Goodbye Mustang, Hello Skyline:<br /> The New American Dream
The Legend Of Skyline

The grass is always greener. We always want what we can’t have. It’s just human nature, and it applies to just about everything in our lives – including cars.

For us Americans, it’s hard to think of a bigger piece of forbidden automotive fruit than the Nissan Skyline. With the exception of the re-badged Infiniti models of late, the Skyline has never been sold in the United States, yet it’s still managed to develop a fanbase that can easily rival the most iconic of domestically available machinery.

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For us, the obsession with the Skyline didn’t come from seeing it in dealer showrooms or cruising the local boulevard. None of our dads had one sitting in the garage. Nobody had a friend that owned one in high school. Nope, our exposure to the Skyline came from afar in the form of magazines articles, movies, and perhaps most of all – video games.

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And it’s for those reasons that many Americans hold a mythical image of the almighty Skyline. When the occasional imported example does make it to US shores, the prices asked for even basic non GT-R models can be mind blowing. Something that would be sent to the scrapper or used as a drift missile in Japan would be a prized possession in the US, and it’s all because of the aura that’s been built up around the car.

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This brings us to a Las Vegas resident by the name of Jay Kho. Jay actually grew up in the Philippines where he inherited his gearhead genes from his father – a big-time car enthusiast and weekend racer who bought and sold imported vehicles.

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At the age of 13 Jay relocated to the United States, and as the years went on his interest in cars only grew. After reaching driving age, he owned a number of different daily drivers including a Nissan 300ZX, Lexus IS300, Toyota Supra and other Japanese models. But when it came to his ‘play’ car, Jay went in a slightly different direction – a 1966 Ford Mustang coupe which he resto-modded over the course of a few years.

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After owning for the Mustang for a while, Jay felt the urge to change things up. He liked the old Ford, but he found himself being intrigued by the idea of owning a vintage Japanese car. With the help of his friend Jon, Jay scoured classified websites looking for potential candidates.

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He looked at 240Zs, TE27 Corollas and even Hakosuka and Kenmeri Skylines, which were far out of his price range. His budget was limited, so he would either need to sell his Mustang for something reasonably priced, or get lucky and find someone who might be looking for a trade.

Love At First Sight
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One evening about four years ago Jay was browsing the local Las Vegas Craigslist ads when he came across a very rare find – a 1983 DR30 Skyline that had been brought over from Japan. Jay called the phone number and found that the seller was an Air Force guy who acquired the Nissan in Okinawa before being transferred back to the US. The seller told Jay the car wasn’t running due to a fuel pump issue, but the good news was that he might be interested in a trade.

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The next morning Jay and Jon got in the Mustang and went out to see the Skyline. Prior to arriving, Jay told his friend to try and keep his cool, hoping to play down the excitement and score a better deal on the car. But from the moment he caught a glimpse of the old red car it was Jay who lost his composure. Seeing the angular body shape and the distinct round taillights, he was instantly brought back to his teenage years when he used the DR30 Super Shilouette racer to dominate the competition on his PlayStation.

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The car was covered in dust, wasn’t registered in the United States and the wiring harness and other engine parts were sitting in the trunk – but Jay had completely fallen for the old Nissan. When all was said and done, a straight trade was made – Jay’s Mustang for the non-running Skyline.

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Once Jay had the car in his possession, the first order of business was to get it running. While he was initially told the car just needed a fuel pump, there was more to it than that. The Skyline still had its original FJ20ET motor, but the previous owner had tried to use a newer SR20 computer with no luck. Jay and Jon attempted to fix the car themselves, but had no success. Then they tried calling several local shops, but none of them could help because of their unfamiliarity with the car and its unusual engine.

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Eventually Jay got in touch with local Vegas car builder and drifter Forrest Wang, which is where the idea came to do a full SR20DET engine swap. Initially Jay was reluctant to swap out the FJ20 because of its rarity, but it was tough to find replacement parts in the US and even more difficult to find people who could help him work on it.

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And it’s not like the SR20 would give the car a vastly different character than the original motor. The swap would be a natural progression from FJ, and the wide availability of parts would make things much easier all around. Just as importantly, it would keep the DR30’s factory ‘4 Valve DOHC Turbo’ graphic true to its claim.

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Jay’s motor actually came directly out of Forrest’s daily driver S14, and it’s largely stock aside from a few upgrades like a GReddy oil pan and a Godspeed intercooler with custom piping. But should he decide he wants more power in the future, there’s a near endless supply of modifications available.

Fully Legal
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Now that the car was finally running, the next step would be to get it registered. Getting an imported vehicle legally registered in the US can be a long and difficult process, but after one nervous trip to the DMV where a number of confused workers inspected his strange Nissan, Jay was able to drive home with a full US title and registration – and a huge sense of relief.

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Because the car had sat so long since being shipped to the United States, Jay has spent a lot of time scouring Yahoo! Auctions Japan for miscellaneous parts that would help him return the Skyline to its former glory. His plan was never to give the car a factory restoration, but instead use a nice mix of both original and aftermarket parts that stay true to the tuning style of its early ’80s era.

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For example, when he acquired the Skyline it came with a set of beaten up Watanabe RS8s, but they’ve since been swapped out for a set of 15-inch Volk Racing Type S wheels that perfectly suit the car’s vibe.

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The Nissan’s cabin has been treated with the same type of subtle yet effective upgrades. The seats, for instance, are the original DR30 striped buckets, because they are just too cool to swap out for anything aftermarket.

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The changes that have been made to the cockpit include a Momo Retro steering wheel, a Pioneer stereo system and a few aftermarket gauges. It’s all simple and to the point.

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As for future plans, Jay has entertained the idea of getting more aggressive with the modifications, adding things like a bigger turbo and set of overfenders and wide wheels. But at the same time he’s also weary of cutting up a very clean example of a rare JDM machine.

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For now he’s quite happy cruising the Skyline on the streets of Vegas with fellow Skyline-owning friends, including Roy De Guzman and his Hakosuka which we featured this summer. He also likes getting strange looks from people when they realize he’s sitting on the wrong side of the car.

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There’s also the rarity factor. Most people in the US are familiar with the classic Skylines of the ’70s and the modern GT-Rs, but the DR30 is still relatively unknown among non-JDM nerds. It’s a different story, however, when he takes the car to an event like JCCS and gets a lot love – particularly from Japanese people who recognize the red and black DR30 from the classic cop TV show Seibu Keisatsu.

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It might sound strange to use the term ‘American Dream’ to describe the actions of a guy who traded in a Mustang for a Nissan Skyline, but for a generation who grew up playing video games and idolizing the forbidden automobiles from Japan, I think it’s a fitting observation for Jay and his DR30.

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Then again, for every person like Jay, there’s probably a guy in Japan who has dreamt of owning a Mustang since he first saw Steve McQueen rip up the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt.

I guess it’s all part of this beautiful thing we call international car culture – where the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike
mike@speedhunters.com

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

Jay Kho’s 1983 DR30 Nissan Skyline

Engine

Nissan SR20DET Blacktop engine swap, stock internals, GReddy boost controller set to 12psi, GReddy oil pan, custom intercooler piping by Forrest Wang, Godspeed intercooler, Fujitsubo exhaust, Fluidyne radiator

Driveline
Factory FJ20 5-speed transmission with SR20 bell housing, Blitz stage 1 race clutch

Suspension/Brakes
Custom rear coilovers from Feal Suspension, unknown front coilovers from Japan

Wheels/Tires
Volk racing Type S 15×6.5-inch -0 offset, Nitto Neogen tires 205/50R15

Exterior
Unknown front air dam from Japan. Foha rear spoiler, original two-tone paint and lettering

Interior
Momo Retro steering wheel, Razo shift knob, custom aluminum front mount bracket for the stereo & boost controller, Pioneer stereo deck, Pioneer speakers, Sunpro three gauge set, Depo boost gauge, tachometer and mount

Cutting Room Floor

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65 comments

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1

I got the chance to drive an r32 gt-r in Kansas at a local car meet. I now have the urge to save up for an r33 gt-r when they come out.

2

Bought my 1989 BNR32 Skyline from Kunio at http://www.gtr-garage.com. Went without a hitch and I brought all the paperwork they provided to the Washington DMV and walked out 20 minutes later with US title in hand. These cars are going to be everywhere soon.

3

No no no please dont add overfender and wider wheels please just dont. But well...to each of their own.

4

"But at the same time he’s also weary of cutting up a very clean example of a rare JDM machine."
I'm thinking there are many featured on Speedhunters who by now should be weary of that crime, but I imagine Mr. Kho is more wary than weary...
I'd still rather see a car Rocket Bunnied than see the feds get ahold of it in "Operation T#atlantic.". Hunt as much foreign and right hand drive speed as you can SH, there's bigger predators circling right now.

5

*reads headline, "Preeeeeach!!"

6

F1Fan426 I hear the r33 isn't too far away mate!

7

I have just downloaded *all* the wallpapers! Simply awesome car that, and super, super photos!
Just love this model Skyline,

8

Can't believe this, saw these cars in Vegas while this photo shoot was going down at Circus Circus. I'm probably 10 feet from where that second photo was taken. Gave a thumbs up to the Hakosuka owner. So sick! Great article and photos!

9

Who knows maybe we'll see resurgence of aftermarket parts for Japanese cars Japanese themselves forgot (like EF3/EF7 for example), that is once all these RHD imports will start flooding the US.

10

Congratulations Jay!!! ...and thanks Larry and Mike for sneaking in a pic of me too!

11

Cotnyjoe F1Fan426  ..."come out" as in legal to import after the cars have a certain age. Am I correct?

12

Man, this car is so cool. Regarding the Mustang, I love it but couldn't be owned outside USA. The thing is bigger than a S Class Mercedes from the period! And the interior is so huge that it feels like racing a living room! The Skyline is just right

13

Are those wheels considered rare? I had a set on my R31 and could never work out what brand they were.

14

Sweet, what a killer story and what a killer car! I've been dying for an Iron mask R30 for years! =[

15

I can't thank you guys enough and truly am humbled being featured at all, that was an epic night! thanks Larry, Dino, Bryn and Mike. you guys are top notch!

16

Sweet ride! Super clean, period upgrades. Perfect!

17

Cotnyjoe F1Fan426

6Years good luck! By then i will be impossible to find a good example in Japan, prices have already gone through the roof in Japan!

18

Love those gauges..not familiar with this cars.. Very nice man..keep the dream alive..i use AE86..same times...Enjoy it!!!

19

apex_DNA That scene is alive on Canada..thankfully..

20

Ireland doesn't have any classic cars of itself, so it's really a matter of 'any grass is greener than here'!

21

@Tiocfaidh ar la theres the delorean.....

22
uninsuredhatchback

@Tiocfaidh ar la  DeLorean...

23

uninsuredhatchback Technically that's British. Ireland is split in two.

24

Now the Mustang is the european dream (ok it had been always, but now they'll sell it over here)

25

I absolutely love the styling from Japan during this time period. One of my favorite examples would be the 300zx with the digital gauges! I Google searched for an image, and found a Nissan brochure:

26

This is a great article and a lovely story of pursuing your car dreams. I myself have been contemplating over the past few years what type of vehicle I'd like to acquire from overseas as I have an affinity with so many. Price always seems to be the factor that makes these dreams unattainable currently, but I will never lose hope that someday I will be able to feel the pride and joy that Jay feels every time he sets eyes on his beautiful Skyline. I can also only imagine how tough letting go of a 66' Mustang must have been, but it was clearly a sacrifice worth making for Jay. Much respect to Jay for this build and making his dreams come true!

27

Dream car dream colour amazing! Perfect!! more like this please all photos saved every word read old boy garage approve U0001f44d well done speedhunters and Larry chen

28

Thank you, letting go the mustang wasn't bad at all, I had my share of fun and got the muscle car urge out of my system (for now?) although my wife don't understand why I did what I did, she felt it was going backwards, but I told her that we can drive down the street and spot and buy a mustang anytime. Keep pursuing that dream bud, it will come and once you get it, let's go for a drive U0001f44d

29

Cannot wait to be able to import an R34.
NEEEDDD!

Until then I'll just be trying to save so I can get one of the better versions >_>

30

LOVE this feature. Great stuff SH I live for these things!

31

@turbo BEAMS ae86 apex_DNA  It may be alive but what a pain in  the ass it is to have it licensed and as for insurance, its almost as out of reach as the car itself. For the price of an R34 GTR you can have a few year old M3.

32

F1Fan426 Here's one for sale in Seattle...if you've got an extra 50k lying around.

http://boise.craigslist.org/cto/4788436302.html

33

jester702 Mate, you deserved it! The story is just great, very well written, beautiful photographs, fuckin' gorgeous car and those gauges... 
Coming from a guy living in a country, where these are illegal because of rhd ;)
Cheers!

34

I love the juxtaposition in the photos between the Skyline and the Las Vegas backdrop, excellent shots! Great article too. The hunt for parts and knowledge on an imported vehicle have always scared me out of taking the leap, maybe one day :)

35

AndrewTaylor Awesome. How about Chackie Chan in Cannonball run?

36

EvolveWRC Now you too can drive the trailer park dream.

37

@j_kouki apex_DNA  I'd an R34 over any year M3.

38

@turbo BEAMS ae86 apex_DNA True, but Canada's aftermarket is not as big as California's, let alone USA's.


There are cases of Japanese companies still manufacturing parts that many believe to be discontinued, only to find out they sell them in US only (or so it seems, as there are no word of them being still made on their official websites or anything, but parts can still be ordered in US thanks to the magnitude of it's market). Or like in J's Racing's case, where half of their sales are coming from US and mostly for "older" cars whereas in Japanese market, they're only able to sell parts usually for newer vehicles.


Source: http://www.superstreetonline.com/features/htup-1110-js-racing-reemergence/

39

@j_kouki apex_DNA Apples to oranges. Plus you're getting so much more with a BNR34 compared to an M3, it's not even fair.

40

I've been following you on Instagram.  Dream car :)

41

Smiggins AndrewTaylor flat bodied starion, 1983 judging by the hood

42

Thank you sir

43

@funkychild thank you

44
Gianluca FairladyZ

Long live the boxy car design!

45

The 'D' prefix applied to the R30 chassis is used to denote its engine which would be an FJ20E/T, without an FJ20E/T its not really a DR30 as cool as the car is, it's like having an RB20 in a BNR32 instead of an RB26.

46

Now I only need the money to buy one, cuz it costs double than the american version (stupid EU taxes)

47

This model is so underrated. We need more of these!

48

Cool write-up. Awesome story. Amazing car!

49

Beautiful '30, one of my favorites from the line. Would like to pick one up for myself (or work, but preferably for myself) one day. Hey, dig that JNC inkan sticker on the window Bet that makes Ben smile. He's got a great website too.

50

I completely agree with you Mike, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

nice shot Larry as always.

51

As you can tell, I'm a big JNC fan. @censport

52

I love this car....the coolest part to me is the speedometer looks like something out of a plane! Is it stock or aftermarket?

53

I would love to see at least few more flicks of Hakosuka, but still that DR30 is damn hot !

54

EvolveWRC  Well you could just grow a neckbeard, get fat, have sex with your sister and youd have most of the mustang most of the mustang experience covered.

55

Smiggins EvolveWRC How is it any different from a "domestic" guy calling anything Japanese "rice"? This is Speedhunters after all, not a YouTube comments section.

56

STJ88 Cotnyjoe F1Fan426 I have a friend of mine who imports cars from Japan to Canada, he is my hookup for all my import needs. He had a hell of a deal and I should have taken it, 10k for 89 gt-r. 150k kilometers on the odometer. If I asked, he'd buy me one now and save it till it could be legally imported.

57

greenroadster Cotnyjoe F1Fan426 Yes, I was under assumption that everyone would know what I meant.

59

@SW1 We're glad to hear! Cheers for the positive feedback.

60

I would love to own any generation of skyline, but my dream is to one day own a c110. Talking to some second hand dealers in Japan, I'm gonna be saving for a while if I want one.

61

Speedhunters I know this one so well. Just love everything about Hakosuka and would love to see more and more ;)

62

Don't even think of fitting overfenders. It looks PERFECT!

63

There was a time in Australia when every man and his dog had a Skyline...seems like the trend has shifted towards the States now.

64

I remember this car from my 1983 issues of Carboy and was lucky enough to see these on the streets in Okinawa Japan while I was station there from 1983 - 1989. Great write-up. I would have saved that original engine since with time and a lot of effort, that computer could have been sourced repaired or upgraded. But his solution makes perfect sense. Way to wake up and realize that your dream is now a reality!!!

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