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1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

A pair of Signal Auto builds for the masses

Aaron Bonk
Apr 11, 2014
Photographer: Matthew Jones

You know Signal Auto for its ostentatiousness, for its signature-orange paint schemes, for being the company responsible for turning out cars like its legendary pair of chop-top JDM Civic drag cars—one of which was powered by a front-wheel-drive NSX platform—or its equally infamous 180SX duo that did their part in helping establish drifting in the U.S. But there's more to the Osaka, Japan-based tuning firm and parts manufacturer, and their story transcends any requisite color codes or purpose-built race cars.

1998 subaru impreza signal auto custom front diffuser 01 Photo 2/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Officially founded in 1978 by Kosuke "MAD" Kida, today, Signal Auto does it all. The JDM powerhouse's list of services on its website tells you that its auto body side is equipped for jobs as small as repairing a single scratch or dent, but limiting Signal Auto to something as menial as all of that would be foolish. Deep in its suburban headquarters, the Signal Auto team thrives on unparalleled undertakings—like Civics with their roofs lopped off, shortened, and then grafted back into place. Big-power engine builds that aren't limited to any particular make, body work, tuning, and fabrication all make up the list of what the Japanese tuning company is capable of and complement its manufacturing side that produces high-end aero pieces, exhaust components, and engine bits. Over the years the JDM firm has expanded and then scaled back, opening up a North American facility in Torrance, CA, in 2000, which has since been shut down, as well as another location in Thailand.

1998 subaru impreza cusco trunk brace 10 Photo 3/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Not every Signal Auto buildup is as glorified as those that have made their way onto American soil, though. In between every iconic Signal Auto project are two more that are every bit as attainable as the others are majestic. Like the company's most recent JDM creations—its STi-swapped GC8 Subaru WRX and moderately modified R34 Nissan Skyline—either of which are orders of magnitude more realistic than what the company's been known for in the past but, in their own way, every bit as special.

1998 subaru impreza bride zeta III seats 09 Photo 4/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

GC8 Greatness

You can't just go out and buy your own GC8 WRX—the upgraded Impreza based upon Subaru's World Rally Cross cars wasn't available to American buyers until '02—but if you could, you'd want it to be like Signal Auto client Yasuhiro Kimura's. The Osaka tuning company started with the JDM WRX's original boxer engine but soon pulled the short-block out from underneath it, replacing it with the later-model GDB STi's stronger, more powerful version. It's an obvious swap that's done for obvious reasons: the cylinders, pistons, connecting rods, and crank are all able to handle more abuse.

1998 subaru impreza signal auto custom rear diffuser 04 Photo 5/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Which is a good thing since the pressure was promptly cranked up, although, interestingly enough, the original turbo was retained. Here, the factory turbine bolts up to a Maxim Works exhaust manifold that's fed from the other end through a Blitz intercooler and a host of piping from Signal Auto and Zero Sports. Signal Auto dialed in the EJ20's air/fuel mixture using an A'PEXi Power FC along with Power Enterprise injectors and a SARD fuel pressure regulator. The results are every bit as tame and streetable as you think, which is, after all, what Kimura was after.

1998 subaru impreza yokohama advan RS wheels 08 Photo 6/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Like most of Signal Auto's demo cars, Kimura's GC8 exacts balance. The moderate power level complements the pointedly modified chassis that's been outfitted with Zeal shocks, Hyperco springs, and just about every bar, brace, and bracket that Cusco says any Impreza ought to have. It's the same sort of balance that's inherent with Subaru's boxer-engine layout. Unlike conventional inline or V-style engines that distribute their weight unevenly across the chassis, boxer engines are nearly symmetrical. Rip the car in half from front to rear and the two halves of the engine, transmission and driveline are identical to one another. Do the same to any inline or V-style engine and you'll end up with an exhaust manifold on one side, maybe three-quarters of a crank on the other, or an entire transaxle on one end. Such boxer symmetry leads to reduced body roll, less torque steer and reduced engine vibrations, or, in other words, the perfectly balanced WRX that you've always imagined.

1998 subaru impreza sard gauges 07 Photo 7/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Tuning Menu
1998 Subaru Impreza

Owner Yasuhiro Kimura

Hometown Osaka, Japan

Engine GDB WRX STi engine block; Tomei headgasket and timing belt; ARC oil pan; Blitz SUS Power air filter; Zero Sports intake pipe; Trust Spec-R intercooler, oil cap and spark plugs; Signal Auto custom intercooler piping, titanium exhaust, radiator and radiator cooling plate; SARD blow-off valve, front pipe, fuel collector tank, fuel pressure regulator and radiator overflow tank; Maxim Works exhaust manifold; R34 Nissan Skyline fuel pump; Power Enterprise 550cc/min. fuel injectors; HKS oil cooler; Cusco oil catch tank; A'PEXi Power FC; Samco Sports cooling and induction hoses; WRX STi radiator cap

1998 subaru impreza GDB WRX STi engine block 05 Photo 8/22   |  
More powerful STi swap inside.

Drivetrain GC8 transmission; Exedy Hyper carbon twin-disc clutch; Cusco 1-way differential (front); Cusco 1.5-way differential (rear)

Footwork & Chassis Zeal Super Function shocks; Hyperco springs; Cusco front and rear upper shock mounts, front and rear stabilizer bars, front and rear strut tower braces, front and rear lower arm bars, center floor brace, rear floor brace and trunk brace; Okuyama 13-point aluminum roll cage

Brakes Endless six-piston front calipers, front rotors and pads; Dixcel rear rotors

Wheels & Tires 17x8" +45 Yokohama Advan RS wheels; 225/45R17 Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 tires

1998 subaru impreza MOMO steering wheel 06 Photo 9/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Exterior Signal Auto canards, custom front and rear diffusers; Garage Kagotani carbon-fiber hood; Sard GT Fuji rear spoiler; Ganador carbon-fiber mirrors

Interior Bride Zeta III seats; WRX STi shift knob and 280km scale gauge; Sard gauges; Defi Racer boost gauge, Billion VFC Pro fan controller; TRUST Profec B boost controller


1998 subaru impreza signal auto canards 03 Photo 10/22   |  
Shooting on-the-go while traveling internationally isn’t always easy—especially when you only have ten minutes before your train back to civilization departs. Please excuse the photos, but there was no way in hell I was going to let this GC8 slip through our fingers. —MJ


1999 nissan skyline GT T c west front bumper 02 Photo 11/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

You're right. This is no GT-R. The GT-T is Nissan's rear-wheel-drive, slightly smaller-displacement version of its famed supercar. But it's still a R34 Skyline, it's still factory turbocharged, and, last time we checked, it beats the Camry on cut springs with the uni wiper that the non-GT-R finger-pointers rip around in any day.

1999 nissan skyline GT T HKS circuit attackc counter 20 Photo 12/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

GT-R or not, Signal Auto's R34 version of Nissan's storied sports car is undoubtedly quicker than any mid-'90s Camry. To make sure of that, fellow JDM tuning house Tomei was called upon for its PONCAM Type-B cams and lower-compression head gasket that allow for increased boost. PON, short for Power of Needs, is Tomei's way of telling you that these cams are suitable for the RB's stock valvetrain and ECU, unlike its PROCAM series of sticks. Signal Auto went on to hook up one of its own R34 exhaust systems in which an HKS GT2835 turbo blows compressed, heated and wasted exhaust gases through. Fuel components, like 530cc/min fuel injectors from Sard and a fuel pump from Nismo, along with HKS's F-Con V Pro engine management system tuned at the hands of Signal Auto maximize the 2.5-liter engine's potential and help prevent shards of pistons from exiting through the tailpipe.

1999 nissan skyline GT T C west rear bumper 15 Photo 13/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

It isn't all about horsepower, though, which is why the same amount of attention was paid to the R34 drivetrain and chassis. For this, TEIN coilovers were positioned behind 18-inch CE28s along with six-piston calipers, rotors and pads from Endless. Unlike the GT-R, GT-T models feature a more conventional transmission and rear end that are enhanced by an Exedy twin-disc clutch and Nismo GT limited-slip differential. And, unlike the GT-R, Signal Auto's GT-T is among the few GT-R alternatives that you not only want but remains within conceivable reach.

1999 nissan skyline GT T defi link advance BF gauges 21 Photo 14/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Tuning Menu
1999 Nissan Skyline GT-T

Owner Signal Auto

Hometown Osaka, Japan

Engine Nismo engine mounts and fuel pump; Tomei PONCAM Type-B cams, head gasket, timing belt and fuel pressure regulator; Trust intake system; HKS GT2835 KAI turbocharger, downpipe oil cooler and F-CON V Pro Ver. 3.3 engine management system; Blitz intercooler; Signal Auto exhaust system; Sard 530cc/min fuel injectors; NGK spark plugs; Panasonic battery; Tabata radiator; HPI cooling fans; Billion thermostat

1999 nissan skyline GT T trust intake system 16 Photo 15/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Drivetrain Nismo GT limited-slip differential; Exedy carbon twin-disc clutch and lightweight flywheel

Footwork & Chassis TEIN Super Racing coilovers; Eibach springs; ARC front and rear anti-sway bars; Cusco front strut tower bar; Ikeya Formula lower control arms, camber arms and front toe arms

Brakes Endless 355mm rotors, six-piston calipers, MXRS pads and steel-braided lines

Wheels & Tires 18x9.5" +22 front, 18x10.5" +18 rear Volk Racing CE28 wheels; 265/35R18 Yokohama Advan A050 tires

1999 nissan skyline GT T side mirror 18 Photo 16/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Exterior Show Up Kronos Copper Magenta paint; C-West front and rear bumpers; Signal Auto hood; Nismo side skirts; Sard GT Wing 020

1999 nissan skyline GT T nardi classic sport type a steering wheel 17 Photo 17/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach

Interior Bride Zeta III seat (driver) and Digo seat (passenger); HPI harnesses; Nardi Classic Sport Type A steering wheel; Signal Auto quick-release hub; Nismo shift knob; HKS EVC5 boost controller and Circuit Attack Counter; Defi-Link Advance BF gauges

1999 nissan skyline GT T volk racing CE28 19 Photo 18/22   |   1998 GC8 Impreza & 1999 R34 Skyline GT-T - Within Reach


Signal auto B16 civic 11 Photo 19/22   |   530hp chop-topped Civic racer rockin' a built B16 Garrett turbo and Motec management
Signal auto SR20DET powered nissan V35 skyline 12 Photo 20/22   |   SR20DEt-powered Kandy Orange Nissan V35 Skyline pushing 450+whp.
Signal auto CRX racer 13 Photo 21/22   |  
CRX racer with a B16A built head, ITBs and CTR tranny. It ran 11s all day!
Signal auto fairlady Z 14 Photo 22/22   |  
Fairlady Z with a stroked SR20 swap, HKS turbo and looks that kill.
By Aaron Bonk
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