Very few cars have influenced the automotive world more significantly than the Nissan that came to be known as ‘Godzilla’.
At the heart of the GTR was Nissan’s 2.6-litre, straight-six engine with sequential turbochargers, an intercooler and variable torque-split transmission. Official engine output was a very conservative 206kW but more realistically in the 260-270kW range.
Nissan’s decision to build a car that would challenge Porsche in the world performance car market had consequences that reverberated through global automotive design. It also prompted a ‘dumbing down’ of Australian motorsport.
Reaction following back-to-back Bathurst 1000 wins in 1991 and ’92 convinced promoters that the motor racing public didn’t want a high-tech, all-wheel drive dominating the Touring Car category and banned them in favour of the rear-wheel drive, V8 ‘taxis’ we’ve been saddled with until now. Sadly for Nissan Australia, the car-buying public thought likewise.
Australian-complied GTRs arrived during 1991 and with a price-tag of $110,000. Times admittedly were financially daunting but with the cheapest 911 Porsche costing $55,000 more, the GTR looked to be a bargain.
Australia’s first batch of R32 GTRs was built at Nissan’s Murayama factory during May and June 1991. The second run of 50 cars came down the same production line in August. They were then shipped to Melbourne where 50 extra hours per car were allocated to fit local compliance items including child-seat restraints, a fuel-filler restrictor and the high-mount stop-light.
Local cars also had Blaupunkt sound systems, a roof-mount aerial and replacement speedometers that read to a barelyadequate 260km/h. Of the 100 cars that arrived as ‘official’ imports, 26 were painted Black Pearl Metallic with a further 37 of each in Jet Silver and Red Pearl Metallic.
In a 1993 article entitled ‘Farewell To Godzilla’ which marked the end of the GTR’s race career in Australia and tracked its
disappointing sales performance, Wheels magazine reported that just 63 of the available cars had found owners.
A decent proportion would initially have gone to proprietors and senior execs of Nissan dealerships who doubtless retired their 300ZXs in favour of Japan’s most advanced and potent supercar. That left just a few dozen to decorate the garages of private buyers, but even those seemed ridiculously hard to move. Not the case today where any that appear for sale attract a string of buyers.
The first GTR is a very significant car and under different circumstances might have been considered a revered collectible rather than a bit of a disappointment.
There were two, now three, distinct market segments in Australia for the R32 GTR. At the bottom of the pile sit low-volume import cars – arrivals from Japan during the past 20 or so years that have probably travelled significant distance. Lots of these are available and even if we run short there were almost 44,000 R32s built between 1989 and 1994. Too many cars in an ambivalent market (with many of them in sub-standard condition) drag down the prospects of better examples to appreciate.
Above the basic models sit the R32 ‘V Spec’ which was sold in two editions totalling 2756 cars. Nismo and GTR N1 versions add a combined 788 but there are just 100 in Australian specification, making local cars the most collectible R32 of all.
Under the bonnet when identifying an Aust-delivery GTR, look for a Nissan Australia compliance plate and the Vehicle Code 40ZKBNR32RX.
They are prized by people with a sense of the GTR’s Australian race history and appreciation of its very significant engineering attributes. Despite recent price improvements and survivors thought to number about 60 cars, prices are still way below the money being paid for older, Australian-made performance cars.
Rust should not be apparent in Australiandelivered cars, the majority of which haven’t seen enough rain to go rusty. Caution is essential with those that started life in Japan risking exposure to icy conditions. They need to be lifted and closely inspected for any corrosion or repairs. Crash damage is an issue with all GTRs so look for kinks to the front chassis rails, partial repaints and mismatched front or rear lenses. The extra weight of that hefty rear wing can weaken boot-lid supports and water can leak through mounting holes.
The GTR with its twin turbochargers and ageing components is not something the home mechanic can ‘fix up’ on weekends. Avoiding big repair bills is best achieved by choosing a car – local or used import – that comes with recent service history. If the turbochargers haven’t been replaced or there’s no evidence of servicing at least every 5000 kilometres, assume major work will shortly be needed, and pay accordingly. White exhaust smoke indicates oil being burned in the turbochargers. Check under-bonnet hoses and plastic components for perishing and heat damage and the cylinder head for oil leaks. Rapid standing starts hurt the clutch which costs more than $2000 to replace. Listen for clunks from rear drive-shafts or the differential.
(Australian delivered) FAIR (I/D) GOOD $60,000
(Note: concours cars will demand more)
NUMBER BUILT: 100 – Australiandelivered 43.294 – other markets
BODY: all-steel integrated body/ chassis two-door coupe
ENGINE: 2568cc in-line six-cylinder with twin overhead camshafts, fuel injection and twin turbochargers
POWER & TORQUE: 206kW @ 6800rpm, 355Nm @ 4400rpm
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h: 5.4 seconds 0-400 metres: 13.7 seconds
TRANSMISSION: five speed manual
SUSPENSION: Independent with struts and coil springs, lower control arms and anti-roll bar (f). Independent with coil springs and multi-link location (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) disc (r) power assisted with ABS
TYRES: 225/50R16 radial
Check that the HICAS four-wheel steering and ABS are still operating. Many GTRs travel minimal distances but shock absorbers, bushes and brake components still deteriorate due to age alone. Re-kitting wheel cylinders and the booster, changing hoses and standard pads will cost more than $1500. Standard brakes fitted to GTRs weren’t really up to the cars’ potential and a lot will have later, larger rotors and calipers. Rotors warp due to excessive heat and pulse through the pedal. When new these cars sat high with at least a handdepth of clearance between the tyre and wheel-arch. A car that sits noticeably nosedown or unevenly may have had its springs shortened by a dodgy technician.