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Personalizing An Iconic 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R

A more patient approach to building Nissan's mighty '90s hero

Rodrez
Sep 7, 2020
Photographer: Brandon Miller

Cars like this 1990 R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R don't come along very often. Sure, we're all well-aware of the 25-year rule and the decent amount of R32s that have trickled into the U.S. as a result, but even to that point, there aren't a ton of them roaming your local streets. On occasion you might spot one in the wild, but you probably get your fix by catching them on the Super Street Network or during a social media scroll-fest, and more often than not they're heavily modded, boasting huge power and enlarged shoulders and hind quarters. Every once in a while, though, we get a glimpse of a more street-friendly example that isn't quite so extreme.

1990 Nissan Skyline GT R Ab Flug Front Diffuser 01 Photo 20/20   |   Personalizing An Iconic 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Ray Abelada was fortunate enough to get his hands on this KH2 Gunmetal model, and his train of thought on modifying it almost derails the notion that wild, in-your-face mods need to accompany Nissan's classically boxy, muscular '90s hero. Unlike many of you, Ray didn't daydream about blasting around town in Nissan's turbocharged, AWD wonder. His attention was locked into another brand entirely. "I grew up in the late '90s era and I've always been a Honda guy," he states. The idea of importing and tackling this build was a result of his friend, Tony, who'd been talking about building a JDM Integra. "I started looking for my own JDM project car. I wanted something unique and that could stand out on its own."

JDM Driver

The unplanned search led to the hunt for a Skyline GTS-T model, and with very few options in his region, he came up short. "Two months had passed, and I missed out on several purchases. I eventually broadened my search to include GT-Rs and accidentally found Driver Motorsports through a Google image search in January 2017." Reaching out to Chris Driver to get more info on a GT-R they had on their website, Ray was hit with the bad news as Chris informed him the car had already been spoken for. However, it wasn't all bad—the Premium JDM importer was expecting another GT-R shortly and Ray was eager to get a look.

With a number of photos and info provided by Driver Motorsports on their incoming Skyline, Ray was sold and immediately wired a deposit to make sure he didn't miss the opportunity. Not even a week later, Ray, and his family geared up for a 3-hour drive to bring home their new family weekend car. Starting with a clean chassis is always a good idea and this R32 was in excellent shape. So impressed by the newly acquired skyline's condition and his overall experience with the transaction, Ray's extended family visited Driver Motorsports and picked up a Nissan Gloria and Laurel.

2 Very Different R32 Builds from Japan and the U.S.:
Carbon Body R32 Skyline
'91 R32 High School Dream Car

1990 Nissan Skyline GT R Shorin Side Skirts Photo 20/20   |   Personalizing An Iconic 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Groomed to Perfection

The only modifications done to the R32 upon Ray taking ownership were M's intake pods and a Kakimoto exhaust system. Like almost any enthusiast, regardless of brand or vehicle type, the first set of changes were based on coilovers and a set of wheels. In actuality, those wound up being the only upgrades for an entire year as he just wanted to enjoy the car as-is. Of course, with so many aftermarket options just a few keystrokes away, it's not hard to justify picking up some new parts, and Ray finally gave in, ordering a custom-spec set of Leon Hardiritt Reise wheels through Phil of RavSpec. A lengthy process being that the rollers would still have to be built and make their way back across the pond, it granted more than enough time to get ahold of some additional goods.

Rather than trying to pack on additional body panel muscle, Ray decided to highlight the coupe's natural angles with an N1 style front lip to fill out the front bumper, then capped it off with an Ab Flug carbon-fiber front diffuser. The combination is seamless and updates the Skyline's front without stepping away from its early '90s charm. A vented Seibon carbon hood finishes off the front end's mild makeover.

To streamline the sides of the GT-R, and match the flow of the front bumper's new, lower appearance, a set of Shorin carbon-fiber side skirts were sourced through RHDJapan and lead your eyes toward the Gracer/Trust rear bumper spats that, in conjunction with the factory rear quarter panel lines, help encapsulate the rear. Other additions include sleek GKTEch side mirrors and atop the trunk you'll spot a factory spoiler that's been topped with a Fujimura carbon gurney flap. To tie everything together, the 19x10 +20 Leon Hardiritt wheels arrived and were wrapped in 255/35s and offer a gunmetal face to match the Skyline's body and a polished lip to offset the look.

1990 Nissan Skyline GT R Interior Photo 20/20   |   Personalizing An Iconic 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R

As much as we like the outside look of this build, the interior might be one of its best attributes. The dash panels confirm that Driver Motorsports imports some immaculate cars, as the surfaces look picture perfect. Enhancing the look and adding Ray's touch included a set of Recaro Wildcats and matching door panel inserts that play nicely with the red laced Momo wheel and restitched shift and e-brake boots.

More Power on the Horizon

By now you've grown accustomed to seeing 700-plus hp Skylines with huge single turbo conversions and so have we, but in Ray's case, he's eased himself into the power production part of the build. The factory turbos were rebuilt using steel blades and a Mine's equal-length downpipe was bolted on in addition to a set of Tomei dump tubes with the brand's titanium test pipe and exhaust. More fuel is provided by FIC 750s and a Walbro pump and in the hands of Driver Motorsports, the Haltech Platinum Pro brings power up to 373hp safely and reliably.

1990 Nissan Skyline GT R RB26 Engine Photo 20/20   |   Personalizing An Iconic 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Those numbers certainly aren't here to stay, and Ray fully expects to outgrow that power output as a pair of GT2860s at home can attest. He notes, "I didn't want to run them on the stock bottom end and oil pump. I figure the safest way is to pull the motor and upgrade to forged internals, then install the GT2860's and get it retuned."

It's not always easy to take your time when modifying a car like an iconic R32. The temptation to throw on every mod under the sun is tough to resist, but for Ray, his results have been as reliable and enjoyable as they are tasteful. The buff look that Nissan designers intended 30 years ago still remains, but is enhanced in a way that modernizes the feel of the coupe without taking drastic measures. It's something we don't see often enough as of late, and it's a welcome change.

By Rodrez
906 Articles
Personalizing An Iconic 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Tuning Menu
Car: 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Owner: Ray Abeleda
Instagram: @kyddo112
Engine: Rebuilt steel blade turbos; Tomei dump tubes; Mine's equal-length downpipe; Tomei Ti test pipe and exhaust; Split diverted up-pipe; M's intake pods; Wiring Specialties harness; Walbro fuel pump; FIC 750cc injectors; MAC boost solenoid; Haltech Platinum Pro; tuning by Driver Motorsports
Suspension: Megan EZ Street coilovers; custom front and rear control arms; NISMO front shock tower bar
Wheels & Tires: 19x10 +20 Leon Hardiritt Reise; 255/35 Sumitomo HTR
Exterior: Seibon carbon fiber hood; Aerocatch hood pins; Driver Motorsport front grill; NISMO bumper vents; Ab Flug carbon friber front diffuser; Shorin sideskirts and splitter; Gracer/Trust rear lip; N1 carbon fiber rear under spoiler; CKTech mirrors; Fujiwara carbon fiber gurney flap
Interior: Recaro SR3 Wildcat seats, Wildcat fabric door panel inserts; Takata racing harnesses; Black w/red stitching rear seats, shift boot, e-brake boot; NISMO shift knob, KMH gauge; Momo Tuner steering wheel; STACK boost and oil pressure gauges; AEM X-UEGO wideband; Haltech CAN gauge; Dragint checkered floor mats
Thanks: Thank you to my wife Joyce and our two sons, Devin and Landon. Thank you to Joanne Hanger and the Snyder family. Thank you to Tony and Dan and the entire Garage Special crew. Thank you to Brandon Miller for the opportunity to get on Super Street and to Driver Motorsports. And thank you to my sponsor, Dress Up Bolts.

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