So, which Nissan GT-R is best? The original R32 GT-R from the late 1980s, or the new R35 GT-R. There’s only one way to find out… Fight!
The legend that is the Nissan Skyline GT-R started back in the late 1980s with the launch of the R32 Skyline GT-R. A pretty big, coupe-style car with pillar-less doors, a long bonnet – made of aluminium for lightness – under which, and filling the engine bay to the brim with bad intentions, was the RB26DETT. A straight-6-cylinder, 2.6-litre, twin-turbo motor that would end up being probably the most tuned street car motor in history.
It all started in Japan, where a huge street car tuning movement saw power outputs – for the popular at the time, drag racing – hitting some 1,500bhp, and then spreading throughout the world when the GT-R was imported from the Japanese domestic market. The Japanese manufacturers like to keep the best for themselves, but with so much potential and a right-hand-drive set up, it wasn’t long before a few GT-Rs made it to the UK too.
And so the legend grew and grew, running through the bigger and curvier R33 GT-R to the huge and so sinister R34 GT-R; all using the RB26 motor to devastating effect on street and track. And then it all went quiet. The enthusiasts in the UK still bought older GT-Rs – there are plenty of R33s at least in the UK; a few R32s and R34s, but nothing came out of the Nissan factory in Japan with a GT-R badge on it for a good few years.
Until the recent release of the all-new R35 GT-R. The ‘Skyline’ name was dropped, but the GT-R badge remained, and with two turbos and as much clever fast-tech as the era allowed, the new GT-R sent excited ripples through the tuning world in 2007. And now, the R35 GT-R too has been tuned to the moon and back, with incredible horsepower curling the tarmac of drag strips everywhere.
But which is ‘best’? Well, I’ve owned an R32 GT-R for a couple of months now, and it’s long been a dream car of mine since I owned an R32 GTS-t a few years ago; a watered-down but still pokey variant of the GT-R. And, just the other day, I had a good blast in a friend’s R35 GT-R; the recently revised 2013 MY car.
I’d sell my dear old aunty Janet for either GT-R, basically, but if you had a gun to my head, I think – and I’m happy to say – that it’s my R32 GT-R that really floats my Jap-turbo-boat the most. It’s got much of what the R35 GT-R has going for it; GT-R badge, rapid performance and ninja-like nastiness, but it’s cheaper, rarer and the engine sounds way better.
Sure, the R35 GT-R is a techno-dream of incredible performance. We’ve got 542bhp from the 3.8-litre, twin-turbo, hand-built, V6 motor, and it’s good for 62mph in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 196mph; all through a very fast and very clever tiptronic-style automatic gearbox, oh, and with an insane launch control feature too. It’s a big beast and looks about as handsomely thuggish as The Rock in a rage. The interior is a little bit plastic-naff, but so it is the old GT-R’s, but that’s entirely the point. Forget about namby pamby creature comforts and spend the money on making the thing fast! That’s always been the GT-R philosophy.
My GT-R wins the battle of the Godzillas because of its leaner coupe shape, its mixture of legend and rarity that makes people at car shows go ‘ohhh’ when they see it, and that engine. The RB26 is a huge chunk of pure, petrol-powered silk. Those six pistons arranged in a long row from radiator to bulkhead beat in such perfect harmony that you’d think the oil was replaced with honey! My GT-R is making nearly 400bp – up about 100bhp from the factory – and when I hit the gas, while it isn’t as quick as the R35 I drove – it’ll still have a good dig at most Porsches, and the howl it makes on the way would wake the dead, and then deafen them!
Of course, budget is another thing that we must factor in, and while one of the first new GT-Rs can now be had on the used car market for around £35,000, a 2013 MY car will cost double that. Still good value for these supercar-slayers, but with around £12,000 buying a clean, tidy and nicely modified R32 GT-R, if budget is a factor it’s clearly R32 all day long. My prediction too is that R32s will start to creep up in value as their already low numbers dwindle further.
I like classic cars, but they have to be fast classics. And while the R32 GT-R is not a classic in the sense of a Jaguar E-Type, it is a performance classic in my eyes, and wraps its functional yet attractive coupe lines around one of the most wonderful engines ever to turn a crank. I might be a little biased and my specs might be a little rose-tinted by R32 GT-R dream cars of days gone by, but if you can have something that’s exclusive, rare, aggressive and fast, and that ducks under the radar of all but the true petrol-head, then why not? Yes, I’d still be as happy as Larry McHappyson driving an R35 GT-R, but only if I parked it next to my R32 GT-R in the garage.
By Dan Anslow