 was a faux pas. Nobody wanted one and Nissan wisely shelved it, carrying on with their four door and two door middle-to-high tier Skylines. The Big Three just continued smashing the same square block through the round hole at the detriment of the car itself, which is how the vehicle brochure of 1971 read like a fucking obituary in 1975. I love making these dots to connect between various world markets, cause they truly had very little influence on each other besides consumer interests blurring the lines. It’s truly unfair to shit on the US automotive industry of the 1970s constantly and praise the rest of the world, I get that. Nobody bore a torch very well that decade, it’s just that the ruling parties of GM, Ford and Chrysler in that decade are just the easiest punching bag one could ever muster. Mustache twirlingly evil, factories running on the spent bones of their employees, busting unions and making cars with the reliability of a politician in fund raising season.
Now, even though the GT-R nameplate was to be considered dead for the foreseeable future, the crafty boys of Nissan kept their hands from falling idle the whole decade and by 1981 they had finally got something to unveil to the world. Or well, to Japan and Australia and by some miracle the United Kingdom. Whilst initially a normal looking Skyline, in 1983 it became known as the Iron Mask, a sleek nosed upgrade to a Skyline coupe that weighed a smidge over 1180kg but came with a Japanese new-new. The FJ20E engine was a DOHC 4 cylinder engine unlike any other, it was the first of its kind to have multiple valves per cylinder. Those “16V” things you see everywhere on every 1980s car? Nissan started that. Then, for the newly introduced RS model with the sleek small headlights and unique two-tone body and the yellow decals, they fuckin’ turbocharged it. Now, this bastard would go from 144HP to 189HP thanks to that and because its massive torque and low weight, this car enjoyed a brief status as fastest Japanese production car. It was just evolution upon evolution, by 1984 the options sheet included all the higher range Skyline luxury bits but also an intercooler, a new air dam for the huge turbo and further tuned the engine to now produce over 200HP. For reference, a Camaro Z/28 with a 5 liter engine had similar horsepower and torque but even a fully equipped RS-X would weigh three hundred kilograms less and just decimate the poor thing on even footing(and for a Euro comparison, a ’84 BMW E30 M3 Evo II would have 202HP and weighed fifty kg less, but it bottlenecked on the RPM though it could easily hold a candle to the RS-X, go Europe!). Hence it’s ungodly success in just about any type of motorsport in that decade, all besides rally but the 240RS was kicking ass there too. Nissan had a successful beast of a machine and by the turn of the 7th generation of the Skyline, they were ready to refine it and that is also exactly where the subject of this model kit comes into play. The real car was a in-house tuned by NISMO celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Skyline name, of which production started in February 1987. Only a thousand units were made with this white fade stripe, GTS-X styling package, all-included interior and of course the RB20DET engine.
SOMEKIND OF PUN WITH ‘LAYING‘ FOR CONSISTENCY
When Hasegawa announced in 2018 that they were doing a Calsonic GTS-R Skyline and a regular stock version of the still unique, one of a kind GTS-R that was made as a homologation for the aforementioned Group A touring car, I was kind of shruggy. I didn’t particularly care, partially due to how I felt about building Japanese kits at the time(I loved them but I never even glanced at Fujimi, Aoshima or Hasegawa in honesty) and I was far more invested in Malaise era shitboxes and prime-time muscle cars. The other part was that Fujimi, with all respect to their line, just flooded the market. Whilst, as I said initially, not bad kits perse, they are just meh. Meh, meh all around.
Then, this ambigiously named “year of Hasegawa” had me invest. I built the ’74 Honda Civic and loved it, then I built the ’86 Toyota Starlet and loved it, then I built the ’83 Mitsubishi Lancer and loved it but never wrote a fuckin’ thing about it, after which I built the ’87 Nissan Bluebird SSS-R and just utterly fell smitten. Since then, and I wish I was lying, I bought twelve kits. The ’70 Toyota Celica, ’71 Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO and the ’76 Colt Galant GSR, ’90 Suzuki Jimny and ’91 Suzuki Jimny, the ’72 BMW 2002 Turbo, the ’79 Nissan Sunny, ’85 Toyota Starlet Limited, ’89 Skyline R32 GT-R, ’71 Nissan Fairlady 432R, ’70 Nissan Fairlady 240ZG, ’88 Isuzu Gemini Lotus and pre-ordered the ’90 Nissan Bluebird SSS-R and the ’89 Toyota Supra White Package. Somebody, fucking stop me.
I love these kits for all the right reasons. They’re all supremely well designed, technological masterpieces more often than not and they all go together like a complicated, beautiful puzzle. Everything is made with the ease of the builder in mind. I know, this is a rehash of give or take three Hasegawa articles now but I cannot overstate it enough. These kits are the definition of ‘pleasant’, especially in these busy times now where I’m either working, maintaining a household or doing decal work, having a kit that takes a single day to paint and put together and still look like a factory die-cast valued at a couple hundred is nothing short of perfection. And yes, here is where we would put the entire diatribe of “where’s the engine bay” and such, and granted I still do wish for Hasegawa level quality engine bays but you know what, for 23 bucks a kit, I ain’t gonna whine. Not even for a second. I’ve pretty much reached the point that after fifteen of these damn kits, that is a hill I’m willing to die on. It would improve the kits, for certain, but they are absolutely amazing right where they currently are.
Now onto the kit proper. This is the only one of the street models that has a stripe package of sorts, which is also part of the reason why I picked it, but otherwise it is entirely identical to the other two-toned GTS-X kit bar the wheels and decals. I’ll try and keep it brief and stay with the complaints, as another eight paragraphs of bootlicking isn’t gonna help anyone. If this didn’t poke you to go and buy any of the Hasegawa Skyline R31 kits, I doubt any more of that would change your mind. Also, as I’m writing this, I’m now noticing two of the center cap decals on the rear wheels are gone! Fuckin’ A! Well, heck, with that in mind, let’s start with complaint number one.
The wheels. They’re far too small and far too shallow. The real BBS wheels, specifically BBS RS 539’s were an option on the 30th Anniversary package and they were at the time 19 inch wheels with a double lip. The ones on the kit would measure closer to 16 and clearly have a far more shallow lip. Why? Well back at the start I wrote how the modern technology allows for all sorts of creativity but for the sake of convenience we still cut corners? The wheel is clearly designed to fit the already existing tire and wheel backing. So wide-as-balls tires with 19 inch wheels would’ve required a whole new tire and possibly re-engineering the complex suspension. I write it off as such but man, it’s a visible difference. The second complaint I would have is actually about that exact suspension get-up. The connections between the wheel hubs and the suspension arms are far, far too close and either require some jimmying around or a Goddamn premonition to get right the first time around. While the concept of this kit being a gloriously delightfully complex puzzle, when the pinpoint accuracy is so high that even the layer of paint on it is enough to cause it to get caught on other bits and not function remotely the way that it should, that’s where I’d say they should’ve just molded it as one single piece.
But other than that… I really have no complaints. I know, right? It’s such a wonderful thing. Heck, it went together so well that the closest thing to whining about it I can do is the side indicator’s pins are nigh non existent and have you rubbing the body like a idiot trying to have them fall in place and the air-dam and intercooler intake placement is a little ambiguous at best. For the rest, it all just falls in place so damn well. The rear valance especially looks so good it might as well be a splitting image of the real thing. The body is so well defined and high quality that laying down masking tape for the all-around body trim is as easy as can be without all the black paint sinking into the two well defined panel lines. You get masks for all the glass and even the wheels if you are so inclined, so making it look good is as easy as can be. I’m going to be making more of these, easily. Hell I got over ten waiting for me so, you know… No problem. But since they all are easy to put together, have relatively small short comings and look beautiful regardless of the effort, these kits get a big thumbs up from me. I try to do my part by actually buying the damn things, support them with your wallet as the saying goes. And now I go have two new center cap NISMO decals printed to replace the ones that have fuckin’ vanished.
’87 Nissan Skyline(R31) GTS “NISMO” specifications:
Skill Level: N/A
Molded in: Dark Blue & Gray