Today's R35 Nissan GT-R needs no introduction, setting the benchmark for affordable supercars it forced the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini to lift their game to compete with a car costing less than half. Many people who have never played on a Playstation or Xbox may be unaware of the heritage of the famed Nissan Skyline GT-R badge. All previous iterations of the GT-R were only sold in Japan, barring some limited releases in Australia and the UK for the R32-R34 generations, and so the motoring world is hardly aware of its history. Incidentally, the Skyline badge was dropped on the introduction of the 2007 Nissan GT-R.
When looking at the R34 you can see the massive development changes in the 8 years between. The first GT-R, known as the "hakosuka", was released in 1969 and housed a high revving 2L straight 6 with 120kW on tap. Weighing only 1100kg the GT-R was built for motorsport and is famous for starting the rivalry with Porsche on the race track in recording an incredible 49 consecutive race wins. The second generation GT-R ended production in 1973 after the oil crisis hit and it would be 16 years before the release of the third generation R32 GT-R in 1989.
Nicknamed "Godzilla" by Wheels magazine, a name that has stuck until today, 100 examples of the R32 were sold in Australia for homologation and to capitalise on its success in the Australian Touring Car Championship and Bathurst victories. This car was built primarily to compete in Group A racing and was a compact coupe housing the famous RB26DETT 2.6L twin turbo straight 6 engine with power being put through an advanced ATTESA-ETS four-wheel drive system and utilising HICAS four wheel steering. This drivetrain was used in subsequent generations of the GT-R until the R34 which was discontinued in 2002.
The GT-R up for review is a 1999 R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec. Due to their popularity both in Japan and abroad these vehicles are in demand and are typically owned by car enthusiasts. The shape is a modern classic, having just the right amount of bulges and spoilers but with a distinctive Japanese style. The car stand out on the street and you definitely get a lot of thumbs up from people who know what it is. In the looks department it trumps the main Japanese competition of the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Evolution.
The interior is also an improvement on its rivals, with better plastics and switchgear and a 5.8 inch multi-function display in the middle of the dashboard. This display was ahead if its time, and in the V-Spec iteration has readouts of boost, inlet and exhaust temperature, fuel injector load and battery, together with some gauges that are more for fun such as front torque split and throttle percentage. While it is in Japanese it is fairly easy to navigate and the ability to change settings is locked out while the car is moving as a safety feature.
The performance of the car is more akin to a light footed grand tourer with a dark side. Driven at ordinary speeds the car feels underwhelming and gear changes are notchy from the 6 speed Getrag manual. The interior is small despite its size however I have fit two baby seats in the back seat. The boot has a space saver spare and there's only room for a set of golf clubs as the battery and some electronics are housed in the boot.
When at pace though, that's when it comes alive, with the sculpted grey bucket seats holding you firmly in place as you wring everything out of the engine all the way up to its screaming 8250rpm redline. It is a very free revving unit, and the clutch is light with the pedals spaced just right for some heel and toe driving. The power figures are not very high by today's standards, with a claimed 206kW at 6800rpm and about 380Nm of torque at 4400rpm but the real drawcard of the GT-R lies in its tuning potential.
Due to the release of the R35 GT-R as a global car and its feature in popular films such as The Fast and the Furious franchise the rest of the world is learning about this Japanese rocket and values are starting to plateau and will no doubt rise in the future. Good examples of the R34 GT-R, and its many variants, range from $40,000.00 all the way up to $100,000.00 or more.