PC: Jerry Yee
If you are a true petrolhead, you will instantly recognize the Nissan Skyline GT-R's iconic four red circles. Although there are many other amazing cars that featured circular tail lights like the Bugatti Veyron and the Ferrari F40, but none have made the four circular tail light design the backbone of its long and rich heritage.
None that is, except the 怪獣 (kaiju, monster), known as Godzilla from Japan. Although the GT-R and as an extension, the Nissan Skyline itself is known for those iconic set of lights, the first Skylines and even the first GT-R did not sport these icons. It was not until 1972 with the C110 Skyline that these iconic lights saw their debut.
Sadly, with the debut of one icon also came the (temporary) death of another. By the time the C110 Skyline GT-R, affectionately called the Kenmeri GT-R rolled around in September 1972, the oil crisis has hit and consumers around the globe began to shift from performance cars to more economical ones. Due to the shift, Nissan decided to ax the GT-R in 1973 with only 197 examples ever produced. (Although the C110 Skyline was produced until 1977). However, the death of the GT-R did not spell the death of this iconic design. The four circles of the Skyline survived past the C110 to the C210 (unfortunately I have never seen one so no picture QQ) and to the first modern Skyline, the DR30.
By the time 1981 rolled along, Nissan began reintroducing proper performance Skylines with the 2000-RS Turbo as shown above, and to throw a homage to its heritage, the DR30 2000-RS Turbo featured the iconic four circle lights inside the more modern (for the time) square light covers.
As we edge closer to the resurrection of Christ.. er.. I mean Godzilla, the first set of circular lights fitted onto an RB engine equipped Skyline came into being in the form of the HR31 Skyline GTS-R (not pictured since I have unfortunately never seen one). Taking the same design notes as the DR30, the HR31 Skyline also features the four circles inside 80s style squares. With the end of the 80s, the much awaited resurrection of a monster finally happened.
1989 marked the year the famous R emblem saw its reintroduction to the Nissan Skyline lineup. Harkening back to (my favorite) the Kenmeri GT-R, the BNR32 GT-R featured a set of pure, unobstructed red circles on its rear end. Almost akin to a slow revelation, the four circles were initially obstructed by the light covers of the DR30 and HR31 Skylines, and like a monster coming out of its slumber, the BNR32 GT-R's circles has rid itself of the mask and proudly reappears on the back of Godzilla in all its proper glory.
With the re-awakening of the GT-R, this iconic set of lights are definitely here to stay.
Beginning BNR33, the GT-R's lights became much more prominent, clearly hinting at the increased power of this beast.
Eventually ending up with, possibly the most iconic GT-R, the BNR34's distinctive "large and small" pattern that most JDM fans fell in love with.
Although the R34 is not necessarily my favorite GT-R, I have to admit the R34 GT-R left the biggest impact on the motoring world and is the GT-R that showcased these iconic circles to the world.
The R34's update to the lights were so popular and iconic at the "large and small"pattern made it to the next iteration of the GT-R even after the GT-R name graduated from the Skyline in the R35.
The R35 brought a truly refreshed look to the circles, implementing LED's that just light them up in a menacing fiery glow.
When you are driving, the part of the car in front of you that you spend the most time observing and absorbing (even subconsciously) is the tail end of the car. So it is a smart move on Nissan to make such an iconic design for their tail lights. The tail lights of a car is the most prominent and important design element of a car. One, it helps burn the impression of the car in your mind, and second, it certainly makes quite the statement. With the backbone, the main design element of the car the tail lights next to the iconic "R", Nissan is basically saying, "Take a good look, because this is the only part of the car you'll be able to see."
Now Nissan has yet to release a concept of the upcoming R36 GT-R, but I sure am excited to see how these lights will evolve. Perhaps the Vision 2020 Granturismo Concept would provide a good insight as to how these lights will evolve.
But, until the debut of the R36, we can only guess how Godzilla's red tail will evolve, but with a legacy spanning close to fifty years, I can safely say the GT-R's tail lights are the most iconic out of any other car in history. What do you think of the GT-R's tail lights? Do you think they are the most iconic tail light design in the motor industry? Comment your thoughts below and as always, thank you for reading.