What’s the Best Year for the Nissan Skyline GTR?

Even legends have weak spots. Famously reliable vehicles like the Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser have their good years and their bad years. No car or SUV is immune; not the Mitsubishi Montero, not the Porsche 911. Not even the Nissan Skyline GTR. Even though it comes from a particularly strong time in Nissan’s history, Godzilla has some issues you should know about if you plan on importing one.

R32 Nissan Skyline GTR known issues

R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R side
R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R side | Matthew Skwarczek

The R32 Nissan Skyline GTR was a completely new design when it debuted in 1989. And, as is the case with new designs, there were some teething issues.

Modified 1990 Nissan Skyline GTR engine bay
Modified 1990 Nissan Skyline GTR engine bay | Toprank Importers

Although Road & Track reports the RB26DETT twin-turbo inline-6 is very robust, it suffers from an oiling issue. Early R32s had narrow-drive oil pumps that broke easily. Hagerty also claims the R32’s oil pressure sender and gauge were prone to breaking. However, GT-R Life forum users claim the issue was resolved after the 1991 model year. I’ve spoken to several Skyline GTR importers, and they confirm that 1992 and later R32s don’t have this problem.

Luckily, Skyline Syndicate and Skyline owner forum users claim an easy solution is to swap in a Vspec or Nismo part—which is easier than before, Jalopnik reports, because Nismo is making R32 parts again.

However, that’s not the R32 Skyline GTR’s only engine problem. The stock ceramic turbo wheels are fairly brittle, breaking if boost pressure goes too high. Many owners, though, replaced them with steel ones. In addition, as with the Mitsubishi Delica, the RB26 is an interference engine. Meaning, if its timing belt breaks, the pistons and valve stems will collide, and you’re out an engine. But, if the timing belt is changed every 62,000 miles or so—along with the water pump, idler and tensioner pulleys—there’s nothing to worry about.

Non-engine-related R32 problems

Some of the R32’s other features also had some hiccups. It had four-wheel steering, something that’s still fairly advanced today. Unfortunately, this system was hydraulic and prone to leaking and failing. Many owners simply disable it.

Also, although the 5-speed manual could handle 5-600 horsepower, its design meant 3rd and 4th gears started to grind after years of hard shifts. Fortunately, this can be remedied with some heavy-duty transmission fluid.

1994 Nissan Skyline GTR interior
1994 Nissan Skyline GTR interior | Toprank Importers

In addition, the R32 is now over 25 years old. Some parts, like vacuum lines and speedometer cables, can fail due to simple age. Rust is also almost inevitable: R&T reports R32 Skyline GTRs are prone to rust around the inner rear fenders and rear window. The jacking points are also easily damaged if used incorrectly. Finally, Hagerty reports that owing to many Japanese owners not having garages, some R32s suffer UV damage to their dashes and interiors.

Problems with the R33 Nissan Skyline GTR

1995 Nissan Skyline GTR R33 Vspec side
1995 Nissan Skyline GTR R33 Vspec side | Montu Motors

Although, as Jalopnik reports, the R33 Nissan Skyline GTR sometimes gets ignored in favor of the R32 and R34, it did solve some of the R32’s issues.

According to R&T and users on the r/Cars sub-Reddit, the R33 changed the four-wheel steering system from hydraulic to electric. No more leaks. Nissan engineers also retuned the AWD system, and the engine had no oiling issues. The R33 is also stiffer than the R32, with better weight distribution.

Still, the R33 did inherit some problem spots from its predecessor. According to Garage Dreams, the turbo wheels are still ceramic, and still prone to breaking at high boost pressures. The engine is also still an interference type, which means prompt belt replacement is a must. Also, the same transmission issues apply.

Finally, the R33 is prone to rust in some areas. Piston Heads and Skyline owner forum users claim the tops of the front suspension struts are particularly problematic, as their design traps water easily.

Which is the one to buy?

Ultimately, which Nissan Skyline GTR you should buy comes down to a driving and design preference. Do you prefer the look of the R32 or the R33? And luckily, there’s now an easier way to directly compare the two in the driving department. Jalopnik reports that a company in Las Vegas, Rent JDM, is gearing up to let people rent forbidden fruit like the R32 and R33.

1990 Nissan Skyline GTR
1990 Nissan Skyline GTR | Toprank Importers

If you do buy an R32, the 1992-1994 models don’t have the oil pump issue. In addition, R32s are cheaper and more plentiful than R33s. For example, Montu Motors lists a 1994 Nissan Skyline GTR VspecII at just under $35k, but a 1995 R33 Vspec (admittedly, with very low miles) is listed at almost $65k. But, as more R33s are imported, prices may go down.

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