CAR: The Mother of All GT-Rs Is For Sale,

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CAR: The Mother of All GT-Rs Is For Sale,

Nissan Skyline GT-R NISMO Z-Tune, chassis R34-Z-001
2002 was a dark year for lovers of Japanese sports cars. New environmental regulations killed off the Mazda RX-7, Nissan Silvia, Toyota Supra, and the latter car's arch rival in the battle to reign as the king of Japanese performance cars, the mighty Nissan Skyline GT-R. A new Skyline soon followed, but there was no halo version for the car, now based on the 350Z's platform and sold in the US as the Infiniti G35 (and later the G37). By this point Nissan had already hinted at a future GT-R in 2001, which was followed up in 2005 by the GT-R PROTO concept after the '01 car was deemed to look too "nice" for the pinnacle of Japanese technological brute force. Despite promises for the future, the longing for the recent past was so strong that Nissan's motorsport arm NISMO decided they had to do something with the old R34-generation of "Godzilla." The R34 (or at least a silhouette racer in its image) was raced domestically in the JGTC (now called SUPER GT) for a year after the road car ceased production, sealing its legacy with the 2003 GT500 title before being replaced by an equally-successful V6-powered Fairlady Z. With that, the legendary RB26DETT straight-six engine originally made for the R32 GT-R in 1989 was also out of service, having won races and hearts around the globe both on and off the track.

So how to pay tribute to the greatest car and engine in the company's history? Build the fastest, most extreme road version possible, of course...

Seeing as they couldn't just grab a few cars off the production line anymore, NISMO planned to go out and buy carefully-chosen customer cars off their owners, bring them to Omori Factory and turn them each into a fierce road-racer that managed to be both GT and R in equal (and high) measure. Cost and production time were not on the list of priorities at any point in its development, but it was done in time for the motorsport division's 20th anniversary. As the ultimate version, it was called the Z-Tune.

How ultimate? The standard RB26 engine was all but thrown away, as even the block was modified. And bigger. It's actually the stronger, more rigid and longer block from the GT500 racing car, displacing 2.8 litres as opposed to the normal road car's 2.6. The twin IHI ball-bearing turbochargers were also race-proven, along with the crankshaft, conrods and camshafts, while the forged lightweight pistons, air intake system and titanium exhaust system were bespoke for the road car. The entire engine was assembled by hand, based on a specification NISMO had been developing at the Nürburging and entering in tuning competitions in Japan since 2000. As the second full iteration, it was dubbed "Z2." The accompanying 6-speed manual gearbox attached to a specially-developed twin-plate clutch.

The Z2 engine officially produced 500 horsepower and 398lb/ft of torque - the latter figure matching a 2009-15 Ferrari 458 - but given the infamous inaccuracy of Nissan's claimed 280PS (276bhp) output for the standard GT-Rs to conform to a "Gentleman's Agreement," I wouldn't be surprised if it actually made a fair amount more than that. In fact, I'd wager that the average Z2 probably matches the current R35's power output, somewhere in the 550-horsepower range, maybe even 600...

To harness that mighty firepower, the chassis needed an appropriate overhaul too. The brakes are bespoke 365mm two-piece front/ 355mm one-piece rear discs with Brembo 6-piston front/4-piston rear calipers, and promise up to 1.6g of decelerative force on track tyres. Of course, the ABS was reworked to suit, but the active LSD and all-wheel-drive were re-tuned to make 500+ horsepower perfectly driveable. Two types of special Bridgestone tyres were offered, those being POTENZA REO1R 265/35R18 for driving on public roads, and POTENZA RE55S 265/35R18 semi-slick boots for track work. Three-way adjustable SACHS dampers derived from the GT500 racing car allow you to prepare your car for either Touge or Tsukuba. Completing the look are simply glorious LM GT4 forged lightweight aluminium wheels in black to contrast from the "Z-Tune Silver [KYO]" bodywork.

As well as the 7kg propshaft, every exterior panel forward of the doors is made of carbon fibre (bear in mind that this was before the material was as popular or widely used as it is now), with a no-nonsense GT500-spec bonnet and bespoke fenders with a triangular protrusion where they meet the front doors. Both body features ventilate heat from the engine bay and the latter feature is the main way to tell apart the real deal from lookalikes along with subtle Z-Tune badging. The rear wing and subtle rear wheel arch extension to cover the wider tracks are also CFRP, while the super aggressive carbon front bumper channels cool air to the engine and brakes, as well as manipulating the air around that blunt nose more efficiently too. The carbon under-spoiler (front splitter) increases front downforce over the normal GT-R by 220% and has a wear protection plate and graphite lip to postpone a hideously expensive repair bill......

Despite all this race-spec carbon fibre goodness, the car isn't actually any lighter at 1600kg. Nor is it heavier. The weight they took away from the body and mechanicals has been added back as interior comfort. Well, that and heftier cooling systems for the engine and differential(s). NISMO know the difference between a road car and a racing car, so despite being the most powerful Skyline of all time it's been designed and engineered to be comfortable on the road and easy to control, as well as organ-mashingly fast in every direction. This explains why a car with such hardcore engineering still has air conditioning. The famed ATTESA-ETS all-wheel-drive could be programmed through the ESP system to send more power forwards and reduce oversteer, a function one likely accessed through the multi-mode on-board computer (another feature the R34 had years before it was popular), whose functions include a data logger and lap timer. The four seats were trimmed in black leather with bespoke red alcantara centres, while the steering wheel followed suit. As you can see, the rev counter goes up to 11, even though the engine only revs to 8000rpm. That's how AWESOME this car is.

The plan was to build 20, starting in 2004 to commemorate NISMO's 20th anniversary. Of those, only the first 12 were cars bought from customers to be made into a special factory model and sold as a new car (each being R34 GT-R V-Spec models with under 30,000km on the clock that were subjected to a strict inspection). Cars 13-19 were made by customers going to NISMO and asking them to convert their car to Z-Tune spec. I'm not sure if they actually made the 20th one. All cars were finished in "Z-Tune Silver," although one car has been resprayed Midnight Purple. The price for all this effort was ¥17million when new, or the equivalent of £128,000 today with inflation considered. That's the same price as a brand new 2015 GT-R NISMO (R35), and rather a lot.

But! If you expected depreciation to have made this car a decade cheaper, you'd be bitterly wrong. On 24th march this year, the very first Z-Tune came up for sale on Australian website The Lowdown, and appears to still be for sale right now. Most of the images here are of that car, which seems to be in pristine original condition. How much are they asking? You can actually send them an offer if you're serious, but be warned: they have received offers as high as $750,000 AUD, which equates to £387,075 or $572,000 USD.

Now THAT is a lot!

If you think about it though, it's not actually particularly surprising. This is a car full of track-spec parts, bespoke carbon fibre panels and so on, it's one of no more than twenty, and it's the ultimate version of an iconic car. Let's consider another car to give this some more context: when the Porsche 911 GT3 entered its current (991) generation, it lost the option of a manual gearbox and it no longer had a race-derived "Mezger" engine like the previous (997) car had. The ultimate version of the last purist's GT3 was the 2011 GT3 RS 4.0, of which Porsche made 600. By amazing coincidence, it also had a base price of £128,000. Wanna guess what they're being sold on for now? An average one is fetching between £250,000 and £275,000. A low-miles car with the Clubsport package will fetch £300,000.

The R34 was, of course, replaced by a bigger, heavier, paddleshift-only car, just like the 997 GT3... but there are only 19 or 20 Z-Tunes, compared to the almost-common 600-car run of GT3 RS 4.0s. The Z-Tune is already so rare it's almost mythical. Now that the Playstation* generation are growing up and going places, Japanese cars are starting to attract attention from collector types (a 1967 Toyota 2000GT recently sold for over a million US dollars), so with all this in mind, a half-million Skyline almost starts to make sense. Especially when it's the original one.

*Amazingly, this is probably the only version of the Skyline NOT in any Gran Turismo game!! Sort it out, Polyphony Digital...

It's just a shame I can't offer them £400,000 and attain my all-time dream car. Methinks it's time for me to buy a lottery ticket...

In the mean time, get fully geeked-up on this car by clicking here, reading how it drives on the streets on Speedhunters and watching this video from Best Motoring:

Written for SmallBlog V8. Do not copy without permission.
2nd and 3rd images are official Nissan images, the rest are from The-Lowdown. Video from YouTube.

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