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The R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R is as cool as you remember

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Personal nostalgia plays a big part in this publication, so that means the occasional dose of 90s goodness. My number one love will always be the Mitsubishi 3000GT, but if you look back at my family’s history of cars, you’ll find mostly Nissans. From Maximas to Pathfinders and Z cars, nothing pulls on my heart strings like a clean Nissan (or Datsun). But the U.S. never really got the best Nissan of all until much later; the Skyline. Now, thanks to the advancing age of the cars, they are legally coming here, so let’s take a tour of this beautiful 1998 R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec.

Techno powerhouse

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The RB26 is just as famous (and capable) as Toyota’s famed 2JZ.

I will admit that it always confused me that the GT-R was considered a super car killer and exotic, while the 3000GT toiled in relative obscurity. After all, check the specs on this “V-Spec”:

  • A twin turbo inline-6 with..ahem…”276″ horsepower. Japanese gentlemen’s agreement aside, the car puts out over 300 horses and 270 lb-ft of torque.
  • A redline of 8,000 RPM! Rare on a turbo motor.
  • A curb weight close to 3,400 lbs
  • All-wheel drive (the famed Nissan ATTESA system)
  • Electronic rear steering
  • A full compliment of comforts like A/C, usable back seat, stereo, and enough dials and gauges for a fighter jet.
  • Big rear wing

Similar kit to what a 3000GT offered at the time. But now, allow me to answer my own question.

This R33 Skyline GT-R was the first production car to post a sub-8 minute time on the Nurburg Ring. It’s impressive, and the speed still holds up reasonably well today. These cars no longer produce the “OMG SPEED” sensation that a modern M4 might, but it’s nice to have access to usable performance for public streets.

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Series 3 R33s had brake lights on the outboard rings only.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
All-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering add to the Skyline’s impressive capabilities.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The wing is a nice touch.

What makes this R33 unique

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The NISMO wheels are particularly beautiful.

Aside from the usual cool factor of driving on the wrong side, this R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R had some special touches, the first of which is being a Series 3 GT-R. Think of it like an LCI for BMW, and the R33 received two over its lifetime (so Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3). The Series 3 was produced for 1997 and 1998, and had some updates from previous R33 Skylines:

  • Standard Xenon headlights
  • Larger front lip spoiler
  • N1 ducts in the front bumper
  • Left-side turn signal grille is gone to increase air flow
  • Smaller ABS actuator unit
  • The right rear backup light becomes a fog light. At first, I thought it had burnt out. Nope, just one reverse lamp on the Series 3
  • Only the outer brake lamps light up as oppose to all 4 on the Series 2
  • Additional chassis bracing in the rear

This particular Skyline gets a set of HKS coilovers and very pretty LMGT4 GT500 wheels. Parked next to this Skyline in the garage was another R33 on the standard suspension, and it looked comically high, but unless they were parked next to each other, you might not notice.

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Sonic Silver was a more common color.

These wheels are discontinued and nearly impossible to find, so they alone are worth the price of admission. Painted in Sonic Silver, it’s one of the more common GT-R colors, but with only 355 Series 3 produced in it, you still won’t see yourself coming down the road.

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
A larger, more aggressive bumper is evident here.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The era is evident from the inside, but it’s a comfortable place to do work.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Nissan’s famous three gauges.

Driving the R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Still fast, still fun.

This is why 90s cars are still so coveted – this thing drives like it was built last year. It’s spartan inside, but the cloth seats are comfortable and hold you in place during high-speed cornering. It’s a little loud and the GT-R bumps over potholes, but it’s tolerable if you want to drive it every day.

The Nissan aesthetic is immediately clear – all the gauges and buttons felt familiar to me (we had a 96 Maxima and 2000 Pathfinder from the same era).  The details are fun, and this is a driver’s car. The rear wing shakes. The shifter vibrates. The turbos woosh. Turn-in is sharp, and the chassis is playful. Everyone looks when they realize the driver and passenger are transposed. Starbucks runs might be a challenge, but that’s all part of the fun.

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
NISMO shifter.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
There are not many GT-R badges on the car, and the ones that are there are tasteful.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The Nissan family tree shines through.

While I also love the Z32 300ZX, these cars are similar enough to ask “why?”

  • V-6 versus the inline-6
  • Rear- vs all-wheel drive
  • Hatchback vs sedan
  • The Z could be had with no back seat, and as a convertible

The GT-R is the more exotic of the two, even if the Z’s headlights are used on a Lamborghini. A clean Z32 will definitely get a nod at a car show, while the GT-R draws a crowd.

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R
The air damn is lower on Series 3 cars.

Compared to a 3000GT

This is a ’98, same vintage as the 3000GT I shot last year. The GT-R is the only one of the Japanese exotics of the time to have comparable equipment, namely all-wheel drive, so it warrants a more direct comparison.

All I’m willing to say is that, while the racing pedigree is much more apparent in the GT-R (and it’s a little more fun to drive), the 3000GT is still among the most beautiful cars ever made. On the inside, the Mitsu is also much more luxurious. That’s not a knock on the Skyline, which is really fine on the inside, but just goes to illustrate the key differentiating points in the design of these two cars. Maybe get the best of both worlds and have a GTO with right-hand drive.

Exotic excitement

For sheer wow power, the Skyline rivals the most expensive exotics currently made, and it’s not just the fact that you’re driving on a different side. This is a car made famous by The Fast and the Furious, along with Gran Turismo in Play Station – it has a reputation.

Women and children may scream. Grown men will cry. You will be envied by all. All hail the R33!

This GT-R, and others like it, are for sale at Inbound Motorsports. I thank them for making the car available!

R33 Skyline R33 Skyline

Commissions may be received for product links on this site, so help out if you can. I only write about products I use and believe in.

I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

Email me at mike@machineswithsouls.com with any questions.

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