Few per formance cars have a line- up of variants a s confusing a s this run of Sk ylines. So how do you tell your V- spec IIS from your Z- tunes?
We examine the Skyline GT-R, from R32 to R34, plus a buying guide for the Lupo GTI and our £50k Ferrari recommendations
THE R32 GENERATION Skyline GT-R was conceived for one reason: to succeed in Group A racing in Japan. It was staggeringly successful, too, winning 29 races from 29 starts. At the car’s heart was an RB26DETT 2.6-litre DOHC twinturbo engine that, while rated at 276bhp, had huge tuning potential.
This was linked to a four-wheeldrive system called ATTESA E-TS – Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-terrain with Electronic Torque Split. Channelling all the power to the rear wheels in normal conditions, it could shuffle up to 50 per cent to the fronts if required. There was even rear-wheel steering, or HICAS – High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering.
Homologation required the release of a Nismo R32 in 1990 and 560 examples were produced – 500 for the road, the rest for racing teams – with extra aero, some lightweight panels and steel turbos. ABS and the rear wiper were deleted, and the cars were all painted Gun Grey metallic.
To celebrate the car’s on-track success, a V-spec (‘ V’ for victory) R32 was introduced in 1993. The main changes were the fitment of Brembo brakes, 17-inch BBS wheels and a retuned ATTESA setup. A second V-spec machine, the V-spec II, arrived in 1994 but the only change was the adoption of wider rubber.
It was also possible to order an ‘N1’ model designed for home-market Group N1 racing, and this could
be based on either the standard GT-R or the V-spec/ V-spec II. Just 245 were made and all were painted Crystal White and featured an uprated engine with steel-wheeled turbos and elements of the Nismo’s aero kit. ABS, the stereo, the rear wiper and the air con were deleted.
Given the success of the R32 GT-R, a performance version of the Skyline was continued into the R33 generation and it arrived in 1995 using much of the R32’s hardware. The engine was virtually identical but the GT-R had grown and now tipped the scales at 1540kg (up from 1430kg). From launch a V-spec model was available. It had uprated suspension and a ‘Pro’ version of the ATTESA 4WD that included an active limited-slip differential. There was also another N1 version for domestic racing.
In 1996 the LM Limited arrived to commemorate the GT-R coming home tenth overall at Le Mans in 1995 – all were painted Champion Blue and featured the N1’s bonnet and front bumper ducts along with a carbonfibre rear spoiler.
In 1997, 100 V-spec cars were modified by Middlehurst Nissan in the UK and sold by Nissan under SVA rules. Changes included a 180mph speedo, Uk-spec bumpers, and additional coolers for the gearbox, rear differential and transfer box.
The ultimate R33, bar the one-
off homologation GT-R LM, was the Nismo 400R. It had extensively revised bodywork, LM-GT1 alloys, Bilstein suspension, a titanium exhaust and a 2.8-litre RB-X GT2 engine rated at 395bhp and 346lb ft. Just 44 were produced.
In 1999 the R34 arrived. Again, three models were in the launch line-up – regular, V-spec and N1 – and again the V-spec was the more hardcore offering, with the Pro version of ATTESA, an active LSD, firmer suspension and a carbon diffuser. Some 80 V-specs were officially imported to the UK, with changes including additional oil coolers and the removal of the Japanese 112mph speed limiter.
In October 2000, the V-spec II made an appearance with even stiffer suspension, larger rear brake discs and a carbon bonnet with a NACA duct. May 2001 saw the arrival of the M-spec, the M representing Kazutoshi Mizuno, Nissan’s chief engineer. This variant had ‘Ripple Control’ dampers (said to absorb the smallest road undulations), a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and revised suspension geometry.
The final two production models, the V-spec II Nür and M-spec Nür, were released in 2002, the ‘Nür’, of course, standing for Nürburgring. They featured an uprated RB26DETT straight-six using N1 racing components and larger turbos with steel blades. Officially rated at 276bhp, they had over 330bhp when they rolled out of the factory.
That should have been the end of the R34 GT-R, but to celebrate Nismo’s 20th anniversary, Nissan sanctioned the Nismo Z-tune – a limited run of ballistic R34s. Nissan purchased used R34 GT-RS from owners and comprehensively rebuilt them, adding a bodykit that is an acquired taste and spraying all but one in Z-tune silver. The engine was enlarged to 2.8 litres, and with massively uprated internals and IHI turbochargers it delivered 493bhp and 398lb ft. It was a glorious swansong for the Skyline name – when the R35 GT-R arrived in 2007, the iconic moniker was dropped.
Above and previous page: R32 (the grey car) revived the ‘Skyline GT-R’ name in 1989 after 16 years of dormancy; its R33 successor (black) was heavier but no less impressive. Below: twin-turbo straight-six was designed to handle huge power increases
Above and above left: R34 officially limited to 276bhp – like the R32 and R33 – but most are thought to have made a little bit more than that; the technology at the driver’s fingertips was also astonishingly advanced for the time. Left: bold circular tail lights are a GT-R hallmark