R34 GT-R buyers guide

by Fuggles
11 years ago
11864 Views

R34 Z Tune number 001 as seen as Mismo Omori Factory

Words: Andy Butler

Photography: Martin Vincent

For a lot of vehicle models, the ageing process is a difficult one. After a well ­received original version, many cars get progressively flabbier and softer as the new variants arrive, and their popularity can often diminish as a result.

But that isn’t always the case, and a look at the Skyline GT-R lineage proves that. Although there was an increase in weight and sophistication from the R32 to the R33 and then the R34, the driving experience just got better and better.

For this Buyer’s Guide we’ll con­centrate on the last (except for Japan) Skyline, and only on the GT-R variant, even though there were several different Skyline body and engine configurations for the Japanese domestic market.

Introduced in 1999, the R34 took the existing Skyline blend of high technology and raw power to a new level, and the first UK models started finding homes in early 2000. Nissan took the unusual step of allowing one dealership to convert and sell the whole UK Skyline allocation of 80 cars. For a low-volume operation like this, it would hardly have been worth re-tooling part of the Sunderland production line.

Middlehurst Nissan in St Helens carried out the UK mods, adding a set of oil coolers and pumps to the engine, gearbox and transfer box to stop any cooling problems that might come about through continuous high-speed driving. UK-spec R34s also had a Nismo ECU that allowed the cars to be tuned to pass European emission regulations and to run on Super Unleaded fuel. The ECU also de-restricted the cars from the Japanese 112mph (180kph) limit to allow up to 155mph. Another Nismo part added was the Multi Function Display that sits atop the dashboard. With the new circuit-board in place, the MFD’s boost gauge read up to 2.0-bar, and there was also a G-meter to measure cornering force.

Additionally, there was an mph speedometer face and full Connolly leather for the seats. This extra taste of luxury must have been chosen as a way of making potential buyers believe that the £54,000 price tag was justified. Certainly, there was no way that anyone would mistake the car to be a soft, luxury grand tourer once they’d driven it.

Under the bonnet was the same six-­cylinder 24-valve RB26DETT motor that had powered the previous two GT-R models, but there were a few revisions that brought a torque peak of 2891b ft. Peak power was supposedly limited to the Japanese maximum of 276bhp (280PS), but in reality there are few cars that don’t achieve something over 300bhp, and good ones can deliver up to around 320bhp.

New Garrett ball-bearing ceramic turbo­chargers were used to improve response and help the torque output of the R34, and a lighter valve train was employed to allow a higher safe rev limit of 8000rpm. Performance figures for the R34 were published showing a 0-62mph time of just 5.2 seconds, which was very respectable for a car that weighed in at 1666kg.

It’s a heavy car, even after using weight­-saving measures in many aspects of the car’s construction. Aluminium body panels, forged alloy wheels and even lightweight audio speak­ers all helped to keep the lard at bay. Aerodynamic add-ons, like the front and rear undertrays, were deemed necessary bearing in mind the V-spec’s towering performance, but the rear one was all carbon- fibre to assist the slim­ming programme.

Although the majority of the four-wheel-drive system was carried over from the R33, the Getrag six-speed gearbox was another all-new compo­nent. By moving the first five ratios closer togeth­er, the driver was able to keep the motor absolute­ly on the boil, but the overdrive sixth brought a sense of calm and lower cruising revs to increase the fuel economy. Even so, tests showed that a Skyline could empty its 65-00-0 litre tank at a frightening rate, even when cruising.

Because the UK cars were all V-specs, they had the ATTESA E-TS PRO four-wheel-drive sys­tem, which employed 16-bit computer power to assist the torque split between the wheels to pro­vide the right combination of traction and stability for any given circumstances. The hydraulically ­operated centre and rear differentials are elec­tronically controlled, varying the power split in one hundredth of a second as the computer dictates.

As if all that technology wasn’t enough, Nissan used electronically-controlled rear­-wheel steering to improve the turn-in feel and stability during cornering. The Super HICAS system operates a short-throw steering rack on the rear axle that first turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts to initiate the turn. Then, almost immediately, a second signal .turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts to stop the car developing excessive yaw.

Happily, this electronic version of Big Brother doesn’t stop you having some tail-out fun when you want it, but it can provide a welcome level of safety not available in other, less advanced, cars. Unfortunately, the computers aren’t a total get-out-of-jail-free system, and you can wreck a Skyline just like anything else. The real sore point is that, if you do lunch one, you’ll probably be travelling at some serious speed!

Although the official UK cars were all V-specs, there are several other R34 models to choose from. All of them are available if you have the time to hunt them down through the . specialist importers, and have a chunky wallet to fund the purchase. Because Nissan finished production of the Skyline in 2002 – and they don’t look likely to bring out a real successor to it any time soon – Japanese Skyline fans are pushing up prices of all Skylines, so they are getting more expensive instead of less. And that makes it quite a shrewd buy right now.

While the UK just got the one model, the R34 has had a few derivatives in Japan over its short model life. Over the past couple of years some of these cars have filtered into the UK market, but in very small numbers. The good thing is that you should be able to find out exactly what an indi­vidual car is without too much problem. You just have to make sure that, if any modifications have been done, they are what you want to live with. In January 1999 the car was launched for the Japanese domestic market as a choice of either standard or V-spec, with the standard model losing out on the active rear differential, stiffer suspension and G-meter in the Multi Function Display. To celebrate the new model’s arrival there was also a 300-car limited edition that wore a coat of Midnight Purple II flip paint – ‘apart from that it was a standard R34.

The range continued until August 2000, when the V-spec II arrived with a carbon-fibre bonnet with NACA duct, larger rear discs and black cloth trim. The standard model carried on alongside this to give a slightly less raw option.

A new addition came in May 2001 when the M-spec was released. This was almost a luxury version of the Skyline, having the softer Ripple Control dampers and being the first Japanese R34 to come with a leather interior.

During these model runs there were a couple of homologation specials called the V-spec N1 and V-spec II N1, built to allow the car to compete in Super Endurance Racing Group N. These cars were partially stripped-down specials .

The run-out Skyline models were the V-spec II Nur and M-spec Nur, announced in January 2002. These both used an N1 engine from the homologation specials together with some exclusive Nur-only equipment. There’s a 300kph speedo face, cast Nur badgihg and gold-painted cam cover and VIN plate. The – interior of the M-spec edition was still leather trimmed, but the seat foam had been altered to give a better ride in conjunction with the Ripple Control dampers. There were only 1000 Nur editions: 250 M-specs and 750 V-spec Ils. They, were all sold on the day of release.

ENGINE

This is the motor that the term ‘bomb-proof’ could have been invented for. As long as the oil and filter are regularly changed and it isn’t over-revved, the RB26DETT is super strong. Talk to any Skyline tuner and they’ll have tales of customers running cars tweaked to 400, 500 or 600bhp that are going strong with plen­ty of miles on the clock, and they’ll be right. You can even use them for daily driving if you can afford their appetite for Super Unleaded.

If you are planning on doing lots of trackdays, think about adding an oil cooler and changing the oil and filter before each cir­cuit outing to give the most protection. After all, oil is a lot cheaper than an engine rebuild!

Regular servicing at a specialist tuner isn’t mega money, either, so it pays to have your Skyline professionally looked after. Talk to a few tuners before you buy one and get a feel for who you want to do the work. Bear in mind you might have to travel a few miles, but it’ll be worth it.

GEARBOX/CLUTCH

Although it can be a bit noisy, no nasties have turned up with the Getrag ‘box, even on cars that are well tweaked. Start flogging it down the drag strip and you might find the weak link, but when something gets abused like it does on a standing start, then you have to expect the possibility of breakages. On the road you’d have to be running lots of power and driving very `enthusiastically’ for any prob­lems to occur. Early oil changes do help gearshift quality and track-based longevity.

ELECTONICS

Even though there’s a lot of electronic equip­ment fitted to the car, none of it has a reputation for problems. If you have a non-V-spec you can upgrade the MFD to give the G-meter and have the better boost gauge, but apart from that it’s all solid stuff. If you get an import you’ll have to sort out the Jap-spec radio as well as the speed restrictor. Also, the radio aerial amplifier needs to be altered so that the rear window aerial can work properly with UK frequencies.

TRANSMISSION

Again there are no real worries on the four wheel-drive system, but if you have an import car and are thinking of going for lots of power and high-speed use, consider fitting the oil coolers as fitted to the UK-spec cars.

EXHAUSTS

Because the standard exhaust is quite restric­tive, you might find some cars have had a new pipe fitted. This isn’t a problem as long as you can put up with the racket it makes if it’s a noisy one. Otherwise, you’re going to have to revert to a standard exhaust and lose some power, or find a quieter performance pipe.

BRAKES

A big heavy car like the R34 needs good anchors and the factory Brembos are pretty strong. Unfortunately, it is also mega money to replace the discs, so if you are thinking of renewing them you might consider going for something bigger that may cost less money. The hand-sewn trim slowed down production of this model to just 50 a month, so they weren’t exactly mass market, and a special paint finish called Champagne Gold was brought out for the M-spec only.

WHEELS

The 9×18 forged aluminium six-spoke alloy rims suit the R34 well. They’re light for such a big wheel and are big enough to cover mon­ster brake set-ups, so most of the cars are still running on them. Check for chips and scuffs that could be a sign of careless kerbing and that the suspension geometry needs sorting. that dispensed with a few of the creature comforts like climate control and rear wash-wipe but had a hand-built motor from Nissan’s race engine division. This used a stronger block and a fully balanced bottom end along with forged pistons, new conrods, oil and water pumps, different exhaust manifold and steel-internal turbos.

INTERIOR

The fabric trim on the Skyline lasts well, and if you get a UK-spec car the Connolly leather should be in good nick, too. This was offered in either red or black, but red is very rare. It’s also a bit of an acquired taste, so make sure you can live with it before you stump up the . cash.

SUSPENSION AND STEERING

For a road-only car the non V-spec suspen­sion – or M-spec if you’ve found one of those – is a bit less harsh. Having said that, most people who drive something this sporty will put up with the choppy ride quality and tram-lining to get the extra precision when they get the chance to give the car some stick on smooth roads.

There are no problems to relate on the Super HICAS steering system, either, but it does need to be aligned correctly to get the best from the handling and to stop tyres wearing out in a couple of weeks. Skylines aren’t heavy on tyres under normal road conditions, so if you see a car with part-Kojak rubber, something could be amiss on the suspension geometry.

BODYWORK

Nothing of note to report here apart from checking any prospective purchase for bad repairs and poor fit. If there are any signs of damage, get the full story of what happened before you part with any cash. There aren’t many Skylines about, but that doesn’t mean you want to buy the first one you see just so you can have one.

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