Some days you just have to pinch yourself to believe your good fortune; I do it every weekend when I get behind the wheel of my project car, a Nissan Skyline R34 GTR V-Spec in Bayside Blue.
My petrolhead credentials are as follows: my first car was a beige Honda CR-V (oh the shame), followed by a Mazda RX-8 and after that, a Mitsubishi Evolution X.
Why did I pick the R34 GTR? To me, it is the quintessential Japanese performance car, with angular lines and styling clearly marking it as a '90s child. The heritage from the GTR badge was special too, evoking memories of a time when a certain boxy all-wheel drive car dominated Group A racing. To add to the attraction, a certain Playstation game and an action movie endangering manifolds elevated this car to almost-undeserved level of hype.
The first thing I noticed when driving the R34 is how mechanical everything feels, after daily driving an Evolution X. I suppose this is slightly unbelievable given that a common theme seen in both the written and printed media regarding the post-R32 GTR family is the cars' use of electronic trickery to go fast. In the R34, the steering feels weighty and the gear shifter visibly vibrates (in part to uprated engine and transmission mounts in my car). When accelerating hard from a standstill, I can feel the car "squat" under throttle application. There is a throttle cable in the engine bay, as opposed to a drive-by-wire system in the Evo. This car feels slightly old-school, and in a good way.
Disclaimer: even though the rest of the suspension on my car remains fairly standard, aftermarket coilovers and a front 6-pot AP Racing brake kit have been fitted to my car. Despite this, the R34 still feels front-heavy and demonstrates a tendency to understeer. Driving spiritedly in twisty B-roads, the R34 does not demonstrate the effortless handling the Evo offers or the wonderful balance of the RX-8. In the Evo, driving at speed is almost idiot-proof but a bit more planning and caution is required in the R34. A HICAS delete is a fairly common modification amongst R34 owners to make the handling of the car more predictable. Cruising at speed is a different story altogether; the R34 eats up miles without a sweat thanks to a 6th gear and fairly torquey RB26DETT, making the Grand Tourer part of the GTR badge well-deserved indeed.
Acceleration in a standard R34 GTR is brisk but not the invincible rocketship people imagine it to be. However, very few R34 GTRs remain completely standard; even the pipe for the boost restricter pill was marked in yellow from the factory to make it easier for owners to remove them. It was as though Nissan meant for the car to be modified from the get-go! My car is no different, running uprated Nismo R1 turbos and supporting modifications to produce approximately 430whp at 1.4 bar of boost. The aftermarket support for these cars is immense with brands like HKS and Tomei still releasing new parts for the R34. The only real downside to this car is that OEM parts are getting harder to source and as with all performance cars, a "Skyline Tax" applies even to the most mundane of parts.
Issues and mechanical failures do occur especially in a car of this age, although the vast resources of the Internet makes for less painful troubleshooting and easier solution-finding. A few excellent forums dedicated to the Skyline such as the GTR Register (gtr.co.uk) and Skylines Australia (sau.com.au) are a source of valuable information as well as excellent advice. The joy of being a petrolhead in this day and age is being able to commune with like-minded people all around the world, and I am pleased to say that the Skyline community as a whole has been a knowledgeable, helpful and friendly bunch!
As car enthusiasts, at some point we all look back and identify a car that left an indelible mark on the service records of our souls. To me, the R34 GTR is without a doubt one of those cars. What will be your choice?