Welcome to Old School vs New School, the series where we pick out the cars from the good old days, and pair them with their spiritual successors. Last week we pitted the Ford Sierra Cosworth against the Focus RS Mk3. This week it’s the battle of the Godzillas, as the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R takes on the R35 GT-R….
Cast your mind back to the modifying scene of the late-1980s and the go-go nineties. Was it all TSW Venoms, asymmetric Delta bodykits and badly smoothed tailgates with number plates cabletied back on to please the rozzers? It’s easy to be cynical, but the bare bones of what we used to do in those days were pretty similar to what we’re up to today.
Sure, back then it was all about outrageous bodykits, big rims, neon lights, and massive audio installs… but doesn’t that sound familiar? Yep, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, there are some things that were massively popular which have since totally gone out of fashion – everyone used to rock Lexus lights, headlights swaps from random different cars were popular, every other Saxo had four 6-inch exhausts… but a lot of the things that went out of fashion have come back around.
Like what? Well, three-spoke wheels, big aluminium spoilers, wide-arch kits – the difference is that people are focusing more on quality. It’s all in the details, from your obsessively smoothed engine bay to your impeccably retrimmed interior, and there’s a lot more awareness of rare parts; if you spend a year tracking down an obscure OEM+ spoiler that was only available in Austria for six months in 1994, the chances are that people will recognise it when you roll into a show.
The internet has broadened everyone’s horizons, and it’s also inspired a oneupmanship that keeps so many builds truly world-class. The days of building something over the winter and debuting it at a springtime show are largely over, as people are documenting their builds on Instagram, everyone’s open and aware, and it’s all about being the person who’s using the most original ideas to win the most peer approval.
With all that being said, some things really don’t change. At the heart of the tuning scene, now as it was then, we all want to run a car that goes fast, looks cool, and makes rowdy noises. The technology’s moved on, and the bar of quality gets raised time and time again, but we’re fundamentally still doing what we’ve always done. Long may it continue.
This week it’s the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R takes on the R35 GT-R, let battle commence!
THEN: NISSAN SKYLINE GT-R R32
Few cars have terrified the world quite like the R32 GT-R – a machine fully deserving of its Godzilla nickname. This is perhaps one of the few cars ever sold whereby the manufacturers lied about its performance by pretending it was less powerful than it actually was, rather than more.
Thanks to Japan’s gentlemen’s agreement on horsepower, Nissan pretended the GT-R had 276bhp, but it was actually more like 320bhp, and in its fledgling years this shouty icon won pretty much every race it entered. It was so successful, quite a few race series banned it.
JDM tuning wasn’t the big deal that it is today in Britain back in the early 1990s, and it took the UK scene a while to catch on to the R32. (Not least because they were remarkably expensive to import and tune.) But its success ballooned over the years and nowadays the R32 GT-R is seen as a bona fide, solid-gold legend.
NISSAN SKYLINE GT-R R32 SPEC
Performance: 320bhp, 0-62mph – 4.9s
Top mods: AP Racing brakes, GReddy intercooler, A’PEXi induction, single turbo conversion, Blitz exhaust, Desmond Regamaster wheels.
Price then: £49,825* (in 1997; equivalent 2018 price adjusted for inflation: £86,209)
Price now: £18,000+
*price for later R33, as R32 wasn’t officially sold in UK
NOW: NISSAN GT-R (R35)
It’s hard to believe that the R35 GT-R has been with us since 2007, as it still feels like it’s beamed in from the future. This was a car seemingly designed specifically to annoy Porsche 911 owners, owing to the fact that it was both significantly faster and remarkably cheaper.
And the R35 has become an absolute legend on the modern tuning scene – specialists such as Litchfield routinely squeeze over 1,000bhp from these insanely strong engines, and that’s not the kind of hysterical figure that you’ll only see once before the whole thing goes pop. These engines will make huge power all day long and stay reliable.
And as for the rest of the car – it’s an absurdly agile chassis, capable of seemingly anything, and the looks are brutal. The Skyline started this chain reaction back in the nineties with its massive tuning potential, and its spirit is alive in the R35 GT-R today.
NISSAN GT-R R35 SPEC
Performance: 562bhp, 0-62mph – 2.7s
Top mods: Forge intake, Litchfield tune, 1100cc injectors, Alcon brakes, BenSopra side-exit exhausts, Knight Racer carbon body panels.
If you had the money, what would you choose?
Words Dan Bevis