One of the most beloved Japanese race cars of all time is making a return to the world of diecast models this spring, as AUTOart is set to release its 1:18-scale replica of the Nissan Skyline RS Turbo Super Silhouette, the wildly flared, flame-spitting monster that captured the imagination of a generation of motorsport enthusiasts.
The Super Silhouette era is a fascinating period in Japanese racing history. Replacing the old Japanese Touring Car Championship, the series was launched in 1979 as a response to the popularity of FIA Group 5 racing internationally. Conforming to Group 5 rules, cars in the new Japanese series were ostensibly production-based, but were required only to share their roadgoing equivalents' engine block and body silhouette (hence the series name) but were otherwise largely unrestricted in their design. Consequently, the cars grew absolutely massive fender flares to accommodate huge tires, as well as cartoonishly big wings for maximum downforce. Those stock engine blocks? Suddenly, they featured turbochargers producing ludicrous boost. Super Silhouette races were intended to be support events for the Fuji Grand Champion Series for prototypes, but thanks both to their connection to real-world customer cars and to their completely bonkers on-track theatrics, the Silhouettes quickly eclipsed the headlining prototypes in popularity.
The most famous cars to emerge from the Super Silhouette series were without a doubt the red-and-black Nissan Skylines of Hasemi Motorsport. Based on the new DR30-generation Skyline RS Turbos, the Hasemi cars featured 570-horsepower, four-valve-per-cylinder, turbocharged L20ZB engines known for shooting flames from their side exhausts. Campaigned by the experienced Hasemi team, the Skylines claimed two series victories in 1982 and five in 1983 (the final season for the Super Silhouettes). Their hold on the public's imagination was further cemented by sponsorship from the Tomica toy company, who released a smash-hit 1:64-scale "Pocket Car" replica of the Skyline Super Silhouette that extended the car's fame around the world.
Today, like the other cars of the Super Silhouette era, the Hasemi Motorsport Skyline RS Turbo is remembered as a pinnacle of Japanese motorsport, as well as the basis for the entire "bosozoku" tuning culture in its homeland. It also stands as an icon of the "anything goes" ethic of 1980s racing, the same that gave us wild machinery like Group B rally cars and eventually the Skyline's true succesor, the R32 GT-R that would utterly dominate touring car racing at the end of the decade.
Astute model car collectors might recall that AUTOart already released a Super Silhouette Skyline ten years ago, but that car was the facelifted "Iron Mask" 1983 version of the Hasemi car. Their new release is the 1982 version, which features a full open grille. Like the earlier Super Silhouette casting, the new release is a masterpiece. It features a removable front clip, revealing a fully detailed L20ZB engine. Opening doors expose a beautifully rendered racing cockpit, complete with intricate roll cage and tub. Out back, a removable deck lid shows a perfectly replicated fuel cell system. Other fine touches include removable wheel covers, an unusual feature in model cars at any scale.
In recent years we've seen AUTOart shifting gradually toward use of ABS plastic for their 1:18-scale car bodies, and while we at Model Citizen are generally satisfied with the results, many collectors mourn the apparent loss of metal-bodied cars from AUTOart's lineup. That's why we're delighted that for a premium model like the Skyline Super Silhouette, AUTOart went with old-fashioned diecast metal for its construction. The first edition of their Super Silhouette is now a much sought-after collectible that commands three to four times its original MSRP on the secondary market. While we would never guarantee similar results for any new release, we are nonetheless certain that the 1982 Skyline Super Silhouette will be among the most prized new model releases of 2019.