Monday, March 31, 2008

March 2008 Dream Car of the Month - Nissan Skyline GT-R

The Skyline started life as a car originally produced in 1957 by the Prince Motor Company of Japan. Prince merged with Nissan in 1966 and the Skyline became a Nissan property. The Skyline was mostly a basic mid sized car in the early years. In 1964 Prince developed a racing version, GT Skyline, which used a straight 6cyl engine and competed in the Japanese Grand Prix where it finished 2nd through 6th behind a winning Porsche 904. It wasn't until 1968 when the first GT-R was created that a performance version was put on the street.

Original Prince Skyline

The original GT-R lasted from 1968 until 1972. The GT-R was replaced in 1977 with the GT-ES which was the first turbo powered production Japanese vehicle. In 1983 the Paul Newman Version Skyline was produced to commemorate Newman's racing relationship with Nissan. This R30 generation also saw the introduction of the DR30 Skylines which were more powerful and distinct from the rest of the Skyline family, a prelude to the re-introduction of the GT-R name. The R31 generation debuted the RB engine series and saw development of the GTS-R version, powered by a RB20DETT-R. This was a coupe only and 800 examples were built for racing homologation.

Skyline GTS-R Coupe

In 1989 the R32 generation Skyline was introduced and it marked the return of the GT-R. It featured the RB26DETT which was rated at 280HP due to the Japanese manufacturer's agreement not to exceed 280HP. The cars also featured all wheel drive and all wheel steering. The production engines were intentionally restricted by small diameter exhaust, conservative ECU programming and low boot settings. Apparently there was a physical restriction built into the boost control system that was marked in yellow so that the owner could remove it and receive a free boost increase. This alone resulted in a bump in power to about 320HP and resulted in 0-60 times of 4.7 seconds and a 1/4 mile in 12.8. Nissan claimed that the Porsche 959 was their model for development of the R32 GT-R. The GT-R was built for racing from the beginning and won 29 races in 29 starts in the JTCC (Japan Touring Car Championship). A R32 GT-R hit the Nurburgring and set it's sights on the production car record of 8 minutes 45 seconds set by a Porsche 944. That GT-R ran a lap in 8 minutes 20 seconds and later the Japanese magazine Best Motoring backed that up with an 8'22" lap. The Australian auto press coined the nickname Godzilla after it appeared there on the streets and racetracks.

R32 Skyline GT-R

The R33 Skyline generation was released in 1993 as a coupe and 4 door. The GT-R was equipped with an improved version of the same RB26DETT used in the R32. The improvements to the engine upped the torque the engine produced. GT-Rs now all came standard with Brembo brakes. In 1996 a limited edition NISMO 400R was produced with 400HP. An R33 GT-R was the first production car to lap the Nurburgring in under 8 minutes, if you don't count the limited production Jaguar XJ220.

R33 Skyline GT-R

Nissan introduced the R34 Skyline in 1998 and the GT-R in 1999 which still used the RB26DETT engine. A new, stronger, 6spd Getrag gearbox was also used. The GT-R came in many "flavors" for the R34 generation. There were the GT-R, the GT-R V-Spec, GT-R V-SpecII, GT-R N1, GT-R M-Spec, GT-R V-Spec Nur, GT-R M-Spec Nur, GT-R NISMO R-Tune, and GT-R NISMO Z-Tune. The NISMO Z-Tune was the untimate street going R34 with a bored and stroked 2.8L 6cyl producing 500HP. Only 20 of these were built.

R34 Skyline GT-R Nur

R34 Skyline GT-R Z-Tune

In 2001 a new Skyline generation, now dubbed the V35 was introduced. This car was based on Nissan's FM platform which it shared with the 350Z. This became the first Skyline platform sold in the US although it was only available through Infiniti as the G35. This skyline generation was notable for what it lacked. The straight 6cyl of previous generations was missing, replaced by the VQ V6. Also missing were a turbocharged variant and, most importantly a GT-R model.

The V36 Skyline debuted in 2006 as the Skyline and Infiniti G35. Again the car featured a 3.5L VQ V6. The engine produced 306HP in the sedan. A coupe variant debuted in 2007 with a 3.7L VQ V6 producing 330HP in the US Infiniti G37. Again there was no turbo engine available and no GT-R.

After a few years of hinting of the GT-Rs return, Nissan finally unveiled a production version R35 GT-R. This GT-R will be the first one available in the US. It features a 478HP, 3.8L twin turbo V6 dubbed the VR38DETT. The car will simply be known as the GT-R, loosing the Skyline nameplate and be sold as a Nissan in the US. There had been rumors that, based on the price, it would be sold as an Infiniti outside of Japan. Priced at $70,000 US it will be, by far, the most expensive Nissan for sale. So far, the car is proving that it is worth every penny, upstaging cars costing more than twice it's price.

R35 Nissan GT-R

If you are like me, the first time you even heard of the Nissan Skyline and GT-R were through the video game Gran Turismo. In 1997 Sony released the game in the US for the Sony Playstation and singlehandedly started the JDM tuning craze in the US. The game introduced people outside of Japan to the many performance models only available in Japan and a few other select places. The Skyline GT-R and other cars like it(Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi EVO, Civic Type-R, NSX Type-R) became mythical type of beasts. No one in the US had seen or heard of them and their "forbidden fruit" status along with their huge performance and racing reputation made them even more desirable. Black markets popped up to import them into countries they were never sold in. All this finally culminated in Nissan bringing the car to the whole world for the latest version.

I've always thought of the GT-R as a Japanese interpretation of a muscle car. Take a midsize sedan or coupe, throw a big engine in it(relatively speaking) and go racing. The Japanese twist is the technology thrown into it. All wheel steering, all wheel drive, and turbo motors all take the car to limits that no sport coupe should be capable of. The latest version is already proving that the GT-R reputation still holds strong and it hasn't even hit dealerships in the US yet. Godzilla lives.

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