The R32 Skyline has peaked in popularity, but the R33 and R34 could be even bigger
Has the Nissan Skyline R32 already peaked in popularity? Will the middle-child R33 become even more popular than its predecessor? What will happen when the R34 finally reaches the 25-year threshold? We counted chassis numbers in import records to give you JDM-loving maniacs the answers you seek.
The Nissan Skyline is one of the most popular enthusiast vehicles to be privately imported. While most Americans first encountered the Skyline as the similarly-platformed Infiniti G35 in 2003 or as the modern GT-R supercar in 2008, it had been a performance icon in Japan for decades. The import story, however, begins with the R32 generation.
Launched in 1989, the R32 brought back the GT-R variant with a twin-turbo 2.6-liter inline six-cylinder engine and advanced all-wheel drive. Those features helped it dominate in racing around the world, where it earned the name Godzilla. It also became a star in video games of the era, seeding the appetite for future enthusiasts worldwide, but especially in the U.S.
Despite the Skyline’s popularity here among enthusiasts—especially younger generations—the federal government’s ban on importing cars younger than 25 years old rendered them out of reach. That meant that many fans who wanted one had to wait, sometimes for many years. The generational split is apparent in Hagerty insurance policy quotes, where millennials have a 20 percent share for overall vehicles but generate nearly 80 percent of policy quotes for Skylines.
The R32 finally became eligible for import in 2014. Since then the R32 has proved popular, with at least 1900 examples now driving on the right side of the road in the U.S. This fountain of demand in a hungry market for the Skyline has even inspired Nissan to start reintroducing parts for the earlier generations.
According to import records, though, the market has already moved on from the new-hotness of the R32. Notably, examining how many of each generation was imported in its first two years of eligibility, the R33 generation has already eclipsed the R32’s initial fever. The total number of imports of those two generations are now approaching 2200. By comparison, if you’re wondering how desire for these classic Skylines compares to new models, Nissan sold fewer than 5000 of the new GT-R over the same period.
With demand growing for the R33 and supplies dwindling for the R32, values for the R32 GT-R have held up. Values have increased gradually since 2015, posting an average gain of 30 percent as supply has adapted to meet demand. In good condition, a 1989 Nissan Skyline GT-R is up from $25,000 in September 2015 to $34,900 as of May 2020.
One of the features that makes the Skyline so popular as an import is its wide variety of specs and styles. While the GT-R tends to get the most attention and is the most popular R32 import, single-turbo, 2.0-liter, 2.5-liter, rear-wheel-drive, and four-door variants are also popular as imports. The second-most-popular R32 behind the top-dog GT-R is the GTS-T, which has a 2.0-liter engine and rear-wheel drive, but about half as many examples have been imported to these shores when compared to the GT-R. Within the R33 generation, the GTS-25t (2.5-liter and RWD) is more popular than the GT-R, but this may skewed in the data because it has been import-eligible for longer.
The R34 also continues to trickle into the country, perhaps going into storage until it reaches its 25th birthday. Regarded as the most desirable generation, the anticipation for the R34 is building. Prices for examples in desirable specs and in excellent condition have gotten as high as $316,500.
Since 2014, awareness of the excitement around Japanese collectibles has greatly increased. Few examples of the R32 and R33 were imported so far ahead of the 25-year threshold, so when the R34 reaches that mark in 2024, expect Godzilla’s return to make waves.