Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R Review

By: Andy Enright

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At around $20k in today's market, the V Spec R33 Skyline's level of performance and credibility makes it an insane bargain

 

Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R 

The Nissan Skyline GT-R is a car that forever etched its legend onto the slopes of Mount Panorama in the early Nineties, Mark Skaife and Jim Richards’ Winfield-liveried car earning a contentious victory over the Johnson/Bowe Sierra back in 1992, causing Gentleman Jim to resort to some distinctly ungentlemanly language. Nissan’s toe in the water of 100 official Aussie imports of the R32 GT-R wasn’t a notable success, Nissan Australia’s chief Ivan Deveson using the exercise as a brand-building opportunity to capitalise on the success of the race cars. All the ADR work had to be done on a $250,000 budget and the changes were extensive. A new transmission oil cooler was required, the muffler and windscreen were changed, instrument panel, rear lights, and side intrusion bars required changing and the 112km/h speed limiter was removed.

By the time its successor, the R33 GT-R was launched, the Japanese had abandoned any expectation of bringing the car to these shores in an official capacity. An early feasibility study showed that the R33 GT-R would need the ADR work done in Japan and his would push the price of the car up to over $190,000 by the time it reached Australia, almost 75 percent more than the old R32. The numbers just couldn’t be made to work.

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The R33 was bigger and heavier than its predecessor, despite carrying over the same RB26DETT 2.6-litre straight six. Built on the Laurel underpinnings, the R33 was 130mm longer, with another 105mm tacked into the wheelbase. Weight went up 100kg, the drag coefficient came down from 0.40 to 0.35 Cd and the V Spec model, like we have here, was fitted with the fiendishly clever ATTESA E-TS PRO system, which integrates control of the driving and braking forces on all four wheels independently. The key element of this system is a computer-controlled limited-slip diff which talks to the four-wheel steering system to deliver optimum traction out of corners. The V Spec models also got beefier springs and sharper damping for better control of the hefty body.

Whereas here in Oz, we see the R33 GT-R’s as the R32’s fatter and less successful sibling, around the world, it’s the R33 that’s usually perceived as the hero car. Why? Put that down to an inspired piece of marketing by Nissan. Back in 1996, the company proudly trumpeted the fact that the Skyline R33 GT-R had claimed the production car record around Germany’s fabled Nurburgring Nordschleife. Right under Porsche’s nose, the Japanese had hired hotshoe racer Dirk Schoysman to pedal a GT-R around the Green Hell in 7m59s.

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Now clearly there are a few issues with this claim. Nissan did not cheat, because it’s impossible to cheat when there are no rules. There’s no official lap time record around the Ring, merely self-reported times with no independent sanction. The car wasn’t inspected to be standard beforehand and even Schoysman will have a little chuckle when asked if the GT-R was the same as the ones that rolled off the lines. It even ignored the fact that Jaguar had registered a 7m46s time in their XJ220. It nevertheless set the media into a frenzy and kicked off a Nurburgring lap time arms race that continues to this day.

I have history with silver R33 GT-Rs. When Nissan started official imports of the car into the UK, I managed to get hold of an early car on my very first journalistic assignment and then promptly drove it into an Armco barrier on a remote Welsh mountainside before hitching a lift to the hotel in the back of a beer dray. Eighteen years later, I’m a good deal more circumspect with the loud pedal.

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Twist the slimline machined-metal key in the ignition and the straight six fires up into a smooth idle. Choose a car that’s in relative standard trim and the clutch and gearbox are docile, the car willing to pull away gently without you having to trouble the throttle. There’s that same elasticated power delivery as you wait for the boost to build at 3500rpm, the firmish ride, the tramlining steering and the fluid, long-throw gear shift. It always feels a hefty car but it nevertheless feels one that you could work with at speed, one that you’d get a real sense of satisfaction from piloting skilfully. Today isn’t the day for any heroics and besides, I want to get that monkey off my back that’s been sitting there for almost two decades. This Skyline’s going back to its owner without incident.

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Time has been kind to the R33 GT-R. It still pulls hard enough to generate a big smile. You can tell JB’s impressed as he gets out of the car and straight away asks how much they’re retailing for these days. The answer is, more than they were a few years back at the height of import fever. Once a tantalisingly forbidden fruit, now that the R32 GT-R is more than 25 years old, it can legally be imported into the US. This has started to have a knock-on effect on pricing, with demand for clean, unmolested cars at Japanese auctions starting to pick up noticeably. That knocks onto the rarer R33 too and the $29,990 being asked for this 101,000km 1995 GT-R V-Spec seems about right. It’s still a lot of car for the money.

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There’s ample headroom in the market for prices to pick up still further too. Tidy R34 GT-R V Spec Nur models are now changing hands at around $130,000, well in excess of some R35 GT-Rs. Chalk that one up to the success of the Gran Turismo games franchise, the R34 Skyline becoming the poster car for a whole generation of Nineties teens who now have the means to buy the real thing. While the R33 probably won’t ascend to those heights, they’re getting rarer every day and there’s money to be made in keeping them original.

All four of the cars we’ve assembled have transcended the normal and have piqued the interest of enthusiasts and collectors. The Skyline might carry the biggest stick, but it could just be the quiet bargain of the bunch.

NISSAN SKYLINE OWNER: NUWAN PIYATISSA

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Here at AT Import Revolution we import quite a few Skylines. The R34 V Spec II Nur is my favourite of the lot. The R32s and R33s are very popular because they’re still selling at a reasonable price but they’re hard to find in good original condition. The last R33 that I saw sold in Japan was a 400R limited edition and it sold for about $110,000. I look for clean, unmodified, unmolested cars, as stock as possible because you don’t know what’s been done to them. I have a good network in Japan because I’ve been doing this for sixteen years now.

 

NISSAN SKYLINE R33 GT-R V-SPEC VALUE GUIDE:

Fair: $13,500
Good: $21,500
Excellent: $30,000

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R V-Spec

Body Two-door coupe
Weight 1540kg
Engine 2568cm inline six cylinder 24v DOHC
Transmission Five-speed manual
Suspension Multilink (f/r)
Brakes 4-pot Brembo, 324mm vented discs (f) 2 pot Brembo, 300mm discs (r)
Power/Torque 206W @ 6800rpm / 368Nm@ 4400rpm
Performance 0-100km/h 5.4s

 

 


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