(Bucket list item, checked. -Ed.)
A couple of weeks ago, we checked out Roadtrip Motorcars’ selection of Japanese-market vehicles (which you can see HERE and HERE) and I made mention that there was a possibility that there might be a feature vehicle coming down the line. I wasn’t certain that the car would appear, and even less certain that the car would remain long enough for me to haul tail up to Bird and Corinne’s shop to get the camera on it. And as for driving the car…well, luck would have to be on my side for that one. And fate didn’t seem to want to play along…the car needed work and I wound up having to throttle back to take care of some health issues for a week or so…but finally, everything aligned and I got the opportunity to come face-to-face with a legend: the Nissan Skyline GT-R R32.
If you haven’t seen a Fast and Furious movie ever, haven’t paid one iota of attention to the Japanese import scene, or haven’t watched one minute of racing from anywhere other than America, then you need a serious introduction to this car. Even for the most die-hard “Buy ‘Merican!” type, there are machines the world over that command respect. If you go to the UK, it’s a Jaguar. If it’s Germany, flip a coin between Mercedes and BMW. For Japan, the Skyline is that car. Originally the Prince Skyline (Prince and Nissan merged in 1966) was a luxury car, but over the course of the 1960s it morphed into a small, somewhat sporting series, but in 1969 the GT-R name appeared, stripped of all unnecessary weight, fitted with a two-liter inline six, and set to go kill on the tracks, which it did well due to it’s light weight and nimble suspension. But the GT-R nameplate would disappear in early 1973 and would remain dormant until 1989, when the R32 body appeared.
The Skyline was never sold in the United States…so why is it such a coveted car? Two words: video games. While seen in films and buff books, you can easily point to Gran Turismo as the most influential point where Americans got to meet the Skyline in it’s many forms for the first time, including the GT-R. Naturally, after realizing that this little sports coupe from Japan would smack around a C4 Corvette on the game, people would go do their research and learn about how the Skyline dominated Japanese Touring Car Championship racing so thoroughly that a whole new category of cars had to be drawn up, or how the GT-R earned it’s “Godzilla” nickname in Australian Touring Car racing’s Group A class, where it’s domination pretty much ended Group A Touring. After that, it was a matter of the Skyline being forbidden fruit: due to the 25-year import ban rule, getting your hands on a Skyline GT-R prior to 2014 was at best, a sketchy affair. There were a few companies that played by the rules, but there were also stories of seized and destroyed Skylines after the Feds got wind of shady dealings.
But since 2014, as long as the car is twenty-five years old by the month and year on it’s data plate, it’s legal to bring into the country and enjoy, and that’s precisely how I found myself behind the wheel of this particular 1990 BNR32 GT-R. Scroll down through the photos to learn more:
When meeting a hero, there’s always the threat that it won’t live up to expectations. In the case of this Skyline, you simply can’t make the proper comparison because this isn’t a dead-stock unit. It is, however, indicative of what a properly set up R32 GT-R can be. I’m not admitting to how fast the far end of third gear went. I wouldn’t road trip this car further than maybe a hundred miles at a shot, for the sake of my spine, and the Recaros don’t just hug you, they lock you in place and don’t let go. This car isn’t standard and sedate. It’s the reason why the phrase “track weapon” exists…on the road, it’s just on the safe side of useable. But if you cut this monster loose and have the skills to not end up as a balled-up wad of silver metal and plastic, you will be rewarded with the nearest thing to an adrenaline shot you can experience. The legend exists for a reason. And while the shape isn’t a sexy as an Aventador or as menacing as a Viper, it doesn’t need to be. The Skyline GT-R performs by action first. Looks are a secondary issue. And it will perform, like a Japanese businessman in a stylish suit that can fold you up like origami the moment you try to pick a fight. Godzilla lives.