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Best Of BangShift 2017: 1990 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R – We Finally Take On Godzilla

Best Of BangShift 2017: 1990 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R – We Finally Take On Godzilla

(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:

The wait was worth it for this Skyline, for sure. Right off of the bat, it needs to be said: this is not a stock example. The Trust GraceR bumper filled with the ARC intercooler and the 17×9.5 Gram Lights wheels are dead giveaways. So is the exhaust note when the Skyline is woken up…they suspect that the camshafts have been reground.

In addition, this GT-R has been lowered and tweaked in line with a built track-day ride. Cusco control arms, tower bars, and a front subframe brace are paired off with St. Boseo coil overs and brakes from an R34 Skyline for the stance.

A Recaro Pole Position SPG driver’s seat and Recaro reclining passenger seat are fitted in place of the stock units, as are harnesses in addition to the stock seat belts.

The cockpit is a tidy place to be, pod gauges ignored. Instrumentation is very comprehensive, including a gauge that displays how much torque is being deviated to the front wheels.

RB26DETT. This is a 2.6L, DOHC 24-valve inline mill with twin turbochargers and a reputation as one of Japan’s monster power trains…built right, this is one of those infamous 1,000 plus horsepower six cylinders that can leave many, many vehicles wondering just what the hell happened. Stock, officially they were rated at 276 horsepower, per the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” that JDM manufacturers were kind-of adhering to. A stock RB26DETT was really pushing about 320 horsepower, but the mill in this one has been massaged considerably, with a Haltech ECU running the bevy of aftermarket parts, including HKS 2530 turbochargers, a Greddy fuel rail, Nismo injectors, Splitfire coil packs, and more. Tuned by Dynosty, this car is making 415 horsepower at the wheels on a “very conservative tune”.

It’s believed that the Skyline’s former owner was a U.S. military service member at one point in time. What isn’t known is if the car actually did visit the Green Hell or not. Even if it never saw Germany, this Skyline has had to have seen track time. Someone went to a lot of trouble to build this R32 up into a corner carver.

My paw and the key to a lot of fun. I would be lying my ass off if I didn’t cop to how much I was looking forward to this. This is the car that was legend…”illegal in the States, it’s too fast” and other reasons for it’s absence given, but respected by many without ever seeing one. This is a bucket-list car. So, how does it drive?

Remember that bit about this car being set up like a track monster? That’s no bluff. The chattering you hear is due to the very serious limited-slip differentials in the car. Since the HICAS (active rear steering system) is deleted in this car, and since the front wheels only come on when they are needed (usually hard power-on cornering), the Skyline behaves like a RWD car and the diffs feel race-ready. The ATS carbon clutch might as well be an on-off switch…the novice will stall this Nissan out repeatedly at first. The power is surprising by modern standards…in 1990, this was world-class territory. No wonder that these cars still trade in five-digit territory on the market.

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.

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5 thoughts on “Best Of BangShift 2017: 1990 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R – We Finally Take On Godzilla

    1. Bryan McTaggart Post author

      “Test drive”. There is that whole, “you break it, you bought it” clause in effect. And if you think I can afford an R32 Skyline, have I got news for you…

  1. john t

    its kinda funny to see Skylines given this mythical status…yep they’re a good car and that but in Australia they’re a bit like belly buttons and the prices reflect that. 5 grand will get you an ok one, 10 a really nice one.

  2. BeaverMartin

    A guy in 1-35 AR had a car just like that back when I was in 1-6 IN in Baumholder, Germany. I believe he ran it in the ADAC classic rally, I ran my 76′ Mini and went off the tank trail hard. Good times.

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