The Nissan BNR32 GT-R is very hot property at the moment. That’s mainly due to the fact that early model cars have reached 25 years of age, meaning they can legally be imported into the US for road use.
Here in Australia, however, ‘Godzilla’ has been a part of automotive culture since the early days. While the car I’m about to show you may not be the most modified or extreme embodiment of the R32, it’s without a doubt one of the most interesting road vehicles around.
When friend and fellow photographer Stefan Trajkovski sent me the above photo, I knew I was in for something special. Not only is Stefan one of the most gifted photographers I personally know, he’d also managed to combine two icons of Australian motorsport – the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst, and a gorgeous R32 GT-R.
On closer inspection I realised that this was not just any old BNR32, but an exceptionally rare GT-R V-Spec II N1. Before we jump in for a closer look at this very special vehicle, let me show you around the hallowed ground of Bathurst.
Bathurst is actually a nearby town that has contributed its name to the racetrack more correctly known as Mount Panorama Circuit. First used as the setting for Australia’s 1938 Grand Prix, today it’s home to the Bathurst 1000 and Bathurst 12-Hour, premier endurance events on the V8 Supercar and GT calendars respectively. In the intervening years, it has been the home of Australia’s most exciting and controversial motorsport battles.
One of the most notable aspects of the circuit is the extreme elevation change from top to bottom – 174 metres from lowest point to highest of its 6.2km length. Concrete walls hug the tarmac tightly, which means a mistake at Bathurst almost never ends well. Open wheelers and motorcycles haven’t raced competitively at Bathurst since the early 2000s for this very reason.
The track is actually a public road for 343 days out of the year. Upside: you can drive it in your road car anytime and get awesome photos like these. Downside: there is a 60km/h speed limit that is very strictly enforced.
The circuit’s extreme nature has earned it a fearsome reputation, and names like ‘The Cutting’, ‘Brock’s Skyline’, ‘Conrod Straight’ and ‘The Chase’ are all elements of the track well known to those who follow Australian motorsport. As I’m writing this article, the Bathurst 1000 – the circuit’s best-known event – is getting underway. Already there’s been plenty of carnage, just one example being Chaz Mostert’s vehicular obliteration at the Forrest’s Elbow corner.
The R32 GT-R first came on to the Australian racing scene in 1990 in the hands of Gibson Motorsport. The debut season was fruitless as the team and drivers came to terms with the 600hp turbocharged, all-wheel drive monsters from Japan. By the following year the cars had been ironed out, and the Nissans absolutely dominated. In the hands of Mark Skaife, the #1 GT-R took pole, the race win and fastest lap – followed by another GT-R. The same team returned again in 1992 to take the win again, although under controversial circumstances which led to Jim Richards infamously calling the disapproving crowd “a pack of arseholes” from the winner’s podium.
In 1993 turbo cars were outlawed and Godzilla was relegated to the history books.
This was a move to restore parity to the series, or in other words – give the other teams a chance. The extreme power and handling of the GT-R couldn’t be managed by ever increasing weight penalties, so the rule makers stepped in.Driving Force
If anything, this controversial history has given the R32 GT-R a level of reverence amongst Australian motorsport fans.
The link between this car and the Group A racer is especially close, as the N1 is the road car Nissan had to build for its race cars to be homologated. Our feature on the aforementioned Gibson Motorsport machine of Skaife and Richards is a great place to start if you want a closer look at a proper Group A competition car.
Although the spec list was long for the N1, the options list was the opposite – no ABS, air conditioning or sound system, while all cars were delivered in the same thin coat of Crystal White paint. This meant a saving of 30kg compared to a regular GT-R.
The changes under the bonnet are hard to spot, too. The RB26 block is a special unit for the N1, with enlarged channels to assist cooling under race conditions and upgraded internals including a balanced crankshaft, pistons and cams. Nismo-designed turbines replace the standard units, providing both a lower boost threshold and higher total output.
With the sole power modification being an HKS exhaust (with a Nismo tail pipe shroud), the car makes a dyno-proven 301kW (404hp) at the wheels – significantly more than Nissan ever laid claim to.
So to sum things up: less weight and more power than your run-of-the-mill GT-R, like a Porsche RennSport model. Only this is much, much rarer. In fact, the owner of this car, Terry, tells me that only 48 examples were ever made.
Considering the racing pedigree and rarity, the BNR32 GT-R V-Spec II N1 is undoubtedly a very collectible and important vehicle. Some would argue that if you own one, now might be the time to start thinking about having the car encased in a hermetically-sealed bubble and stored away under lock and key.
Terry disagrees. If you want to see a genuine N1 in the flesh, there’s no need to buy a ticket to the Nismo museum in Japan – you can just head out to one of Terry’s favourite back roads north of Sydney.
Despite being in his 60s (it’s the new 30, he says) Terry loves nothing more than chasing down Porsches on a Sunday morning. And in my books, that makes him a bloody legend.
When he imported the car from Japan late last year it had a hair under 50,000km on the clock and was a real minter. Even the early ’90s interior plastics look brand new.
Not only is Terry happy to drive the car as its maker intended, but he’s also not afraid of a little tinker here or there to get the car just right.
Exhibit A: this Rocket Dancer titanium front strut brace, which stiffens the front end and as a result gives a slight bias towards oversteer rather than the hint of understeer Terry wasn’t fond of.
There’s a whole catalogue of genuine Nismo parts scattered across the GT-R too, most sporting the old school logo that is as ’80s as playing Top Gun on your NES while your sister does her best Flashdance rendition. To start with, Terry hated the retro font, but he’s come to love it over time and even sports a vintage race jacket emblazoned with it now.
For the most part, these are dress-up additions, and Terry intends to keep any future modifications limited to items that can be removed if and when the requirement comes for the car to be returned to stock.
Stealing the show are the RAYS-made Nismo LM-GT1 wheels in a square 18×10-inch fitment all around.
There’s no intention to race the car or anything too extreme as Terry has (in his words) “had his fun” on track in his previous car, an R34 GT-R that was more modified. I asked Terry how the R32 compared to its younger sibling and he said the most noticeable difference was the heavier steering in the R32, otherwise they are remarkably similar in character.
If I wasn’t a fan of Terry already he cemented it when he told me his son now owns an R34 GT-R V-Spec II Nür. Family goals!
It’s pretty clear to me that Terry is the perfect custodian for this iconic vehicle; a passionate enthusiast who will not only care for it but give it a decent spanking every now and then.
Photos by Stefan Trajkovski