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 |   |  2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R - Thunder Down Under
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2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R - Thunder Down Under

David Lai shows us what we’re missing out on with his ultimate GT-R

Apr 7, 2014
Photographer: Alan Luy

We're a bit jealous of Australians. One: they get to see kangaroos all day. Two: Nissan sold the Skyline there. If you're like us, a Skyline is easily one of the top cars we'd have in our dream garage. Forget a Bugatti...we'll take a Skyline! It's pretty standard for most enthusiasts here in the States to simply want any generation of Skyline solely because they were never sold here. We always want what we can't have! But quite honestly, it's not just us. The car is still one of the most coveted cars in countries that sell them—just like our feature car here from Down Under. David Lai from Thirroul (about an hour south of Sydney) could have bought any car he wanted but he knew nothing compared to the BNR34, that last generation of the Skyline GT-R. While the car's over a decade old, it still performs and looks better than most sports cars sold today. Just goes to show, Nissan hit a home run with this car and for fanatics like David, it was a no-brainer when he had the opportunity to pick up this twin-turbo beauty.

2002 nissan skyline GTR voltex type 5 rear wing 02 Photo 2/9   |   2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R - Thunder Down Under

"The amount of street presence the BNR34 embodies when it rolls up on the street is phenomenal," he told us. "Doesn't matter if it's stock or rocking a full Z-tune kit, people will always turn their heads, stare and admire its beauty. It also has the power to back up its fierce look and an incredible all-wheel drive system underneath which I believe makes it the ultimate JDM car to date." Strong words from an enthusiast who's had his fair share of project cars. In his teenage years, David built a Honda Integra Type R DC5 (another car we never got!), an AP1 S2000 and a V-Spec R34. This purple GT-R is his second R34 (lucky bastard!), but that's just how awesome these cars are. So for his second build, David decided he wanted the right combination of form and function. "The objective was make it the ultimate GT-R rolling on the streets of Australia which could turn heads, hit the track with no worries and have a good amount of power to scare my passengers."

By all means, the Skyline is already a rocket out of the box but if David was going to build his ultimate GT-R, he needed more power. F&E Autowerks became his new best friend as they took care of everything from the car's maintenance, to the majority of the install work and dialing in the chassis for the track.

2002 nissan skyline GTR nismo z tune front bumper 03 Photo 3/9   |   2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R - Thunder Down Under

David started his journey by upgrading the engine first. Keeping the RB26's twin-turbo configuration, the turbos were upgraded to larger Garrett GT2860-5s. The entire exhaust system uses legit pieces from Mine's Japan while the cams were updated with a more aggressive version from Tomei. ARC, GReddy and Nismo parts were thrown into the mix for better cooling and more fuel. It's pretty much JDM heaven under the hood! While it doesn't sport a built motor and single-turbo conversion like some powerhouses we've seen, David's R34 was tuned to a reliable 460hp—more than plenty of power for a street car.

David didn't smudge on the chassis upgrades either. A Nismo R-tune suspension was modified with stiffer 16 kg/mm spring rates. Nismo sway bars reduce any body roll left in the chassis. Since the car comes factory with awesome Brembos, the brakes received Project Mu rotors and pads—a good option for a balance of track performance and daily driving. As for rollers, pictured here are David's SSR SP3s. They've been painted light bronze—a nice complement to the purple exterior. But like any wheel whore, David's got two more sets of wheels. A spare set of Volk Racing CE28 sits at home in his garage while for the track, he rolls out 18x11" Volk Racing TE37 Super Lap edition wheels with Hankook slicks. "Having these two setups can please the stance crowd and track lovers!" he admitted.

2002 nissan skyline GTR personal neo grinta steering wheel 05 Photo 4/9   |  
Interior is pretty basic in David’s car but after our photoshoot, he’s stepped up to Recaro ASM Limited seats. Way to go, mate!

The exterior is perhaps our favorite part of David's GT-R. It's absolutely breathtaking. The color alone sets the car apart from any other R34 and it's a factory color, too! Available specifically for R34 GT-Rs, less than 200 cars were offered in Midnight Purple III. David added his personal touch with Nismo goodies which included the Z-tune front bumper, side skirts and rear pods. A Top Secret carbon-fiber front splitter was added to make the nose more aggressive, while Craft Square mirrors and a Voltex Type 5 wing give it a motorsport-feel.

There isn't a whole lot of aftermarket parts or custom work but that's the beauty of David's R34. Everything done to his GT-R was carefully thought out. There's no unnecessary junk, nothing is gaudy and it's more than reliable enough to drive every day or take it to the track whenever he wants. Yes, we're still jealous we can't have this car over here in the States but we gotta give David props for showing us how it's done Down Under.

2002 nissan skyline GTR RB26 valve cover 07 Photo 5/9   |   2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R - Thunder Down Under

Weekend Warrior

Not just a pretty GT-R, David's pushes the limits of his R34 on the track!

My first track experience was at Winton Raceway in Victoria—700km drive from where I live. I drove my GT-R down with my brother the night before the track day. Since this was my first time, I used the first session to cruise, learn the lines and see how the car behaved whilst setting the car to low boost, 13psi, to take it easy. The next session I pushed it harder whilst still holding back at 6000rpm to set down a base time. But pulling into the pits, I noticed the car was smoking from the turbo side! It was blowing smoke like no tomorrow. Major blow-by gases occurred in the intake system and leaked onto the turbos, which caused the smoke. I went out again for the third session to do a few laps and return to the pits to check if everything went fine and unfortunately, it did not. The car blew so much smoke as if it looked like it was about to catch on fire, so I had to call it a day. I travelled a long way to do only two and half sessions but it was well worth it! Before my next track day, we installed a Nismo oil air separator to help take care of the blow-by gas problem. The car was ready to go to Wakefield Park this time, a two-hour drive from where I live. On race day, the car performed superbly! No issues had occurred and the car was continuously doing hot laps. On the third session, the car experienced a big exhaust leak due to hitting the front pipe on one of the rumble strips, which caused the turbo gasket to blow. So I called it a day after that incident. Even though I didn't get many sessions in, I knew the car was running fine and have figured out what needs to be done before my next race! —David Lai

2002 nissan skyline GTR voltex type 5 rear wingr 04 Photo 6/9   |   2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R - Thunder Down Under

Tuning Menu

2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Owner David Lai

Hometown New South Wales, Australia

Occupation Pharmacy student and assistant

Power 460hp

Engine Garrett GT2860-5 turbos; Mine's Bellmouth dump pipes, Silence VX Pro front pipe and cat-back exhaust; custom test pipe, rocker covers and timing belt cover; Tomei Poncams, cam gears and timing belt; Splitfire coilpacks; ARC catch can and M079GT twin-entry 70mm intercooler; 1000cc Power Enterprise injectors; Nismo fuel pressure regulator and fuel pump

2002 nissan skyline GTR RB26 valve cover 08 Photo 7/9   |  
Instead of the factory-rated 276hp, David’s RB26 pushes 460hp!

Drivetrain OS Giken STR2CD twin-plate clutch

Engine Management Haltech Platinum Pro ECU

Footwork & Chassis Nismo R-tune suspension with custom 16kg/mm Eibach springs; Nismo sway bars; SRI HICAS lock bar

Brakes Project Mu SCR rotors and HC+ pads; HEL braided lines

Wheels & Tires 19x11" SSR SP3 wheels painted bronze; 275/30R19 Dunlop Direzza DZ101 tires

2002 nissan skyline GTR SSR SP3 wheel 06 Photo 8/9   |  
1 of 3 wheel setups, these are David’s 19x11

Exterior Nismo Z-tune front bumper, side skirts, rear pods and clear turn signals; Voltex Type 5 rear wing; Top Secret carbon-fiber front diffuser; Craft Square TCA-F mirrors; QEST Lights LED taillights and brake light

Interior Nismo kill switch; titanium gear knob; Personal Neo Grinta 330mm suede steering wheel; Works Bell short boss kit and Rapfix II quick-release; Pioneer head unit

Thanks You Matt at F&E Autoworks; my brother Tam; Derek Pham; Vu Quach at Nakama and DT Panels;

2002 nissan skyline GTR nismo z tune side skirts 09 Photo 9/9   |  
Might look like a custom paint job but this is OE Nissan Midnight Purple III, a specific color for the R34 GT-R.
Sam Du
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