The Skyline GT-R name goes all the way back to the late 1960s but was discontinued in 1973. After a long absence, though, Nissan introduced a very special version of its eighth generation R32 Skyline, and it was quite simply a tour de force. For inspiration, Nissan looked to another cutting edge design – the Porsche 959 – and what Nissan produced eclipsed its German forebear both in terms of significance and motorsports success if not all-out performance. The basic ingredients were a twin-turbocharged version of the 2.6-liter RB-Series twin-cam straight-six, an advanced electronically controlled all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, multi-link independent suspension and a 5-speed manual. The engine was officially rated at 276 horsepower, but this was deliberately underrated due to the Japanese industry’s odd “gentlemen’s agreement” not to produce any cars making over 276hp, and the actual figure was well over 300 horses.
The R32 GT-R is more than just a powerful engine, though. The all-wheel drive system allowed the car to put power to the ground both on the straights and through the corners, and the engine was eminently tunable. In race trim, the R32 GT-R completely dominated the Japanese Touring Car Championship, winning every race it started during its debut season and taking the championship title every year from 1989 to 1993. Down under in the Australian Touring Car Championship, the GT-R was so dominant that it was eventually banned. One car even took overall victory at the 24 Hours of Spa. The R32, a performance monster from Japan, is the model that earned GT-Rs the nickname “Godzilla” that they have enjoyed ever since.
From a collectability standpoint, the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R has a lot going for it. In addition to its motorsports pedigree, it has an engine that is eminently tunable and has made it an icon in tuner culture. It was also never officially sold in the U.S., and is only recently legal here thanks to our 25-year import rule, so there has been years of pent-up demand from the car being forbidden fruit.
There was little variation during the R32 GT-R’s production run, but there are nevertheless things to look out for. The model was only available as a coupe, and can be distinguished from lesser non-GT-R Skylines by its flared wheelarches. VIN numbers also start with RB32 for GT-Rs. The most collectible special model is the Nismo, of which 560 (500 road cars, 60 race cars) were built. Nismo GT-Rs are distinguished by no rear window wiper, no ABS and no air conditioning, and all have an “RA” in their VIN. It also has better aero, some aluminum body panels and different turbochargers. Another special model to look out for is the V-Spec of 1993, which added Brembo brakes, aluminum bonnet and front bumpers, and larger BBS wheels. A V-Spec II was produced for 1994, with the only addition being wider tires. A total of 3,000 V-Spec and V-Spec II cars were built. There are also the GT-R N1 cars, which were the first 118 examples built to homologate the car for Japan’s N1 racing series.
Total production for the R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R amounted to 43,937 cars. As for colors, choices were limited to Gunmetal Grey, Crystal White, Black Pearl Metallic, Spark Silver Metallic and Greyish Blue Pearl.
Shopping for and buying an R32 GT-R is not as straightforward as it is for most other cars. For starters, since the model was never officially sold in the U.S., all examples will have been imported by a private party and it is essential to make sure all the paperwork is there and correct. Many GT-Rs have also led a less than pampered life. Thanks to the tunability of the engine, an easily removable boost restrictor and lots of aftermarket availability, it’s hard to find one that doesn’t have at least a handful of mods, and many examples have been driven hard. Since home garages are a rare privilege in Japan, lots of cars also live outside and rust is more common than one might think. Unmolested low-mileage cars are few and far between, and many have already been scooped up by discerning collectors. Going through all the pain, patience and paperwork of getting a solid example will be worth it, however, because the GT-R is an all-time great, and those never go out of style.
For more info on the R32 GT-R, read our definitive buyer's guide here...