Teaching Nissan’s Old Dog Some 2020 Tricks

If you’d told me at the start of the year that Tokyo Auto Salon 2020 would house a wide-body, naturally-aspirated Skyline slammed on air suspension I’d have put money on it coming from the Liberty Walk stables.

And in hindsight I should’ve got my wallet out, because that’s exactly what happened as Dino handily explained. But tucked away from the glitz, glamour and heavily-zoomed lenses trained to seek out the promou girlsu of Makuhari Messe’s Central Hall was another Skyline boasting the same credentials. A genuine GT-R courtesy of Garage Active.

One of these Skylines pushes the boundaries of what’s physically possible with an R34 chassis. The other combines almost 30 years of R&D to create what can only be described as an R32 GT-R in its final form. And that’s a bold statement, but I’ll stick my neck on the line right now and say this is one of the most incredible Skylines I’ve ever seen.


But before we get into the nitty-gritty, I’ve got a little confession to make: Despite being a self-proclaimed GT-R addict – functioning somewhere scarily close to the spectrum – I’d never actually heard of Garage Active until a few years ago. In fact, I wrongly assumed they were relatively new to the game given their lack of social media footprint.

Turns out they’re one of the longest-standing GT-R tuners in the world, first opening their doors back in July 1992. But while Yokohama and Chiba made the likes of Top Secret and Mine’s household names, Garage Active took a much more under-the-radar approach over in Fukuoka, first offering general GT-R maintenance before expanding to provide a one-stop shop for all Skyline-shaped headaches.


It wasn’t until 2017, or rather their first time exhibiting at Tokyo Auto Salon, that gaijin like me finally took notice of ‘em. Sumimasen, Garage Active.

What struck me most about Garage Active’s arsenal is that every build followed a specific theme predetermined by their president Kazushige Sakamoto. On a platform like Auto Salon it’s easy to throw every part at a car in the hope some YouTuber will use five jump-cuts to introduce the ‘Wildest Car Ever!’. While that works for some, it’s not how Sakamoto-san does business.


This is a man who, despite being old enough to call me his son, still manages to look more youthful than me. He dresses in smart, designer gear, but he’s the first to get his hands dirty. To this date he is the only man I’ve seen unload a car transporter without misplacing a single hair. Spend even two minutes in his company and you quickly understand why Active’s GT-Rs look and function the way they do.


“In Japan, there are [GT-R] shops that can make a fast car, but very few will focus on a super-clean and cool style,” Sakamoto-san explains, removing his phone from his pocket. “At Garage Active, we are aiming to create a GT-R with a good balance of style, speed and cleanliness inside and out.”


There’s a slight irony to this statement as Sakamoto-san loads up a video of their 2019 demo car – the blue Active Carbon-R – which happens to have 900hp and runs 9-second ¼-miles with himself behind the wheel. But crucially, that was always the goal with the blue car; to show the world that Active can hang with the best when it comes to building a balls-out, big-power GT-R.

Keen not to compromise their style, Sakamoto-san runs at the drag strip (and touge) in full street trim with 18-inch ‘show’ wheels and air suspension. Turn up, raise hell, go home. Check out the following film for proof.

And on the other end of the Active spectrum is the red Carbon-R pictured here…


Where exactly do you start with a car like this? First off, let’s establish the idea behind the red Carbon-R, as imagined by Sakamoto-san. “Until this point, we had always focused on cars which chased power. But there is much more to the GT-R platform than power. We wanted to build a more grown-up Skyline. One that is comfortable to drive, but with the best exterior and interior possible. Oh, and engine sound and response is very important. This is why we chose no turbochargers and an RB30.”


Within approximately 0.48-seconds of posting these images on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, the eagle-eyed amongst you queried why the car was advertised as being RB30-powered, yet the cam cover clearly states it’s an RB31. Well, like a modern school sports day, we’re all winners here. The engine block – as shown by Active’s properly cool custom chassis plaque – is an RB30E traditionally found in the R31 Skyline and VL Holden Commodore.

This block and crank remains standard, but the rest has been built to Active’s own spec including a ported and polished RB26 head fitted with 292-degree cams, oversized valves, solid lifters and double valve springs allowing it to flow all the way to 9,000rpm. 87mm pistons matched with custom con-rods give the Active R32 a total displacement of 3,066cc and a power output of 348PS with not a turbo in sight. That’s then sent to the rear wheels (no 4WD) via an OS Giken 6-speed sequential transmission for good measure.


The fact the billet throttle bodies and tubular exhaust manifold just so happens to look like a work of art is a handy bonus which backs up Sakamoto-san’s claim of building a GT-R with equal measures of style and performance.

And then you get to the exterior. Every panel with the exception of the door handles has been reproduced in-house and in carbon fibre by Active. From afar it looks like a traditional respray (nicknamed TKO Red), but peer a little closer and the carbon weave is easily visible through each panel. What’s more, the perfectly aligned carbon gives an insight into how much work Active have put into this bodykit.


I’m not usually a fan of wide-body GT-Rs, mainly because they’re pretty much wide-body as standard. But the way Active has retained the OE shape is bang on the money in my eyes. The Nismo-style spats, N1 vents and side steps are all aero tweaks I’d do on a stock body. Throw the arches into the mix and it’s more like a GT-R which has had a few special injections down at the local gym.

Elephant in the room time; its stance. Looks properly good, doesn’t it? But before I hear cries of practicality, you’ll be both surprised and not surprised to learn it’s on air suspension – just like Active’s blue Carbon-R mentioned earlier on.

The air suspension debate is one that will always polarise opinions, which roughly translates to 50% of people shouting good things and 50% of people shouting bad things. But 100% of people shouting. So, before we open a 140psi can of worms, let’s hear from Sakamoto-san to explain his choice which handily protects us from the boiling pot that is the Speedhunters comments section.


“Understand that the red Carbon-R theme is a car than can drive comfortably with good speed, comfort and style,” he says. ‘It’s not a car built to race. It’s not built for maximum speed. It’s a fun street car, which must look good and drive good in both city and countryside. Air suspension technology is very good these days and provides the best balance for our demo car. What a customer wants is their choice however.”


Whatever your view is on air, it’s refreshing to see a technology we’ve come to accept as commonplace on newer models making its way into the older, more traditional markets. Garage Active aren’t afraid to push the boundaries with GT-R tuning. In fact, they’re currently finishing an electric steering conversion for this very car. You could argue this loses some of the feel compared to a hydraulic rack, but it’ll also improve the drivability, especially at low speed. Because not everyone fancies a workout when they go for a drive.


The same theme is carried on with the interior, too. There’s a roll cage, it’s partially stripped out and sports two bucket seats. Yet every panel is trimmed in leather (including parts of the cage), there’s sat nav, air con and even carpets. It’s almost confusing as it’s neither ready for the track nor is it a luxury Grand Tourer, especially when you factor in the OS88 6-speed sequential ‘box complete with LED gear shift indicator. But that’s what makes it brilliant. Comfort, Bluetooth audio and instant gear shifts. It’s a fantastically Japanese approach to getting the best of both worlds.


Truth be told, you could pore over the details for hours. Every component from the exterior to the interior has been carefully planned and matched to create a ‘total package’ GT-R, which in reality is the result of nearly 30 years’ experience obtained by Sakamoto-san and his team. On paper it shouldn’t work, but in reality it’s a game changer.


Given the state of the used car market, specifically those ’80s and ’90s performance bargains – which are no longer bargains – it’s properly refreshing to see tuners like Active pushing the boundaries in a scene otherwise obsessed with phrases like ‘appreciating classic’ and restoring cars to standard in the quest for maximum value.


That aspect will always exist to some degrees. But thanks to people like Sakamoto-san, the tuning culture which made the GT-R a cult classic is the same culture which will ensure its future for the next generation in a rapidly changing automotive world. And that’s worth celebrating every day of the week.

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni

Garage Active 1994 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R

RB30 engine block, RB26 head, 3,066cc displacement, 292-degree cams with oversized valves a& double valve springs, Active exhaust system including tubular manifold, Rising Sports fuel injection with Active delivery pipe, Active billet throttle bodies, DRL radiator, 87mm forged pistons & custom con-rods, Active head porting & polishing

ATS Carbon clutch, OS Giken OS88 6-speed sequential gearbox (RWD), ATS Carbon differential, T-Demand traction rods, upper arms & suspension, Nismo lower arms, GK Tech front upper arms, Active 4-piston big brake kit (front &rear), Work Seeker MX wheels 18×11.5-inch front & rear, Toyo 295/30R18 semi-slick tyres

Exterior & Interior
Active full carbon wide-body kit, Active TKO Red body colour, one-off Active roll cage, interior leather re-trimmed with rear seat cover, Active carbon steering wheel

Thanks to Kazushige Sakamoto, Hikaru Motoda and the rest of Garage Active for making time after Tokyo Auto Salon to shoot ahead of their long drive back to Fukuoka.



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Naveed Yousufzai



rear camber seems unnecessary since the contact patch is reduced. but hey, it's not my car so whatever


"It’s not a car built to race. It’s not built for maximum speed. It’s a fun street car"

Don't ask me where I got that quote, it certainly wasn't from the article you're responding to.


It's on air.


I dont know much about r32 rear suspensions, do they have camber added when lowering like some civics do because of a short upper arm and a much longer lower arm?

to someone who doesn't know those cars "its on air" doesn't makes sense as that would have nothing to do with camber in some vehicles (older VW's for example)


It gives you a hint to go and educate yourself


yes yes, because adding context to a comment is too much to ask and everyone has infinite time to educate themselves about every subject in the world. Thanks tips!


Feel free to ignore him. It's the Speedhunters comment section as the article writer even mentions. The rear camber can be created by lowering the car on air suspension and not adjusting the arms accordingly as you mentioned. Having said that, most cars gain camber just by lowering. To get more aggressive camber, that's usually done intentionally. I'm no guru with this stuff I've just read enough articles on this site and seen enough cars on air and personally had a lowered car (on springs, still gained the camber!). But this almost looks somewhat intentional to me. Those are also MASSIVE rear wheels and thick tires so I'd also be willing to wager it's a by-product of being fully lowered. The fact that it retains the camber when aired up to driving height, as per the one picture, leads me to believe it's set that way on purpose. Again i'm not an expert at all, I've just read some articles on here about it and looked very briefly into it myself. My friend also previously had a 370Z on air and his camber was never like that.

Hope that helps a little bit bud!


If it interests you then of course you find time. If not, move on.

Seriously. You see an extremely low car with excess rear camber and someone tells you it's on air suspension. If your brain doesn't say "Camber gain!", better go and read a book. Books are those weird old things in libraries which are big buildings. Books contain information. The information can be acquired by reading carefully.


It's nice to see you've clearly read those books and decided to share your infinite wisdom with us on this forum. Oh wait, you didn't. So either be helpful or just don't say anything at all. No need to be such a downer when he simply asked a question.


Thank you for posting this feature, Mark! The moment I first saw the trumpets on the RB when this car popped up on IG, I got really excited. Particularly with the 31 displacement! I've been building a car for the last 2 years that also features a fully built N/A RB and I am really pleased to see more and more N/A examples popping up with frequency as of late. This car has been masterfully built with the utmost attention to detail. Doesn't hurt that I am a huge sucker for the aesthetics of the R32 as well. Now I have to go watch the video on my mobile since I am blocked from videos at work.



Man, that header is a work of art.


Soo, pretty much the perfect street car for a racer. Its a chill car that is way faster and cooler then your avarage tuner, its like a FORZA build. Great work from Sakamoto-san and his team.


Nissan needs to put a V-8 in the Maxima.


Sadly their Jatco CVTs can't even handle v6 power


Toyota did. NASCAR is the answer to your wishes...


this is exactly why i love the comments section


I am completely shocked that it looks like welds are supporting the roll cage instead of bolts on a Japanese tuner car. Shocked, I tell you.




Garage Active finished the car on the Wednesday before Auto Salon before taking it 1100km by transporter to Makuhari Messe for the very next day. As the car wasn't registered (yet) it had no other option. But it'll be properly used just like every other demo car.


This is perfection in red.


Just out of curiosity, do these cars actually drive around without air filters or are the filter boxes removed for the photo shoot?

Not being sarcastic this time. I genuinely want to know.


I can't speak for this car (as it'd only just been finished for the show) but Garage Active run their turbo GT-Rs minus air filters. It's not something i'd do, but from an aesthetics POV it does look quite cool. I'd imagine the ITBs will recieve some kind of mesh filter before being used properly.


Show cars don't drive in dirty air.


What the heck?


Except for the stance (which does look cool, but wouldn't be my pick), this is bloody great.
This is exactly what I dream of when imagining a street tuned car with style and class. A little bit of racing blood in it with partially stripped interior, but then again beautifully included into the overall style. The highly tuned but showcar like engine bay (going for NA is a dream too). The colour is also a great choice, looks kind of mature.

This way of tuning is imo the best of both worlds and this car is a jewel.
Thanks for the article about it!


A Skyline GTR with ITBs is heavenly


You know that the RB26DETT came stock with ITBs, right...?

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I think he meant exposed ITBs. LOL!


Look at his reply to my reply. I think he didn't, lol.


Pulsar GTIR did as well :)


That's super cool!


Perfect. Comfortable enough to drive from one end of Japan to the other, capable enough to visit more than a few touge along the way - exactly my kind of car. I just wish we could hear it...


Although the car was running (at the time of shooting) we were also in a hotel car park @ 7am and had been told by reception to keep the noise down. But once the Active guys have some footage of it being used in anger we'll get it shared on social.


WTF...?? Did I miss something...are we NOT going to talk about the wheels??? Either I don't know $hit about tuner wheels and those are standard run of the mill items, or I missed something. Those wheels are absolutely perfect! Seems like the builder would start by picking those wheels and building the entire car around them. The color scheme, dimensions, and tire fitment are a perfect match. I love that they don't sport a stretch...but hate there is daylight under the outer tread patch on the rear. Rear quarter view looks like something broke. I'd rock those on my Chevy all day!


I think a lot of people would've gone for a more traditional dished design (like a Work Meister or SSR SP1) but you're right, the Seeker MX have been spec'd perfectly for the car and follows the theme of being a 'different' take on an R32 without trying to go too modern. They've used the same wheels on their blue GT-R in the past too.


I love the gloss black hoop look, but I just haven't been able to commit based on the practicality of the abuse from constant cleaning. I've had to spray WD-40 on tar and gravel to loosen it up before trying to wash and polish my wheels. Gloss black would instantly be destroyed.


I Agree this build is worth celebrating everyday. I personally enjoy race tracks, but most of the day of the year I used my car to work, groceries, mall and long road trips. Seeing brilliant builds like this makes the car more enjoyable daily.


Couldn't agree more


Wow - incredibly clean and detailed, though I do wonder why they started with a GTR instead of a GTST if they wanted RWD?


According to Hikaru Motoda from Active, while they could've used a GTS/GTS-T as a base, their business is focused on GT-Rs and as such wanted to use the 32 GT-R to show what was possible.


The RB30E has never been in any R32. It was in the R31 on some export markets.


Typo on our behalf which is now updated.


Very beautiful car, except for the oversized roll cage gussets (heavy, unnecessary, just for looks, that doesn't even look good) and the poor contact patch on the rear tires. If the air drop causes then the suspension needs to be modified to correct it. Hate it when the build strays so far from the race pedigree.


One thing to keep in mind is, the images above were all taken (with the exception of the rolling shot) at full aired-out height where the wheels - especially the rears - camber in the lower it goes. When it's at a driving height the camber is far less prominent.


The Perfect R32 !!!!!!!!!!! It'S Crazy ! So Beautiful !


Strangely even though its N/A I am liking the overall presentation of the car. That carbon styling is awesome.


very very very very very nice bit of kit right there


Sweet one, any audio with that engine?


See in the comments below. They couldn't make it at that time but it will come later


Nice car and work but ...
I always feel a little disappointed to see that sort of modification on a GTR (mainly the suppression of 4WD system).
Don't get me wrong, the end result is astonishing and superb but with such extent of modifications I always wonder why not starting with a gtst model instead ?


We put this to Garage Active and their response was basically down to the fact that they're primarily a GT-R tuner/shop. So while the N/A & RWD configuration could've been used with a GTS, because they're known for GT-R tuning and that's what their customers bring to 'em, they used a GT-R as the base to show what was possible.


I mean they aren't wrong coming from the point of being "GT-R tuners" but they basically replaced everything that differs GT-R from non-GT-R models (Engine, transmission, awd system and factory widebody) so it's rather pointless imo (unless I miss something and Nissan pulled same trick with R32 as with R30 when Turbo RS body had significant difference in mounting points of subframe and transmission from other 4 cylinder models and from 6 cylinder models).


Made sense. Just my purist part which knock on the door here :)
And my apologies, I miss the comment that already ask the same question ...


i ve sold my 32....but now i badly want this one


Pure filth! <3


Singer was on to something. This thing is spectacular. If my wallet was bottomless I’d be buying one. For the pleasure of driving. And looking and listening..........

Datsun Restomods

Gorgeous. The color, stance, bodywork are all perfect.

If it were mine, I'm not sure I'd bother with a roll cage (given relatively moderate power and extra weight), and I'd keep the back seat given the streetable theme (ie: air suspension - GREAT idea BTW).

Curious what she weighs w/o AWD and carbon panels?

Either way, it's a shame you couldn't supply a sound clip of the NA RB with ITBs and 9K redline...


I need some time alone with these pictures............


Cool, it kinda reminds me of the one built in britain in the late 90s with flip paint and hydraulics


Bloody hell there's a blast from the past - Revs cover car back in 2003. Believe Rayvern did the hydraulics back in the day. Thankfully the Active one's come on a fair bit since then...


Thats the one, I thought it was earlier than 2003. Wonder what happened to that car, it seemed to only turn up at a couple of shows than disapeared


nom nom nom


I drooled over the keyboard.......again......haih........


As amazing as the car is, that Youtube video is something else. That may be the best homage to 90's Japanese tuner VHS's I've ever seen.


Seriously impressed that they went above and beyond with the carbon body work. Seriously they did the WHOLE rear quarter panel, not just carbon fenders! Can anyone tell if they did the a-pillars too?


That roll cage is WOW! Car looks fantastic. ITB's on a inline 6 *falls over*


It's funny reading all the hate re: excessive negative camber/wheel tuck. I must admit that I dislike it myself, but hey, it's a demo car. The workshop is demonstrating what it can do. There's talk about suspension geometry being wrong etc. but it's sitting on air suspension - sure you can get adjustable links and square up the wheels to maximise contact patch etc., but it's just a photoshoot. Why do people get so hung up on it all? Is it just me or are someone people not thinking outside the box and/or want to make the world a uniform place? I don't like the colour, but it just means I won't ever spray my car in the same hue. I don't need to tell the word. *sigh*


87.5mm pistons not 87mm to get that capacity out of a Nissan RB30 with standard stroke.
Love the carbon body work and the colour but not a fan of the extreme camber. Sort that out and it would be perfect.


One of these Skylines pushes the boundaries of what’s physically possible with an R34 chassis.

OT but care to elaborate on the above?


Hello world! Pay attention, please. This is how to widebody!
What a thing of beauty. I take my hat off. Massive respect for keeping it low-key, while being the absolute best of the best.