Mark Hutchinson remembers the day he learned that drivers in Japan had all sorts of cars that he wasn’t allowed to have.
It was 1995, and Hutchinson was sitting in his college engineering class when he noticed that a classmate had a Japanese car magazine on his desk. As he leafed through it, Hutchinson came upon photos of cars he had never heard of before: Silvias, 180SXs, Celica GT-4s, and Skylines—and, most notably, the Skyline’s race-bred sibling, the GT-R. The flared hips, that big rear wing, the subtle yet aggressive styling… Hutchinson didn’t quite know what he was seeing, but whatever it was, he wanted one.
Trouble was, these cars were forbidden fruit in the U.S. at that time, and they would remain so for another 20+ years. In fact, the 1989–94 R32 GT-Rs only recently became legal for import in the U.S. once the so-called “25-year rule” elapsed, thereby exempting these cars from certain Department of Transportation standards. A young Hutchinson was thus left to wait and wish as the years ticked by, watching from afar as the GT-R dominated racing circuits in Europe, Australia, and Japan and earning its “Godzilla” nickname in the process. In the meantime, Hutchinson contented himself with building Nissan 240SXs of his own and helping to pioneer the drifting scene in Southern California.
Finally, in 2017, Hutchinson succeeded in importing a 1992 GT-R from Japan. Even so, he then had to wait another six months for it to be federalized and brought into compliance with California’s strict emissions standards.
“I had to wait 22 years to get this car,” Hutchinson says, “but that last six months was the longest wait of my life. It’s like running a marathon and then not being able to cover that last inch. Once I got the car, though, you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.”
An experienced race car builder and driver, Hutchinson sees little reason to tinker with the legendary 2.6-liter, twin-turbo engine that revs to an 8000 rpm redline and produces 276 horsepower.
“I mean, when you're up in the canyons and you crack that throttle it just transforms into another beast,” Hutchinson says. “The car will shoot you forward like you're being shot out of a cannon.”
Beyond the performance and the car’s iconic styling, the engineer in Hutchinson can’t help but be fascinated by the GT-R’s visionary technology. It is, for instance, fundamentally a rear-wheel drive car that becomes all-wheel drive as it employs a torque vectoring system to counter wheel slip and put the car on a stable footing when necessary. And then there’s the four-wheel steering: at certain speeds, the rear wheels of the car can rotate up to two degrees and, in theory at least, provide more precise handling.
“Some people don’t like it,” Hutchinson says. “They say it makes the car too unpredictable, but I want to keep it original, because I enjoy experiencing the car as the Nissan engineers intended it.”
And what is that experience? “This is better than any roller coaster I’ve ever been on. It makes me smile bigger than any Ferris wheel or ride you can imagine.”
The idea of waiting 22 years for anything seems wildly at odds with this age of same-day shipping and instant gratification. For Hutchinson, however, that wait has proven to be part of the car’s allure.
“If a 19-year-old version of myself could see me now, driving this car, he would just be beside himself,” Hutchinson says. “Having waited for so long to get this car, having put in all the work and saved for so many years, the sentimental value is through the roof.”