With the exception of Nissan’s R35 GT-R, part of what’s made past GT-Rs such special cars in the eye of a consumer base not privy to the likes of them is their right-hand-drive architecture. The right-side layout lends itself to the car’s elusiveness, to the fact that this particular Japanese-only Nissan was never meant for you. Unless you’re Jimbo Vicente. Then you just tear one apart and convert it to left-hand drive and do whatever you’ve got to do to make it street legal.
The Philippines is a funny place. Unlike the U.S., non-native auto importation laws are comparatively lax, provided you’re willing to perform the appropriate procedures, like moving steering wheels to the sides of cars that the government’s Land Transportation Office says they ought to be on. Which is exactly what Jimbo’s Manila-based company, JCL Auto District, specializes in. Besides his personal car—a ‘00 Skyline GT-R V-Spec—the 28-year-old committed similar blasphemy to nearly 100 other performance-based imports, including all manner of Silvias, STIs, Evos, Supras and S2000s, all in an effort for them to be deemed roadworthy by the likes of the Philippine equivalent of the United States’ Department of Transportation.
The Philippines’ left-hand-drive regulation is a curious one, though, especially considering the country’s passive stance toward most aftermarket modifications. “The LTO will not register a car if it isn’t a left-hand-drive vehicle,” he says. “But we have no laws against modifying cars. Not that I’m aware of.” Jimbo goes on to tell of the greater Manila region’s automotive performance landscape: “There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of modified Civics around. I see them on a daily basis, and they’re here to stay. Every Friday and Saturday you’ll see plenty of modified cars at gas stations and along roads for illegal street racing.” He may or may not be one of those late-night gas station patrons, but we do know this: his goal was to build what he calls a lightly tuned, fast, balanced and reliable Skyline. For this he entrusted tuning facility Titanworks and a host of
high-end bits, including a team of HKS GT2530 turbos matched to a Trust front-mount intercooler. Generating 425awhp and mid-11-second time slips from the already impressive RB26DETT was the easy part, though. Converting the R34 to left-hand drive, not so much. Left-hand-drive Skylines of this genre there does not exist. As such, his company’s greatest challenge was sourcing an appropriate steering mechanism with a likeminded turning radius and converting the original dash. “We had no idea what steering rack we should use,” Jimbo says. “We did some trial and error, researched a bit, and finally settled with the 350Z’s [steering rack]. It turned out pretty good.” Retrofitting the dash wasn’t without its own frustrations; the factory piece was chopped, tilted, re-skinned and put back together in mirror form. Of course, a left-hand-drive conversion at the expense of any of the niceties that make a GT-R a GT-R just wouldn’t be worth it. “Everything works,” he says. HICAS. ATTESA-ETS. ABS. Everything. When called out by naysayers for what they perceived to be an unsafe conversion, Jimbo did the only reasonable thing you can think of: tracked his car and proved them wrong.
Vicente and Nissan’s tenth-generation wondercar are no strange bedfellows. Aside from an Eclipse that was promptly wrecked, he’s played caretaker to an R31 GTS-R, an R32 GT-R, a couple of R34 GT-Ts and another R34 GT-R to go along with the one you’re reading about now. His current GT-R, which is the final generation to carry the Skyline name and was sourced from a Japanese auto auction, served daily driver duties early on but has since been partially decommissioned. “I realized its mileage was piling up,” he says when considering how his GT-R V-Spec was once used not for racing purposes but for trips to the Philippine equivalent of Bed Bath and Beyond. “Now I just drive it when there’s no traffic and I can satisfy my need for speed.” Tomei Type B Poncam cams that were designed not just to make more power but to do so in a simplified, drop-in manner help with all of that, along with adjustable cam gears, high-pressure valve springs, and free-flowing exhaust manifolds, also from the revered Japanese tuning firm. Tying everything together is an A’PEXi Power FC and GReddy PRofec e-01 boost controller tuned to the note of a conservative 1.2 bar of boost. It’s true that Manila’s dynos aren’t exactly succumbing to its inline powerplant at only 425awhp, but measures were taken to fortify the already stout Nissan block anyways. Inside, forged Eagle rods replace the factory pieces while above a 1.2mm Cometic headgasket lowers compression a touch. Tomei was once again called upon, this time to address oiling with its high-volume pump and pan combination. SARD and Bosch make that horsepower figure a reality with enough injector and pump to keep detonation at bay.
Despite the conspicuous driving-side conversion, Jimbo’s GT-R remains every bit as elusive as any other top model Skyline—perhaps even more so; it is, after all, one of only a handful of left-hand-drive GT-Rs on earth and, best of all, in the face of its extensive upgrades and newfound power, it remains roadworthy in the eyes of his country’s automotive warden. Some time after completing the conversion, if you ask him what he thinks of it now, his answer is simple: “I’ve never regretted it.”
2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec
Owner Jimbo Vicente
Hometown Manila, Philippines
Occupation Owner JCL Auto District
Engine HKS GT2530 turbochargers; Tomei exhaust manifolds, Type B Poncam camshafts, adjustable cam gears, valve springs, oil pump and oil pan; Trust/GReddy front-mount intercooler; NISMO Z-tune intercooler piping and intake manifold; A’PEXi air filters; Cometic 1.2mm headgasket; Eagle connecting rods; Kakimoto Racing 3.5-inch exhaust; Bosch 044 fuel pump; SX adjustable fuel pressure regulator; SARD fuel rail and 700cc fuel injectors
Drivetrain Ogura twin-disc carbon clutch and lightweight flywheel; R33 GT-R V-Spec 4.1:1 final drive front and rear differentials
Engine Management A’PEXi Power FC engine management system; GReddy e-01 boost controller; NISMO multi-function display
Footwork & Chassis Midori Aragosta Coilovers
Wheels & Tires 18x10.5" +15 Volk Racing SE37K wheels; Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD07 tires
Exterior NISMO Z-tune front bumper and LED taillights; Sigmax carbon-fiber hood, front spoiler, trunk, rear spoiler and rear spoiler mounts; NISMO LED taillights
Interior Bride Gias Low Max seats; Takata harnesses; NISMO multi-function display