Monster Madness – Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R

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Dale Vinten

As far as JDM heroes go there are few, if any, that did it better than the Nissan Skyline GT-R, especially the R34. Known as Godzilla thanks to its all-dominating racing credentials it’s a fitting sobriquet for such a devastatingly capable beast. It may not have had Atomic Breath or any amphibious abilities (over-exuberant drivers inadvertently parking them in ditches doesn’t count) but it does share certain similarities with the original ‘King of the Monsters’. Both possess extreme durability and super strength, with the 2.6-litre, twin turbo six cylinder RB26DETT engine being renowned for its robustness and almost mythical capacity for tuning. Not only that but the fictional prehistoric reptilian and the legendary sports car have both become pop culture icons too.

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The origin story of the GT-R, however, begins way back in 1969 with the arrival of the 2000GT-R, a car that utilised the Skyline name that first saw the light of day in ’57. This first GT-R-badged model certainly set the tone for the future of the marque, developed as it was for racing, and it would collect many a trophy along the way. A second generation GT-R followed in ’73, introduced as the KPGC110 and while it did retain the same six-cylinder, four-valve dual overhead cam engine as the previous model the KPGC110 was a step forward in design with its coupé style, Coke bottle aesthetic. It was a pretty little car and a capable one to boot but few were made in the wake of the global oil crisis that similarly put paid to many a fledgling sports car at the time.

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It wasn’t until the third generation of GT-R that arrived in ’89 – a full 16 years after Nissan’s last effort – that the Godzilla epithet was bestowed upon this beast from the east. Much like the original GT-R, the R32 (as it was known) was developed for racing, specifically Group A. And it dominated. With 280bhp in stock form (we all know by now that this was a gross underestimation of the car’s true power figures) and a trick all-wheel drive system the R32 GT-R was a formidable track weapon, earning its nickname from the Australian press who had witnessed the car’s monstrous racing performance. It’s an appropriate appellation and one that stuck through two further iterations.

The R33 broke cover in ’95 but it’s perhaps the R34 that is most deserving of praise and indeed the most memorable to many. The RB26DETT engine remained the same across the board but it was the R34 GT-R, with its optional built-in digital lap timer and G-Force meter that really struck a chord with car fans the world over. Here was a supercar-trouncing toy for the PlayStation generation that seamlessly melded eye-watering performance with modern technology, and we lapped it up.

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Produced from ’99 until 2002 in its original format the R34 GT-R was, and still is a special car and fully deserving of its iconic status. Few were imported into the UK and tales of 800-plus horsepower tuned versions in Japan, as well as prominent billing in movies like The Fast and the Furious and almost unbelievable Nürburgring lap times further added to the car’s mystical, alluring appeal.

And it’s that ability to easily and cheaply extract more power from these cars that made them so popular. From a simple ECU remap and a tad more boost to full on fettling and internal jiggery pokery, the possibilities were seemingly endless. People had tried and tested such upgrades on the RB26 in the R32 and R33 and even Nissan itself got in on the action with factory tuned variants, as was the case with those earlier GT-R models, too.

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Nissan’s V·Spec, or Victory Specification R34 models came with an upgraded version of its ATTESA E-TS four-wheel drive system as well as an an active limited slip differential as oppose to a mechanical setup on the base model. They also featured additional external accoutrements such as side skirts, diffusers and lips as well as a firmer suspension setup. A revised ECU map, full Connolly leather interior and extra features on the in-car display completed the V-Spec’s improvements over standard cars.

And that’s what we have here ladies and gentlemen. Well, kind of. This car did begin its life as a factory V-Spec but it has since gone under the automotive knife having been significantly further upgraded. Despite its myriad modifications the car remains fairly understated though. As understated as a V-Spec R43 GT-R can be, that is. Yes it has various additional bodywork bits and bobs but it’s all tastefully done, right down to the bronze Volk Racing TE37 wheels, which are a perfect match if you ask us and the interior is wonderfully original save for the necessary additional gauges, all neatly installed in the glove box. Mash your right foot into the carpet though and it’s an entirely different story.

Freshly imported to the UK from Japan last year it features a later, fully rebuilt V-Spec II Nur engine with forged internals, a single Trust T78 Turbo that’s bigger than most small hatchbacks and all the bells and whistles you could possibly ask for. All of which means that this R34 GT-R is now pushing out a whopping 650bhp, and is waaaay more impressive than a stock example. It’s a long and distinguished list of upgrades which are fully detailed on the listing, all of which are from renowned brands having been installed professionally by specialists. The improvements are not limited to the engine either with both the brakes and suspension having received attention too. This is the real deal folks. This is Godzilla, Ghidorah and King Kong all rolled into one.

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Sometimes the furore surrounding certain “iconic” cars can wane. That initial appeal diminishes over time, but that simply isn’t the case with the R34 GTR. Much like it’s older brothers, demand remains high and that’s reflected in the prices that decent examples can and do command. And it looks like values will continue to rise, too. Long gone are the days when you could pick up a tidy GT-R for less than £10K and a car like this is not only incredible to drive but it also represents a sound investment. There are R34 GT-Rs and then there are R34 GT-Rs and this particular example is perhaps one of the best you’re likely to find.

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