Some like the antilag, others like the easy horsepower, and I think we can all agree, we do a double take anytime we see an OG Godzilla cruising down the street. This once forbidden fruit became legal in the US a few years ago, and at that time, you could find decent examples in the low $20,000 range.
Believe it or not, an example sold for $21,000 was owned by the one and only Doug Demuro. Wonder what quirks and features it had? But in the past couple years, prices have been going nuts! Like a normal one that sold for $86,900 at auction, or the one that sold for six figures that was a part of Paul Walker‘s legendary collection. Yeah, just a hair over $100,000 and you can have this one-of-a-kind JDM track monster!
It’s safe to say this twin-turbo rocket is one of the greatest Japanese sports cars of all time! And by now, you probably know that the team here at Ideal are big fans just like you! So, in this article, I want to dig into why they’re so popular, what some buyer’s mistakes I’ve seen are, and key things to look for when searching for your ideal GT-R!
The History of the R32
The Skyline GT-R didn’t start with the R32. It actually goes all the way back to the 1960’s. And the race car version won over fifty, yes fifty, domestic touring car victories, which means they won pretty much every race they stuck the GT-R in. So, it’s safe to say winning and Nissan went together like peanut butter and jelly. Yet somehow, someway, Nissan seized production of the Gran Turismo Racer nameplate in 1973, and then, there was silence, because for 16 years, there were no more GT-Rs coming from Nissan.
But in May of 1989, the GT-R was back, baby! With the 8th generation of GT-R, the R32. The R32 is probably the best looking GT-R, if you ask me. It’s got the wide fenders, the classic four round tail lights, the long coupe body design. But it’s what’s underneath those body panels are what gave this Japanese sports car the nickname “Godzilla“! Pop the hood and you have 276 horses staring right back at you. But let’s be honest, we all know that the actual figures were well north of 300!
And to make that happen, the RB26DETT that powered the GT-R was breathing through twin turbos, and has gone down in history as one of the best motors of all time. It’s that very rare combo of power and reliability that made the RB so classic. And the electronically-controlled all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering systems in the GT-R model meant this was a Godzilla in the straights and the curves, which makes this car ideal for the street and the race track.
The track is where it really got it’s name, though. The GT-R absolutely dominated the Japanese Touring Car Championships, winning every single race it entered in its first season, and taking home the championship title 4 years in a row. The R32 was so dominant that it was banned from Australian Touring Car Championships.
The R32 Hits the USA
Today, with its motorsports success and an extremely tunable chassis, it’s easy to see why people want the R32. Now, nearly 44,000 R32 GT-Rs were built and sold during it’s production run, but they were never officially sold in the USA. So, when the 25-year rule came into effect, these things became a hot commodity! And there’s definitely some specific things you need to watch out for when looking for an ideal R32 GT-R!
Things to Look Out For
Now, before we dig in, one thing I’d like to note is having a garage at your house is few and far between in Japan, so a lot of these cars lived outside. Due to the climate in Japan, that means they’re susceptible to rust. So, the very first thing you want to look for is corrosion. The arches, sills, front strut tops, main rails, bulkhead, rear wings behind the spats and the rear screen surround can suffer. Climb all around the car and look for signs of repairs and rust. Because if you find the cancer, it can get expensive real quick to fix it. A common trick is people will underseal the car to hide issues, so be extremely careful if a car has been sprayed with a protectant underneath.
Secondly, since they are such a well-revered tuner car, most of them have been driven hard and put away wet. So, when looking for one, the less mods, the better. Try to avoid examples with aftermarket gauges on the dash. Because if you want to remove them later on, you will have holes you’ll have to fix.
As for the powerplants, remember these are twin-turbocharged engines that are at least 25 years old. So, if they haven’t been freshened up, at this point they’re probably getting a bit tired and will need some service. Three things to check are:
- The oil pressure gauge, which isn’t that reliable. If it shows at around 2 bar at idle and 4 bar at higher RPMs, you probably have a solid motor.
- The boost gauge. If the car is stock, it should read about 0.8 bar, but most people remove the factory restrictor, and the boost gauge should then read at roughly 1 bar. That’s about all the factory ceramic compressor wheels can take on the turbocharger. Any more and it’s bound to fail and grenade your engine.
- The oil pump drives love to fail, and this wasn’t remedied until 1993. So, you’ll want to make sure it has an updated one, or factor that into the purchase price.
Also, the RB26DETT came with a timing belt, which should be changed every 5 years. So, that’s something to spot in the service records. And the 5-speeed manual transmission is a stout unit and known to be pretty much bulletproof, but do watch out for worn syncros and slipping clutches.
Okay, as far as suspension, the two main points of concern are age and the 4-wheel steering. For optimum performance, the suspension will have needed a refresh by now. So, carefully look over what has been replaced, and what parts were used. The second is the active rear steering system. If that fails, a rear steering delete kit can be installed.
As for everything else, they came with stock 16-inch wheels, so quality tires are easy to find. And sitting behind those wheels are adequate brakes that were never that great, so there’s a good chance you’ll find an aftermarket unit installed.
Overall, the R32 GT-R is a great car. As you inspect one, especially modified examples, which are most of them, make sure the power upgrades are supported by fuel and cooling modifications as well. They aren’t exceptionally rare, and more are being imported to the USA every month, so finding your ideal one will take a bit of time, but it will be well worth it!
Check for right paperwork to make sure everything truly is legit. Check the VIN plate or chassis to make sure it is indeed a BNR32 and not a replica. Last but not least, make sure all maintenance has been done. I’m talking fluid changes, filters, and all. As a new owner, just enjoy it, but be prepared for 25+ year old rubber components failing.