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Nissan Skyline buying guide

Published: 24 October 2007

A Skyline buying guide? Since when were you an authority?

We’re not, which is why we’ve roped in Andy Barnes from Skyline experts Sumo Power to give us the lowdown on the last generation GT-R: the R34. Barnes pinpoints a 2001 Japanese V Spec edition (the most hardcore Skyline) with stage one modifications to around 400bhp as his ideal purchase. Find a mint car that’s been meticulously maintained to this specification by a GTR specialist, and it’s worth £30,000. And while you might not want a modified car, you’ll probably end up with one. Skyline power outputs were artificially limited by an agreement between Japanese manufacturers, so the 2.6-litre twin turbo RB26DETT is more than happy to produce more than the 320bhp or so if left the factory with – although that’s still 40bhp more than the agreement stipulated. Few owners will have resisted the urge to fettle.

What do I look for under the bonnet?

The RB26 engine goes on and on if it’s serviced regularly and fed good quality oil. Problems start when shoddy tuners and cash-strapped owners get involved. So check for obvious signs of oil leaks around the turbos and lower block areas. Check the state of clips and brackets on standard-looking engine bays– are they damaged? Do they look new? – to see tell-tale signs of major repairs. Warm the car up and let the oil thin out. Once it’s hot the oil pressure should always be over 4bar using half the available revs. Most R34s suffered from porous engine blocks and therefore many have had major engine re-builds. This is by no means a bad thing, but do try to establish who carried out the work. Do they have a good reputation?

Are there any nasty noises to look out for?

The engine should rev smoothly with no strange noises, and while all RB engines make a ticking noise at idle (it’s perfectly normal and down to the injectors), listen out for a slight knock that gets worse under revs – it means big-end bearing failure is imminent. A large number of GT-Rs have aftermarket clutches installed – generally multi-plate replacements –which can make a harsh clanking noise at idle. This will disappear when the clutch is depressed. If the car you’re looking at has an in-car boost controller and more serious performance modifications, make sure you see receipts to back up the work and ask what the car’s been used for. It’s a good idea to call the garage responsible and double check the history, while you’d be foolish not to get an expert’s second opinion before purchase. Ask them to look inside the engine with a bore-scope to check for signs of internal damage; it’s easily spotted.

How about the running gear?

Gearboxes are pretty robust but synchros can fail on hard-driven cars, resulting in crunching gears. It’s an expensive fix as the parts are not available from Nissan separately, while specialists will charge £1200 and more for a rebuild. The standard propshaft can take huge power increases, but the standard clutch can noticeably deteriorate after two very hard launches – hence the widespread use of aftermarket replacements. Joints, driveshafts and links are very durable, unlike the suspension units. These are at least inexpensive to replace, though many owners have by now switched to aftermarket alternatives. If this is the case, make sure the alignment has been adjusted to suit – excessive tyre wear will result otherwise.

How are the interiors bearing up?

Not too well. Leather interiors often crack and split, while fabric seats wear out and there’s little chance of retrimming it in the standard pattern. UK cars had a Nismo (Nissan’s official race division) version of the dashboard’s digital screen (MFD), most famous for including the g meter. These are generally trouble-free, but sensors can fail and are expensive to replace, so check everything works as it should. It’s common to find MFD2 upgrades on Japanese cars with extra settings and monitors for the car and engine. This is a costly upgrade and a welcome bonus. If you turn on the ignition and it says ‘Nismo’ under the GT-R logo, you’re onto a winner.

And the exterior?

The most common colour is Bayside Blue. It’s easy to tell if these cars have had new paintwork, as this colour came with a special coloured lacquer from the factory which is very hard to match – although the paint can look slightly different on bumpers as standard because of the plastic it bonds to. Red, yellow and white were available, but the special order Midnight Purple 2 is the most desirable. V Spec cars were fitted with a rear carbon undertray. Check that this isn’t damaged, as replacements cost a staggering £5500.

Did any R34 Skylines officially come to the UK?

Yes, they were brought in through Middlehurst Nissan in very small numbers and offered with a Nissan warranty. UK cars are unique, and came with Connolly leather; oil coolers for the engine, rear diff and gearbox; a vented front bumper to feed the oil cooler; an mph speedo and clocks; V Spec extras including a front lip and rear undertray; an altered ECU; the Nismo display unit previously mentioned; GTR floor mats and, finally, different chassis number serialisation. Unlike UK cars, most imported R34s won’t have the engine number on the V5 ownership documents. This isn’t a requirement for grey imports so it’s hard to check if the original engine is still in situ.

How many different R34 GT-R variants were there?

The most basic car was a non-V Spec Japanese-only model. As well as obvious clues like the absence of that expensive rear diffuser, this model doesn’t feature the intelligent four-wheel drive system. This means the torque only splits from front-to-rear, unlike the V Spec which can also apportion torque left-to-right. The V Spec was the most common car in Japan (the base for the UK model), but later versions included the Nismo R Tune and S Tune, Nur Spec, Nur Spec 2 and the Nismo Z Tune – Nissan buying low mileage base models back from customers to create the most expensive R34 ever.

Did any R34 Skylines officially come to the UK?

Yes, they were brought in through Middlehurst Nissan in very small numbers and offered with a Nissan warranty. UK cars are unique, and came with Connolly leather; oil coolers for the engine, rear diff and gearbox; a vented front bumper to feed the oil cooler; an mph speedo and clocks; V Spec extras including a front lip and rear undertray; an altered ECU; the Nismo display unit previously mentioned; GTR floor mats and, finally, different chassis number serialisation. Unlike UK cars, most imported R34s won’t have the engine number on the V5 ownership documents. This isn’t a requirement for grey imports so it’s hard to check if the original engine is still in situ.

How many different R34 GT-R variants were there?

The most basic car was a non-V Spec Japanese-only model. As well as obvious clues like the absence of that expensive rear diffuser, this model doesn’t feature the intelligent four-wheel drive system. This means the torque only splits from front-to-rear, unlike the V Spec which can also apportion torque left-to-right. The V Spec was the most common car in Japan (the base for the UK model), but later versions included the Nismo R Tune and S Tune, Nur Spec, Nur Spec 2 and the Nismo Z Tune – Nissan buying low mileage base models back from customers to create the most expensive R34 ever.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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