To most people the name Skyline conjures up images of high horsepower GT-R’s but the reality is that most Skylines are quite mundane four door family cars, often with automatic transmissions and relatively small capacity engines. The four door saloon has been the mainstay of the Skyline range right since it’s birth under the Prince Motor Company in 1957. Back in those days the Skyline only came as a sedate four door sedan, a situation that was to remain until the introduction of the C10 hardtop coupe in 1970. The names Skyline and Gloria belonged solely to Prince Motor Company until their merger with Nissan in 1966, after which the car rose to fame most notably in Nissan Skyline GT-R guise and the Gloria went on to become a ‘badge engineered’ Cedric.
As you can imagine, early Prince Skylines are very rare these days, particularly those early models from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The first model to come out was the ALSI which featured plenty of ornate chrome-work and pronounced tail fins just like it’s contemporaries rolling off production lines in Detroit. This was followed by an updated BLSI model which featured even more lavish detailing and dual headlights. These early Skylines saw export to a few European counties and around 600 were even shipped to the United States in 1960. Another country to receive a number of early Skylines was New Zealand and that’s where this particular 1962 Skyline 1900 Deluxe resides, in the South island town of Rakaia under the care of enthusiast Steve Harkness.
Steve’s Prince Skyline is a BLSID-3, the ‘D’ in the designation denoting it to be a Deluxe model. The car was originally registered to Stan and Margaret Haskett who were sheep farmers living not far from the cars current home. The Haskett’s had been waiting to buy a new Singer Vogue when they happened upon a newspaper advertisement for the new Prince Skyline and decided to investigate, rather than remain on the waiting list for a Singer. Back in the 1960’s the New Zealand government gave ‘preferential trading’ to the United Kingdom which meant the UK imported New Zealand made products such as butter, cheese and meat and in return New Zealand imported British built cars amongst other things. These made up some ninety percent of the cars on the road through the 1960’s and as imports could only match the value of exports, it meant considerable difficulty and often long waiting time to buy a new car. Determined buyers had the choice of either bribing their local car salesman in order to jump the queue or they had to have overseas funds available. As the Haskett’s were sheep farmers it was recognised that their product wool, would eventually find it’s way overseas so was considered as being overseas funds. So after taking a trip to Christchurch to take a test drive of a freshly imported Skyline at the wharf (one of 49 there) they took delivery of their first new car on 4th October 1962.
The Hasketts used the Skyline until June 1982 by which time it had clocked up a reasonable 88,000 miles. They sold it to a Mr David Hancox who sold the car in 1986, along with a second, similar Skyline and spare parts to Steve’s father after he responded to an advertisement. The second car has now gone to a friend for future restoration. During 1976 under the Hasketts ownership, the original GB4 1862cc engine was refurbished having covered 85,330 miles at the time according to the paperwork. However, when Steve’s family took custody of the car the original GB4 engine had gone, to be replaced by a G2 unit from a later S21 or S40 model. It’s unknown when this change occurred as it’s not documented, although Mr Hancox was adamant it was done before he acquired the car.
Steve’s father acquired the Skyline when Steve was just 14 years old but after five years of it sitting outside untouched, with a friends assistance he cleaned the car up and got it running again. Once on the road one of the first journeys made was back to see it’s original owners, the Hasketts. The couple were most exited to see their old car again which apart from one of two minor problems had given them so many years of reliable service. Steve didn’t come away empty handed either after Mr Haskett rummaged about in the garage and produced the original Prince AM radio and the toolbox for the car, which amazingly he had kept for all those years!
The car has covered another 10,000 miles with Steve behind the wheel and it still passes the regular inspection (warrant of Fitness) with no drama each year. There are a few small jobs pending such as replacement of the rattling timing chain and a worn universal joint but the car is a testament to the excellent quality of the Prince products as it’s is still in excellent working condition and seeing regular use at 46 years old without having had any restoration.
The Skyline isn’t the only Prince product in the household. Steve also owns a very rare W21B-4 Prince Skyway from 1963. The Skyway is an estate version of the Skyline saloon, this particular one being based on the late, face-lifted S21 model. The Skyway was a lucky purchase from a guy who had a paddock full of early cars, some dating back to the early 1900’s. Apparently this gentleman rarely parted with anything so Steve was quite fortunate to get hold of the Skyway along with a S21-S standard saloon in rough condition to use for parts. The Skyway is in need of full restoration but thankfully, all of the important stuff like chrome trim and interior is complete and the car doesn’t have extensive rust to deal with. It will be a real treat to see both of these cars on the road and in sedate daily use … just the way Prince intended Skylines to be used.