IF YOU’VE been fortunate enough to be seriously shopping for your long-time dream car, I’m sure you can relate to my excitement and anxiety.
You have such a vivid image of what you want: colour, spec, year etc.
But luck and availability on the secondhand market can be plentiful or – at times – barren.
This is my car, a 1994 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R; it’s my dream machine, my “forever” car.
How long was I looking? That’s complicated, as I was sort of always looking, even back in middle school when Skylines were cheap.
But as I got older, found jobs, then better ones; they always eluded me as the prices steadily appreciated over the past 10 or so years, always seemingly just enough out of reach for it to simply remain a “dream” car. Never demanding any more thought than casually browsing listings online.
But prices took a steep jump in 2014, thanks to America’s 25-year rule regarding vehicles eligible for import. It saw the previously Skyline-starved nation go into a flurry, inflating prices at the Japanese auction houses where most of the grey-import cars come from. Produced only from 1989 to 1994, each year since more and more cars saw steep price growth, prompting local sellers privy to Japanese auction results to jack their own prices up similarly.
I could almost plot their prices on a graph, I’ve been looking at them for so long.
In the mid-2000s, the going rate for an average BNR32 (Nissan chassis speak for an R32-generation GT-R) was about $15,000 – a true bang for buck bargain; and if you paid $20,000 or more, you were either crazy or got an absolute minter.
Nowadays… $20,000 won’t get you a rolling shell, and you’ll still need to BYO motor and gearbox. $30-35,000 will get you an average, or even worse, car; and anything decent will see high $30s if you’re lucky, and well north of $40,000 in most cases.
I was feeling the pressure, even back to last year as I was habitually checking the listings multiple times per day. Then it dawned on me that 2018 was the last year that the last run of 1994 cars was exempt from the USA’s 25-year monetary floodgates, and I realised that if I didn’t get serious soon, prices could run away from me – and I didn’t want to look back and regret not ever experiencing Godzilla ownership.
And so, I got serious. But it wasn’t an easy search.
Given that I knew how cheap these cars used to be, it was hard to accept the inflated prices they now demanded. And all the cars I looked at had bent chassis sills, questionable history and various mechanical unknowns. Only a few cars met my standard, and they didn’t stay available for long.
Then, the new listings slowed online, and there was just one car that caught my eye.
I was getting desperate or over-excited – I’m still not sure which. It was in my least desired colour, and featured some modifications that weren’t to my taste and would need to be reversed. But the seller was honest and helpful and the car seemed to be in good condition (both rare occurrences in the Skyline world).
I organised an inspection for Saturday afternoon.
Then, late that Friday arvo, well after I had already checked what was available online for the day, I figured I’d have one last look, and here this car was – newly listed, newly available.
I immediately shot off my initial round of questions. All checked out – known history, a binder full of receipts, well thought-out maintenance and modifications – and it was owned by someone who truly respected the car and its provenance.
I called the seller, and his only available time to inspect clashed with the other car I was set to view. I know what they say about eggs in one basket, but I cancelled the other car – this was it!
The next day I left a deposit, and the following weekend I took delivery.
It’s a Crystal White Series 3 R32 GT-R that rolled off the production line in June 1994. It has had the engine rebuilt, which was a requisite of mine as many still on their original unopened blocks will likely be in need of one soon. It’s no 30PSI 500kW monster though, and has stayed largely true to original spec. It featured some periodcorrect Nismo items, such as the N1 front bar ducts, and three-piece side skirts, and a set of rare Nismo LMGT3 wheels. Interior largely presented as original, bar the unsightly double-din head unit, an ECU hand controller and a single oil pressure gauge.
It needs some cleaning up; some leather interior trim has perished and needs replacing, window rubbers were a bit leaky, there’s a slight misfire (likely to be coilpacks), the front diff leaks and it had been sitting, so there’s work to do.
But we’ll save that for the next update.
• Bent chassis sills: a common location for incorrect jacking • Rust: Problem areas are boot well and bottom edge of windows • Has the engine been rebuilt? How long ago?
How may Ks?
• How much boost is it running?
• Receipts and documentation?
• Does the seller seem trustworthy and forthcoming?