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WIDEBODY R32 GTS-T: WRENCH 32

Posted by Matt Bell on 4th May 2021

For Jake Crouch, owning a Skyline was the be-all and end-all, so when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t resist. With years of dreaming about modifying one, it’s culminated in the widebody R32 GTS-T you see here. 

Featured first appeared in Banzai magazine. Words: Joe Partridge. Photos: Chris Presley.

Some people like their cars simple. Manual choke, wind-up windows, push-button radio… everything very basic and elemental. But these people are not R32 drivers. The R32-generation Nissan Skyline is to its 1970s forebears what an iPhone is to a pair of tin cans on a string. It positively bristles with ingenious tech, surfing the zeitgeist of what’s possible in terms of geeky innovation. When it was launched in 1989 it offered a world of gizmos seldom seen in such a heady combo on a road car. Look at the ATTESA E-TS for a start – a four-wheel drive system with an active LSD that has its own computer, monitoring the car’s movements ten times every second, measuring individual wheel speed via the ABS sensors, factoring in lateral and longitudinal movement and shuffling different torque ratios to each wheel… this is some kind of sorcery, no? The sort of gadgetry you might expect on a Le Mans racer, perhaps, but surely not in a Nissan showroom, in something with number plates and a tax disc. Then there was the HICAS four-wheel steering, and all sorts of other nifty tricks. It was Inspector Gadget on wheels.

In no time at all, a generation of young enthusiasts knew every nerdy detail of the tech spec thanks to the videogames of the era, and now those whippersnappers have grown into adults who still harbour a yearning for the road-going racers of their youthful digital dreams. Just ask Jake Crouch – he’s the owner of this brutal widebody R32 GTS-T, and it’s very much a fantasy realised. “The dream from a young age was always to one day have a Skyline,” he says, “so when the opportunity came up I couldn’t resist.”

Don’t blame him really, although it’s fair to say the car you see today was quite different back then. It’s taken a huge amount of hard graft and ingenuity to transform that ugly duckling into this beautiful Midnight Purple swan – but that’s very much the name of the game for Jake’s business, 365 Performance, and all of this has been in the game-plan from day one.

“When I was a kid, my dad was always into cars,” he explains. “He was forever doing stuff to them, and he used to import a lot of cars and bikes too – so I loved them from the start. I worked on cars with him from a young age which taught me a lot, and I bought my first car when I was 16 and started modifying it straight away! I took my test three weeks after my 17th birthday, and it went from there.” In subsequent years Jake’s owned a whole host of thrilling performance machines, from Nissan Silvias to all kinds of Euro fare, and when the opportunity arose to finally acquire his very own R32 he immediately ditched his BMW 6 Series without a second thought. Because lifelong dreams are an unstoppable force… and when you know, you know. And he also knew full well what he wanted to do with it. “Within twelve hours of buying the Skyline I had changed all the seats and interior panels out for the GT-R bits, changed the wheels and bootlid, the exhaust, and fitted a front-mount intercooler,” he grins.

Time waits for no man, eh? It seems that all those years of yearning had built up a solid backlog of hopes and dreams, and Jake was champing at the bit to make stuff happen.

“When I bought the car it was about four different colours, from different panels being swapped onto it,” he continues. “So a month after buying it we set about fitting rear overfenders, fabricating wider metal front wings, and painting the whole thing one colour – which back then was its original TH1 Midnight Blue. I used the car like that over the summer and loved it. Then over the course of 2018 I slowly bought parts to do some basic power bits to the RB20 in the car, before deciding instead to just buy a forged RB25 from a friend… and things escalated from there! I ended up buying all of the power parts necessary to get a safe 5-600bhp.”

The engine spec today makes for pleasing reading, with the RB25 straight-six wearing a single custom-built Holset HX35 turbo along with a Turbosmart 45mm external wastegate and screamer. There’s a Q45 90mm throttle body and a smart fuelling system featuring Sard 1,000cc injectors and a boot-mounted swirl pot; the rebuilt head is stuffed with Supertech gear (and topped off with an RB26 cover for kicks) and the forged toys in the bottom end ensure impeccable strength. Managed by a high-end Link G4+ standalone ECU with switchable maps, it provides GT-R-shaming thrust and, of course, the drivetrain’s had to be bolstered to suit: an RB25 big-case Nissan gearbox joins a Cusco twin-plate clutch, with a custom two-piece propshaft running back to a Nismo diff. There’s absolutely zero cocking about here, this is all deadly serious stuff.
So, job done then? It might have seemed that way; a lifelong keenness for an R32 had been satisfied by a visually perfected example with a big-power heart. No more worlds to conquer? Ah, there’s always something more to do… and it turned out that the sniff of a set of supremely wide wheels led Jake to have a dramatic rethink about the Skyline’s aesthetic approach.

“My friend Sean Malone put these incredible wheels up for sale,” he recalls. “I did some workings-out, and figured that I would be able to make them fit if I fitted a Pandem widebody kit… so that became the new plan, with everything escalating from what was going to be a quick and simple build into stripping the car down to a bare shell, replacing almost every part, powdercoating everything and doing a full respray in Midnight Purple. It took three-and-a-half months of every single hour I could possibly have free to build it, from driving the car into the garage to driving it back out almost completed and onto the trailer for its first show, which was Gravity.”

It’s a pretty damned confident way to do it, pulling the fresh build straight from the garage to the showground, but this is all justly backed up by the skills of Jake and all at 365 Performance. The car received a rapturous reception at Gravity, then went straight to the Birmingham NEC for display at a round of the BDC before scurrying up to FittedUK. With the fat purple vibe at front-of-mind for every showgoer on the scene, the Skyline then went to Abbey Motorsport for final tuning and alignment. “After I got it back from Abbey, I took it out for the first time with a friend of mine, and wow – what an experience that first drive was!” Jake smiles. “I can’t even explain the pride and level of joy of knowing you’ve built something that drives amazingly and looks exactly how you hoped – it was unreal.”

Indeed, ‘unreal’ is the perfect term for this car. The R32 is already a ludicrously beguiling thing from the start, with its hyperintelligent gadgets and jewel-like chassis, and what Jake’s achieved here is to build on seeming perfection to create something astonishing. “The car was a dream project for me and is also testament to what we do here at 365 Performance,” he says. And that wraps it up in a neat little package. Sure, some crave the simple life – but where’s the challenge in that?

Tech Spec: Widebody R32 GTS-T

Engine:

RB25 straight-six, 87mm Wiseco pistons, Manley rods, Nitto crank collar, rebuilt head with Supertech components, ACL race bearings, all ARP hardware, 6Boost exhaust manifold, GReddy intake manifold, custom hybrid Holset HX35 turbo, Turbosmart 45mm external wastegate with screamer underneath, Q45 90mm throttle body, Sard 1,000cc injectors, Sytec fuel pressure regulator, Link G4+ standalone ECU with switchable maps, RB26 rocker and timing covers modified to work with RB25, Tomei valley cover, large alloy radiator with electric fans and viscous fan, large front-mount intercooler and custom pipework, Torques swirl pot with Bosch 044 pump and 400lph in-tank pump, AN6 Teflon fuel lines from tank to engine, RB25 big-case Nissan gearbox, Cusco twin-plate clutch, custom 2-piece propshaft, Nismo 1-way diff, custom gearbox mount, Hardrace engine/gearbox mounts, part-smoothed and painted engine bay

Chassis:

Custom 10×18-inch ET0 (front) and 14.5×18-inch ET-43 (rear) WEDS Kranze ERM 3-piece wheels, 265/35 (f) and 315/30 (r) Toyo Proxes R888R tyres, HSD coilovers with 12k (f) and 10k (r) springs, Chase Bays power steering reservoir and AN lines conversion, all suspension arms adjustable and bushed via Driftworks and Hardrace, polybushed throughout inc. subframes, steering rack and anti-roll bars, Driftworks front Geomaster knuckles, Hardrace HICAS delete (all lines and solenoids removed), Brembo Motorsport calipers, PBS Pads, 365mm Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG discs, Chase Bays brake booster delete with braided lines and bias valve, calipers refinished in Milano Red, tubbed front inner arches, rear tubbed arches to allow for kit and wider wheels, chassis bracing from legs to subframe and subframe to tension braces, underside and inside arches bare-metalled and refinished

Interior:

Bride Low Max seats, R32 GT-R rear bench, GT-R interior panels and knee cushion, Takata harnesses, suede-trimmed dash, Sparco steering wheel, Kode harness bar, Braille Battery relocated and mounted in boot, fuel swirl, AEM oil temp, pressure and AFR gauges, Defi coolant temp and boost A-pillar gauges.

Exterior:  

Respray in Midnight Purple, Pandem widebody kit, DMax roof spoiler, GT-R rear spoiler, smoothed boot, LED rear lights, Knight Racer/Nismo bonnet