It's not hard to understand the fanatical attraction to Nissan's most famous performance car—especially in countries where getting your hands on a Skyline GT-R is an all but impossible reality. After all, you always want what you can't have... But even in places where being able to buy a Godzilla of R32, '33 or '34 vintage is totally possible, you'll rarely find an owner short on radical levels of enthusiasm for the Skyline king, nor one that's since traded ownership for any other performance car—Japanese or otherwise. John Apostolopoulos from Sydney, Australia, is one of those people.
In fact, at no time in the last 20 years has John not had a GT-R in his garage. And we're not talking run-of-the-mill GT-Rs here, either—if there are such things. His wildest creation was a Midnight Purple BNR34 tuned up to a mind-numbing 1,324 whp. "RH9" —the name a nod to Japan's 0-400m 9-Seconds Record Holders Club—was the stuff GT-R dreams are made of: a built 2.7L engine with MoTeC management, a Holinger sequential gearbox, 19-inch Volk Racing GT-C wheels and Brembo eight-piston brakes. On the 'strip it managed a 9.7-second e.t. at 147 mph—in full street trim we might add...
But while John's R34 was winning dyno shootouts and terrorizing Australian GM-Holden and Ford V-8s on the street, there was another GT-R making big noises in Australia's sport compact scene, namely Paul Mouhayet's BNR32—aka "RH9GTR." And similar license plates weren't the only things the two cars shared—both were bona fide street cars built with ludicrous power and straight-line performance in mind. As far as future potential, though, the lighter R32, which had already run an 8-second quarter-mile, had the upper edge, so when Paul decided it was time to go racing in a twin turbo Mustang—which at the time of writing is the world's fastest 10.5 tire drag machine and Australia's quickest and fastest turbo car, having run in the 5.80s at more than 250 mph—an opportunity presented itself. Despite owning one of the most impressive R34s on the face of the planet, a fast R32 GT-R street car had been on John's mind for a long while, and knowing he wouldn't find anything of a higher caliber than RH9GTR. A deal was done.
You'd think that an 8-second, street-legal Skyline would be satisfying enough, but not in this instance. "Now we've taken it to the next level," John told us when we caught up with him and the Nissan at Motive DVD's recent GT-R Challenge & Drag Battle. The "next level" John speaks of is a setup that everyone involved in this build is confident will see the Skyline break out of the 8s and into the 7s. This isn't big talk—the name emblazoned on the R32's flanks, CV Performance, is very well respected in Australian drag racing circles for a reason.
When you consider that RH9GTR can still be classed as a modified Skyline rather than one that's been cut up and re-engineered for drag duty from a stripped-out shell, running sub 8-second e.t.'s on the 'strip will be an impressive feat. But as it always has been, the black GT-R's factory-spec exterior gives little clue to the potency that lies within. If John wanted to, he could fit the Volk GT-Cs that were retained from RH9, but the R32's original lightweight 16x8" wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials only add to the understated visual aesthetic. Lift the hood, though, and it's a completely different story. Where once sat a factory-spec RB26 delivering 276 hp, now resides a hard-tuned CV Performance RB26/30 mash-up.
The RB26/30 is a combination of an RB30 inline-six block—in this case fitted with JE forged pistons, Carrillo rods, and a custom billet stroker crank to stretch capacity to 3.2L—and an RB26 cylinder head—here an BNR34 item that's been CNC-ported and spec'd out with custom cams. While single turbo conversions are commonplace in GT-R drag setups, RH9GTR has always been about twin delivery—first with an HKS GT setup, and now with a pair of Precision Turbo PT6466s high-mounted on custom manifolds. Precision Turbo wastegates control boost pressure through an NLR AMS1000 and Turbosmart e-Boost2 modules; a giant front-mounted Trust Drag intercooler ensures a cool charge; and a full twin-pipe exhaust system keeps the Highway Patrol happy. The engine also uses a Hypertune billet plenum and Bosch 2,000cc injectors that draw from a substantial fuel setup in the trunk featuring a custom surge tank and a trio of Bosch Motorsport fuel pumps. There's also a nitrous kit for some extra kick.
After building the motor, CV Performance performed the final setup on its in-house dyno utilizing a MoTeC M800 engine management. No one is saying how much power RH9GTR is making these days, but it's safe to say it's more than four digits deep at all four wheels.
Of course, making those sort of numbers is one thing, but getting it down to the ground with the least amount of wheelspin possible is another thing altogether. The answer here is a Powerglide auto that's been integrated into the Skyline's four-wheel-drive system, and a driveline that's been engineered with strength in mind through custom billet driveshafts and axles, a chrome-moly tailshaft, plus LSDs and 4:11 gears. The notion of trading three pedals and a manual transmission for a two-speed slushbox will be lost by many—this is a GT-R after all—but it's a solution that's well-suited for the purpose of scooting down the quarter-mile in the quickest time possible. Not only that, but it means that the Skyline is a lot more manageable when John drives it on the street—which is not daily, but definitely often.
In learning more about the car at Cootamundra Airport as it destroyed the GT-R Challenge competition one Skyline at a time, it became obvious that apart from the significant engine and driveline upgrades, John's car is otherwise only mildly tuned. For example, the chassis, suspension, and brake modifications extend to an ANDRA-spec rollcage (a requirement given the e.t. and speeds the R32 is capable of), adjustable Nitron coilovers, and slotted DBA rotors and performance pads. Inside, you'll find fabric-covered Kirkey aluminum race seats with harnesses, a B&M shifter, and a MoTeC SDL Sport Dash Logger and SLM Shift Light Module, but for the most part it's a factory GT-R affair—right down to the complete dashboard and console, door panels with electrics, steering wheel, and carpet. I'm not sure if you could get any more "street" in a car that weighs 3,475 pounds yet has run a best e.t. of 8.39 at 173 mph.
Although it was a long way off the car's record, John's winning, and overall record time at the GT-R Challenge—a 9.12 at 166 mph—was extremely quick given the cold and slippery runway surface he had to contend with. Had he managed to get in another run, John is positive they would have seen an ET in the 8.90s, but either way it's a good indication of how brutally fast RH9GTR is in a "real" street scenario.