For the true Skyline connoisseur there is one model that has for years been enjoying legendary status. It isn't the Nismo 400R or even the Z-tune but a car that was conceived well before these. Back in the early nineties HKS decided to do what RUF in Germany was doing with Porsches, and started to create a high-performance bespoke version of the BNR32, the Zero-R. The idea was to inject the tuning knowhow HKS had accumulated after years of tuning the RB26 and help the GT-R achieve its fullest potential. The idea was great, in theory, but in practice it didn't really work out. After building four Zero-Rs the time came to register them as one-off models not tied with the Nissan brand, which is where the problems began. Due to regulations back then they were required to crash-test a few cars in order to submit homologation approval. HKS decided to abandon the project as it would have proven too expensive even at the proposed ¥13,000,000 ($145,000 at today's exchange) per car. HKS kept three Zero-Rs while the fourth was sold off to the Sultan of Brunei who shipped it off to his Far-Eastern haven to join his immense car collection. The cars HKS kept were stored at the main factory in Shizuoka, one of which I saw a few times parked outside where it looked like it hadn't moved in many years! What a waste!
But in 2006 HKS discovered that registering the Zero-R nowadays would be very easy and the decision was made to bring the semi-abandoned cars back to life. The job to spearhead this project was given to Kikuchi-san of HKS Tokyo Factory who immediately announced his plans in a small article in GT-R Magazine. He was instantly flooded with phone calls from interested enthusiasts willing to purchase one of these three remaining legendary Zero-R. As Kikuchi-san explained however, there was no way the old original car, developing 450HP and 363 lb/ft of torque would cut it in today's market. The idea was to completely rebuild them from the ground up fitting the best HKS products currently on sale to create the ultimate street registered GT-R.
This silver car was the first one to be completed and I was invited to shoot and drive the car at the HKS Tokyo Factory before it was shipped off to its new customer, a GT-R crazy doctor in Osaka city. The exterior of the car wasn't changed, the unique body parts are what make the Zero-R identifiable to those in the know so there was no need to make any alterations. The owner even decided to keep the one-off magnesium-alloy lightweight wheels that were especially made for the Zero-R by the Italian wheel maker Tecnomagnesio.
You will not find any Nissan badges anywhere on this car, this is a complete HKS rebuilt machine as the embossed logo on the back hints.
The original cars were fitted with one of the first single turbo conversions that HKS put together for the RB26DETT, the TA45S, a blower that hasn't been in production for quite some years now. In fact the whole engine from the original car was scrapped in favor of some top of the line parts. First up was the limited edition Nismo GT block, straight from the GT-500 R34s that raced in JGTC. This durable thick walled block would guarantee durability and was already bored to accept the fully forged HKS 2.8L stroker kit. The extra 200 cc would help create a more responsive set-up with bucket-loads of torque at any rpm. Along with raising compression to 8.7:1 (up from 8.5) HKS also fitted their variable valve timing V-Cam system which mated to the HKS GT2530 turbos helps provide 600 HP and 477 lb/ft. But the modifications don't end there, HKS wanted to give a more modern feel to the revamped Zero-R, so they went ahead and fitted an BNR34 Getrag-6 speed transmission along with Nismo Copper mix clutch and 3.9 final gear to make gearing more suited to the engine's capabilities.
Sitting in the HKS factory for over 10 years can take its toll on the suspension. With this in mind HKS stripped down every component from under the car, including the sub-frames, and replaced all bushes, links and suspension arms with Nismo parts which on top of sharpening up the steering feel and the handling offer a more aggressive geometry which will work beautifully during the odd day at the local circuit. A special custom version of the HKS Hyper Max II coilover kit was fitted, which was specifically catered to the Zero-R.
The owner of this silver Zero-R had the original Recaro driver seat replaced with a BNR34 stock item for a more factory feel. The original alcantara clad steering wheel and 320 km/h dials have been joined by tons of new modern gadgets in the form of Defi gauges…
…also fitted in the glove-box console along with other toys like the V-Cam controller and HKS torque split controller.
Boost is handled by a limited edition HKS EVC "Black Limited" boost controller neatly fitted in place of the stock ashtray.
The Alpine HDD Navigation doubles up as an entertainment system offering TV & DVD playback and of course audio.
Here is a view of the interior where you can see the original Recaro passenger seat.
In the Zero-R there are no rear-seats, it is a true two-seater. This is because HKS were forced to remove the fuel tank from underneath the car to make space for the intricate twin exhaust system design. The tank was moved where the rear seats used to be, boxed away out of sight. Of course putting such a big mass high up in the chassis does nothing at all for handling, but HKS feels it was well worth it to create a unique rear end.
This is what it all looks like when you remove the under cover. The silencers make this a very quiet 600 HP car!
Out on the road the Zero-R is without a doubt one of the most memorable cars I have driven. Aside from the unique factor this BNR32 is one hell of a drive. HKS did a stunning job creating what has to be one of the most responsive RB26s I've ever sampled, the gutsier bigger capacity pulling harder and smoother from lower rpm, all the time helping the GT2530s spool up faster than they would on a normal RB26. The V-Cam system obviously helps a lot too, creating a very elastic and usable engine. But it's when you tap into all those 600 horses that the Zero-R begins to fly, giving you a brutally strong top end. The 6-speed Getrag works great too, offering crisp and precise changes.
The AP Racing brakes are confidence inspiring, shedding speed off at a staggering rate with the kind of progressive pedal feel that helps you precisely dose those big 6-pot calipers.
Close-up of the intakes that help channel air towards the rear brakes.
Motorcycle style fuel filler cap, relocated to feed the tank sitting behind the seats.
A look at the rear end with the exhaust panel back on.
The Zero-R is easily recognizable, especially from the rear where you can spot the twin-exhausts, redesigned bumper and spoiler.
Since driving this car I have never seen another Zero-R again. As far as I know HKS has kept one car after the other two were sold off. I wonder what ever happened to the one the Sultan of Brunei got all those years ago. That, and I think the remaining one HKS has are still in the original spec. An epic car to say the least!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare