Project Nissan Skyline GT-R R33 – Part 1: I finally have one!
Looking in the trunk, it’s pure business in there. When you look into the trunk of an R32, you won’t see anything except more trunk space in front of all that you see there, and right up to the rear seats up there. But to help outperform the likes of the Supra (and other exotics), Nissan decided to block that aforementioned space with a massive, chassis-stiffening brace (gray one), a screw-type shock tower brace, as well as relocating the battery opposite the right-hand driver. This is one of the many things that helps give R33 achieve a 55-to-45 front-to-rear weight distribution (versus 60-40 for the R32) to improve overall balance. Nissan further centered the majority of the car’s weight to the center to further reduce chassis flex and improve balance.

This weight distribution was quite an achievement for a front-engine car back then, and probably something Nissan needed to do if it was going to compete with Supra’s recent (and impressive) 53/47 achievement for the Mark IV. In order to achieve this new weight ratio, Nissan hallowed out the door beams; made the rear stabilizer bar, axles and engine mounts out of aluminum; and equipped it with lightweight forged aluminum wheels; and removed some sound deadening, to name a few.

The 4-way adjustable rear wing is a further enhancement from the R32. I’ve got it set here to the third most aggressive level.

Is it any surprise that the R33 GT-R was reportedly the first factory production car to turn an 8:01 lap time around the Nurburgring in 1995? It wasn’t even accomplished with a “ringer” Ring driver who knows every bump of the 13-mile track, like a Walter Rorhl or Horst V Saurma, but rather Motoharu Kurosawa, a professional Japanese driver who was also a regular on the Japanese hit DVD series, Best Motoring. This may not sound like a crazy lap time by today’s standards, but when you consider it was 21 seconds faster than the lap posted by the same Kurosawa in an R32 GT-R, and 7 seconds faster than what he also had posted in a 3.3-liter Type 964 Porsche 911 Turbo a couple years earlier, it should paint a better picture of Nissan’s seriousness in 1995.

1995 was also the year when we were introduced with the likes of the lovely and fast Ferrari F355 and Porsche 993 Turbo here in the States. Yeah, they were 10 and 17 seconds slower than the R33, respectively. What most amazed me was that the R33 time was better than the Walter Rorhl-piloted E92 BMW M3 (and by over 6 seconds), a car tested and produced a baffling 12 years later! Yeah it’s nonscientific bench racing, but it’s still remarkable.

The R33 got a bad rap by some because of its increased weight over the R32. While it was 245-lb heavier than the R32 and with a 4-in longer wheelbase and 1-in wider track, there’s no question that, in base form, the R33 Skyline GT-R’s performance was way ahead of its time. The following year another Japanese-driven R33 (this time a V-spec model) slightly bettered the base R33’s time, becoming the first production car to break the 8-minute barrier, with a 7:59 lap time. That was huge.

When one ponders these numbers, it paints a better, more realistic picture of what this Nissan Skyline R33 is truly about, and why I smile every time I catch it in my peripheral at home. It’s also why I don’t plan to go crazy with this car—it’s so good out of the box. The goal will be to keep the car at a modest power level, but much more responsive and fun (we’re enlisting Borg Warner for that). When we’re finished, I’m certain it’ll be one of the—if not the—most fun cars I’ve ever driven this side of 100mph. Stay tuned, as for the past few months I’ve been collecting the parts that will be gracing the car, including…

Tires! As well as the car handles with the all-season tires on the car, I cannot wait to have the “rubber meet the road” with a set of Falken Azenis ultra high performance tires, sized 275/35-18 all around.
Did you expect anything else on a Skyline GT-R? This decision for Rays wheels was made before I ever even bought the car.

21 comments

  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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