Oxymoron—a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g., sweet agony, jumbo shrimp, living dead, Hell’s Angels, eco-friendly Nissan RB25). Up until 1998, the development of Skylines, typically GT-Rs, was, above all, primarily focused on high performance aspects and not on ecologically friendly concerns. Adjacently with the release of the new R34 chassis, a few variations of the new models came equipped with an eco-type variation of the RB-series engine, called the RB25DET NEO VVL (Nissan Ecology Oriented Variable Valve Lift & Timing). A potential blasphemy was set loose in the Skyline devotee crowd, but will Nissan really need a flame suit from all the scorching condemnation expelled from these purists?
Since these “engines” were in principle classified as the RB25DET, it wasn’t long until it became time-honored as an ingredient adopted into the extensive encyclopedia of the Skyline tuning chronicles. The gearheads quickly discovered that the NEO head assembly consisted of solid tappets rather than the standard hydraulic and included more aggressive camshafts as well. The intake and exhaust valve timing were also controlled in parallel rather than sequentially for a flatter and consistent powerband. This new NEO VVL might seem like Nissan’s archetypal justification for creating another inline-six turbocharged monster, but in reality the new design yielded lower emissions and improved fuel economy, which inarguably complied with Japan’s stringent emission standards.
This is exactly why Cockpit Tatebayashi’s ’02 Nissan Skyline R34 is an exceptional machine. For those who aren’t familiar with Skylines, the vehicle may come off as an AWD RB26DETT-powered Nissan flagship vehicle, but on the contrary, it isn’t exactly a GT-R. This is a GT-T, factory configured as an FR (front engine, rear-wheel drive) vehicle that was presented upon the automotive world rivaling such equivalents as the JZA80 Toyota Supra and the FD3S Mazda RX-7. In fact, some Nissan purists may actually be keen on the uniqueness of the FR machine since it gives more direct analog control of the mechanisms; plus the lightweight features mean less rotating parts than an AWD. Sure, the R34 GT-R is superior for its generation but keep in mind that a high-horsepower AWD chassis included more complications in terms of tuning and driving style, which a large portion of that was relied upon on on-board computers. The GT-T models were, in fact, very straightforward and also ranked high up top of the automobile status throne. Simplified, it was basically a brawny and overpowering version of the Silvia that was ripped with steroids that instantly made others kneel down just for its notorious spirit. The sheer power it was capable of and the long wheelbase provided a perfect candidate for utilization in motorsports such as drifting.
RB-series engine blocks of all generations and variations were made from heavy-duty Yokohama-bred cast iron. The word overengineered comes into play here since these inline-six blocks dished out more than double the factory output with stock internals. It’s safe to say that this is one of the last Japanese cast-iron blocks that hit the market, before the rather emaciated aluminum blocks were incorporated by vehicle manufacturers. Tatebayashi recorded the machine at 520 hp at 7,000 rpm and 416 lb-ft of torque at 5,893 rpm with the factory bore and stroke of 2,500 cc. An extensive list of forged upgrades are expected for these impressive numbers; however, the pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft are all bone-stock. The secret to its success besides the stalwart factory design is Tatebayashi’s profound understanding of the engine’s weak points, unadulterated capabilities, and catastrophic limitations. The only mods to the head are the Tomei Powered Poncams, which are 100 percent drop-in and require no cam timing adjustment or ECU tune.
The engine internals are factory, but the surrounding components are something that an untrained eye cannot label, meaning that Tatebayashi fabricated most of the parts themselves. The surge tank, or what we call the intake manifold, is an original design—right down to the huge 90mm throttle body. Even the TE06-24V Garrett-based turbocharger, exhaust manifold, downpipe, and exhaust system are Tatebayashi original units. A Blitz intercooler was used from a GT-R since the unit has been tried and true to their past experiences. Sard 550cc fuel injectors, fuel pressure regulator, fuel rail, and an HKS high-volume fuel pump were incorporated to fulfill the fuel requirements of the larger turbo upgrade. Okada Projects Plasma Direct coil packs along with NGK spark plugs contribute to the suck, squish, bang, and blow of the four-stroke engine. All was topped off with an ECU ROM reflash done in-house. Tatebayashi could have gone with some fancy stand-alone computer unit to manage fuel and ignition maps, but they thought the factory ECU was the most dependable and maintenance free. All this rotational power is translated by the Exedy twin-plate clutch system, and back to the rear where the Cusco Type RS LSD lays down the rubber.
And for the suspension, well, here we go again. Tatebayashi constructed their own exclusive coilovers using HKS components as a base. The full height adjustable coilovers are now an industry standard where the ride height can be changed without touching the spring preload rate. The typical spring rates that are run on this GT-T are 12kg front, and 7kg rear, a setup most likely targeted for maximum traction to the rear wheels. The shock absorbers are a mono-tube design that feature 30 ways of damper adjustment. This one-off unit has been reviewed and praised by such big-name GT drivers as Eiji Yamada and Nobuteru Taniguchi, so we know for a fact that they are spectacular. A burly (and rare) HKS Kansai strut tower bar is used for the front and a Cusco unit for the rear. Various other ER34 Cusco blue products flock the vehicle, such as the front and rear camber control arms. Front and rear ARC sway bars stiffen up the body roll, where in concurrence the Tatebayshi pillow-ball tension rods tightens up the braking control and acceleration stability.
A full catalog of Endless components were chosen for the brake department, such as their gargantuan six-pot front and four-pot rear calipers and rotors. Let’s not forget their stainless steel brake lines and a factory GT-R master cylinder to aid in the increased brake pressure.
The body design one way or another exudes with monkey magic. That’s because the aero kit is from URAS, D1 world champion Ken Nomura’s company. The wider tread is all because of special GT-R units made from Nismo, and the underhood temperatures are extracted by the strategically placed vents from the hood made by Stout. It’s pretty trick—the incoming air from the grille and bumper mouth cools the engine resourcefully, and then the hot air is exited from the vent. Engine cooling methods with the use of aerodynamics are a must in these situations since a remarkably large intercooler is blocking the fresh air path to the radiator. A Sard GT wing sits atop the rear trunk acting like Buddha’s powerful hands pushing down on the rear tires when the machine is shooting down the circuit at triple-digit speeds. A set of custom powdercoated Rays Gram Lights were pinstriped neon green to match the canards and make certain accents of the body line pop.
The interior of the machine is much like a mullet, where it’s all business up front but the party’s in the back! The front part of the interior remains normal, with the addition of Bride seats and Defi gauges littered about, as well as the Blitz D-SBC boost controller neatly tucked under the kick panel for discretion. The rear is completely gutted and the seriousness of the machine is glamorously displayed. The steel custom battery location box had been mounted behind the passenger seat to distribute the weight evenly throughout the chassis. The Takata Harnesses are mounted to the chassis and the Cusco Safety 21 rollcage is firmly bolted down along with aluminum door bars. The rollcage C-pillar crossbracing is just like a subliminal but obvious rejection to anyone just thinking about sitting in the rear.
Cockpit Tatebayashi can be considered one of the great entities that changed the stereotypes of ECO engines forever. However to all fairness, this isn’t exactly an environmentally friendly engine with the huge snail nestled by the long block, but much respect to Tatebayashi for maintaining the NEO VVL concept and keeping the factory internals in tact.
Behind the Build
Over 30 years in business
JDM cars, mostly Nissan
Breaking records at a circuit and driving the machine home on the street
2002 ER34 Nissan Skyline GT-T
520 hp / 416 lb-ft of torque
Engine RB25DET NEO VVL engine; Tomei in./ex. 260-degree Poncams; Tomei 1.8mm metal head gasket; Nismo timing belt, motor mounts; Okada Projects coil packs; NGK spark plugs; Cockpit Tatebayashi original Intake manifold, original 90mm throttle body, original exhaust manifold, original TE06H-24v turbocharger, original exhaust system, original 3-row radiator, original reflashed ECU; Blitz intercooler, oil cooler; A’pexi catalytic converter; Sard fuel rail, fuel pressure regulator, 550cc fuel injectors; HKS fuel pump; Trust oil filter
Drivetrain Exedy twin-plate clutch system; Cusco Type-RS limited-slip differential
Suspension HKS base Cockpit Tatebayashi original suspension coilovers (front: 12 kg; rear: 7 kg); ARC front and rear sway bar; HKS Kansai front strut bar; Cusco rear strut bar, front camber control arms, and rear camber control arms
Wheels/Tires Rays Engineering Gram Lights, Bridgestone RE-11
Brakes Endless front 6-pot calipers and rotors, rear 4-pot calipers and rotors, steel brake lines, and brake pads; Nissan GT-R master cylinder; Trust brake fluid
Exterior URAS full aero kit; Sard GT wing; Nismo GT-R fenders, taillights; Stout hood
Interior Defi Link gauges, Bride full bucket seats, Cusco 8-point rollcage and crossbrace, Takata racing harnesses; Cockpit Tatebayashi original battery box; Alpine stereo