Few vehicles ignite JDM Fast and Furious fever like Nissan’s Skyline GTR. Though the R34 Skyline was the actual hero car, the earlier R32 truly kicked off the car’s ‘Godzilla’ moniker. However, there was another model in-between them that doesn’t get quite as much love: the R33. The R32 has been import-eligible for years, and now the R33 GTR is, too. But are the rumors true—is this later Godzilla de-fanged?
Nissan Skyline GTR: R33 vs. R32
In many ways, the R32 and R33 Nissan Skyline GTR models are fairly similar. For one, both come with the famed RB26DETT 2.6-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder. Both have 5-speed manuals and all-wheel drive. And because of the Japanese automaker ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in place at the time, both make a claimed 276 hp.
In reality, though, the R33 GTR is more powerful, Road & Track reports. Its engine puts out closer to 330 hp in reality, as well as more torque than the R32, Evo reports. It is heavier and wider than the R32, true. But even so, it’s about 0.2 seconds faster to 60. And the extra width is part of a host of improvements Nissan made to the Skyline GTR.
Compared to the R32, the R33 GTR is more rigid and stable, thanks in part to the wider track, R&T reports. Thanks to a more aerodynamic body, it has less front-end lift at speed. Plus, while it’s heavier than the R32, it has less weight at the front for better handling. Also, it has larger ventilated Brembo brakes, and stronger transmission synchros, GarageDreams reports.
The R33 GTR’s AWD system and four-wheel steering are more advanced than the R32’s, r/Cars sub-Reddit users report. The V-Spec model’s AWD was even adjustable, Jalopnik reports. And it also came with an active limited-slip differential and stiffer suspension. The later V-Spec N1 models came with no A/C or radio to save weight. However, they did come with upgraded engine components, better oil cooling, an upgraded water pump, and metal turbo blades.
And then there’s the 400R. With a 2.8-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder, it broke the gentleman’s agreement with its 395-hp output. It had lighter alloy wheels, Bilstein dampers, stiffer springs, and rode 1.2” lower. And with that extra power, plus a carbon-fiber hood, wing, and driveshaft, it ran from 0-60 in 4 seconds.
R33 vs. R32: driving and common problems
The R32 Nissan Skyline GTR is a genuinely good sports car. And it’s served as the basis for many tuned racers, including the fastest AWD drag car in the world.
However, in stock form, the R33 GTR is arguably better. For one, despite the weight disadvantage, it ran the Nürburgring 20 seconds faster than the R32. In doing so, it became the first production car to break the 8-minute barrier.
The R32 is rawer than the R33, R&T reports, more track-focused. However, the R33 is just as nimble, if not more so, Evo reports. But instead of feeling unstable at speed, it’s smoother and easier to control. It arguably feels more like a RWD car than an AWD one, but in a good way.
The R33 GTR also resolved a few of the R32’s problems. Chiefly, it doesn’t have the early R32 models’ oiling issue. And because its four-wheel-steering system is electric, not hydraulic, it doesn’t leak. That being said, regular oil changes and timing belt replacements are vital, GarageDreams reports.
Also, although the R33 Nissan Skyline GTR’s 5-speed is stronger than the R32’s, 4th and 5th gear synchros can wear out over time. And like the R32, the normal R33 has ceramic turbo blades, which can crack, especially if the boost is increased.
Is it worth the price?
Currently, the average price of a good-condition R32 Nissan Skyline GTR is about $35k, Hagerty reports. However, many imported examples sell for closer to $40k, Bring a Trailer reports. As of this writing, there’s a 1993 GTR V-Spec listed by Japanese Classics for $41,995.
R33 GTR values, though, are slightly higher. As of this writing, Toprank Importers has a 1995 V-Spec available for $47,995. But on BaT, several R33s have sold for closer to $30,000-$35,000.
There are a few reasons for the slight upcharge. Firstly, the R33 is newer than the R32, both in the production sense and import-eligibility sense. Secondly, even outside the V-Spec and high-power 400R models, the R33 is rarer. Nissan produced just under 44,000 R32 Skyline GTRs, but less than 16,700 R33s.
But is the R33 GTR worth a premium over the R32? That depends. The latter is certainly no slouch in the performance department, R&T reports. But if you want your Skyline with a bit more polish, the R33 is the Godzilla for you.
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