Brendan Taylor isn't interested in normalcy. At 8, things like a gifted Porsche 944 model car, his dad's Citroen DS he'd pretend to drive, and a couple of Peugeots of his mom's all contributed to his deviating from things like S14s with SR swaps or Civic hatchbacks on Mugen rims. Instead, Brendan found solace in machines like Nissan's President Sovereign—a boat of a luxury sedan you know nothing about—as well as a life-size 944 to complement that toy and, more recently, an RB26DETT-motivated Stagea 260RS, also a product of Nissan obscurity.
Forgiveness is yours for not knowing that the Stagea was even a thing, let alone one with a factory-tuned version featuring the R33 Skyline GT-R's twin-turbo engine. As it turns out, Brendan didn't know about it either, until his search for a Japanese-only turbo engine he thought would make a good addition to the Subaru he was driving around led to his discovering the limited-edition Nissan wagon.
"I couldn't believe I never even knew it existed." That's what he says about the first Stagea he bought but not the one you care about. He tested the waters with the RS4-S with its 2.5L version of the RB and the Skyline GTS-T's RWD transmission. "It was a special car," Brendan says, and was just about exactly what he wanted. Until he found out about the 260RS.
"That caught my attention," he says about the first Stagea he'd seen modified directly by Autech—Nissan's factory tuning division—and the first one ever to be imported into Canada, where Brendan lives. All of a sudden, a familiar plot was about to unfold, one that wasn't a whole lot different than the one that starred the R32 Skyline GTS-4 he owned and then offed for a bona fide GT-R. "I only had it for a few months until I realized I wasn't satisfied," he says about the GTS-4 he once had, of which you might as well substitute the words "Stagea RS4-S" for.
Both decisions were for the best. That R32 GT-R, Brendan says, led to the most fun he's ever had on the track, and the 260RS, well, he considers it a more refined version of that very Skyline. "Now, I own my real dream car," he says. "All the fun of a GT-R while still being able to haul furniture, plywood, a 60-inch TV, [or] four friends."
But Brendan didn't buy the Stagea for hauling around 4x8 sheets of cabinet-grade birch. He bought it because the 260RS is, as he puts it, is "Godzilla in sheep's clothing." He's talking about the 276hp, twin-turbocharged inline-six that made the GT-R famous, of which he's modified mildly with rebuilt Garrett turbos, APEX'i air filters, and exhaust work by way of Tomei and Kakimoto. And he's talking about the AWD drivetrain, both of which have been borrowed from the GT-R. According to Brendan, Nissan commissioned its Autech division to rescue a handful of automatic-laden RS-Fours from the production line and outfitted them with the sort of R33 GT-R bits you want to read about. "They were given distinct body kits with styling cues from the GT-R, distinct rear wings, and 17-inch BBS wheels," Brendan says about the limited-run model of which only 1,734 units, he says, were produced over its five-year lifespan.
Right about now you're probably wondering how in the world Brendan got the sort of car that was made by the dozen and that North America was never supposed to know about. For that, you can thank Canada's marginally more relaxed importation laws when compared to the U.S. And social media. "I found a guy on Instagram who brought in Canada's first Autech 260RS," Brendan says. "Could this be? A Stagea with an RB26 from the factory? A GT-R wagon?"
It could. "We became buddies, went for cruises, and got to chat about our weird obsession," he says about his Instagram pal and the two-person Stagea brotherhood they'd formed. But suddenly the 260RS was gone. "I loved my buddy's car," he says, "but I couldn't afford it at the time, and I was pretty happy with my [Stagea], and quite attached to it given the way I found it and imported it myself."
But those same feelings he had when wanting to transition from that GTS-4 to the GT-R kept resurfacing and two years and two owners later, his friend's former 260RS reemerged on the classifieds. "It hit me. I had to own it. I had to rescue it. And that's what I did," Brendan says. "In 22 hours in the middle of winter, I rented a car, drove 170 miles through the mountains, bought the car without test driving, and drove it back over the mountains in -18 degree F weather on bald snow tires, outrunning a snowstorm that was forming in the distance behind me." It's a story you'd almost have to be there to believe. Sort of like a the reality of an R33 GT-R disguised as a station wagon.