1988 Nissan Skyline Silhouette GTS 1 - Reader Resto

By: Craig Hardman with Guy Allen, Photography by: Shaun Tanner

Presented by

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Easily one of the best examples in the country, this first-gen GTS has just been through its second resto

 

1988 Nissan Skyline Silhouette GTS 1

The first time I saw this car, it was featured in Unique Cars magazine back in October 2008 as part of Carolyn Kruger’s collection. She had a good gathering of Special Vehicle Skylines, and later decided to trim down her fleet and buy an ex Group A car. That was when one car got sold and I bought it from that owner.

I’d read the car was the best one in Australia at the time and, from what I’d learned from other people, I knew Caroline was very particular. Having decided I wanted a GTS, I had a look at a number of examples and even drove to Sydney to look at one – that was a bit of a disaster.

nissan-skyline-7.jpgThe GTS featured upgraded suspension and brakes

I got in touch with Carolyn and told her I was chasing one and she put me in touch with the owner of this car. After a few minutes of negotiation over the phone we agreed to a price. It was a very tidy car that had been restored. Carolyn had done a lot of work on it and it was a credit to her. It was gone over from top to bottom. Steven, the next owner, had improved on it again.

These rolled off the production line in Melbourne and the GTS 1 was based on the Silhouette Sports model. The later GTS 2 was based on the GXE. The 2 was more popular and not as many of the first model survive.

| Read next: 1988 Nissan Skyline GTS Group A review

nissan-skyline-front.jpgThat’s a very eighties snout – gotta love the big lighting array

Mechanically, the basic package is the same three-litre RB motor that’s found in the VL Commodore, with a five-speed manual transmission. The GTS had the bigger front struts on them, Bilstein inserts front and rear, plus larger brake rotors from the GTS-R.

The car that started it all, the GTS 1, is the one that really appealed to me. They were lighter and only available as a manual. They had a bit of a cult following at the time, particularly in Tasmania, where they ran them as Highway Patrol cars. I was always a Nissan nut, because Dad worked with Nissan for 52 years – he’s only recently retired.

| Club classics under $30k: Nissan Skyline R31 Silhouette

nissan-skyline-onroad.jpgSimple and purposeful lines still look great

When these came out, he was the service manager at the local dealership, so he knew them inside-out. He got one in 1988, which the family still has and only shows 160,000km. That’s the car I learned to drive in.

Later on, I was lucky enough to twist their arm so I could buy it, and had it for about eight years. During that time, it got lowered, with a different exhaust and GTS wheels – which it still has, even though they took the car over again. It will probably one day end up with me again. I’ve got ‘dibs’ on buying it back, if it comes on the market.

| Buyer's Guide: 1986-1991 Nissan Skyline R31

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When I got this example, there were a few little areas I wanted to work on. It had some normal wear and tear since the restoration and there were a few little rust bubbles coming out in the A-pillars. I’ve heard this was down to a design flaw in the Skyline. Fixing it meant pulling off the front panels from the windscreen forward.

When we got in there we discovered the area in and around the base of the A-pillars was quite rusty. It was one of those things that was only minor to look at, but when I took it to the panel beater they remembered doing this work on the cars when they were just 10 years old. It was an area that would hold water, and there wasn’t enough rust prevention when they were new.

nissan-skyline-wheel.jpgThe wheels are distinctive and help ‘make’ the overall look of the car

They said it was just one of things that happened in the eighties to nineties, possibly not helped by the grade of metal they were using at the time. They had to cut out the panel and refabricate it.

The lower half of the car was painted, just to get things all A1 again. The front spoiler was a non-genuine item and I replaced that. I’m fortunate in having a friend with a few R31s of this year and can get parts from him. I’d cleaned out the local wreckers.

nissan-skyline-tail-light.jpgThat SVD sticker meant something halfway serious was lurking under the paint

They are now hard to find parts for, unless you know someone with a few complete cars. It’s all interior and plastic trim, the plastics of the era tend to be brittle. I was lucky to get stickers from Caroline, who had multiple sets made at some point.

The instruments are prone to stop working and just about every gauge on this one had given up. So we got the dash out and fixed all that. We painted the engine bay and electroplated a heap of parts. I’ve had the car three years and have just got it done in the last couple of days.

nissan-skyline-engine-bay.jpgThat six was also hosted in the VL Commodore

Initially we thought it had the R31 noisy diff problem, but after playing around we discovered it was just a wheel bearing. Basically we gave it a really good going-over. The motor and gearbox are still the originals and have done around the 200,000km mark. They’re still like new and the car drives really well.

nissan-skyline-interior-2.jpgOriginal seats show this had real sporting intent

If you’re in the market, make sure the essential stuff is there. The original seats are very hard to come by, as is the original fabric. They’ve got a Momo steering wheel, that’s also hard to source. The one on this car has been recovered, so even if the rim is bad they can come up as good as new. There is still some stuff around, such as the grille, which is still available. However the rear spoiler is hard to come by. The front is a standard Silhouette item, so you can get them. The wheels range up to around $1200.

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As for my GTS, it’s a great car to drive and well worth putting the effort into.

(Thanks to Moro & Dooly Accident Repair Centre for its help with paint and panel.)

THE RESTO:

nissan-skyline-resto-3.jpgWhat’s that?
It doesn’t look too bad here, but it’s worth investigating.

 

nissan-skyline-resto-4.jpgMore hints
You can see where some of the seams are looking a little unwell.

 

nissan-skyline-resto-8.jpgBubble wrap
But not the kind you want to find. Unfortunately it’s a common problem in a car this age.

 

nissan-skyline-resto-10.jpgLet’s rebuild
Eventually this will become a structural issue, so it’s best to tackle it head-on.

 

nissan-skyline-sticker.jpgThose were the days
Nissan was a busy and important local maker. Those were the good old days.

 

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1988 Nissan Skyline GTS Silhouette 1 specs

Engine: 3.0lt inline six with EFI
Power & torque:  117kW @5200rpm,  252Nm @3600rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Suspension: Front: independent with coil-springs, struts & anti-roll bar and telescopic shock absorbers. Rear: beam axle with struts and telescopic shock absorbers
Brakes: Power-assisted discs front and rear

 

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