Fun Stuff

AutoTrader Find of the Week: 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R is the Ultimate ’90s Tuner Car

If there ever were a question to produce a flood of subjective answers amongst gearheads born after 1980, it would be, “What is the ultimate tuner car?”

Everyone will have a preference. Everyone will have a personal favourite from a video game, movie, Japanese anime, or magazine. These cars captured our imaginations at an impressionable time in our lives, so they exist more as characters in our collective imaginations than pieces of machinery or consumer products beholden to objective criticism.

Trying to convince someone their favourite tuner car is not “the one to have” would be like telling them their best friend sucks. Unconvincing at best. Fighting words at worst.

However, I think we can all agree there are some outstanding candidates and criteria for the ultimate ’90s tuner car.

A vehicle originally destined for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) certainly merits a big green check on the “ultimate” list. So does a beefy, overengineered inline six-cylinder engine with a reputation born on the race track. Twin-turbos? Check. Period correct name brand modifications? That’s a big check. Hilariously cheap plastic interior with aftermarket gauges, screens, and tape deck shoehorned in? Chef’s kiss. Perfection.

And so I submit for your consideration that this 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R currently being offered for sale at Monaco Motors in North York, Ont., is about as close to “ultimate” as it gets for ’90s tuner cars.

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way. This is a real R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R.

Built for the express purpose of racing homologation, the Skyline GT-R won all 29 races it entered in the Japanese Touring Car Championship from 1989 to 1993. It won 50 of 50 races entered from 1991 to 1997 in Group N racing. It won the Australian Bathurst 1000 twice and was hence dubbed “Godzilla.” It was so dominant that it is said to have aided the demise of Group A racing altogether.

It is a living legend that, prior to the end of Canada’s 15-year import embargo, never arrived on North American shores short of some crafty enthusiasts playing chicken with import loopholes. The Skyline GT-R feels more JDM than any of its competitors or contemporaries because there was no American market version. In fact, all R32 GT-Rs are technically Japanese Domestic Market only, with only 100 examples being earmarked for the Australian market. So, the R32 GT-R is even more Japanese than most.

Under the hood is a genuine contestant for “greatest engine of all time” – the epic RB26DETT. It is a 2.6-litre inline-six engine strapped with two turbochargers, infamously overbuilt, and capable of supercar-levels of power. They also make unearthly noises. They’re simultaneously chaotic and rhythmic. It’s like dubstep as an engine note.

No surprise, the R32 GT-R lent itself well to the tuning and underground racing community and, as a result, bled into pop culture and wormed its iconic, boxy, forbidden shape into our pubescent brains.

But that also meant that we pictured it with modifications. Specifically, many of the modifications featured on this example found on the AutoTrader marketplace.

Aftermarket turbochargers and the air intake are courtesy of HKS. A Nismo intercooler and Mishimoto radiator handle cooling duties. The exhaust by APEXi. AEM provides the fuel pump and air/fuel ratio gauge. Haltech provides a suite of electronic systems, including an Elite 2500 ECU, iC-7 Dash Display, and GPS.

It’s all so period-correct, almost like a time capsule. It feels like this is how the R32 from Initial D was probably modified and like the car we would have all built in Need for Speed: Underground or Forza Motorsport. And we probably would have painted it Bayside blue as well, just to be even more iconic.

Perhaps the most period-correct tuner signature is that Bayside blue is not the original colour for this GT-R. There are two dead giveaways. First, Bayside blue was not a colour option for the R32 model. Technically, Bayside blue did not appear until the R34 model generation in 1999, though the very similar “Champion blue” was available on the R33 generation in 1995.

Second, the vehicle identification plate located on the upper left-hand side of the firewall under the hood indicates that the original colour of this GT-R was Jet Silver Metallic. Fun fact, only about 3.6 per cent of all R32 GT-Rs were painted Jet Silver Metallic, making it amongst the rarest R32 GT-Rs.

So, yes, you may have your own superhero ’90s tuner car that reigns supreme in your imagination. But for my money, when it comes to the “ultimate ’90s tuner,” I think it’s hard to argue with the pedigree, reputation, time capsule representation, and pure iconography of this R32 Skyline GT-R.