Project Thirty Four: Lifting The Head On GT-R Ownership

Empty roads, self-isolation and a 700bhp GT-R. Doesn’t sound like the worst way to spend the next few months, does it?

Apart from two small issues. First off, it’d be massively irresponsible to drive anywhere unless absolutely necessary. But more obvious than that, it’d require access to an actual working car for more than five minutes.

It’s been several months since I introduced Project Thirty Four to Speedhunters, and if you can remember, it was all a very romantic affair. ‘Realising a dream’ I think was the phrase used. Well, confession time: It was, for the most part, a load of bollocks.

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Before I’m glared at like a pensioner coughing in a supermarket, let me try and explain myself all over again. Everything documented was entirely true, from the chain of events through to the physical buying process. It was that ‘happy ever after’ bit at the end I stretched slightly. In reality, it’s been a total pain in the arse.

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Whenever I write a story like this, I feel it’s important to float some form of disclaimer handily disguised as a get-out clause. This one’s no different. As I’m writing this based on my own experience, it’d be wrong to tarnish all Japanese cars – or Skylines – with the same brush. Admittedly, this faeces-stained brush is one most owners have used at some point. I think import cars come with one just under the flare holder.

You shouldn’t buy a modified Skyline on a whim. You shouldn’t buy a modified Skyline if you’re particularly clever with money. And you definitely shouldn’t buy one if you enjoy the whole ‘get out and drive’ mentality. It’s more like get out and listen for odd noises. Get out and wonder if that puddle is from the air-con or the engine. Get back in, drive a bit, consult a forum about a new noise instead. Less urban outlaw, more urban anxiety.

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I’d imagine it’s quite similar to dating one of those high-profile Instagram models. On the outside it looks like a proper riot; someone’s clearly played their cards right and life must be peachy. But behind closed doors lurks a world of pain, expense and arguments. A prospect best observed from the sidelines rather than up front.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent the best part of 14 years conditioning myself by owning as many unreliable cars as possible. It’s often a trade-off to drive something quirky or interesting, which explains the ’90s V12 Merc and FD RX-7 also in my garage. I did have an M5 Touring (E61) which just set itself on fire; a fitting metaphor for the past five years of ownership. I digress.

Anyway, when those stupid cars work – no matter how infrequently that might be – it’s a hard feeling to beat.


Where do we start with R34 GT-R ownership? Well, a bit of background on this particular car. It’s a 1999 model (non V-Spec) imported by the guys over at Harlow Jap Autos whose workshop truly is a treasure trove of bonkers Japanese stuff. It came with a load of service history, including £60,000 (approx US$74,500) worth of receipts showing that all its tuning was predominantly done in the mid-to-late 2000s. This is important, because (unsurprisingly) by today’s standards that makes it fairly old tech.

Now, if you’re starting from scratch, using nothing but new parts and all the latest tech, I’d argue you could build a pretty reliable big-power Skyline without too much grief. But I’d also argue you need significantly deeper pockets than mine to get there, or at the very least a more reasonable approach to horsepower. Like thinking 600bhp is enough for any road car.

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The problem is, my brain seems to be stuck in the era of Japanese tuning circa 2001. That era of Top Secret, Veilside and Garage Saurus – it’s what I grew up reading about and obsessing over. Any Skyline I bought would inevitably end up going down that route regardless of how it started, stock or tuned. I just love the mentality used when bolting it together all those years ago.

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‘Mark-san, it is necessary to monitor many variables on a new engine. Oil, fuel pressure, boost. But space is not good. As the passenger side of the dashboard is not in use, we will drill five holes to place gauges instead.’

It’s basically a bodge but done with a little more finesse. No German or Italian would consider that an acceptable workaround; they’d either stick ‘em on the dash for ease or merge them into a single display. But the Japanese? Oh no, cutting into the dashboard must be the perfect solution.

Right, back on topic. You’ve got a ’90s sports car fitted with tech from the early 2000s. It’s been used hard for many years and its service history makes no sense outside of Japan. That’s a tasty recipe for a brutal headache at some point – could be weeks, months or years down the line if you’re lucky. But at some point, it’ll happen, and if you’ve never owned a fussy car before you may as well sell up and jump into a GT3 now.

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Fuel economy? Nowhere near as terrible as you’d think. A huge, laggy turbo that spends 90% of its time off boost will do that. At no point would I suggest ditching a daily for it, but 17-20mpg on a run is pretty common. The bigger issue is the fact you get out stinking of fuel thanks to the swirl pot, pumps and filters fitted in the boot.

The diffs clunk at low speed, the exhaust is pretty loud on idle. Ganador mirrors have shit-all visibility and the Xenon headlights may as well be Maglites. Although that’s being unfair to Mag Instrument, Inc.

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None of those in isolation are particularly bad, but like hearing the words ‘I’m fine’ from your partner it’s only a matter of time until the real bomb detonates. Mine happened a good few months into ownership when the headgasket decided it’d be more effective in three pieces. The cause is still a mystery, but I’d imagine my approach of ‘high boost all the time’ may not have helped.

When applying for your unreliable car licence, one of the final tests is the ability to find good in a situation that absolutely isn’t. For this exam, I decided that – while the headgasket failure was both annoying and expensive – it at least meant the car would be issue-free for its future. Consider it an expense for peace of mind rather than a repair. How many e’s are in the the world naïve?


Driving to Germany for Destination Nürburgring is hands-down one of my favourite things to do. The ‘Ring is addictive, unforgiving and full of absolute lunatics, and an exclusive track session held by Darren and the DN team is a brilliant way to remove that last variable at least. It does require actually reaching the ‘Ring to take part, however.

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Somewhere on the Autobahn, the GT-R’s temperature gauge did its familiar dance all over again. Turns out the turbo water hose split, causing a slow leak followed by massive overheating. Being 650 miles from home and having the patience of a diabetic toddler, I worked out that six litres of Evian was enough coolant to get me round the ‘Ring twice before needing a top-up. I think I cleared out three shops of fresh spring water, but 17 laps and a cracked engine block later the GT-R at least made it home. Bugger.


In the UK we’ve got a little thing called ‘Trigger’s broom’. It’s the act of replacing every component of something over a duration of time, meaning that no original part remains even if the object is ‘original’ from appearance. That’s GT-R ownership in a nutshell. By the time you’ve replaced every weak component, the first one is just about ready to fail all over again.

Block swapped and head skimmed, everything remained peachy… again. But the next chapter would undoubtedly become the GT-R’s biggest headache to date, one worse than any form of overheating. Yup, it went for mapping at a ‘reputable’ tuner.

I’ll avoid naming ‘em for the simple reason I wouldn’t put it past the owner trying to sue me. His customer service skills are on par with a stale block of cheese after all. But I’d like to hope my car was a one-off and not the norm, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. For the sake of this story, I’ll refer to them simply as Terrible Disappointing Insufferable Tuning, which are random words that describe my experience and nothing to do with the actual name.

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It’s a familiar story this one. I took the R34 along to have its map checked initially – it’d just undergone major surgery and peace of mind is a necessity. Within an hour I’d been told the HKS ECU was junk and sold into a nice new Link G4, which they could supply, fit and map for a set figure. Not ideal, but once it’s done it’ll be worth it, right? This was at the start of week one, and I was promised the ECU would be with ‘em by mid-week and mapped by the weekend. Happy days.

That week then turned into several more weeks, where a multitude of ‘problems’ cropped up including a faulty wastegate, boost controller and sensors. Ironically, I sold all those parts as ‘spares or repair’ and later learned they were absolutely fine. Very strange I’m sure you’ll agree.


I think it was around week four or five that my patience started wearing thin, having been told the (new) ECU was also faulty and its replacement had only just come back in stock. Amazingly, it was going to be delivered the same day as my phone call… apart from I’d just spoke to Link directly who’d informed me that order had only just come through and its delivery would actually be 1-2 days later. “We’ve only just received the order for that ECU today Mr. Riccioni, they’ve been in stock for months.”

This back-and-forth of excuses and coincidental solutions carried on for a few more weeks. I think my favourite part was when I missed the dyno slot (pushing back tuning by another week) because a part they’d forgot to order wouldn’t now arrive in time.

Anyway, cutting a fairly embarrassing story short, the initial quote had now doubled in price and the timeframe went from a week to almost three months. At least the work carried out was worth all the hassle…

Except that it wasn’t. The car now struggled to start (I was told poor starter motor; was absolutely fine before), the air-con didn’t work and the battery would go flat every night unless you disconnected it. I’d been told the car made 744bhp on the dyno. It actually made 620bhp. Obviously, all dynos are different, but a 124bhp ‘discrepancy’ seemed a tad strong.


To say it over-fuelled was a slight understatement. It smoked so much on boost I could’ve scribbled out ‘RB26’ and replaced it with ‘Cummins’. Even off boost the best you could get was 120 miles from a full tank of fuel.

All the while, zero responsibility was accepted from Terrible Disappointing Insufferable Tuning. Every query was met back with the phrase “the car has been optimised” and it couldn’t possibly be their fault. Realising the owner had now morphed from a block of cheese into Wilson from Cast Away, I drove the car home – after stopping for fuel twice because they’d left it with the fuel light on – and pondered what kind of dictator I’d been in a previous life to warrant this kind of experience.

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Work rectified elsewhere, everything was once again ‘peachy’. But as is the theme of this update, the worst thing you can do is assume that everything will be fine from now on. At this point, I’d say the Skyline had become a toddler who’d been quiet for way too long. Tantrum imminent.

Actually, it was more of a rat-tat-tantrum as one of the exhaust valves snapped while in the middle of another track day.

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I didn’t actually realise I’d snapped a valve; I assumed I’d spun a bearing… because Skyline. So, in a fit of rage, I drove the 15 miles home to jump in my BMW so I could carry on with the rest of the track day. In hindsight, I probably should’ve waited for recovery as I ended up smashing the piston, head and various other components in the process. If you’re wondering why I’ve persisted so long with it, please comment below with detailed explanations as I’m keen to find out also.

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Joking aside, if a dodgy garage can make car ownership unbearable, a properly good one can make the whole situation infinitely better. This is where RK Tuning come into the picture.


Anyone familiar with Skyline tuning in the UK will know RK – led by Ron Kiddell – as one of the original shops from back in the day. Bryn actually shot Ron’s old race car in 2012 which you can see here, however Ron’s love for GT-Rs goes back to the early ’90s when he jumped ship from Sierras and Cosworths to become one of the first Skyline specialists in the UK.

Thankfully, that passion is still shared by Ron and his son Jamie some 30 years on, and RK Tuning have been the life support for this car over the past 18 months. While Ron’s retirement looks fairly healthy thanks to Project Thirty Four, his knowledge, understanding and ability has kept me sane when I should be rocking back and forth in rehab.


That’s the real key to enjoying these types of cars. It’s been a rocky process so far, and aside from the negligence I’ve been massively unlucky too. But keeping things positive for one last moment, it leads me neatly into the final chapter – Project Thirty Four’s latest (and hopefully final) engine build.

Contradicting everything I said at the start of this update, I’ve decided to junk the bulk of the ’90s parts in favour of all-new tech from America, New Zealand and beyond. Not necessarily through choice; had the valve not exited the head I’d be quite happy with the old HKS 2.8 kit. However, the wheels, gauges and aero will all be staying.


It’s not going to be a quick process, and I say that with confidence because it’s already well underway. But with limited budget it’s always going to be a compromise between what I can afford, and what’s going to be best for the build. This is where someone like Ron excels; having built hundreds of RB engines over the years, he knows exactly where to put your money and where to reuse original or refurbished parts.

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Obviously, I’m going to get carried away while the engine’s out and cause Ron a multitude of headaches along the way… like changing the entire turbo setup. Take a look at the Walton Motorsport manifold above, how could you not when it looks that good?


Anyway, I’ll be bringing a much more detailed update on that including a step-by-step process of building one from scratch. But until then, here’s hoping Ron doesn’t block my number.

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni



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Sounds to me like you kicked it’s head
In. It broke. So you took it to the ring kicked it’s head in and it broke. You broke it again and drove it home broken. And that’s the cars
Fault? A car with double it’s original power output is never going to return factory built reliability.


Even relatively stock ones arent reliable daily driver material.. its just part and parcel with these cars

Highly modified examples as twice a month toys are honestly the best way to use them


Tom - at no point did I read that “it’s the car’s fault”. Quite the opposite.


You're pretty much spot on there. Although the split water hose wasn't my fault, and the idiotic tuner definitely wasn't either. The other stuff could absolutely be traced back however.

But yup, doubling the factory output is never going to return factory reliability. It won't stop me using it as much as possible though, even with the hassle along the way. I'd sooner keep doing this than tucking it away and/or being paranoid to drive it, but appreciate that approach isn't for everyone.


Torque Developments International?!


Really loved the frank and open views on owning a dream car and how it isn’t all a bed of roses. I have had an R32 and GTR over the years and people ask why would you sell them? Hate to say it but sometimes it’s better not to achieve your dreams as they can be rather disappointing! I’m now back to where I started and abusing Subaru’s on a daily basis and loving the exceedingly lower running costs!


Oh 100% agree on all of that! For anyone contemplating buying any form of GT-R - or an older, tuned car in fact - the best advice i think anyone can give is to go into it with 1: your eyes wide open, and 2: with realistic expectations.

A stock, well-maintained one will (usually) be less hassle for sure. But I'd imagine most people will find 'em a little underwhelming from a performance POV when compared to anything modern. That's not a negative towards 'em, but rather an insight into how far performance cars have come these days. So you have to REALLY want one, or inevitably end up down the rabbit hole of tuning haha!

For me, i went through two GT-Rs in the past which i had to sell/break for the simple reason i couldn't afford to maintain 'em. I was optimistic with the running costs, and figured i could stick with 'em in an 'ideal' scenario... but rarely does that happen. I'm fortunate to be in a different place with the R34 now, so happy - or rather more accepting - to put up with the attributed grief.


Amazing article. Probably my favorite to date. Relatable, hilarious, honest. Great read. Hope you get to really enjoy it upon completion.


Mark, I laughed out loud more than once whilst reading this. Pain and suffering expressed via the medium of satire at its finest. Thanks for sharing the journey so far. Absolutely brilliant update.


Reminds me of my old 325i. Not quite a 700bhp Skyline, but if the shoe fits? I only had the car 2 years, but it was certainly a Triggers broom! To make a long story short, the only thing that wasn’t replaced in my ownership was the engine. Only because I was too afraid to look inside to investigate the noises that filled my nightmares! Every single ancillary and mechanical underpinning was replaced in my ownership. When the first thing that originally broke needed replacing again, I decided to throw in the towel. Fair do’s the interior switchgear all worked faultlessly, it was also a lovely drive when nothing was broken! I’ve been somewhat more diligent in my subsequent purchases and had two cars that are 99% more reliable than the BMW. Also, if you’ve ever wondered ‘who’s got the keys to the Bimmer?’. The garage have, again.

Best of luck Mark!


There's a weird reassurance hearing these stories from a wide range of cars! While some cars/tuning are inevitably more prone to it, there's also the case for just having rotten luck along the way.

Wasn't a BMW garage was it? I (had) an M5 Touring for 5 years which i absolutely adored. It literally caught fire a few weeks ago, and is currently being investigated by BMW. That thing had just about everything replaced, however the majority of issues were caused by Sytner themselves (such as blowing the engine up when running it low on oil...)


No it wasn’t a BMW dealer. Tried several independents before I found the garage and who really helped me out. They made my life 10x more bearable! I saw the pictures of your M5! Glad you and whoever was in the car got out safe! I must admit I do enjoy the updates on your Twitter about your fleet!

Let’s face it, if it was easy we’d all have Skylines/ M5s/ RX7s/ AMG Merc’s and they’d become boring!


Love the photography in this article, especially the 1st image. Really punchy.


Is that the Mazda Rx7 that Chris Harris destroyed on Top Gear? Looks like it.


That's the one - I was shooting down at Dunsfold for Top Gear and it was still down there. Unsure of the plans of it (yet), the damage looks much worse than it really is.


One of the most entertaining stories I've read on Speedhunters in a while, or is that Spendhunters? I love the honesty! If only someone here in Australia would shed some light on registration, servicing, and in particular insurance costs ($$$)...if you can actually get the things insured in the first place.


Appreciate the feedback! I try and be as honest as possible with these things - that's the whole point of Speedhunters Garage in my eyes. Sure, fitting parts is exciting visually, but that's only half the story of any project as we all know.

I can't speak for Australia, but in the UK insurance is still pretty expensive. In fact, of the 6 cars I have insured, the GT-R accounts for around 70% of the total cost. Admittedly, that is with an agreed value and all modifications declared which is an absolute must with a car like this.


I also get this experience- though with a Skoda Fabiai vRS Combi I had built and bought new. Seven engine/fuel system rebuilds in 5 years later, I’m no longer able to use my ‘new car warranty’ to pay for it.
Great little car to drive when working, but pushed. Pushed to far by the factory, not quite built to spec (melting pistons at 66k kms) and 18months off the road in the first 3 years.
Almost as reliable as my AUD$100 BMW 525i E34.
The Skoda now though is ok for the odd Hillclimb as is off lease and I’ve got something else to drive if I need to.
Better than my godfather’s Dino though - engine out service req to change spark plugs...


Seven rebuilds in five years?! Holy moly that's some record - warranty or not! Fair play for sticking with it, by the sounds of it it's a giggle when it works. Although a 525 E34 has got to be a staple in terms of German reliability.


Ohhh man!! Thank you for sharing this story and sorry this is how it unfolded.

I think this hits home because honestly most car ownership especially projects seem to follow a similar route. We're gluttons for punishment always hoping the fix is around the corner.


I think there's a weird bit in all of us who secretly don't mind a bit of pain along the way, 'cus lets be honest a project is only truly finished the day we sell it! And more often than not, if it's been fine for a while, we end up thinking of ways to 'improve' it instead thus making more work. Basically, we're all broken.


Such and engaging and relatable article! This is my first time commenting on SH, and this article definitely merited it. I could really relate my own GTR ownership to what you said about listening for odd noises! A recurring joy, and gift that keeps on giving! (like a case of herpes)


Appreciate the kind words. Herpes is definitely not something i'd thought of, but you could argue - like GT-R obsession - it never truly goes away, just sometimes lays dormant for a while...


Ah man, sorry you had to go through all that crap! Keen for more updates Mark-San!

Best of luck with this on going project!


"If you cant afford two or three of them - you cant afford one"

Standard GTR ownership.. theyve always been temperamental shitboxes. Unfortunately for anyone who owns one, it's worth the heartache as long as it doesnt send you broke first.

Anyone who says otherwise hasnt owned one long enough, or has a stock or slow example

Joachim Taverne

Even with nearly stock ones ...
The problem in Europe is that there's a lot of so called specialist importer which happened not to be ones.
And even if you can find a good one, having historic on papers (when it exists) doesn't reveal all the lifetime of a car .


Theyre never trouble free motoring though.. buying one is simply the flag-fall cost

Yea, you might get very unlucky and end up with a complete basket case.. but if you own one for a proper amount of time you'll end up rebuilding the thing front to back eventually

Just depends whether people go into buying one with their eyes open or not.. and if youve got high disposable income


WOW!!!! I know you have to be P-I-S-S-E-D. But I am glad you are soldiering through all the difficulties imposed on you with the car. The 34 GT-R is one of my dream cars along with a Mitsubishi GTO MR. Good luck with the car. Despite your issues with it, I am still somewhat jealous.


Great write up and pics , and thank you for telling us your story as iv been looking at getting a 34 for a while i needed to read something like that to remind me the headaches that iv been thought before. Very beautiful car and big respect for keeping your foot in.


These are the kind of stories that makes us love our small french sporty hatchbacks. Sure they don't push a lot of power. Sooner rather than later the dashboard will start doing some strange noises but consumables are cheap and easy to source. Basically all you have to take care of is waming them up correctly and avoid getting caught by the lift of oversteer.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I once met a R34 owner, who was cool enough to tell me "owning this car is a very expensive prospect", and what he said is exactly the same as this! LOL!

Still though, love the way your car looks Mark. The Top Secret front bumper is my favourite for R34. Nismo's Z-Tune never looked quite right to me.


He wasn't wrong haha! I must admit i love the Z-Tune look, but dare i say it's a victim of its own success. There's a lot of replica versions around, and a lot of R34s now running Z-Tune style bumpers even without the arches.

Top Secret has to be my favourite aftermarket option for sure, it's like a more pumped-up version of the 99-spec bumper. Failing that, a 99-spec front with the Carshop F1 splitter/Defend canards would be up there for me.


Calling that man an "autistic block of cheese" is an insult to autistic people, most of whom do not behave anywhere near as bad as pop culture would have people believe. It's not really a secret that 'autistic' is the new 'retarded'. Sorry if this comes across as Social Justice Warrior, but I (and the rest of the neuro-divergent community) would greatly appreciate it if you didn't use autism as an insult. It promotes stereotypes and misunderstandings.

Other than that, I enjoyed reading the article.


Noted and understood. With that in mind the copy's been updated - apologies for any offense caused.


Thank you. Your response is greatly appreciated.


Great article. It shows us that all of us fight this tuning battle in our own way. My 33 eats front axle boots. Much cheaper than engines but I'm on the 8th or so set in 13 years. Driveshaft shop axles didn't fix the issues either. Car is lowered and causes the boots to bunch up, then overheat and pop. I need to machine new recesses in the axle to move the boots outward.

And the shotty shop work is a sad truth in this industry. Glad you were able to find a safe home with RK Tuning.

Look forward to the updates!


This is the attitude i love most, and is very much one of those 'youre either wired that way or not' kinda things. The fact you know what causes the issue and choose to engineer a solution around it - rather than simply raising the car - is exactly what i'd do. Hopefully you can get a long-term solution sorted dude!


I feel you bro. Been there done that. Thou not in a GTR but with everything I got too putting it in o e car. But stay positive. It will be ok soon.


The best article in a long time and I could have written it myself. I bought an R33 Gtr from the dealer with the worst reputation in the Netherlands including Stage 1 tuning. Many months and thousands of emails and phone calls later I got the car. He had neither the promised performance nor even idle gas, nor was he somehow serviced, which was paid for.
I should have known everything, no must have known. I grew up in a car repair shop and spent years tuning cars.
But to make it short: you are not alone!
I then decided to leave everything in series, almost in series.
Now there is a Link G4 in the basement and I try my best not to change or tune the car.
That is the hardest part.
But afterwards I am very satisfied with the car, a very good base, Series 3, drives well, silver, everything I always wanted.
So never give up!


Awesome photos, amazing GTR. Hope to see more!


"I’d imagine it’s quite similar to dating one of those high-profile Instagram models. On the outside it looks like a proper riot; someone’s clearly played their cards right and life must be peachy. But behind closed doors lurks a world of pain, expense and arguments. A prospect best observed from the sidelines rather than up front."

I've dated a few models off instagram and this statement is incredibly true, but it's logical why they become that way if you pause and think about it. When it comes to cars I have found after 15 years it is best--if you want to go fast--to simply go out and buy a formula car or something that has been designed by someone to go racing. No questioning stuff, major reduction in cost (R&D time) and a lot less hassle than trying to modify a road car.

Loved this article, appreciated the honesty.


From experience which car given you more headache rx7 or gtr?
Rx7 always get the stick for being unrelaible drinking oil etc etc. But I live mine and tbh has not given me any issues.


Oh the GT-R all day long. And not just this GT-R, but every GT-R i've had. The only issues i've had from my RX7 have been because of a dodgy engine builder - i had the engine refreshed because mileage was getting on (50,000-miles, i'd put 20k of those miles on) and after they plumbed the wastegate incorrectly it blew up.

Day to day to live with? RX7 has been so much easier, they definitely get a worse reputation than they deserve. But I think that also puts off a lot of 'casual' owners, meaning those who do dare buy an RX7 know what they're getting into and approach it with an open mind. Which is much better than assuming it'll all be fine... even if it is.


u dint consult another R34 owner in d hse aka Dino before?


The problem here is, it's very difficult to compare ownership when the cars you're buying are very different. If Dino had a stock 997 GT3 (be nice wouldn't it?) and i wanted to also buy a stock 997 GT3, definitely listen to the man.

But when you buy a tuned R34, it's impossible to know its history - how it was used, who did the work and so forth. So you're always accepting a risk. Dino's R34 is of course tuned (now), but he bought it standard nearly 20-years-ago and has had all the work done himself, so he knows exactly what's what on his R34.


I feel your pain man. I had an entire engine rebuilt by a reputable garage and I've had nothing but headaches, excuses, and un-returned phones calls.

Cars are passion and that passion doesn't come without its financial and emotional cost.

Keep at it.


Dude you need to get into a Prius and stop bitching.


I'm not employed by Uber so i don't qualify for a Prius.


Can't wait for the next chapter of your story !


I promise you it gets more positive... at points!

Joachim Taverne

I feel your pain ...
I got through a lot of trouble with my R33GTR even without taking it on a track...
OK at first, I may be was to in hurry and naive and picked the first one through an importer which was very questionable (but as always I learned it the hard way ... ).
My problem is to find someone who know those car enough to work on it ( not only tuning wise ) seem that it is a little beter in UK regaridng that.
Many of my friends don't understand why I don't get rid of it but it kept me afloat during a personnal struggle and that's the style of bond that are difficult to break.


I think more than ever before, the happiness of these cars is entirely down to the specialist shops that exist or you can take 'em to. When the cars were cheap(er), there seemed to be more demand - more customers, more shops and more competition. As the cars become rarer, and the focus of 'investment', suddenly the options either dry up or become very expensive.

Glad to hear you've persisted with it though. For all the hassle they give, it's a brilliant feeling to use that goes way beyond simply having a drive.


There's more options and parts than ever before though?

In Australia - even as prices go up, we are seeing more and more big builds come out, as well as the general accepted standard of build elevate even over the last 5 years (let alone last 10 years)

The Japanese havent been on the forefront of modified GTRs for a long, long time


Tuning parts? Absolutely, and i definitely agree that the quality of the parts out there is the highest it's ever been. You'd always default to Japanese parts because of the assumption they knew GT-Rs the best, but I'd argue what the likes of Nitto, Hypertune and Platinum are doing is another level. I remember seeing a Hypertune inlet manifold on the HKS R33 (on their stand) at TAS last year.

Standard stuff is becoming a PITA to track down though, because of the way the values are going. The bits exist out there, but so over-inflated are the prices it's often cheaper to fit better parts than keeping it OE. There's a guy down at RK Tuning who had an RB30 drag R34; huge-spec build. It's being put back to standard (even having the cage cut out) because it's worth more standard. Boggles the mind.

All i really want is a standard R34 GT-R ash tray which doesn't cost one hundred and fifty fucking pounds.


I didn't mean to laugh at your problems and frustration, but your writing is brilliant and more than a few paragraphs might have been written about me, so I couldn't help but chuckle out loud a few times. Good stuff Mark. This article truly sums up the euphoric highs and soul-crushing lows of owning an older/modified car.


Maybe try and ask if you can get it tuned at the track or at least have them go over the logs of a track test day. Sounds like some of the issues I had with oiling crank case blow by pressure and high g's. I had to add dry sumps to my builds but even then I can still corner too hard on the newer tires even with basic aero. The newer Porsches have a nice variable multi stage dry sump and good pick up point strategy, I think its one of the things that make them great track cars at least engine wise. If this is your favorite car but reliability is the issue going NA and getting the rotating assembly super balanced might be a way to go, boost and all the power you want are great but figuring out what rpm gearing and power you need could possibly make things go smoother.


Some good feedback and appreciate the suggestions. Being honest, the approach i'm taking with the rebuild is to focus on it being a stupidly fun road car more than track - being brutally honest i don't have the talent to utilise this kind of power (properly) on track, but that doesn't mean it can't be entertaining elsewhere. And i say that knowing at some point i'll end up back out on track, it's too tempting.

I've been toying with the idea of a dry sump for a while, but for the time being we're using the HKS oil pump, Trust enlarged/baffled sump as well as RK Tuning adding several additional drains from the head to help. Touch wood it didn't have oiling issues before, but assuming is never safe as i've found with this buil.


Hi before this gets closed out. Try a quick experiment with what ever your driving, Get a clear jar ¼ filled with water and tape it somewhere you can see it as you try a few of your favorite corners. Its not exactly like a crank case but it will give you an idea of how things are working. Wet sumps do work baffles and proper drain backs will help. But you just need to get the idea of how long and hard you can go (braking and launch g's too). There is also the Accusump system that gives a bit of a buffer but its so easy to be over 1g and throwing oil in the wrong direction for a one pick up solution. Logs are a good way to spot really bad issues but if the event isnt long enough you may not catch it and you need an actual oil pressure reading not just a cut off point. Also I always thought oil issues would show up in bearings and such but so much oiling is just splash related and will cushion parts or if you get too much in wrong lace fill up gaps like a tight valve lash or it can cause hot spots. High Boost adds blow by sometimes its enough to push oil in the wrong direction or even highly pressurize your crank case, Its not necessary for you bores or rings to be warn out its just about high boost and some setups, so just go over the vent set up and how long you can boost really hard, On some race set ups boost is always on but rebuilds are done every other race. Anyway none of this about a bad oil set up, just that its good to know what yours can do reliably.


I also put an Accusump on my BNR34. I mounted it in front of the engine, down low just above the plastic diffuser. I used an ATS crank damper, not the standard one because the ATS one is smaller and gave the clearance.


I think you get “used to” persevering with the break downs and repairs, so you just carry on .
I don’t feel any lust for any other cars , and amongst the shit, your very fond of the car when it’s pleasing you.
That’s what happened to me anyway.

Carlos Roncajolo

This was an article that hit home very hard for me. It described my relationship with my GTR to the EXACT detail. You never drive to enjoy the car (it will never give you that joy and pleasure, it will refuse to give you that). You only drive to shit your pants while waiting for any noise to make its presence felt, to see if something else broke, to see if something else needs fixing, etc. I literally laughed so hard because its exactly what i feel EVERY time i drive my GTR.

...and my GTR is beautifully kept and well maintained.


Good to hear i'm not alone in that feeling haha! What GT-R/spec have you gone for? It's often the trade-off with these cars. If it were simple or easy, everyone would be doing it. But the fact it's a bit of a pain makes you feel weirdly proud of persevering with it. Not always, but certainly some days.

Carlos Roncajolo

Certainly. There was a Pretolicious video not too long ago where the owner stated that we're not really owners of these cars but more so temporary caretakers and that's how I view my experience. I bought a low mileage (75k miles, not kms) 1989 R32 GTR from souther Japan in 2014 and arrived to Jacksonville, FL port in 2015. She's a beaut but she quickly turned into a never ending project car due to things breaking or need repair over the past 5 years. There isn't a stone that hasn't been turned over and I certainly have felt like torching the car several times over.

The majority of issues though, as I have come to find out, is that it all depends on the shop that you take your car to. I have been burned 3-4 times in 5 years.


I really enjoyed this article, more so than most others on here. It's frank, it's real, and really whether your modifying the most desirable car which often the R34 GTR is considered, or less desirable but still your favourite car, we all go through the same issues on varying levels. Sure, the outcome is what we all aim but the journey whether good or bad is often the most fun and satisfying of modifying a car. Thankyou.


Appreciate the kind words. I think you've hit the nail on the head there - it's the journey in between which often makes these cars. You reach a point where they suddenly mean a bit more than simply transport and/or a quick fun drive... which is lethal, because it makes 'em a right pig to sell in the future (if you need to).


Awesome build/ update and love your writing. Keep on keeping on and good luck with the new engine.

Marius Engen Skinnes

I recognize myself in this story. I've had several turbo-cars that I've tuned and now I have a almost stock 350Z. I really enjoy the reliability, but I miss having a turbo. I'm not sure if I'm willing to trade the reliability vs modifying the Z with a turbo-kit.


Grass is always greener, isn't it? I'd imagine the problem comes when it starts with a turbo at say 5-6psi... and then its all too tempting to go higher and higher before pain strikes. Still, a working car is infinitely more appealing than a broken one, so you've made the right choice.


I really enjoyed reading this post. All your pain and brutal honesty made it very engaging. I've never gone down the massively modified route because I'm scared of the pyramid effect - and the cost. So I read this and think I'm making the right choice... but then I look at the metal you own and think again!


There will always be exceptions to that rule, but i'd say you've made a pretty solid choice there. I've had a few GT-Rs in the past all at different stages of tune, and i'd say the most fun (and reliable) was an R33 GT-R running around 470bhp with HKS GT-SS turbos and a (fundamentally stock) engine.

The big power stuff, it becomes very addictive very quickly... and the bills can quickly spiral. It's been ten years since i last owned a GT-R, and i'd say being a bit older and patient has kept me sane, rather than trying to get everything ready yesterday. It'll be worth it eventually, fingers crossed!


Great article - one of the best on SH for a while. It feels like I've read the '...and now I have my dream car' story a thousand times and it's never as straight forward as that. Brilliantly written and honest - I hope the car behaves from now on for you.


Cheers Ric - i'll be covering the rebuild process next, and spoiler alert... it's not without its issues haha! Absolutely on the right path now however.


thoroughly enjoyable read, i remember going through this with my own where near as modified as your GTR but just having to deal with an old japanese car....also gotten past my last (fingers crossed) rebuild a few years ago and so far so good


When I was young and impressionable I once voiced my desire for a GTR to my mechanic (who was a veteran GTR tuner in Sydney), without pause he told me "if you want to maintain one GTR, you need to be able to afford to buy two, anything that goes wrong engine wise starts at 10k", good thing i was already busy with my dodgy E30s..


Be careful what you wish for is the first thing that comes to mind when reading this article. It reminds me of countless times the older wiley veterans utter the words, "A race car requires money and attention young man".

None-the-less you have quite the beautiful track car and it's outstanding to see that you never gave up on her.


Man what a great article! Subscribed to see future progress and the light at the end of this long long tunnel. Cheeers!


Supra owner here - this should be highlighted on every 'car fans' forum etc.
That stuff is expensive and RARELY works :(
It takes a lot of time and money (and trust issues...) to get the car where you want - and then you are stressed, that something might fail whenever you are in car... I absolutely love my ride, it looks fire, has ~420 hp, rides awesome - but something might fail at any time with those cars... Last season - coil packs (like 3 times, before switching from OEM), re-mapping (too rich), control arm (decided to break out of blue), battery lines, break line (even tho it was braided steel...) + a lot of smaller issues.

Never-ending story - when it works it is great, but it works rarely :(


I've had several really bad experiences with Terrible Disappointing Insufferable Tuning and wouldn't recommend them to my worst enemy. Hopefully you've turned a corner and with the right partners and more modern hardware you'll get some use and enjoyment. No reason you can't have a reliable and powerful car...plenty of inspiration from Motive and other guys that this is achievable. Stick at it!