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The Generation Game

The Generation Game

Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2015   |   979 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (0) Donald Walker found this GT-R while looking for a Porsche 911, and his keen eye for detail has seen it evolve into one of the cleanest R33s we’ve ever seen...

Some people like their cars simple. Manual choke, wind-up windows, push-button radio... everything very basic and elemental. But these people are not R33 drivers. The R33 Skyline GT-R 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 forward propulsion. When it was launched in ’95, continuing the good name of its bonkers R32 predecessor, it offered a world of gizmos seldom seen in such a heady combo on a road car. I mean, 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 numberplates and a tax disc?

But, yes, this was the manner of magic that the R33 offered and in next to no time a generation of young enthusiasts knew every geeky detail of the tech spec thanks to the burgeoning  Gran Turismo franchise. And now those cheeky whippersnappers have grown into adults who still harbour a yearning for those road-going racers of their youthful digital dreams. And so it is that we find examples such as Donald Walker’s – a shimmering vision of pristine R33 perfection.

Okay, so Donald wasn’t a teenager when Gran Turismo broke onto the scene. No, he’s an old-skool speed-freak who appreciates the GT-R for its combination of retro values and up-to-the-minute techgasms (of the late-Nineties, at least) that the R33 offers. He saw its progenitors and siblings pounding the track and dominating the strip, and wanted in on the action. “At the age of 55 I guess you’d call me a slightly more mature modifier,” he grins, a youthful twinkle in his eye. “I was originally R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R looking for a Porsche 911 but I couldn’t find one within the budget I had. So my son, Mark, came up with the idea of a Nissan Skyline GT-R after driving so many of them on his PlayStation and having read about them in his car mags.” This was back in 2007 and Donald’s R33 has been a constantly evolving project ever since, with bits and pieces being modified, adapted, replaced or upgraded as and when funds became available.

“I started looking for an R34 to begin with,” he continues, “but I soon realised that there weren’t any of the right quality in my budget. However, the more I looked at R33s, the more I became convinced of their merits. After looking at a few I managed to find a fresh import at a garage in Dunblane – a one-owner, low-mileage car which was totally stock aside from an Apexi Bomber 3 exhaust and Japanese-spec ?hlins coilovers.” So, the hunt was over and the game was afoot...
Donald’s GT-R as we see it today is an exercise in measured restraint. That other whopping global franchise that espoused the virtues of tuned Japanese motors (I’m talking about The Fast & The Furious, of course) has ingrained in the minds of many the necessity to swathe Skylines in pastel-hued graphics and ostentatious bodykits, but this silver bullet treads a more subtle path. The aim here was to build on the muscular aggression of the factory aesthetic and accentuate it where required with choice, quality modifications.  Take a look at the interior and you’ll find a JDM boy-racer’s dream – not flashy or gauche, just noticeably studded with all the right bits. Bride seats are tremendously de rigueur and with good reason – they’re light, solid, quality items.

The complementary doorcard and rear seat trimming, too, is something that we’re seeing a fair bit of these days but it never gets old. The Nardi wheel adds a touch of race-bred purpose, while the dash (arguably not the most exciting layout to emerge from the Nissan design studio in factory spec) is livened up exponentially by lashings of slick carbon-fibre, a look that’s echoed neatly by the carbon-dipped roll-cage. A variety of subtly positioned gauges keep Donald informed as to what’s going on under the bonnet, so let’s now make our way round to the front of the car and have a little peek at the oily bits. After all, the crux of the R33 GT-R as a model is, and always has been, devastating thrust and clever electronic trickery.

So just what is Donald packing under there? Well, 500bhp is the short answer. The RB26 is running standard internals – well, they are pretty bulletproof – but nestled somewhat aggressively in the bay are a pair of HKS GT-SS turbos, fed by Blitz induction. HKS 600 injectors are supplied by an uprated Walbro fuel pump and the whole thing is taken care of by Apexi Power FC standalone management. Throw in a huge intercooler and some eager mapping and voila: five-hundred relatively unstressed horses.

“The Blitz induction kit was one of the first mods on the car,” says Donald, “and soon afterwards I was talking to Sam ‘The Dentist’ Elassar about remapping; he put me in contact with Calum Gordon at Checkpoint Garage in Arbroath, who over the years has become a great friend and has played a major part in the build of my car. The first part of the purchase was an Apexi Power FC and Apexi AVCR, which was then mapped by The Dentist. Although the mapping went okay there was a slight problem which they thought might be down to one of the activators but after further investigation it was found that the turbos were worn.” So, that was as good an excuse as any to upgrade, as you can imagine. After much research, discussion, head-scratching and spec-crunching, it was decided that a brace of HKS GT-SS units would be the ideal turbos for the job. “At this point it was decided to put in bigger injectors, so then the uprated fuel pump was needed. A larger intercooler and a 12-row oil cooler and relocation oil filter were also ordered, and owing to the power increase a Nismo twin-plate clutch was also required... the list just kept on growing!”
Yes, that does sound pretty familiar. These projects have a habit of snowballing, don’t they? But thankfully Donald was able to exercise the requisite restraint to stop the parts-gathering from spiralling out of control, always keeping an eye on the end result of the project. “While waiting for these parts to arrive I was also on the hunt for a fresh set of wheels to really set the car off,” says Donald. “I wanted something a bit different, so I went for the SSR Professor SP1. And once it was all together, and with The Dentist’s mapping yielding 500bhp, it was time for some fun...”

He’s a man who’s keen to use his cars properly, so this new-found horsepower was immediately put to the test at Knockhill. Shortly thereafter, Donald took a trip to Crail as well, to chalk up a bit of drag-racing alongside his track adventures.

Unfortunately he blew off an intercooler pipe on a run up the strip but this spurred him on to rework all of the pipes with Mikalor clamps. And once the brawn of the powerplant was proven it was time to fancy it up. “Over winter the polishing began!” Donald smiles. “The turbo pipes on the side and then the plenum on the other side... bleeding fingers and many grades of paper later, the parts began to shine. Then came an alloy radiator, oil catch tank and many more stainless parts, along with custom caps that I made from billet aluminium, Tomei pulleys, a clear front cover, and a new polished Auto Select strut brace to finish it off.” The RB26 has the go, and it also proudly wears the show.

When the R33 emerged from its winter hibernation the rear was treated to a carbon wing while the coilovers – which were a little tired – were replaced by BC Racing units. And, since it was time to really start using the car in earnest, Donald turned his attention to the brakes. “With the power increase, the Brembos weren’t really up to the task,” he remembers, “so I ordered an Alcon Extreme big-brake setup. They should, in theory, have fitted behind the 18” SSRs, but the fronts just wouldn’t squeeze in for some reason. It turned out that the centres are more like a 17” in the middle – my fault for not measuring, really – but with the Scottish Car Show less than three weeks away I needed to find a set of wheels...” Some rather more accommodating rollers were sourced in the form of the Do-Luck Double Sixes that you see on the car now and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, their combination of angularity and curvaceousness complements the lines of the GT-R rather neatly.

This really is one of the cleanest R33s we’ve seen by far, and we’ve seen a lot of ’em. What Donald has achieved here is to adapt and improve a stalwart of the Nineties street-racer scene, crucially by not taking anything too far. He’s hiding in plain sight with his beautifully prepared and flawlessly executed Skyline – it’s absurd to refer to such a technologically advanced car as a sleeper, but you can be damn sure that his 500bhp has taken a few unexpected scalps over the years. But of course, this car’s as much about potential energy as the physical decimation of rivals – when you’re packing this sort of thrust, sometimes it’s enough just to know it’s there. Cocooned in your pristine period-piece, that’ll do nicely... until the next traffic light appears, that is. Should the red mist descend as the red light fades, Donald’s R33 will be pounding for the sunset quicker than you can say ‘staggering traction’. Which is just the way it should be.

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About Banzai

Banzai is the UK's best-selling Japanese car tuning publication. Each issue is packed full of the best show, daily-driven and performance-orientated Japanese vehicles from all over the world.

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