If you're anywhere between the ages of 25 and 45, chances are you've fantasized about owning a Skyline GT-R at one point in your life. For myself, I fell in love with the GT-R at the age of 14, sitting in front of the TV playing the original Gran Turismo. And like every fanboy in the late '90s and early '00s, the R34 became the car I'd rob a bank for; in fact, it still is that one Japanese sports car I'd wish to have in my garage. Besides its beautiful and aggressive styling, the GT-R's RB26DETT is still one of the best engines in sports car history thanks to its 2.6-liter, twin-cam inline-six with individual throttle bodies and twin turbos. Its cast-iron block meant it was indestructible, too, meaning builds in upwards of 1,000hp were realities from some of the best tuners in Japan, Australia, and elsewhere. Unlike Toyota's Supra, Honda's NSX, or even Mazda's RX-7 from the same era, the GT-R featured all-wheel drive in the form of ATTESA (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain), so lead-foot drivers like myself could benefit from more traction and control. Of course, to this day, owning a Skyline is still a farfetched idea for many of us. It's still a gray area to register one in the U.S. as it doesn't comply with 25-year-rule, and if you're like me, you're still making peanuts for a salary. We have to live vicariously through other blessed individuals in the community, and one such individual who has quite possibly the ultimate garage of GT-Rs is Charles Wong.
I met Charles during a trip to Canada earlier this year, but I've heard about his Bayside Blue R34 for a while now. Photos of his Skyline at Laguna Seca during the annual R's Day track day caught my attention first, then I was able to peep his GT-R in person at Wekfest Seattle last year. It's a purpose-built machine with the right recipe of JDM form and track-ready function. The best part about the project car is that Charles doesn't baby it one bit. It's driven hard whenever gets behind the wheel—a pretty ballsy thing to do with something that's so rare and expensive to maintain to begin with. So, while I knew of Charles before meeting him up for our photoshoot just outside of Vancouver, BC, I wasn't expecting him to bring three R34s, which all happen to be his!
Charles' main gig isn't what you'd expect it to be. He does floral designs for weddings. Like many of us, cars are his hobby, and in '06 he got into the whole Nissan thing when he began importing JDM goodies as a side gig to catch a break from his day duties of arranging roses and tulips. He formed his own brand called CW Collective where he'd bring in cars and parts for his buddies. The first JDM car he imported was an S15 Silvia, followed by an R32 GTS, then an R32 GT-R. Note: Before we go any further, Canada's rule for importing cars is 15 years as opposed to America's 25-year rule. He tells us that it's fairly easy to import and register a car in Canada as there's no strict smog laws, too.
With the ease of importing, he could legally start shipping in R34s in '13, which he did. Charles' technique is that he would browse used cars online through private sellers and auctions, then fly to Japan to check 'em out in person. "I don't like buying anything unseen, especially for that amount of money," he explained. "R34s are still pretty hard to get in Japan, especially a nice one. I have to touch it, see it, and it least test drive it once. It makes the whole experience of buying a GT-R more unique. And if you're spending that much amount of money, you might as well go there." Charles estimates that all said and done, you should budget around $100K to account for your travels, purchasing the car, covering all import costs, plus all the maintenance and repairs required to make it road worthy.
So why three? Well, if you're given the opportunity and have the funds to own three, why not?! That's just how nutty Charles was for Nissan's Godzilla, but if you're going to have three, you're sure as hell aren't going to make them all the same. There are similarities in all of Charles' children, being V-Spec models and having Volk Racing TE37s, but all three serve different purposes.
The blue one, which is Charles' favorite child, is his race car. It has run Laguna Seca once, Ridge Motorsports Park in Washington half a dozen times, and Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit on three occasions. It doesn't just look fast, either, but has a 650hp setup using a fully-built HKS motor and single-turbo conversion. Charles revealed that a new stroker motor is being built to 750hp which will mate to a sequential gearbox. "The car is going to Japan next where it will attend the largest GT-R meeting in the world at Fuji Speedway," he revealed. "The car will stay there until next Spring where it'll be used for track days and street driving when I visit." Note: You'll notice that we're missing proper interior and engine bay photos of the blue car as the motor and interior were still a work in progress during the time of our shoot.
The white car is the simplest of the three, however it's a slightly rarer V-Spec II model. It features a NISMO kit, carbon-ceramic brakes and Ohlins coilovers. "This is built for day-to-day use and getting from A-to-B. It's quiet and comfortable, fits four people, and has a full working A/C," he explained. Almost sounds like it could be a daily driver, which Charles reassured us it is. He's not afraid to go to a nice dinner with his wife in this car, nor is he afraid to pick up groceries in it. If you ask us, it's the most unlikely car for a daily driver in the middle of downtown Vancouver, but that's just Charles...
Which leaves the gray one... "It's kind of like the white car, except faster, but harder to drive," he reasoned. "It's not as street friendly, but it's also not a full-out track car like the blue one. Somewhere in between..." Charles picked up the gray R34 equipped with a built motor; however, he added a new turbo, injectors and ECU. When all was said and done, it was tuned to around 500hp. Upgrades like the triple-plate clutch and fixed Recaro driver seat make it slightly more of a chore to drive regularly, but he still manages to bust it out on the weekends and to local shows.
"This was always my part time thing, bringing in parts from Japan and helping my friends out by sharing on shipping costs. It takes a lot of stress off of my regular work, and I've been able to meet a lot of cool people with the same passion in GT-Rs. The R34 GT-R is the most unique car in my opinion, looks aggressive and stands out from everything else. For the price, sure you can buy a better performing car out there, but the R34 is so exclusive. There's something so historical about it, has such a strong racing background, and it just feels really Japanese," he concluded.
Charles' next phase includes helping out other R34 owners. He continues to import on the side, but has also developed his own line of parts such as the carbon-fiber version of the V-Spec rear diffuser and a bolt-in half 'cage as seen on his blue car.
We Americans might still have to wait half a decade until the R34 is truly legal, but if you're a true fan of the GT-R, you'll be patient. It's been 20 years since I've fallen in love with Nissan's supercar, and to this day it's still one of the best damn cars in history.