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?

Evo - - CONTENTS REGULARS - by Bob Harper

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...

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