The typical trajectory of a project — at least in my circle of car-loving mates – goes something like this: Buy your dream car of the day/week/month (that at the time seems absurdly cheap), spend months and an improbable amount of cash getting it to the stage you want it (and more importantly reliable), then just at the point where it’s perfect, sell it on for a huge loss, and repeat over…
Australian Nick Green is not like that, though. He’s owned his Nissan Skyline R31 coupe since 2005, and has steadily improved it (though not always making it reliable…) in those 13 years, to the point where it’s now the perfect mix of ultimate road and track car.
Despite the badges, this isn’t a genuine GTS-R. If it was, Nick probably wouldn’t have been ragging the Cusco 2-way LSD off it at Racewars.
Instead, as the trick plate suggests, this R31 is built to deceive, and started life as a GTS-X. Although, by the time Nick got his hands on the keys, the car had already been messed with, an RB26 swapped in for the original RB20 motor.
“It was pretty rough at the time,” admits Nick, “but I’d owned a four-door GTS before that and really fancied a coupe. The RB26 was running a GT3540 turbo from a Falcon XR6 and a GT-R intercooler and made approximately 400hp at the wheels. I got it home, cleaned it up, fitted some 18-inch Volk [Racing] wheels from my previous R31 and started using it.”
Then, as with all good projects, things really started getting out of hand.
“The car had boost control issues with the XR6 turbo and was pretty laggy, so I started a rebuild that escalated quite rapidly into a full teardown. At this point I added the 6boost exhaust manifold, GT35R turbo, new 3.5-inch exhaust, and RB25 gearbox. While the engine was out I completely redid everything in the engine bay, including a new oil system and sump, and got a new loom made up to run an an Autronic SM4 ECU and CDI [Capacitor Discharge Ignition]. It made 580hp at the wheels at this stage.”
The reason for all this work was Nick had his sights set on the drag strip, and with the new setup the car ran an 11.8-second ET at 128mph (206km/h) – with a lazy 2.4-seconds 60-foot time. “This was with with a slipping clutch so I launched pretty gently,” he admits. ”Then the next pass I launched hard and broke both rear stub axles. I ordered up billet ones from the US, but they took six months to arrive, by which point I had moved to Norway with work for 12 months.”
Some of that Scandinavian flair for building top-notch track cars had clearly rubbed off on Nick, as by the time he returned home he had decided to launch into another rebuild, this time focussed very much on track work and Racewars in particular.
“This is where it got really out of hand as I replaced or rebuilt every item on the car,” says Nick. The old RB26 was sold complete and a new engine pieced together based around an RB30 bottom end with Nitto forged pistons and rods, with the factory crank running bigger clearances to keep the bearings alive during track work.
The cylinder head is an RB26 item from an R34 with 270-deg/11.4mm lift cams and titanium springs and retainers, an RB26 plenum and Bosch 1,600cc injectors. In the turbo department there’s now a BorgWarner S300SX 88-75 with a 1.00a/r exhaust housing and 44mm wastegates.
Once mapped, the new spec made a best of 650hp at the wheels on 26psi boost, which Nick was more than pleased with. “I tend to run it around 550 wheel horsepower for the sake of longevity, though,” says Nick.
Naturally, the fuel system has been upgraded to cope with the increase in demand.
Along with the fuel cell mounted under the boot floor, the setup includes a Carter lift pump feeding triple filters and the main Weldon pump and swirl pot.
With Racewars being not just about straight-line performance but the Supersprint handling course too, suspension is now R31 House coilovers with adjustable anti-roll bars and control arms, with the rear trailing arms having been modified for adjustable camber and toe.
The brakes are Alcon 4-pots on 332mm two-piece rotors at the front, with an R34’s discs and callipers fitted at the rear.
Nick went to town on the interior, stripping out most of the R31’s trim and sound deadening along with the heater cores and fans to save some weight, and installing a bolt-in cage, OMP seats and harnesses.
Most of the switchgear is now located in the dash, mounted in carbon fibre panels. The dash has been flocked too, with the main gauges removed and the section filled with carbon fibre in lieu of a digital display atop the steering column.
It’s a neat, functional and effective setup.
Look behind the passenger seat and you’ll also find a relocated race battery. The Accusump system lives behind the driver’s seat, designed for pre-oiling the engine prior to start-up, as well as cutting down on oil surge while cornering.
Nick’s not neglected the exterior, with an R31 House bonnet and URAS front spoiler and side skirts.
Then there’s those carbon fenders, covering the 18-inch Work Meister S1 three-piece split-rims — 10.5-inches wide at the front and 11.5-inches wide at the rear.
Even the bodywork is constantly evolving. “I had a GT-R rear wing on it for a while, but have removed it and plan to fit a functional wing at a later date,” says Nick.
Personally, we prefer the cleaner, delete option, but with more Racewars attempts planned, Nick’s probably going to need that extra downforce at the rear.
Speaking of which, with all this you’d think everything would be plain-sailing for Nick now, right?
“I’m pretty happy with the spec, but I’m always chasing niggles,” he admits. “At last year’s Racewars I did a sighting pass and the car ran perfectly straight. The next pass I gave it a little more boost and it got really loose at the top of fourth gear and again at the start of fifth, so I aborted the run. I turned the boost down for the third pass and the car ran nice and straight, but then a selector fork broke on the shift to fifth. It was a little disappointing not to get a full 1000-metre pass for the V-Max Challenge, but at least it was a straightforward part to replace.”
A mere hiccup in a long and rewarding Skyline ownership, then.
If there are two things I’ve learnt from Nick, it’s these: 1. He may be onto something with hanging onto project cars. 2. I now want an R31 coupe.
Photography by Matthew Everingham