The year is 1998. In the west, gamers and car enthusiasts to be are introduced to a little game called Gran Turismo, made by some blokes across the world in Japan. Just over a year and a half later, we receive the sequel, and within it, the first (and for many, the only) taste of an old Datsun dubbed the R34 Skyline GTR.
For many, the car achieved a legendary status fairly quickly and became the ultimate JDM dream vehicle, with its status firmly cemented after being in featured in the second film of the popular Fast and Furious franchise.
Two decades later, and a successor being mass produced and widely available, the R34 remains the most popular model, and the last to feature a straight-six engine. With house prices rising, wages stagnating, and the price of GTRs fast appreciating, it may still only be confined to bedroom posters and desktop wallpapers for most millennials. Which is why when GTR owners met at the well known Ace Cafe in London, it was no surprise to find that many were considerably older than you would expect the average owner of a late-90’s sports car to be.
It’s always refreshing to see these models in the wild, and more so together at an event like this. All models from the R32, to the current R35 were on show, including a mighty R35 Nismo edition. The R33 will soon meet the 25 year old rule for classic cars, and thus be legal to import into the USA. And soon after, so will the most sought after model, the R34. One can only wonder what kind of price tags these will command by that time, but considering some R34 models have been fetching near eye-watering six figures on some international markets, it may just become the most expensive 90’s JDM car… in the world. How well it holds its value in the coming years will certainly be on the radar of many enthusiasts, who have been waiting many years to get their hands on one.
Some may wonder what madmen would pay such money for a 20-plus year old Datsun, but it all quickly makes sense when you get inside one. Just being near these brings back fond memories of hooning around Mid-field Raceway or Special Stage Route 5.
The success and widespread critical acclaim of the current R35 should serve as a good nod to those who haven’t had the joy of being behind the wheel of an older GTR model. Nissan had a huge act to follow, and did so with no expense spared. The R32 dominated the Japanese Touring Car Championship (JTCC), winning all 29 races. It won at Spa and at Bathurst, which brought about the nickname “Godzilla”.
Like the actual Godzilla being conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, the GTR was not far off with its twin-turbo 320 horsepower unit (with the power being cranked up to 600hp in race trim) , and an intelligent ATTESSA E-TS system which produced a driving experience that was simply unheard of.
The kids will never be late to school again: Nissan also produced an estate version with much of the same running gear as the R33 - for those who wanted to inject a bit of speed into their practical machine.
And today it remains one of the great examples of what can be achieved when car makers design a car not to fill a gap in the market, not so the marketing department has a job to do, but simply to design a car the best it can possibly be. It may have been to enter a racing competition, but this was the best a race car could have been, and Nissan gave it to us for the road ahead.