The Nissan R390 GT1 was a racing car built for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1997 and 1998. It was built to race under the grand tourer style rules, requiring a homologated road version to be built, although only 2 R390 road cars were ever built, and one is stored at Nissan's Zama facility.
After returning to sports car racing in 1995, Nismo (Nissan Motorsport) had some measure of success with their Skyline GT-R LMs which had competed in the GT1 class. However, these cars were quickly outpaced by the influx of new manufacturers who were using loopholes in the GT regulations to build racing cars that bore little resemblance to their GT1 class competitors. This led to such machines as the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR and Porsche 911 GT1, as well as the development of the McLaren F1 GTR. Nismo's Skyline GT-Rs therefore needed to be replaced with more purpose built machinery.
Turning to Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), Nismo began development of the R390 GT1, named to follow in the tradition started in the 1960s with Nissan's R380. The first decision for Nismo and TWR was the choice of engine. The previous Skyline GT-R LMs had used the trusted RB26DETT Inline-6 motor, but the design was old for a racing car, employing an iron block which added weight. Nismo instead chose to resurrect an engine from the Nissan R89C, a racing car from the Group C era. Its engine, the VRH35Z, was a 3.5L V8 which used an aluminium block, as well as having a lower center of gravity and a better ability to be used as a stressed member over the RB26. Thus the engine was upgraded and designated VRH35L, and would produce approximately 641 hp (478 kW) at 6800 rpm.
The car's styling group was led by Ian Callum, and the mechanical and aerodynamic design led by Tony Southgate, both of Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). Southgate was the designer of the Jaguar XJR-9 amongst other TWR Sportscars, which had won at Le Mans. Due to this, the R390 GT1 bears a resemblance to the Jaguar XJR-15, which was also developed by TWR and based on the XJR-9 and in fact used a modified version of the XJR15 monocoque. Development of the car was achieved in a small amount of time, especially due to not having to scratch-build an engine. Nismo and TWR also had to build a production version of the R390 GT1 in order to meet production regulations. Only two road-legal R390's were built, with one road car ending up in storage at Nissan's Zama, Kanagawa facility. The other was bought at an undisclosed auction by an unknown wealthy recipient and Nissan enthusiast.
For 1998 the R390 was modified, most notably in the extension of its rear bodywork to create increased "luggage space" in order to satisfy the ACO, after all three cars failed scrutineering at the 1997 event and had to be modified in order to be allowed to race. This subsequently led to overheating problems for the gearbox, and ultimately their failure during the race. Thus the "long tail" version was created, which boasted increased downforce thanks to the extended rear bodywork.