Among all the Cavaliers and Barettas and Escorts and Cutlass Supremes that populate so much of the junkyards of America’s vast midwest, you occasionally find some fascinating weirdos, too. An occasional MG, maybe a Saab or two, or, like I once saw in a Kansas junkyard, a forlorn Renault Dauphine. This find, though, is absolutely unprecedented, since I’m pretty sure there’s at least three times more Tuckers left in the world than any of these: a left-hand drive Prince Skyline.
If you’re not exactly familiar with what a Prince Skyline is but find the name sort of familiar, that’s probably because you are very aware of the Nissan Skyline, which this car is effectively great-grandfather to.
Prince Motor Company was born from a somewhat complex intermingling of other industrial and aircraft companies, but for our purposes right now all we need to know is that the Prince Motor company has been building cars since 1952, and in 1965 merged with Nissan, which took several of Prince’s cars, including the Skyline and Gloria, and continued them under the Nissan name.
So, this 1960 Prince Skyline is a pre-Nissan Skyline, already very rare, and, even more remarkable, is a left-hand drive one, which means it was one of the very few built for export out of Japan.
This Japanese Nostalgic Car story about the car calls it a unicorn; I might go so far as to say that’s underselling it. This feels more like an albino unicorn.
The Japanese Nostalgic Car post speculates that maybe there are a dozen of these left in the world. I’d guess that’s close, or perhaps even a bit generous.
This model Skyline is known as an ALSI-1 model, and while versions with higher-output engines existed, the VIN plate on this one lists the 60 horsepower GA-30 inline-four, 1.5-litre, single-carb engine.
The design is very clearly American-inspired, slathered with chrome and having a rakish, chrome-rimmed side strake and fairly ornate front bumper.
That bumper, with its integrated foglamps, suggests that this Little Prince was a Deluxe model, which makes sense for a car exported to the deluxe-accustomed U.S. market.
This rare Skyline is in pretty rough shape, rusting away at a Nampa, Idaho junkyard, but, as the JNC article strongly emphasises, a rare car like this is likely worth the considerable effort to restore.
It’s in bad shape, with the hood, rear driver’s side door and rear glass smashed beyond repair, but it’s also remarkably complete, still retaining most of its body panels and trim, instruments and engine parts, and at least the bones of the interior and seats, with most of the soft stuff having rotted away.
The engineering and design of the car are quite conventional, so it’s not like it’s all that exotic or weird compared to an American car of the same era; it’s just different.
A capable U.S.-based restorer and fabricator likely could do the job very well, though a restoration in Japan likely will have an easier time sourcing parts.
How did this strange, stately old Skyline end up in Idaho, of all places? I’d expect that the few U.S.-imported Skylines in 1960 would have almost all ended up in the more car-adventurous areas like Southern California, or perhaps to Max Hoffman’s New York City import operation. But Idaho? This thing must have some stories to tell.
Oh, and just so you know I noticed, that old Beetle behind it is interesting, too, since I think it has one of those strange all-fibreglass front ends that unify fenders, hood, and everything into one unit. Usually you see those on drag cars; was that an old racing Beetle?
If you buy the Skyline — and I sincerely hope someone does — I think you may as well grab that, too. Why not? It’ll be so easy to get parts for, it’ll feel like a vacation.