Project Nissan Skyline GT-R R33 – Part 1: I finally have one!

So, crest-fallen Pablito made-do the best he could, landing a then-new 97 M3 sedan—the ultimate sleeper at the time, and yet another car he’d been dreaming about since the coupe’s 1995 debut. But it was one fateful day in 2000, when he landed a job as an intern for european car Magazine, that everything changed. At EC, Pablito became Pablo, and my car world began to really open wide. I loved European cars–even built up my own ’86 Porsche 951 and ’95 BMW M3 (aka “Vader M3) that some old timers may recall. We had sister magazines like Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, which Mike Kojima wrote for, and Turbo Magazine, where I later started Project Supra in 2003—the same one I’ve done here in MotoIQ (it was originally white back then).

But oh, that elusive Skyline, it would never leave my thoughts. But vivid was the day in the then-McMullen Argus Publishing underground parking lot where I saw IT—my first R33 Skyline GT-R! I waxed dumb as I fumbled my way into the office of Sean Morris (then of Turbo Magazine), after I learned he was the envied owner. I learned how he got it Stateside, and learned of Motorex (where he had also worked at). I wasted no time visiting and riding in a couple of the Motorex cars—although they only had R32’s and the owner’s blue R34 for me to experience. I’ll never forget the feeling of right-hand-drive in the crowded streets of L.A. It was daunting, to say the least.

Sadly, I couldn’t afford a Motorex-imported Skyline at the time—but I knew my future jumped to a different wormhole. By the way, if Sean’s name rings a bell, that’s because it’s indeed the same Sean who’s today among the most well-known GT-R gurus in the USA. For many years his company, Top Rank International, has been the largest Skyline importer on the West Coast.

Fast forward to January, 2020. When the words “25 year rule” comes to mind, y’all know what I was thinking. While the rest of the world was thinking of the inevitable end of the world through Covid-19 and the election, all I could think about was that R33 Skylines were now legal to import to the USA!!
(I mean no disrespect to anyone who’s lost loved ones from Covid-19 by the above statement)

Before I knew it, I was in the hunt to import one. If I were still living in California, I undoubtedly would have gone through Top Rank. However, since I have been living in Midwest for the past 15 years, I started to go through SDR Garage since they had a few local cars and were just a few hours drive in Illinois. There, JC Chavez was tremendous in trying to help me find what I was looking for. We communicated for weeks, and he was so patient with me. You could also feel his shared enthusiasm for Skyline GT-Rs (as a GT-R owner himself), and helping someone fulfill their dreams of owning one.

I can’t thank JC enough, but on the very night I was going to leave a deposit with SDR on a Midnight Purple R33 in Japan, I fortuitously came upon one online that was in Florida, but in a color I had never seen before. It was called “Dark Grey Pearl” (color code KN6), and only 670 GT-Rs were made in that color. That was 4% production (versus 15% for the Purple, for example).

Buying a GT-R with original paint was a must for me. And because it had also been in the hands of Sean Kirby of Poor People Racing (aka “East Coast Sean” of the GT-R gurus) as the most recent caretaker, he could confirm for me the good condition that it was in. In fact, his words were that this GT-R was the in the top 10% cleanest imported GT-Rs he’d yet seen, being now 20 years in the business. He sent me pictures of behind any carpeted areas in places he’d often find rust in other cars, like inside the B-pillars behind the doors here (the bottom there is just a little dirty)…
…or inside the trunk, which is a common rust area for these cars as well.

The car looked great to me. Although my plans to drive to Florida and to trailer it back to KC fell through for Covid reasons, I pulled the trigger anyway and sent the money to Meara Image Motorsports, an exotic car dealership and detail shop in Sarasota, Florida. Owner Christoper Meara spent a lot of time with me on the phone, and I felt comfortable enough to take that chance.

At one point the transporter called me to ask me what the deal was with this thing, because he seemed to be making a lot of “friends” on his trip. One of these was this R32 GT-R owner somewhere in Illinois. The transporter let him take a picture in front of his truck with my car on the top. I still don’t know who this GT-R owner was—comment below if you’re seeing this!


  1. This was a really cool start to the project, looking forward to more updates. I don’t think I’ve seen an R33 in person yet, a couple guys in our area have R32s that made the trip overseas.

    Loved seeing all the old photos and magazine articles. A fun blast from the past, just like your last article on the Fikse wheels for Project Supra.

  2. In the last four-or-so years I’d only done 1 article (Nitto tires on Supra), and that was 2 years ago. These last four articles I worked on (Supra P19, and now GTR P1-3 articles) have happened in the the span of three weeks, and boy have I enjoyed doing them. The Nostalgia has made them extra special to me (and yes of course these are some awesome parts too!). So I thank you very much for your feedback, Andy! As you can see, I am far from exaggerating the excitement I have conveyed. Shoot, I even just got back from a little errand in the R33–maybe that’s why I’m rambling. 😊

  3. Have always a soft spot for R33’s over the others, I think it may be because of the original Gran Turismo. Just an amazing machine, back when Nissan was actually cool. Accidently found that color too when we did a quick respray of my stepdaughters old B14 5 years ago , was going for the R32 gunmetal and ended up with that one.

    1. Yes the original Gran Turismo games–the R33 400R was a special-win kind of car, if I recall. Not for certain. That was my fav. That’s a cool way to find that color, too. Yeah I didn’t know it had purple/blue in it until I got touch up paint here in KC, as that’s what it was called. Then it made sense when I saw it in the sunlight. I had it sitting next to a GM grey/anthracite and, yeah, they were nothing alike. Cool daughter-in-law 😉

  4. I am also looking for a R33. I remember going to Motorex back in the day and seeing Big Bird while it was still white with HKS logos and thinking it was the coolest car I have ever seen. I’ve had a 1990 R32 10 years ago, but dodging questions about the quasi legality of the car got old and I sold it.

    I have R35 now, but R33 need is Strong!

    1. I know that feeling! Fortunately, now you’ve got a lot of more reputable importers to choose from. If you’re in Cali, of course you’ve got Top Rank. Otherwise I enjoyed my dealings with SDR as well, who can also have a car imported for pick-up in TX in order to save a customer on shipping.

  5. Great read, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and I’m looking forward to following the journey of the R33! Hope to see the car in person soon!

  6. My screen name has been nlzmo400r on every forum since forums were a thing. I thoroughly approve of this purchase.

  7. Congratulations! I feel like the R33 is the sweet spot between the old-school R32 and the forcefully-modernized R34.
    It’s the only one of the three that looks most like an actual coupe not a 2-door sedan.

  8. I am very jealous. As a GranTurismo fan boy growing up. It was all about the Skylines. And the r33 has always been my favorite looking. Them hips, the curves…it could weight 10,000lbs and have a 3cyl diesel wouldn’t care. I wanted one and was saving up to buy one then well…got married…started a family, bought a house and well now I play with $300 cars. Such is life.

    1. Agreed and, while we feel your pain, that part of life will always be more important (as you surely already know). Thanks for chiming in!

    1. thanks Joe. Yes in the next piece we discuss the Falken tires. they’ve been awesome. Actually, just checked and it’s live today!

    1. Thanks for the compliments, Kevin. If you’re referring to the two suspension pics on the bottom of Page4, actually that is the front and rear, respectively (notice in the bottom pic you can just start to see the exhaust pipe on the lower right). And if I misread your comment, apologies.

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