If it hadn't been for Gran Turismo, the Nissan R390 GT1 would've likely ended on the list of the most obscure supercars ever. Built in right-hand-drive configuration, the only road-legal example made a rare appearance this past weekend on the shores of Lake Como in Italy. It attended the 2022 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este to show off its dual-side exhaust tips and a massive red wing while making wonderful V8 music.
At the heart of the mid-engined supercar was the VRH35L unit co-developed with Tom Walkinshaw Racing with a pair of turbochargers. The 3.5-litre mill made a healthy 550 bhp and 470 pound-feet (637 Newton-metres) of torque back in 1998 when the R390 GT1 was unveiled as a road car before the subsequent racing version. Output was channelled to the rear axle via a six-speed sequential transmission with a short-throw gear lever.
1998 Nissan R390 GT1 road car concept
The engine sounds absolutely marvellous even when the car is standing still and it's a real shame Nissan never followed on its promise to build it. If it had been made, the supercar would've ended up costing a hefty $1 million. Even though it was a fairly large car, stretching at 4.7 metres (185.8 inches) long and 2 metres (78.7 inches) wide, R390 GT1 weighed as much as a fully loaded Mazda MX-5 (ND). Indeed, the single-seater machine tipped the scales at a mere 1,100 kg (2,420 lbs).
Nissan made some impressive performance claims, including a 0 to 30 mph (48 km/h) in 1.2 seconds, 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 3.9 seconds, and 0 to 80 mph (129 km/h) in 6.0 seconds. Flat out, the R390 GT1 was said to hit a top speed of 220 mph (322 km/h) after completing the quarter mile in 11.9 seconds. Even nearly 35 years later, these are some juicy figures for what would've been the ultimate Nissan.
Ian Callum was responsible for the design, and in case you haven't realised by now, he borrowed the headlights from the 300ZX. The incredibly low ride height makes it quite difficult to drive on public roads, not that the Porsche 911 GT1 Straßenversion or the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR are street-friendly either…