Updated July 2020: We are drawing a line in the sand. In the previous version of this story, we lumped in modern R35 GT-R with all those iconic Skyline GT-R of yesteryear, when in fact maybe we shouldn't have. There has even been debate among enthusiasts about whether they should be considered part of the same family—but at the end of the day, it was Nissan that made the decision to separate the "GT-R" model from the Skyline lineup, creating an entirely new vehicle, though with many strong ties to the Skyline GT-R pedigree. It's for this reason R35 get their own list.
This roundup based on traffic volume for our most popular GT-R posts consists of versions of the Skyline dating all the way back to 1971 and Dome Padungchewit's KPGC10 in Thailand. It also has three R32 and eight R34 (if the math doesn't add up it's because Charles Wong brings a trio of Skyline to his story), including a half dozen in V-Spec trim. With a nickname like "Godzilla," the Nissan Skyline GT-R rivaled supercars many times its cost. Its unmistakable emblem serves as a badge of honor that carries rich motorsports heritage behind it to this day. As you scroll through our reckoning, make sure to click the subheads to get linked out to the feature articles for each of these magnificent machines.
- Aki Fuchigami's 1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)
- Phunnapat Phunsub's 2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)
- Charles Wong's Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec Trio (R34)
- Peter Cervantes's 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)
- Mark Wang's 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec (R34)
- Kyle Padelford's 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec (R34)
- Dome Padungchewit's 1971 Nissan Skyline GT-R (KPGC10)
- James McCue's 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec (R34)
- Tomu's 2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)
- Fredrick Tissera's 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)
Article excerpt: "Aki had a thing for fast cars. Making big power from small engines became an early addiction, and his drug of choice came in the form of the turbocharger. There wasn't an engine in existence that Aki wouldn't throw a turbo at, and it wasn't long before he was running 10s in the quarter mile, all before his 20th birthday. Did we mention this all went down in the '80s? Back when dedicated drag tires were still a new idea in Japan and launch control was something you did with your feet!"
Why we love it: What's the expression? "Race cars can be show cars but show cars can't be race cars"? Aki's R32 is a supreme example of the adage, as hot as it is fast—Midnight Purple widebody, fully built N1 RB26, and on and on. His story is inspiring, too, the race mechanic hustling throughout life to build the 760hp beast and keep it close to home.
Article excerpt: "The meticulous detail and scrutiny that went into building [Phunnapat Phunsub's] Thai version of a Clubman Spec Race R34 is incredible. Beyond the dollars involved, great care was taken to incorporate authentic Nismo parts throughout the entire build, and Phunsub believes his is the only R34 Skyline GT-R of its kind in his country."
Why we love it: OEMs have been moving into the aftermarket for almost as long as there've been cars, but Phunnapat's NISMO-festooned Skyline takes the catalog-car approach to the next level. That is, until you get to the engine bay; pop the NISMO R-Tune carbon-fiber hood and you come face to face with an HKS Step Zero stroked single-turbo RB26DETT now displacing 2.8 liters.
Article excerpt: "The best part about the project car is that [owner] Charles [Wong] doesn't baby it one bit. It's driven hard whenever gets behind the wheel-a pretty ballsy thing to do with something that's so rare and expensive to maintain to begin with. So, while I knew of Charles before meeting him up for our photoshoot just outside of Vancouver, BC, I wasn't expecting him to bring three R34s, which all happen to be his!
Why we love them: Which person would not want a trio of R34 GT-R? While they share some similarities (all V-Spec, all on TE37), the trio can be separated by purpose; the blue one is the racer, with a built 750hp HKS stroker mill and sequential gearbox. The white one is the fancy one, a slightly rarer V-Spec II model. And the gray one is somewhere in between—not as street friendly, but also not a full-out track car. We'll take all three.
Article excerpt: "'I raced all my cars at the drag strip and at the time I swore by being naturally aspirated. But I kept losing no matter what parts I threw at it, so I upgraded to an Evo VIII. Once you go boost, you never go back.' Being in the Navy, Peter [Cervantes] was eventually assigned to Japan and he decided to let go of his beloved Evo. Eventually, driving a Skyline on the streets of Tokyo managed to dry his tears."
Why we love it: The "N1" designation among Skyline GT-R generally refers to FIA Group N racing and specifically to a performance trim package for the R32 that featured an upgraded RB26DETT (reportedly developed for N1 cars), fewer amenities and lighter vehicle weight. Peter's Skyline tips its hat to those N1 GT-R, rocking extremely rare N1 front bumper, lightweight headlights and trunk lip, but also counterbalancing the purist Nissan approach with mods like its JP turbo and BBS LM F1 rollers.
Article excerpt: "After competing on some of Japan's most revered race tracks-including setting a 56.9-second lap at the 2015 Tsukuba Championship and beating the infamous Mine's R34-it ended up with a car collector who had 14 R34s in his garage before it finally landed in North America."
Why we love it: Boasting a dry carbon roof and stitch welding from the engine bay all the way up to the transmission housing, this R34's preferred party trick is track extremism and it's one of the more memorable V-Specs we've encountered on American soil. Originally built by Japanese tuning house ATTKD, Mark Wang's Godzilla in fact comes almost entirely armored in carbon, weighing in roughly a few hundred pounds lighter than stock, while motivation comes by way of a pair of HKS 2530 turbos mated to a 2.8L stroker engine with HKS cam. The cabin is show ready, too, with a dash wrapped in Alcantara, NISMO Juke RS Recaro front seats, and carbon touches throughout.
Article excerpt: "Kyle [Padelford]'s '99 Skyline GT-R V-Spec was purchased at auction and exported from Japan to Canada, where it is registered and spends most of its time. Since Canadian-based vehicles can legally be driven across the border and on U.S. roads, Kyle decided to take advantage of SoCal's familiar shops, tuners, racetracks, and competition events to build and shake down the car, until it's completed and can be campaigned in events across Canada and the U.S. But nearly as challenging as all that was building the car into what Kyle had always dreamed of."
Why we love it: Another that falls into the show-worthy race cars category, Kyle's Skyline is purely focused on time attack. He ditched many of the Nissan's electronic nannies, dialed in the chassis for circuit performance, and designed a rollcage so precisely that many of its bars are welded directly to key parts of the car's unibody to improve structural rigidity. All killer, no filler.
Article excerpt: "By this time, we can assume you've noticed how tidy the entire build is. You might even ask yourself where this stunner hails from. The Hakosuka comes from the country of the 200 percent importation tax, Thailand. While talent and skills can be recognized worldwide, the citizens of Thailand have it that much harder. It's forced the entire country to develop skills in place of throwing a few part numbers into a search engine and whipping out their credit card of choice."
Why we love it: Swapping the engine out of a Hakosuka seems like blasphemy—unless you replace it with a newer GT-R engine, like Dome Padungchewit did. His classic Skyline project hosts a stroked, naturally aspirated RB26DETT swap that displaces 2.9 liters. We've also got a soft spot for its super clean interior and those iconic RS Watanabe rims.
Article excerpt: "'I sort of wanted to make a "demo car"-one of those old, '90s- and early-'00s-style Japanese tuner shop cars,' says James McCue as he introduces us to his immaculate '99 Nissan GT-R V-Spec. 'That's why nearly everything in the engine bay is HKS. And I wanted to stay really true to that era's tuning philosophy, like staying with low-mount twins and pushing the envelope in terms of having not only a fantastically tuned car but also stupidly fast response and making a ton of power. And I still wanted to be able to drive it anywhere and everywhere. '"
Why we love it: The mechanical bits of James's Skyline are a reliable equation for maximum GT-R performance—HKS stroker kit and turbo, plus equal parts NISMO and JDM bolt-ons. It's the car's electric aesthetic that grabs our attention, mainly the R34's Formula Silver CE28N wheels and custom copper and gold blend-colored engine covers popping against a background of breathtaking TV2 factory Bayside Blue body color.
Article excerpt: "If it's vibrant, carbon-encased styling and distinctive blue paint scheme don't grab your attention, then maybe the way it sits will, or perhaps the throwback neon underglow that has you either smirking or shaking your head. Bagged and boosted, this GT-R is an exercise in excessiveness, with massive JDM nadgers to back it all up. Yet despite its wild appearance, the owner of this car is the last guy you'd expect to see riding high on the back of Godzilla."
Why we love it: The ultimate Paul Walker Fast & Furious R34 Skyline tribute build is in Japan, and it's owned by a mild-mannered medical engineer. It's also on bags and rocks underglow—a unique vision for a unique car.
Article excerpt: "As many of us aspire to one day own a Skyline GT-R, you could view [Fredrick Tissera's] story as a car enthusiast as being inspirational. The flip side to this story is Tissera's ongoing fight with cancer, one he hopes will inspire others who are facing a similar challenge to never give up on their dreams and use their strength to push forward."
Why we love it: Fredrick's R32 is a Tomei-kissed passion project that pulls at our heartstrings. Accomplishing his dream Skyline GT-R, he's finding new ways to raise cancer awareness and motivate those going through the same difficult health challenge he is.