Prince Motor Company narrowly lost the inaugural 1964 Japanese Grand Prix- coming in second to a Porsche 904 - with a specially-modified Prince Skyline GT powered by an inline, six cylinder engine from the larger and more powerful Prince Gloria luxury sedan. Fueledby their success and a passion to be number one. the team set out to develop one of Japan's first purpose-built race cars, resulting in the Prince R380. Built upon a Brabham BT8 mid-engine chassis, the R380 used unique mechanics and aerodynamic bodywork. Shinichiro Sakurai, head of Prince Motors engineering, developed a new engine loosely based on the Skyline GT engine originally developed for the Gloria sedan. Known as the GR-8, the 1996 cubic centimeter, inline six-cylinder engine produced 200-horsepower and was mated to a 5-speed racing gearbox.
The rise of the Prince 380
Prince Motor Company was born out of the Tachikawa Aircraft Company, which was founded in Japan in the early 1920s and manufactured armed forces and civilian transport planes for several decades. Tachikawa eventually used its engineering expertise to establish an electric car division which over time began to build internal combustion-powered luxury and performance automobiles, becoming Prince Motor Company in 1952. The first Prince-badged vehicle, simply called sedan, was a modest executive car. The Sedan's successor, however, was the one that set the company on a new path. Introduced, in 1957, the Prince Skyline was available as a four-door premium sedan and five-door wagon. Prince engineers used their aeronautic background to make the Skyline lightweight, allowing it to reach higher top speeds - even with its 60-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine - and also built with a sophisticated de Dion rear suspension. A luxury sedan version of the Skyline, called Prince Gloria, joined the line in 1959. Eventually the Prince Skyline nameplate also evolved into a series of performance coupes, including the 1962 Skyline Sport, which featured hand-built bodies by famed Italian sports car designer Giovanni Michelotti. Prince then introduced the first Japanese single overhead cam (SOHC) six-cylinder engine in 1963, available in the Gloria luxury sedan. In 1964, when Prince Motor's management decided that a racing pedigree would help further establish its performance image, their engineers took a Skyline, extended the car a few inches from the front cowl, and installed the new, 127-horsepower, six-cylinder engine from the Gloria. The result was called Skyline GT, which was entered into the first Japanese Grand Prix, and narrowly lost the overall race, coming in second to the Porsche 904. Several hundred Skyline GT performance sedans were built to homologate the cars for Prince's racing aspirations. Propelled by their success in the 1964 race, Prince engineers developed the R380, considered one of the first purpose-built Japanese race cars. The R380 considered one of the first purpose-built Japanese race cars. The R380 campaigned in the second Japanese Grand Prix in 1966, taking the first two positions against the Porsche 906. That year also marked the merger between Prince Motor Company and Nissan Motor Company and the former Prince-branded models were integrated into Nissan's line. The Skyline and Gloria then had a second chapter of successes and have created legacies of their own.
The evolution of Prince Motor Company
In the mid-1980's Nissan Motor Company began to formulate plans for an all-new premium automotive company. The mission of this endeavor was a simple one : to create automobiles that one would want to take on an endless drive. The name of this automotive marque therefore became INFINITI Motor Company and the logo affixed to each of the brand's vehicles represents a road without end. The first INFINITI, Q45 luxury performance sedan, went on sale in 1989. Over the years, its line of premium automobiles has expanded into a series of coupes, sports and luxury sedans, crossovers, and sport utility vehicles. The heritage of many INFINITI vehicles can be directly traced to Prince Motor Company. The INFINITI G-line of coupes , sedans and convertibles from 2002 through 2014 are descendants of the Prince Skyline, as are today's Q50 sports sedan and Q60 coupe. The Prince Gloria evolved over many years until it became the original INFINITI M45, which two generations later is represented by today's Q70 luxury performance sedan. For INFINITI designers today, influences of the Michelotti-bodied, 1962 Prince Skyline Sport are reflected in the signature look of INFINITI vehicles, such as double-arch grilles and crescent-cut rear pillars. In addition, the hood centerline feature on the all-new Q60 coupe is specifically inspired by this iconic classic.
The road to INFINITI
The Prince R380's appearance at the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance will be the race car's first appearance in the Americas. 'The Prince R380 was one of the first Japanese competition cars ever developed,' said Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance . 'The R380 told where the future was going for Japanese automotive companies, as Prince understood that racing was an important ingredient for establishing a brand. To have the Prince, which was one of the earliest successful race cars, here for the first time in the Americas and at 'The Amelia,' truly is a thrill for me.'
Prince R380 makes American debut