Nissan GT-R R32 Buying Guide

A cult performance car that's becoming ever-more soughtafter. Here's how to secure a solid Nissan GT-R R32

Nissan GT-R R32 Buying Guide

Prices
• Project £8000-12,000 • Good £15,000-25,000 • Concours £35,000-40,000 •
• Most expensive at auction: £48,000 (unmodified 1991 R32)

Practicality ★★★
Running costs ★★★
Spares ★★★
DIY Friendly ★★
Investment ★★★
Desirability ★★★★

Introduced in 1989, the Nissan Skyline GT-R was designed to compete in international Group A racing. To this end it came packed with a high-tech all-wheel drive system and turbocharged six-cylinder engine. The combination made it one of the quickest contemporary sports car around.

Initially, not many people took notice, primarily because it was only made available in Japan. That all changed when the GT-R began dominating the Group A racing series like no other car before.

It remained undefeated in Japan over a four-year reign and took top honours at Spa and the Nürburgring too. The Australians named it ‘Godzilla’ after it beat the all-conquering Sierra Cosworth at the Bathurst 1000, two years running.

Comparisons with contemporary sports cars tended to yield similar results. The on-track brilliance of the R32 can be attributed to its ATTESA E-TS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Terrains and Electronic Split) four-wheel drive system and highly tuneable inline-six 2.6-litre turbocharged engine.

That 276bhp claimed output figure was a necessary lie thanks to the Japanese laws of the time, but no R32 left the factory with less than 300bhp once the stock boost restrictor was removed. Minor modifications can yield excellent results and most cars today make a fair bit more than the stock numbers.

The continued racing successes led to special victory edition (V-Spec) models being released. While these were built in limited numbers, over 40,000 standard cars were eventually manufactured and prices have remained very reasonable for what remains a historically significant, and very capable, world-beating sports car.

Your AutoClassics Nissan GT-R R32 inspection checklist

Engine

The heart and soul of the R32 is its RB26DETT inline-six-cylinder engine. These engines are basically bulletproof if left standard, but few remain unmolested. A stock boost restrictor could be removed, which took the power up to around 310bhp, and the majority of cars have at the very least been remapped, which usually adds around 40bhp. If a larger turbo and more aggressive map are installed, the internals will require beefing-up too.

The timing belt should be replaced regularly and any new purchase should be treated to a full service, especially if it is a fresh import.

Low oil pressures tend to be an issue on these engines and if the tappets are very noisy on start-up the oil pump may be faulty. Coil packs can also cause misfiring and rough running issues.

Standard turbochargers tend to disintegrate under high levels of boost and specialists tend to rebuild them with stronger steel impellers, instead of the factory-fitted ceramic ones.

Crankshafts can suffer from over-revving. One way to check if an engine is healthy is to check for any rough high-rev behaviour or excessive blue exhaust smoke under boost.

Gearbox

The five-speed gearbox can handle a fair bit of abuse, but it is generally the last component to receive upgrades, therefore transmissions sometimes suffer breakages. Check for any crunching between gears, especially when changing into fifth. While the ‘box does not like to be rushed, changes should be smooth.

Suspension and brakes

The suspension set-up is fairly straightforward and the standard system tends to require nothing more than the periodic damper and rubber bushing replacement. Cars with larger diameter wheels and track-biased settings can make for an extremely hard ride and uneven tyre wear, so if your car is not standard (highly likely) make sure the modifications have been professionally carried out.

Brakes are standard steel units all-round and work well unless you are running 400bhp+, where they may overheat resulting in cracked pads and warped discs.

Bodywork

Freshly imported cars should be largely rust free, although cars in wetter climates such as the UK may have started to exhibit signs of rust. Take a good look around the whole car but pay particular attention to the rear arches, rear window surrounds and the jacking points, which can become damaged leading to rusting of the underside and side sills.

Interior

The R32 has a typically '90s Japanese interior, meaning acres of plastic, reliable electronics and hard-wearing seat coverings. Many owners install updated radios and a lot of electronic issues can be traced back to aftermarket alarms and other non-standard equipment.

Sourcing minor trim can be a hassle although there are a number of specialists and enthusiast clubs about who can point you in the right direction.

History

  • 1989: Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 goes on sale in Japan. Factory-fitted restrictor limits power to 276bhp. Group A restrictions limit wheel size to 16in.
  • 1990: Very rare NISMO GT-R built, 500 for road and 60 for track.
  • 1993: V-Spec I model introduced to celebrate Group A victories and features bigger brakes, 17in alloys and updated four-wheel drive system. 1453 units built.
  • 1994: V-Spec II model arrives with the only change over the V-Spec I being wider tyres. 1303 units built.
  • 1995: Skyline R32 production ends with a total of 40,390 standard models having been manufactured.

AutoClassics say…

Almost every GT-R R32 has seen some form of modification and if done sympathetically can make for a very quick and enjoyable sports car. If not you may be in for some big bills.

The majority of cars still reside in Japan, although many have found homes in Australia, the UK and, since 2014, the US as well. This has had a positive effect on prices, although values are still well below what you would pay for a contemporary European sports car with similar offerings.

If you are looking for one of the limited-edition models such as the V-Spec I or II then be prepared to pay significantly more than you would for a vanilla R32. The very rare NISMO models are even more valuable and very few can be found outside of Japan. Standard low-mileage models are extremely rare now and the astronomical figures they command reflect their desirability.

Whichever you choose, you have the option of importing one directly or purchasing a car that has already made the trip. Either method can yield good results although locally sourced cars tend to be lower priced.

Specifications

2.6-litre Turbocharged inline-6
  Power 276bhp
  Top speed 155mph
  0-60mph 5.6sec
  Economy 19mpg

Nissan GT-R cars for sale here.