Image credits: © Prince.

1965 Prince R380

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.

Because there was no Japanese Grand Prix in 1965, Prince did not have a chance to campaign the four R380s they built. The company did use them for aerodynamic testing and as a result, the R380 set several global land speed records.

The second Japanese Grand Prix was held in 1966 at Fuji Speedway, and Prince was finally able to enter its R380. Against the performance of a trio of Porsche 906s, Prince took the victory with the R380 driven by Yoshikazu Sunako in first, just ahead of Hideo Oishi's second place.

As a result, the Prince R380, in its first official competition, earned its place in history as a very significant race car.

The evolution of Prince Motor Company
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.

Source - Nissan / Amelia Island Concours

Vehicle Profiles

Designer: Shinichiro Sakurai

Prince developed a mid-engine layout for the R380 based on the success of Porsche's 904 that had beaten them in the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix.....[continue reading]


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