GT-R Turns 50: Can The R33 Get Some Love?

It’s no secret that the R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R has somewhat of a reputation for being the slightly more ‘nautical’ sibling to the svelte R32.

There, that’s my one and only boat reference done and dusted, I promise.

We’ve already covered the early-model GT-Rs, and the tour de force arrival of the R32 GT-R, but when the R33 GT-R was unveiled in 1995 it didn’t hit the general public with quite the same significance that the R32 did six years prior. For starters, it was basically the same 2.6-litre RB26DETT engine under the bonnet. A great engine nonetheless, but the same. A pair of uprated turbos kept horsepower about the same with a slight bump in torque, however, the overall kerb weight jumped a notable 100kg. On paper the R33 GT-R wasn’t as good as the R32. But then cars aren’t driven on paper.

The areas that Nissan had put time into were aerodynamics, chassis dynamics and handling. Extra chassis strengthening and braces accounted for much of the added bulk, while Nissan managed to lower the drag coefficient over the boxy R32. Bigger brakes, wider tyres and an improved ATTESA E-TS Pro all-wheel drive system with an Active LSD in the V-Spec model all added to the non-insignificant amounts of grip that the R32 had. Most excitingly for us Brits, the R33 GT-R was the first GT-R that we could buy from Nissan themselves – they were imported and dealer-modified to a UK standard, but they were ours.

Perhaps most notably of the R33 GT-R, it paved the way for some of the most exciting special editions in the GT-R lineage. It brought us the gorgeous LM Limited, and then the trouser-tightening Nismo 400R. The latter gave road-going GT-R owners a good insight into just how tunable Nissan knew this engine was.

A brief background over with, on with the list. There’s a strong pattern to this countdown – five cars and five legendary tuning houses. In no order, here are five of my favourite R33 GT-Rs that we’ve featured here on the site…

1. HKS’s Legendary 7-Second GT-R


There are few tuner liveries that are as instantly recognisable as HKS’s iconic black/teal/blue slash design. I’m sure there’s a more catchy name for it, but Google wasn’t helping me in this instance. Back in 2015, Dino found this GT-R legend tucked away at the back of one of HKS’s workshops.


Getting under the skin of this legendary 7-second drag GT-R was something special. Back in its heyday, this was the GT-R to beat down the drag strip, and although its best ET has long since been bested, it still remains one of the most iconic R33 GT-Rs out there.

2. Nismo’s Ultimate Street-Spec R33 Skyline GT-R


If you’re looking for the ultimate-specification R33 GT-R for street use then you’ve come to the right place. Of course, you’ll need at least six figures in your bank account and a suitable R33 for modification, but the reward is essentially a factory-built Nismo GT edition. That’s pretty special.


Once given the nod of approval, Omori Factory will perform a full chassis refresh and fit your R33 out with a veritable catalogue of the best Nismo tuning parts that money can buy, along with a smattering of other desirable upgrades.

It should come as no surprise that many R33 are getting a bit long in the tooth now, so seeing something this perfectly rebuilt is a real treat.

3. There’s Wide, & Then There’s This


In the age of bolt-on overfenders, I’m sure we’re all getting a bit jaded on wide-body builds. But this one sticks in my mind from last year, if anything because it boasts fully blended top-to-bottom boxy arches.


The R33 GT-R isn’t exactly slim, but this Wise Sports kit takes those lines and stretches them out, creating something with menacing rear-view mirror presence. It’s clearly inspired by the LM Edition, which is no bad thing.

4. The Car That Put Nismo On The Map


There’s something really special about a limited edition model, and they don’t come much more special than the Nismo 400R. Built in 1997, and limited to just 100 units, the 400R is seen by many as the unicorn R33 GT-R. Even more so because Nismo didn’t end up building all 100 – just 44 made it off the production line.


Boasting a stroked and fully reworked 2.8-litre RB engine, bigger turbos, manifold, exhaust and much much more, the 400hp output was still modest, with much more available on tap by just winding up the boost. Still, in standard form it could do pretty much 200mph and 0-60mph in four seconds. Me gusta.

5. Meeting A Legend: The Drag-R II


Excuse the slightly low-res snapshots, I had to go deep into the Speedhunters archives for this one – 2012 in fact – but it had to be a part of this list. Top Secret demo cars were up there as some of the most insane, highly-tuned and coveted JDM machines on the planet when I was younger, and their R33 GT-R was one of the best.


I remember seeing Smoky Nagata hit 200mph+ on the road in this car on Max Power’s infamous Beasts From The East VHS. In fact, for many from my generation, this one film was our first real exposure to what people were doing in Japan, and it sparked a revolution in what cars we bought and modified. Right in the feels.

That’s it for the R33 GT-R countdown. Following the tried-and-tested order of chronology, next up we have the R34 GT-R…

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters



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The R33 has always been my favorite of the Skylines. To me, it grew up and looked the part compared to the R32, but then the R34 just got too big and bloated for my tastes. The R33 ticks all the boxes for me, and I am so looking forward to when it becomes importable under the 25yr law.


Dont need the 25 year law with the r33. Look it up on us customs site. You can ship them anytime.


The r33 was actually the largest and heaviest GTR of the bunch the R33 ? R34 is are both smaller and lighter than R33s R34 is a bit shorter and a bit wider which makes it look larger when they're not put next to each other.


Well the 34 is 6kgs (roughly 9lbs) heavier than the 33. And it's only 75mm (3") shorter.


6k is about 14lbs but I'm splitting hairs.


Agreed. The fact that it's the most unloved has me hoping the prices will stay low, as well!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I personally didn't like them till about 6 months ago. I've had the same happen with many cars from the nineties, now I want them all (JZA80, BCNR33, RPS13, S13, S14A, GTO, EVO IV TME, GC8 Wagon to name a few )


They're aging well, it's just a shame most of the ones I see on the road or street parked are drift missiles. Very rare to see a nice example.


That's basically how it is nowadays. It is somewhat rare to see a stock Skyline, 240sx, or Supra for sale. But when they are stock, you're gonna need some cash in your pocket!


I can't wait for the r34 & 35


At this point, I'm just waiting for the pre-R32s.


I don't know how I missed that, thanks. I thought you were saving the best for last!

Guillermo Estrada

My favorite Skyline ever, since Gran Turismo 2


The R31 and the R33 have always been my favourite of the Skyline lineup, and I am saving up right now for an R33 GTR the moment it comes available to import into the US. The R32 has all the hype around it, and the R34 is the crown car that everyone knows. I love the less looked at models of the Skyline line up. I think it makes it the more desirable one personally.


No, and stop talking about it. Let the scrubs gawk over the R32 and the unobtanium R34. Real men of culture know the R33 is the better car. I'm trying to buy one while they're still available for under $50k and posts like this aren't helping lol.


If you think about it was also the first skyline GT-R ever introduced in Fast &Furious as well. But somehow the R33 slipped right though our noses.


All Skyline GTR's are great, but the widest guard 'muscle car' look (less sports car appearance) 33 GTR does it for me from a need to own forever perspective. No doubt 32 was the king in its day, created the brand legend and is that bit rawer being Gen 1. R33 had a tough task of establishing the legend and was still the car to get if you wanted to be the fastest back in the day. By the time the 34 came (Nissan was struggling financially at that point) the modern GTR reputation was already established and if you wanted to go fast in unmodified form the GT3 was the car to get and new king - sad but there is no question about this. When looking back at classic vehicles, I tend to consider each model within its exact time period versus other offers, not as a single lineup as find this skews my opinion and you naturally find yourself drifting towards specific models as opposed to appreciating each model. Guess this is the reason for the term 'Back in THE day'. What must be remembered is that each model in the series works to create the brand - a chain. A 'dog' model can have a big impact - fingers crossed for the new Supra.

Interesting what many people do not know is that the bulk of the additional weight added to each generation of GTR comes as a result of strengthening the chassis - a good and intentional action. If you want to go fast around corners you need the rigidity to ensure the chassis can apply power through the entire corner'. As such weight has never been highest on the priority list for modern GTR and it hasn't held the brand back - no 'Colin Chapman' approach with GDAHH's!


When I watched the original Fast & Furious, I hardly noticed the yellow Skyline GTR R33 that was part of Toretto's crew
That is one car that hasn't been noticed in Fast & Furious


I think there's some big hitter R33s missing from this list. The Yellow bird from Fast and Furious, The Falken motorsports Nürburgring 24H race car, the NISMO Le Mans 24H Race car and the LM road car, and also the JUN Hyper lemon.


I always considered the R33 Skyline GT-R the underdog, and that's why I love it more than the R32 or the R34.
Picked up my 200SX S14 from PBZ in Uppsala last November, and saw a R33 Skyline GT-R 400R ready to go under the knife. My jaw dropped and for about two minutes I just stared at the car and took it in, took in its body lines, and the rarity of it.
Always gonna love them, and striving to get one in the future.