PH Heroes: R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R

The R32 GT-R
The R32 GT-R
Millions of people have driven a Nissan Skyline GT-R on the limit. I don’t mean the sit-inside-and-start-the-engine type of drive one, rather the stare-at-the-screen-pushing-buttons kind of drive one. The Skyline is a cult car, known the world over through computer games such as Gran Turismo, and is the granddaddy of the PlayStation-generation dream machines. The reality is, of course, not that many people have actually driven one, but most people will tell you that they are fantastic to drive and would love to have a go.

R32 is a PlayStation favourite
R32 is a PlayStation favourite
So where did this fascination with the Skyline start? Well, it was a lot further back than most people might think - the first Skyline appeared in 1957 badged a Prince rather than a Nissan and packing a 1.5 litre motor. The famous GT-R badge was first used in 1969 and can still be found on the nose of the new Nissan GT-R, albeit with the Skyline badge dropped. In between all this, in 1989 in fact, the Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R was born and most enthusiasts would argue that this is the car responsible for creating the legend.

The R32 is one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars ever built. It populated the walls of children’s bedrooms as well as workshops and garages around the world. Wheels

The original 1957 Skyline
The original 1957 Skyline
Magazine in Australia nicknamed it ‘Godzilla’ upon their first test drive in 1989 and the name stuck.Most people who have ever driven an R32 GT-R Skyline will immediately comment on the engine. Nissan’s RB26DETT motor was build by Nissan’s Motorsport Division or ‘Nismo’ for short.It is a six cylinder, iron block DOHC engine with a pair of turbos bolted on for good measure. Hard as nails and twice as durable, it is an engineering masterpiece. The engine was highly tuneable straight from the factory and an exhaust system, pair of air filters, 0.9 bar of boost pressure and an ECU remap will see you pushing out 400bhp.

R32s are serious driver’s cars and having driven the R32, R33 and R34 GTR I’m consistently

R32 GT-R Nismo
R32 GT-R Nismo
impressed by the R32’s nimble surefootedness right the way through the driving experience. It’s extremely rare these days to find a stock example of this car on the UK roads as they were never officially sold here. If you are ever lucky enough to drive or own a stock example you will understand immediately why everybody raves about them. The ATTESA four wheel-drive system provides bags of grip and response, and is able to make the car behave like it is rear wheel-drive. This gives the R32 better turn in and almost perfect balance as you attack a corner. While later versions of this system in the R33 and R34 are a big leap ahead in technological terms, the R32 has a very raw edge that still brings a massive grin to your face every time you open it up. The car, after all, was designed as a Group A race car.

R32 GT-R V spec
R32 GT-R V spec
Production of the R32 GTR ran from 1989 – 1994 and incorporated more than just a single variant. One of the most interesting was the V Spec, or ‘Victory Specification’, which was released in response to Nismo’s Group A & N victories in 1992/1993 and had a re-worked ATTESA system and Brembo brakes. But best of all was the N1 version, which effectively was a full on race car. Only 228 were ever built and they came with the re-worked N1 engine. But one of the Skyline’s big bonuses was that not only did it have crushing performance but it also looked good. Compared to the good-looking but chunky new GT-R, the R32 was reasonably small and had a pretty shape with crisp, subtle lines. In gunmetal grey or black they have an understated menace and don’t need the big spoilers and wide wheels that were so often added later on.

The GT-R is still serving as a halo effect for Nissan and whereas around the time of the R32 most people associated the brand with humdrum Cherrys and Sunnys, those in the know knew that the company was also responsible for a true giant killer. The R32 Skyline was being compared to the far more expensive Porsche 911 Turbos and Ferrari Testarossas in its day, and now, almost twenty years on, the Nissan GT-R is still giving supercar makers sleepless nights.



PH Hero Rating: 9/10

Comments (85) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dern 05 Mar 2008

    I like these ph heroes stories but to add an extra element couldn't you go and find one and see what they're like to drive these days? The info reads well but often reads like a rehash of all the information we've read before.



    Edited by dern on Wednesday 5th March 08:28

  • GnuBee 05 Mar 2008

    I had one of these 2 years ago and still remember the sensation of driving it like it was yesterday.

    Without doubt the car had the best steering feel of anything that I've driven this side of track specials like Caterhams etc.

    The HICAS and sending of power to the front wheels when the situation demands it meant that prodigous cornering speed was available.

    I'll never forget the first time I drove the car; heading through heavy traffic the OS Giken clutch was a nightmare and the car picked out and amplified all road surface imperfections. Coming out of the heavy traffic and onto the motorway, confident now that all fluids had warmed up I took the first, tentative, forays into the further reaches of the accelerator pedal.

    Oh god! All I wanted to do was overtake the meandering middle lane occupier but 70mph had turned into 110mph in what appeared to be the blink of an eye. The push, the noise of the exhaust, the roar of the induction was like a drug and it only took that single journey to have me addicted.

    Ok so motorways are all well and good but they're only serve to give a taste, a hint as they take you to the more interesting A and B roads. I had a favourite bit of road, I knew it like the back of my hand, sweeping corners, good visibility - you know the type we've all got them and this was where the car truly sealed it's grip on me.

    The confidence that the car generated meant that speeds were getting ever higher, the potential consequences ever more serious. I took the buyer of the car along the same road and I'll never forget the look on his face upon our return; there was no negotiation, no chat, no pointless tyre kicking just a man with a vacant look in his eyes handing me a bag full of cash.

    Ok so I've painted the car in a good light but there are 2 things you should know;

    1) The brakes are shocking, I mean truly dreadful - mine had the "uprated" brakes from the R33 but if anything highlighted the age of the car it was the brakes. If you buy one, put proper brakes on it before you raid the HKS tuning catalogue to up the power

    2) The engine is very strong but the paranoia caused by reading various articles and forums will lead you to believe that every outing is potential a one way trip to a rebuild

    Why did I sell the car? Well the paranoia got to me, that rebuild thought that started as mere whisper during the boring parts of a drive became louder and louder until every drive was tainted. I also knew the car was going to cost me at some point; not mere money you understand but something more serious (remember my comment above about consequences) - the phrase "license loser" is all too often bandied about but these cars will do that to you unless you are as reserved as a nun.

  • Baffled Spoon 05 Mar 2008

    A great article and the post by GnuBee has made me want one even more. As soon as I'm 25 and have enough NCB I'll have to get one. Love the r32, a true hero car if ever there was one.

  • DamoLLb 05 Mar 2008

    I have never driven one, but my memory card is full of 1000bhp nutters lol

  • mylesmcd 05 Mar 2008

    i am probably gonna get destroyed for this, but, i think the new gt-r not be AS successfull, as some might think, for the same reason this car wasnt huge in the uk - the badge - the type of guy that buys a 60k car wants some badge qudos to go with it and this is where the nissan lacks, badly. also if you decide to put some after market bits n bobs on it, the only admiring looks the car draws are from teenagers.

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