Monterey Car Week: Prince Skyline Sport

by Michael Satterfield

A 1963 Prince Skyline Sport Coupe will be one of the more unique vehicles on display at the second annual Japanese Automotive Invitational, held during the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, this week in Monterey, California. The Invitational celebrates the achievements of the Japanese automotive industry and features a curated collection of some of the most significant cars ever produced in Japan. This year the theme is Progenitors and Icons: 30 Years of Japanese Luxury.

Fitting the bill of a progenitor and icon the Prince Skyline Sport is on hand representing perhaps the most important Japanese carmaker you have never heard of. Prince Motor Company, the first Japanese brand to compete with European sports cars like Maserati and Porsche head to head both on the road and at the racetrack. Their flagship model, the Skyline Sport Coupe, was styled by famed Italian designer Michelotti. Based on the chassis and drivetrain of the Prince Gloria, with a 91 hp 1.9-liter engine wasn't going to set in records, but it would be Japan's first luxury sports coupe. 

Unveiled at the 1960 Torino International Motor Show the Skyline Sport was a hit and given the green light for production. Each Skyline Sport would be handmade by Michelotti and despite their popularity in Japanese Toho Films, less than 60 Skyline Sport coupes and convertibles were built over the two years of production. 

Prince R380 Photographed at the Nissan Heritage Collection in Japan
Prince had bigger aspirations than producing low volume luxury sports cars, management wanted the racing pedigree to rival the European carmakers as well. In 1964, Prince took its new SOHC six-cylinder engine and installed it in a modified Skyline, creating the first Skyline GT. The Skyline GT was entered into the first Japanese Grand Prix, finishing second to a Porsche 904. Spurred on by this success Prince developed the R380, an exotic mid-engine GT car designed to win the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix, which it did upsetting Porsche with a one-two victory. 1966 also marked the merger between Prince Motor Company and Nissan Motor Company, the Skyline and Gloria which would remain in production at Nissan.

Because of the limited production of all Prince cars seeing one in person is a rare treat. If you are in Monterey for Car Week be sure to visit the Japanese Automotive Invitational, August 16 – 18, 2019 other notable cars include a 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport, the 1984 Honda CRX Mugen, and a Datsun 16 which was based on the Austin 7.

INFINITI Pavilion/Japanese Automotive Invitational Event Address:
3229 Forest Lake Road
Pebble Beach, CA 93953

Sign up for a tour at the JAI Registration Platform for a free 30-minute tour Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17 at 10:00AM, 12:00PM, or 2:00PM

Each tour is limited to only 25 spaces, and are first-come, first-serve.