Monday, March 31, 2008

March 2008 Dream Car of the Month - Nissan Skyline GT-R

The Skyline started life as a car originally produced in 1957 by the Prince Motor Company of Japan. Prince merged with Nissan in 1966 and the Skyline became a Nissan property. The Skyline was mostly a basic mid sized car in the early years. In 1964 Prince developed a racing version, GT Skyline, which used a straight 6cyl engine and competed in the Japanese Grand Prix where it finished 2nd through 6th behind a winning Porsche 904. It wasn't until 1968 when the first GT-R was created that a performance version was put on the street.

Original Prince Skyline

The original GT-R lasted from 1968 until 1972. The GT-R was replaced in 1977 with the GT-ES which was the first turbo powered production Japanese vehicle. In 1983 the Paul Newman Version Skyline was produced to commemorate Newman's racing relationship with Nissan. This R30 generation also saw the introduction of the DR30 Skylines which were more powerful and distinct from the rest of the Skyline family, a prelude to the re-introduction of the GT-R name. The R31 generation debuted the RB engine series and saw development of the GTS-R version, powered by a RB20DETT-R. This was a coupe only and 800 examples were built for racing homologation.

Skyline GTS-R Coupe

In 1989 the R32 generation Skyline was introduced and it marked the return of the GT-R. It featured the RB26DETT which was rated at 280HP due to the Japanese manufacturer's agreement not to exceed 280HP. The cars also featured all wheel drive and all wheel steering. The production engines were intentionally restricted by small diameter exhaust, conservative ECU programming and low boot settings. Apparently there was a physical restriction built into the boost control system that was marked in yellow so that the owner could remove it and receive a free boost increase. This alone resulted in a bump in power to about 320HP and resulted in 0-60 times of 4.7 seconds and a 1/4 mile in 12.8. Nissan claimed that the Porsche 959 was their model for development of the R32 GT-R. The GT-R was built for racing from the beginning and won 29 races in 29 starts in the JTCC (Japan Touring Car Championship). A R32 GT-R hit the Nurburgring and set it's sights on the production car record of 8 minutes 45 seconds set by a Porsche 944. That GT-R ran a lap in 8 minutes 20 seconds and later the Japanese magazine Best Motoring backed that up with an 8'22" lap. The Australian auto press coined the nickname Godzilla after it appeared there on the streets and racetracks.

R32 Skyline GT-R

The R33 Skyline generation was released in 1993 as a coupe and 4 door. The GT-R was equipped with an improved version of the same RB26DETT used in the R32. The improvements to the engine upped the torque the engine produced. GT-Rs now all came standard with Brembo brakes. In 1996 a limited edition NISMO 400R was produced with 400HP. An R33 GT-R was the first production car to lap the Nurburgring in under 8 minutes, if you don't count the limited production Jaguar XJ220.

R33 Skyline GT-R

Nissan introduced the R34 Skyline in 1998 and the GT-R in 1999 which still used the RB26DETT engine. A new, stronger, 6spd Getrag gearbox was also used. The GT-R came in many "flavors" for the R34 generation. There were the GT-R, the GT-R V-Spec, GT-R V-SpecII, GT-R N1, GT-R M-Spec, GT-R V-Spec Nur, GT-R M-Spec Nur, GT-R NISMO R-Tune, and GT-R NISMO Z-Tune. The NISMO Z-Tune was the untimate street going R34 with a bored and stroked 2.8L 6cyl producing 500HP. Only 20 of these were built.

R34 Skyline GT-R Nur

R34 Skyline GT-R Z-Tune

In 2001 a new Skyline generation, now dubbed the V35 was introduced. This car was based on Nissan's FM platform which it shared with the 350Z. This became the first Skyline platform sold in the US although it was only available through Infiniti as the G35. This skyline generation was notable for what it lacked. The straight 6cyl of previous generations was missing, replaced by the VQ V6. Also missing were a turbocharged variant and, most importantly a GT-R model.

The V36 Skyline debuted in 2006 as the Skyline and Infiniti G35. Again the car featured a 3.5L VQ V6. The engine produced 306HP in the sedan. A coupe variant debuted in 2007 with a 3.7L VQ V6 producing 330HP in the US Infiniti G37. Again there was no turbo engine available and no GT-R.

After a few years of hinting of the GT-Rs return, Nissan finally unveiled a production version R35 GT-R. This GT-R will be the first one available in the US. It features a 478HP, 3.8L twin turbo V6 dubbed the VR38DETT. The car will simply be known as the GT-R, loosing the Skyline nameplate and be sold as a Nissan in the US. There had been rumors that, based on the price, it would be sold as an Infiniti outside of Japan. Priced at $70,000 US it will be, by far, the most expensive Nissan for sale. So far, the car is proving that it is worth every penny, upstaging cars costing more than twice it's price.

R35 Nissan GT-R

If you are like me, the first time you even heard of the Nissan Skyline and GT-R were through the video game Gran Turismo. In 1997 Sony released the game in the US for the Sony Playstation and singlehandedly started the JDM tuning craze in the US. The game introduced people outside of Japan to the many performance models only available in Japan and a few other select places. The Skyline GT-R and other cars like it(Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi EVO, Civic Type-R, NSX Type-R) became mythical type of beasts. No one in the US had seen or heard of them and their "forbidden fruit" status along with their huge performance and racing reputation made them even more desirable. Black markets popped up to import them into countries they were never sold in. All this finally culminated in Nissan bringing the car to the whole world for the latest version.

I've always thought of the GT-R as a Japanese interpretation of a muscle car. Take a midsize sedan or coupe, throw a big engine in it(relatively speaking) and go racing. The Japanese twist is the technology thrown into it. All wheel steering, all wheel drive, and turbo motors all take the car to limits that no sport coupe should be capable of. The latest version is already proving that the GT-R reputation still holds strong and it hasn't even hit dealerships in the US yet. Godzilla lives.

Nissan GTR Underrated?

Many people seem to be confused by the new Nissan GTR. Lots of them may be Porsche 911 Turbo owners. The main problem is how can the GTR be faster than the Porsche when it has a substantially poorer power to weight ratio. Some people claim that Nissan is pulling a fast one by having some not so stock, "tuned" models around for testing. Road and Track took a GTR around a track about 5 seconds faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo and a Corvette Z06. That's a huge difference. Then Car and Driver went out and tested a GTR ripping 0-60 in 3.3 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 11.5. Those are crazy numbers especially for anything costing less than $250,000. A lot less as the GTR's MSRP is around $70,000.

All of this would certainly point to some sleight of hand by Nissan. Maybe they are providing "special" GTRs for testing. Maybe not. Motor Trend has also thought of this and they went straight to the dyno with the GTR they secured for testing. They claim it is a fresh, new, US spec, production GTR. They used a Dynojet dyno and registered a whopping 430+ HP to the wheels over several runs. At just 15% driveline loss that would equate to about 506HP at the crank. At 25% loss, we're looking at 570+HP and 560+TQ. Pretty far off from Nissan's numbers of 473HP.

They conclude that these cars are not "special" test mules but rather have been underrated by Nissan for one reason or another. Remember, Japanese manufacturers for years had to abide by an agreement in their home country that they would not make cars with over 280HP. That lead to underrating HP figures for countless models. I guess old habits die hard. The GTR truly lives up to it's Godzilla nickname. What a beast!

Here is a link to the Motor Trend article.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

2008 NY Auto Show Photos - Pontic G8 GXP

What's not to like about 402HP, a 6 speed manual, and 0-60 in under 5 seconds? Nice looking too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 NY Auto Show Photos - Mazda Furai Concept


2008 NY Auto Show Photos - Scion Hako Coupe

Just plain funky. Not necessarily in a good way.

2008 NY Auto Show - Lexus IS-F dyno video

Here is the video I promised of the IS-F. Crank the volume. It's a real nice sounding car. They did have the dyno set up to measure HP but they weren't doing that at the time I was there. Lexus claims 0-60 in 4.6 and 416HP. The grey color really looked nice as well.

NY Auto Show - Lexus IS-F Dyno Runs - Watch more free videos

2008 New York Auto Show

Well, I went down to the Javits Center yesterday to check out the NY Auto Show. My son came along and we had a great time checking out all the cool machinery. Crowds were pretty manageable since it was a weekday. We were able to see everything we wanted to see.

By far the coolest thing was part of the Lexus display. Outside, they had a Lexus IS-F sport sedan set up on a dyno for some exhibition runs. Anyone 21 and over with a valid license could take a turn at a simulated 1/4 mile run. The car was really impressive, even for an automatic. The shifts from the 8 speed auto were very quick and the downshift blips were cool.

Other than that there were some cool concepts and production models. The Hyundai Genesis was real nice as was the Nissan GTR. The Pontiac display was a big draw as well with the debuts of the G8 Sport Truck, the G8 GXP and the beautiful Solstice GXP Coupe. The Nissan Maxima was much better in person than in photos as was the new Acura TSX which I hated in photos. The newly facelifted Mazda RX8 was very nice and the Mazda Furai Concept was just stunning.

We tried to get as many pictures as possible as well as some video of the Lexus IS-F on the dyno. Some of the 150+ pictures came out pretty good, some did not. I let my 13yr old son do the photo shooting so he is still learning. All in all it was a pretty good show. I'll post up some photos and the video I edited together of the IS-F dyno runs as soon as possible.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Where I'll be spending my time at the show.

It looks like I'll be spending a lot of time in the Pontiac area of the NY Auto Show as they will be showing three exciting new models for the first time. There will be a G8 pickup/ute complete with the V8 and pretty nice looks, also they will unveil a Solstice Coupe with a targa roof that looks pretty amazing from the few photos that leaked onto the net and, finally, there will be the G8 GXP featuring the Corvette LS3 producing 402HP and a 6spd manual.

Actually there will be quite a few new models at the show from a number of manufacturers. Hyundai will be showing the production version of the Genesis Coupe and Nissan will have a redesigned Maxima. Should be a pretty good show this year.

Pontiac G8 pickup/ute

Pontiac G8 GXP

Pontiac Solstice Coupe

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cool Pontiac G8 "Spyhunter" Commercial

In case you haven't seen it yet. Based on the old "Spyhunter" video game. Very Cool!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Getting Ready For The Big Show

The New York International Auto Show is right around the corner. It's the biggest local show in my part of the woods and I'll be there. I can still remember the first time I went to the show in Manhattan. I was in my teens and my father and I made the trek into the city to check it out. It was 1989 and it just so happened to be the year that Dodge unveiled the original Viper Concept. That car blew me away. I must have taken an entire roll of film (remember that stuff?) of just the Viper. It was great. I think I still have the pictures somewhere. I'll have to take a look for them and scan a few to post up here.

I've been going to the show pretty regularly since then. This year will be my 7th in a row and now I get to bring my son and my wife with me. This year the show is kind of early, running from March 21 - 30 at the Jacob Javits Center. It's usually a pretty good show with at least a few manufacturers unveiling new production or concept models. I'll be there on Monday March 24 as it has become much more enjoyable to take a week day off from work as to avoid the ridiculous crowds on the weekends. I'll make sure to get plenty of pictures.

More info on the NY International Auto Show here: