The DR30 Skyline is the Rare Granddaddy of the GT-R
And I was lucky enough to see one up close and personal
When someone sees your car and the first words out of their mouth are “I have never seen one of these in real life,” you know you have a real treasure on your hands. When it comes to Tom (@vorpalwrench) and his Skyline, those words couldn’t be any more true.
JDM fans like me can’t help but stare and bow down in the presence of a Japanese icon like this. This is a 1983 Nissan Skyline RS-2000 Turbo, a forbidden fruit from the Skyline lineup and the precursor to the legendary Skyline GT-R R32. The R30 was the sixth generation of the Nissan Skyline, with the DR30 being the official Nissan chassis designation code for the more race-oriented, FJ20-powered models. Much like the rest of the Skylines, the US was never blessed with the presence of the DR30. Unlike the rest of the Skylines though, these are hardly imported from the land of cherry blossoms. To really nail that point home, Tom only knows of only one other DR30 in California.
Image courtesy of @vorpalwrench
This example’s first owner imported the car from Japan sometime in 1988. Shortly after the vehicle received a BAR label and became smog-legal, he sold it to a guy who moved to Grass Valley and took the car with him. That second owner also owned a four-door Hakosuka Skyline that he was putting all his time into so he was no stranger to pre-R32 Skylines. Unfortunately, since the Hakosuka received most of the attention, the DR30 ended up sitting and waiting to be swooped up. That day came around a year and a half ago when the owner posted pictures of it on the Zilvia forums. Within half an hour, Tom saw it and was already trying to hunt down the owner. It all came at a good time too as he had just sold his SR-swapped Datsun 510 on Bring a Trailer for $25,000 and was looking for another project.
“This has always been one of my favorite Skylines. I was originally looking for an R32 but I had never seen one of these in real life,” Tom said. “The Skyline Super Silhouette was one of my childhood dream cars. If you’ve ever played Gran Turismo, you’ll know it’s impossible to drive the car in the game. The powerband with a huge turbo and a 2.4L engine is all up top and comes on almost too quick to handle in the lower gears. On the straightaways though, you’re flying by everything. Turning is a challenge with a turbo that spools up that quick and takes some real throttle control to handle. With the Garrett GT2871R I’ve put on this car, it is true to the game and handles like an old 300Z or 280ZX as I've tried to keep her a touring car.”
A few emails and phone calls later, the owner was located. Tom drove to his house the next day with the money in hand, put the car on a trailer, and took it home. It was in drivable condition but ran lean under boost and all the stock bushings were failing. In Tom’s own words, “it’s been an adventure finding parts that work”, but thankfully the 510s and 300Zs he owned over the years left him with a lot of spare parts.
On a casual day of driving, Tom and the DR30 got smoked by a Honda minivan that absolutely blew his doors off and subsequently blew his wallet open. The FJ20ET 4-cylinder engine immediately got a new turbo setup, top mount setup, tuning, custom ECU from Jim Wolf Technology, and injectors to push it from a stock 187 HP to around 350-375 HP. He also rebuilt the transmission with fresh bearings so it will handle the added power without exploding. His plans are to replace the stout FJ20ET with an RB26 when it inevitably explodes.
The exterior was further beautified with an R31 trunk spoiler and a Jenesis FRP body kit that accentuates the gold Watanabe RS8 wheels already installed by the previous owner.
Image courtesy of Steve Flatt @ DCi
The car is now undrivable in the lower gears and the boost comes on so suddenly that if you’re not ready for it, you’re sideways in the true “kill you speed” fashion of the 1980s. Just because it’s rare doesn’t mean it should be babied, and Tom thankfully gets that! He takes it to car shows, track days, autocross, and any other automotive event he can get his hands on. Cars were meant to be driven and I’m beyond happy to hear that this DR30 still tastes pavement on a regular basis.
Personally, seeing this car at RADWood was another dream car true. I felt privileged just seeing a DR30 Skyline in person, let alone writing about one. It was a moment of pure joy, wonder, and just “wow, this is that car I’ve only seen in video games now here it is before my very eyes!” Hearing it run, walking around it, and taking it all in felt almost overwhelming and unreal. It’s hard to explain with words but if you’ve been in my shoes, you know the emotion I’m trying to portray. Cars like these are why I try to go to as many car shows as I possibly can. You never know when you’re going to see that unicorn that you’ve been dreaming about your entire life and when you do, nothing seems impossible anymore.
Image courtesy of @vorpalwrench
Big thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions and for bringing this DR30 out to RADWood. It made my day and was definitely one of the best cars at the show for me. I have more RADWood-related content coming out in the next week or so but if you haven’t seen my article on a rather unusual 993, be sure to do so!