Before there was the Nissan GT-R, there was the Nissan Skyline GT-R R32
Nissan’s Skyline has been around since 1957. It has been the stuff of dreams for just about as long. For most Americans, they are familiar with the lineage through its close cousin, the Nissan GT-R R35.
Before the R35, there was the R32 and R33 Nissan Skylines. While not available for sale in the United States, many a video gamer and auto enthusiasts know of it in one of two ways, their video games or because of its legendary performance. For most people American though, it will continue to be elusive and difficult to drive even though they are becoming available in the United States.
In Japan, the Skyline R32 and R33 have a legendary racing pedigree that any automotive manufacturer or brand would be extremely proud to have. It has dominated the JTCC and Group N racing series in the homeland for many a years where its performance on the street and the track is the stuff of legends.
The Department of Transportation 25 year exclusion rule enables people and companies to import cars that were not previously available for sale in the United States. This means that Nissan Skyline R32s manufactured in 1991 or earlier, are now eligible for import into the US. A small cottage industry of importers have been lurking in the shadows to help auto enthusiasts and consumers alike import these magnificent and rare beasts.
Many younger automotive enthusiasts first learned about these cars driving them in video games such as Grand Turismo and Hollywood films. I can recall seeing the Skyline R32 on the cover of video game jackets over the years.
The Skyline R32 was also a main character in a few Fast and Furious movies as actor Paul Walker’s vehicle of choice. This factor alone has been a big contributing factor to the Skyline’s legendary status amongst Japanese automotive enthusiasts.
Both the R32 and R33 GT-Rs were powered by a similar RB26DETT engine with power allocated to all four wheels in an all-wheel-drive layout. The 2.6L, twin-cam, inline-six lays down a maximum of 280 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque without even trying and remains the most powerful RB engine among Nissan’s lineup. It also has the most potential as well as it has an architecture similar to the smaller 2.5L engine but features individual throttle bodies and parallel-mounted, twin turbochargers. And like the Supra’s 2JZ engine, it too features a cast-iron and nearly indestructible engine block of which boost practically knows no bounds.
It’s the all-wheel-drive layout that makes the GT-R the special car that it is, though. Here, the longitudinally mounted engine up front is mated to a conventional, rear-wheel-drive sort of transmission, essentially allowing it to behave more like something powered by its hind end until you let things get out of control. Nissan accomplishes all of this with ATTESA (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain). The system is based off of a conventional rear-wheel-drive gearbox that drives the rear differential via a standard tailshaft. At the end of the transmission sits the all-wheel-drive transfer case of which a short driveshaft transverses back to the front wheels through another differential. Inside the transfer case, a multi-plate clutch pack distributes torque. Information like G-force, boost pressure, throttle position, and individual wheel speed is fed into the computer. If traction is lost, the clutches intervenes, engaging and sending torque to the appropriate wheels.