For those of us whose teenage years fall somewhere within the '90s, there are certain cars from that time period that get us feeling all sorts of tightness in the pants. The FD RX-7, MkIV Supra, DC2 Integra Type R ... but nothing as iconic as Nissan's almighty R32 GT-R. When you are finally able to purchase the car of your dreams, there is no gratification that comes close. One could easily argue that having owned a DC2R and a Porsche 997, Ed Liu's already made his dreams come true—but they aren't GT-Rs. "The Skyline was the iconic Japanese supercar and always stood out as top dog," he says. "I always compare it to the E30 M3 as far as styling and cult following goes; it's got all the right body lines. The GT-R still holds its own amongst today's modern designs."
When Ed began his quest for the R32, he went straight to International Vehicle Importers/Toprank. There, Sean Morris (arguably one of the world's foremost experts on the GT-R and how you can legally import one to the States) and Yaska Kosuge had a small inventory ready. But how do you choose the right GT-R? On one hand, there was a NISMO Edition in rough shape (think: limited edition to 500 units produced, Group A racing homologation, different aero, and so on), and the other? A very clean standard model that had already been California certified for street use. With a six-month minimum wait time for the certification process, Ed's decision was easy. "I couldn't wait that long, plus they only title really clean cars that can command a premium."
The R32 was virtually stock (other than holding a Calif. title) and Ed quickly learned its nuances—once he could get over the mental challenge of trying to baby it. "I love the car," he says. "But it's definitely not as glorious as I imagined it would be. The serviceability and packaging of these '90s cars leaves much to be desired, and once you really start getting into taking care of the more common issues (that must be addressed in stock form), the 'ooh' factor diminishes." GT-R owners begin to learn things, such as when jacking up the car, you need to know where the soft areas of the chassis are. As a tip, Ed doesn't suggest doing it from the factory pinch welds. "It might bust a hole through the floorpan!" he adds. He was able to source a new OEM bumper at a local dealership, along with several other pieces, and explains that someday he might find himself restoring the car to stock at some point as doing so would make it "much easier to enjoy in California." Additionally, Nissan/NISMO Japan launched its Heritage Program, which allows enthusiasts to purchase remanufactured components for restorations and projects like Ed's. "Luckily, they introduced this program a year after I bought my GT-R," he explains. "It's also nice having friends in Japan who have firsthand experience with the R32 and can share knowledge."
But Nissan isn't the only one offering support for these types of cars. GReddy lent major support to Ed's build knowing the R32 would become a hot item once the federal 25-year vehicle import rule was lifted, a major segment for the aftermarket to capture. "Working with a team that has extensive knowledge of the RB26 really helped," Ed says. "We were able to determine which parts could be improved upon in the U.S. market, which translate to a better final product for the customer. It's cool seeing parts in a catalog, but to see it altogether in person makes a real difference. Who hasn't spent hours dreaming of owning something and putting on all the parts from a top-name tuner? This was the right opportunity to showcase what GReddy can do and revitalize interest in the brand because of this platform, an era-specific build built with updated technology."
Now that Ed's the proud owner of a Japanese legend, he says the best part of owning one is just being able to drive it. "It sounds cliche, but the analog feel is the most satisfying [part]," he says. "A modern car with all its safety aides and electronics doesn't provide the same feeling. You ever watch one of those documentaries on old classic cars and the guy is smiling with the sun shining in his face? That's how I feel when I get in and drive. It's not the fastest and lacks modern amenities, but the looks kill and it makes all the right sounds. Also, seeing other people's reactions when I'm driving is really fun, and just being able to share the car with other enthusiasts makes me happy. Some builds are so extreme that you can't enjoy them on a daily basis, and I'm happy I've been given the opportunity to own (and fix up) my dream. I remember being with Evasive at Tsukuba Circuit back in 2015, and as we were leaving a time-attack event, we ended up behind a gray R32 not much different than mine. I told them, 'One day, I will own one. '"