Project Thirty-Four: The Big Winter Refresh… In Summer

“Get down here tomorrow. Your GT-R is going to be nothing but a shell by the end of it.”

I’m not sure if Steve Richardson is a closet sociopath or just really proud of his work. I think the answer lies somewhere in between both, because he insisted I visit SR Autobodies to watch my Skyline become a mass of bolts and washers.


A car I’ve obsessed over for many years. A car that – despite spending half its life being off the road – has still managed thousands of miles all around Europe. My GT-R holds mostly good memories, and some bad. But what car doesn’t?


It’s not broken. I even drove it to SR Autobodies without valves exiting the cylinder head. But, despite this being a solid, straight and rust-free car, it’s not exempt from needing a bit of TLC. The only difference here is that Steve – as you’ll quickly learn – is not a man who does things by halves.


He’s seen Skylines at their very worst and rebuilt ‘em to their absolute best. And actually, making me watch as 23-years of history is unravelled makes a lot more sense than I first gave credit to.


Because when you reach this point with a car, there are no longer any secrets. No jazzy bodykit masking past accidents and battle damage; no interior trim hiding that terrifying wiring. You might think you know your car, but if it’s got any skeletons, here is where they all come out.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past two years – which frankly doesn’t sound terrible given the current state of the world – you’ll be very aware that certain Japanese sports car prices have gone past ridiculous and now sit firmly in the ‘unwell’ bracket. Especially GT-Rs.


It’s a boring subject, and a massive shame too. The bulk of enthusiasts always viewed GT-Rs not as being cheap, but certainly attainable as they got a little older. Not anymore… unless you’ve stashed a load of crypto. But I’m fairly sure you can only drive a Huracan Performanté if that’s how you made your dosh.


Values may have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled, but the same can’t be said for their quality. That surge in collectability has meant most good GT-Rs are now being sat on by collectors as future investments, and the cars left behind end up with a massively inflated price or needing work. A lot of work.


Steve and the team at SR Autobodies know this fact better than most. They are to Skylines what rehab is to drug-addled celebrities – a necessary step required to get their lives back on track, ready to release a fitness DVD just in time for Christmas.


Fronted by Steve Richardson, you’d be forgiven in assuming that his SR Autobodies is named after his initials. It’s not. The name actually refers to the cars he’s come to specialise in over the years – S-body Silvias and R-body Skylines.. Although it’s safe to say that GT-Rs now account for almost all of Steve’s work.


“What we see a lot of is people who’ve spent good money on these cars assuming they’re going to be mint, only to find out they’re the complete opposite,” Steve explains.

“On the flip side of that, we then have owners like you Mark, who have used these cars for years before they were super expensive. But now they’re needing to restore and protect them like an asset rather than just a car, because of their values. We’re not interested in just doing quick patch-up repairs. We’re in this business to preserve these cars for generations to come, and that often means re-engineering the work from the factory too.”


That last point is quite important. Yes, we all know Japanese cars of this era were built without the use of any real rustproofing or underseal – something which is exacerbated the moment one comes to a country like England – but there are fundamental design flaws in all Skylines which Steve and his team set out to rectify.


From insufficient water drainage to sealant being missed or simply not used at all, Skylines were far from the pinnacle of engineering back in the late 1990s. However, give anything 800bhp and you’ll forgive most its shortcomings… that’s been my motto here.


You’ll always reach a point where intervention is necessary, and values aside this has been on the cards for over two years now. It had to be; Steve’s workshop is booked up well into 2024 and he’s not making an exception for me – I’ve been in line just like everyone else. I can tell you already, it’s absolutely worth the wait.


The pride Steve takes in his work – even while stripping a car – somehow feels overkill for a poxy old Nissan, and he’s been doing this long before the six-figure Skyline was a thing. During that waiting period, Steve and the SR team get to know you both as an individual but also an owner to establish what it is you want from your restoration.


Everyone is charged and treated the same; you can’t buy yourself to the front of the queue regardless of how many Skylines you own.

Steve’s not in the business of churning out quick work for quick cash. He’s much more of a craftsman, which has been the biggest eye-opener for me so far. We’re all familiar with switching up a set of wheels, changing the bodywork and other ‘typical’ aesthetic values. But I’ve never given any thought to the underside of a car, beyond it being clean and fitted with some nice suspension bits.


“Have a think as to what colourway you want to run with,” was one of Steve’s first questions to me. “You’ve got Bayside Blue exterior, so do you want the underside the same colour or do you want it black? Because that will also dictate what colour we plate all the bolts and other parts too. Typically, you’ll want to use maybe two or three colours throughout otherwise it’ll start to look messy.”


What a horrible first world problem. To me, it seems silly to spend so much time, money and effort on a complete underside restoration only to black everything out or leave it OEM. Little about this car is original; I get that approach on a bone-stock V-Spec, but less so on this. That’s not to say I want it to be too shouty or lairy.


How you convert that to the underside goes beyond me, but this is Steve’s bread and butter. After showing me several past examples,we settled on a grey underside to make the engine bay and exterior colour really stand out. Check out this example for inspiration. Details will be picked out in the form of the Ikeya arms, zinc plating and silver subframes, while the remaining ‘goodies’ will be blacked out to tie everything together. The only thing left now was to get stripping…


It’s a strange feeling watching your car be pulled apart. Mainly the feeling that, a few hours earlier, I could’ve put it up for sale and cashed out rather than throw more money at it. But as you’re reading this update, you already know my brain is wired incorrectly.


The thing is, because of those values, this will likely be the last GT-R I ever own. And when I’m old and watching re-runs Fast & Furious 31 on ITV2, I’d like to think I built an R34 ‘back in the day’ to the best of my ability. Even if that ability means paying SR Autobodies to do it instead…


“You’ve caught this just at the right time,” adds Steve. “Being a Harlow Jap Autos car, it’s super clean underneath. There’s no damage to the jacking points, there’s no sign of past crash damage and no rust either. You have a couple of small points beginning to bubble under the layers, but we can bring that back without any real hassle.”


‘The main work will be stripping all the underside to bare metal, and then welding the rear arches. The lips have been cut back in Japan for extra clearance on the TE37s but not welded. They’ve done a nice job… I’m amazed it hasn’t rusted or separated. But it needs properly sealing.”


Not that it’s all been plain sailing…

In the game of Japanese wiring bingo, I’ve got a full house. Starting with the headlights which have previously had strobes fitted, albeit the bulbs removed but the loom left intact. That also runs alongside wiring for a bunch of underbody neons which, truthfully, I’d happily run again for a laugh.


It arrived running on an HKS F-CON engine management system before being switched to a Link G4 a year into my ownership. Yet, it still has the wiring for an A’PEXi Power FC hidden under the carpet. And the cigarette lighter – the easiest live feed to draw from – feeds eight separate sources. Not a typo. Eight.


The one small live feed has not only powered a USB phone charger, but also a turbo timer. A pump for the differential cooler, a pump for the gearbox cooler, a set of six Defi gauges, an HKS lap timer (hidden under the carpet) and more. It’s hilariously Japanese; an exercise in professional bodging, but a slight fire hazard. Needless to say, the wiring is going back to factory.


If I were someone who wore manufacturer-branded gilets and used the word ‘asset’ a lot, the idea of a Skyline costing £150,000 before restoration would leave me feeling physically sick. That’s 991 Porsche GT3 RS or Ferrari 488 money, and I’m pretty sure they don’t have three different ECU looms in ‘em.


But that’s a very black and white outlook. Skyline GT-Rs were never meant to be priced like those kinds of cars; they were performance bargains capable of embarrassing exotics with a little bit of tuning.


Every random modification tells a different story. This is a car that’s lived over its lifetime, even if at points it maybe should’ve skipped certain owners. It’s been raced, it’s been tuned and it’s glowed its tits off around Tokyo late at night.


That makes it properly entertaining in my eyes. Way more than a car simply garaged its life with total focus on (low) mileage. The most interesting people you meet have led the most interesting lives, and I think the same goes for cars. Long may that continue, because a car not being used is just a big expensive paperweight.

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni

DSC03215 copy 2


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I cannot wait to see the end result!


Excellent! I have had my eye on these guys for my s15 one day.

Please can you give us an idea of the time and cost involved?

Can’t wait to see the finished result, would you want to drive it afterwards or sell it?


I'll try and go into more of a time/cost breakdown in the next update for you - i've thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for Steve as i'm having the bodywork repainted in the middle of it all (turned out just about every panel was either chipped or painted a different shade) so there's more time/work going into it from Steve's side than 'just' having the underside done.

But it's not a cheap process, because of how labor-intensive it is. So you'll need to budget a few few thousand assuming theres no additional damage/rust to tackle as well. As for hours involved? I dread to think, but i'll pick Steve's brain next time i'm down.

Drive or sell, i firmly want to keep using it and that's been one of the deciding factors in terms of what colour to do parts of the underside too. But how it feels driving around once it's mint, i think might be quite stressful to begin with...


Thank you for the update. Yes, I do not think I would like to drive a fully restored car, I can imagine it feeling stressful. I have a black r8 in my fleet and I have purposefully left the bodywork as I found it years ago so it never puts me off giving its wheels off.


Great car and great article. Big fan of your work Mark, both for Speedhunters and TopGear. I often find myself revisiting your articles in my downtime because your writing style is so entertaining and the images are always top-notch. Really appreciate the work you put in


Appreciate the kind words Jett! I think for a lot of us on Speedhunters especially, it's a form of escapism and a reminder to everyone that car culture is a bonkers thing to be a part of. Rarely does it make sense, but so long as it's (still) fun it doesn't need to either.


My car is currently in with Steve undergoing a full resto. Amazing level of detail goes in to his work and seeing the pictures just gets me excited about seeing the car once it’s complete. I can relate to this article.


It's something else isn't it? Genuinely feels a shame to hide all that work afterwards, but knowing it's taken care of will continue to look stunning for years to come makes it all worthwhile.


Awesome article this really shows the passion Steve put in to his craft


Passion is absolutely the right word - without that i don't think you'd last five minutes doing this. The knowledge required goes far beyond simply knowing how to make parts pretty again.


There's just something psychologically DELICIOUS about taking a machine apart, cleaning all the pieces, refinishing them the way they should've been done in the first place and putting it all back together.

And for such a wonderful car. I wish you the best results.


Cue the snowball effect, gee that intercooler looks a bit nasty now - better get a new one.... times 1000 :)
Nice work Mark!


Don't... we've already noticed the water pump is due a replacement!


If you're interested in speed, tinkering on a machine, making changes to understand how cars work and visceral feedback you'd have to be a moron to buy a road car these days.

I laugh so hard when I see the prices. No real point any more to this stuff if the goal is speed and experience. I think road cars are just becoming like rolex dive watches now. You buy them to flex...mean while no one who actually dives or uses a watch for tactical reasons is buying that brand.

It's all just becoming laughable. Good article but I'd never spend my money on something like this no matter how much hp it has. You can go much faster for a lot cheaper when it comes to circuit driving which is what I'm interested in.

Road cars are just collectors items now imo...


I'm inclined to agree with you for the most part, i think the only bit which i'd expand on is the fact that - with how fast modern stuff is - if you're prepared to leave all the investment/collecting nonsense aside, you can have something incredibly fast for not a whole lot of money. Like a mapped F80 M3 or Mk7 Golf R, both would pee all over the biggest-power Skylines both on track and road.

But... to then come back to your point, once you're at that level you're then doing idiot speeds on the road and risking a giant accident. So you might as well go to the track, but then a dedicated track car will be infinitely faster anyway.

The only thing i would say, is that people (and myself included) buy cars not only for their performance, but the feeling they give you too. Let's be honest a digital Casio is infinitely more accurate than any Rolex - or any watch with a movement - but that doesn't stop you appreciating the engineering that's gone into 'em and the feeling you get owning one (aside from the obvious flex). And the same goes for certain cars, not just the expensive collectible ones.


Hey Mark,

Gotta say I agree with everything you responded with. I think that is what people are going to realize more and more especially if (big IF I hope) electric cars phase out gasoline cars per globalist wet dreams.

Yeah the funny thing is you can take a 911 and add a turbo to it and take it to a track and add slicks or a skyline, rx7, miata, etc etc. By the time you run a decent lap time theres specialized track stuff for 40-80k that will chop 6-8 seconds off those lap times of your .

I really like this feature for the record. I love the disassembly and reassembly process and it was so cool to see a GT-R presented in this fashion. Really like what you're doing and wish I could afford something like this lol. But I have to stick my race cars since I'm a cheap skate :P


That gilet line was class :D

Put gojira aside for one sec - that Starlet looks spicy eh?


The Starlet makes the GT-R feel incredibly safe in comparison. I'll do a proper story on that soon, it is hilarious.


That really make me mad when I read an article that a car is bought as investment ....
I just wanna hang the buyer by his balls ...


Generationally, this has happened before. How do you think the true hotrod muscle-car guys felt when the price of 60's vette's, or 30's fords, or etc.... started going throught the roof in the mid-2000's?


Good point Andrew - i think the investment aspect is a much bigger discussion. I don't despise it, it's a lot more fun than sticking your cash in an ISA with naff-all interest for 10-years. But, like anything, there will always be those who take it to the extreme. I can't help but feel there's a lot of people paying a lot of money for cars currently who aren't doing it for enjoyment.

If you take the opinion that you're buying a car to enjoy without the intention of selling it, truthfully it doesn't matter what it costs so long as you can afford it. And if you make money at the end? Bonus, but if you don't? You still got to enjoy a car for a good few years.


Looking at the condition of the underside, and also others in Steves instagram feed makes me glad we don't salt our roads here in NZ! I'm actually currently refreshing my R34 GTR as well, and as coincidence would have it, last night I had all the rear suspension hardware spread over my floor cleaned up and ready to go be re plated


Unfortunately the Brits as a nation cannot be trusted to run winter tyres - or even all-seasons - so we've no choice but to salt the roads at every given opportunity. It's amazing how quickly it can rip through the underside and even the paint, but truth be told we have it pretty easy with tuning cars over here (touch wood) so a small price to pay.


Lovely job. Having imported a Bayside Vspec II, now residing at Torque GT, I shouldn’t see things like this. Mine was Grade 4.5 B and by all intent, very fresh. Gutted doesn’t come close..


That was (is!) a lovely-looking thing, What replaced it?


i remember an article (most probably a SH article) where a carrera was on a trailer going to a show an the trailer had a crash leaing to an "investment loss". At that point i cemented my decision: buy a car that you're not scared to lose it; if its value skyrocketed drive it just before its/your limit; shit always will find you one way or the other.


I have a high mileage slightly ratty NSX and doing this is my absolute dream. Keep the coverage coming!!