1989-1994 BNR-32 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Ladies and gentlemen, meet "Godzilla," as coined by the Australian motoring press (allegedly Wheels magazine). Overhyped?
• Nurburging record-shattering performance (8'20" by Nissan; Best Motoring magazine managed was 8'22"38)
• Japan Touring Car Championship dominator from the get-go (29 wins out of 29 races!)
• 1991-’92 Bathurst 1000 winner (with a turbocharged 2.6 I-6 vs V8 equipped competition)
• First Japanese car to win Spa 24 hours in France in 1991.
• The Heat Treatments Drag R32 Skyline GT-R, driven by Reece McGregor of New Zealand, broke the world record for the fastest AWD over a 1/4 mile with a 7.57 at 305.96 km/h (190.11 mph) at the Willowbank Dragway in Australia in 2007.
While the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R became the dream car of the Gran Turismo videogame generation, it was the R32 that allowed that other car be dominant:
• RB26DETT engine capable of monstrous power (allegedly capable of 600HP when changing to a bigger turbo(s) without modification (the block is cast iron so it can take the heat).
• ATTESA-ETS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain vehicles/ Equal Torque Split) technology, which basically explains itself. Test drivers like Tiff Needell and Jeremy Clarkson (in R33 and R34 versions, respectively) make it sound as if it was a glorified traction-control device. But it was much more than that. Guess it depends on who you ask.
• Super-HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Suspension) four-wheel steering. It adds about 1 degree to the steering angle (This version is electrically actuated and has its own independent computer instead of speed sensors. Thanks Wikipedia!).
You could buy an R32 Skyline without these systems, but that meant that you didn’t get the GT-R badge.
One point that came to my attention while reading the GT-R story in Motor Trend Classic (!): "With all this technology, is it fair to compare the R32 with the lightweight (2500lbs vs 3150lbs) naturally-aspirated, RWD Nissan Skyline GT-R?"
They do have something in common aside from name. Both were born to WIN. The R32 was built around the latest Group A regulations and while it ended up being a little heavier than anticipated, they instead of going after the 4.0-liter class, went after the 4.5-liter class in its place, which let them use wider rubber not allowed in 4.0. In 1992 Nissan was forced to use 16-inch wheels, making the brakes a weak spot.
With a rule change on 1993 they were permitted to use 17-inch wheels and better brakes, thus found on the Spec V homologation model.
Back in the day, this was a HEAVY car (well, by Japanese standards). The ATTESA-ETS and the inline-6, parts that make the car what it is, also tipped the scale against it (and its successors).
Other problems included:
• Easily dented aluminum front end
• Ceramic turbo failure if over-boosted
• Use of wrong tires can hinder handling and wear out upper A-arm bushings
• Clutch as the weak link
• Weak synchros of upper gears in the transmission
• High temperature damaging of cast-iron exhaust manifolds (OK, that one applies to the Group A racecars)
Does the R32 have enemies? Of course! Didn’t Barry Bonds have (has?) haters when he shattered baseball records (DON’T comment of that, please)? Didn’t the French dislike Lance Armstrong for being American? Oh, and winning like 7 times on that bike race?
Criticism ranging from being too heavy (light by today’s standards), that the car does all the work (basically the present-day GT-R’s sale strategy) being too powerful (basically destroyed JTCC and Group A/kicking Ford and Holden, despite 200+lbs of weight added) among your usual run-of-the-mill ricer connotations and hype.
Today we have the R35 GT-R in our coast (legally), a bloated, expensive, techno machine on wheels that has given professional tuners headaches, making the R32 look light, svelte, and simple to work on. But you don’t have to tune your R32 for obscene levels of power (though you could) to enjoy it.
Yes, there are R32 GT-Rs (among the rest of the R clan) in the U.S., though converted to meet meet U.S. rules (beams in the doors for side-impact safety, muffler mods, stuff like that). But check your paperwork!!
In a couple of years the R32 will turn 25, meaning it will be exempt of all the U.S. federal regulations. Will you get one before values skyrocket? Remember, when new the GT-R cost about $35,000 ($60,746.46 in 2010), it was not cheap, but a screaming deal for a sports car, even today in my book.
My personal experience? None really. I remember seeing images of the model in tuner-car magazines and a ZUM sticker I bought after lunch with my family at a Ponderosa restaurant, most likely a Sunday afternoon back in the early ‘00s. At the time I failed to grasp its significance. Lack of exposure to the current crop of videogames didn’t help. I finally became aware of its technical prowess when reading this:
"Suddenly, my eyes opened every car game in existence had a GT-R in one form or another. It was like when at first everything’s so innocent until you learn about sexual innuendo, and BAM! It’s everywhere!"
Is it a supercar? I think it is, compared to the soulless new GT-R, it has a little soul.
Motor Trend Classic has yet to put up the GT-R family article, but at least they put up sweet wallpapers of the featured cars.
Image credits: The gray Skyline drifting image is from PlazaJapan.com. The anime image is from Media.AnimeVice.com. The red, white, and blue race car image is from Image03.Webshots.com. The ZUM sticker pic is mine.