Newbie's Guide to Buying a Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R

Posted by andre perras on

Background

I've been in the GT-R game for over a decade.  I purchased my first one back in 2006 just after they were eligible for import in Canada.  Boy, did I ever beat that car to death.  Much like many young car enthusiasts, I let me emotions take control of my spending.  The first GT-R I purchased was imported into Canada for the sum of just under $6000.  It had 82,000 km on the clock, and appeared to be in great shape.  Was I ever mistaken.  Now - nearly 15 years later, I've lost count of how many GT-Rs I've owned.  When I started Boost Factory in 2014, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I knew a lot about Skylines and Supras, and that was the foundation of the business.

We started purchasing shells shortly after opening, with the intent of building them to enjoy as a sort of shop project.  That pet project eventually became an entire division of the business, taking on about 1-2 full time employees currently.  We've purchased crashed cars, rusty cars, mint cars, beat cars, you name it - we've bought it.  We've traveled from the west coast to northern Manitoba to purchase these things, in whatever condition they are.  We've learned a LOT about buying cars in doing this, and today - I'm going to share with you everything we've learned about buying a car so that you don't get burned like I did when i was 19 years old.

BODY

The most valuable component to a GT-R is most certainly the body.  A car with bad paint, missing exterior panels, or collision damage is extremely expensive to repair.  With the surge in pricing, the shortage of GT-R OEM panels, and buyers with cash waiting to upgrade their GTS-T into a GT-R look-alike, the spare GT-R parts have become non existent.  

You'll want to first make sure everything is there.  The hood us unique to the GT-R, and worth about $1000 new from Nissan, plus paint, trim, seals, etc...  The fenders?  Out of production.  You couldn't get Nissan to make some for you regardless of price.  So if your car is missing fenders, be ready to dish out $800-1200, and then get them painted.  Side skirts are becoming more and more valuable, but really only worth about $250-400.  The OEM wing is worth about $400.  

Second off, you'll want to make sure all the panels are painted the exact same colour.  I would say that almost every single GT-R we've come across has some paint work done to it.  Look at it under different angles, inspect the texture of the paint.  Often, even if the colour is matched properly, you'll find the texture of the paint is off.  Pull back the mouldings to inspect the paint there, because if the car was re-painted quickly, there will be evidence of masking and an edge where the new paint ends.  Bring a fridge magnet with you, try it in a few places on the quarter panel, ensuring it sticks.  Fridge magnets don't stick to bondo very well.

Look at all of the gaps between panels.  Make sure they are all evenly spaced.  Anywhere you see a gap that doesn't look symmetrical, or gets narrower / wider at one end, inspect that part of the car for evidence of collision.  While different gaps don't necessarily mean collisions, they are evidence of tampering, or work, and should be checked out.

Underneath  the car, you'll often find the frame rails to be bent upwards, as well as the rocker panel pinch weld.  This is evidence of the car being lifted with a floor jack and not a proper lift.  This also means that whoever owned the car, did work him/herself, and didn't really give a S%&T about denting the under body of the car.  Wouldn't you?  I would.  You'll also want to inspect the floor underneath the car for ripples.  If you find a ripple, it's strong evidence of a big collision.  Often, the car compresses and shortens on the side that was impacted, and is then straightened on a frame machine, but they can never get all of the damage out of it.

Inside the trunk, you'll want to take the trunk lining out - inspect the spare tire area, the floor to each side, and ESPECIALLY the rear end below the tail lights and the inside of the quarter panels.  Most of the R32 GTRs we've seen have been in rear end collisions, and they are not often repaired properly.  You'll find curmpled metal, non OEM sealant joining panels, rivets, etc...  Anything that stands out - investigate.  The right rear quarter panel interior is very prone to rust - as there's a sort of vent inside that the moisture gets into and causes the quarter to rust from the inside.  From the inside of the trunk - you'll also be able to see the inside of the quarter panels where you'll find evidence of any body work done to the exterior.  If it isn't completely gray, smooth, and untouched - it's likely been in a collision, and repaired, or rusty and filled with bondo.  It's quite a shame really, as many skylines have been repaired poorly in Japan.  

Looking at the roof, you'll find sun faded paint sometimes, evidence of a car being left outside for most of its life.  You may see kinks or ripples in the roof too, which are 100% evidence of very strong collisions.

Make sure the doors line up properly in the door frame.  Sometimes, the hinges are worn out and the door doesn't latch easily.  If you lift the door while it's open, you'll often find worn out hinges.  If the door doesn't fit properly in the frame and the hinges are tight - you've got a much more serious problem.

ENGINE

The RB26DETT is a fantastic engine that has quite a few problems.  Many of them are old and worn out, and fail shortly after being purchased.  I like to call them glass cannons.  They're powerful and magnificent, but they are very fragile when handled and used wrecklessly.  

When inspecting the engine, you'll want to obviously perform a compression test.  Any values between 120-160 are normal.  Don't get too upset over low numbers, as long as the engine doesn't have any issues and the numbers are all relatively close to one another (within 15 points, about)

You'll want to inspect the exhaust on a cold start, to make sure no blue smoke is present on start up.  You should be taking the temperature of the exhaust manifold with a laser thermometer before cold starting, just in case your seller isn't too honest and wants to trick you.  Once you've started the engine, listen to it carefully.  RB26s sound like big sewing machines.  The valvetrain can be noisy, and the injectors can sound as loud as modern diesel engines.  This is quite normal, don't get too worried about this.  

Inspect the engine bay, looking for things that stand out.  I like to look for zip ties in hard to reach places, that show the engine has been removed, and reinstalled for whatever reason.  Look at the MAFS - make sure they still have the brackets that bolt them to the shock tower - otherwise you'll likely need MAFS too, as they've been bouncing around for who knows how long.  

Take off the oil cap, inspect the inside of the oil cap looking for sludge.  It may have a dark oily residue to it, which is normal.  It may be a little milky too, which is usually evidence of blowby and condensation forming.  Put your hand over the oil cap with the engine running, you may feel gentle pulsations, but nothing too strong.  The pulses you feel are blowby.  Some is okay, a lot is not good - especailly if it's the original engine.  Those usually have very little or no blowby.  Check the engine oil, inspecting the oil on the dipstick - does it smell like old engine oil, or does it smell like fuel?  Does it drip off the dipstick like water, or does it run like oil?  While these won't necessarily tell you the exact condition of the engine, it will certainly tell you the current owners' take on maintenance.

Rev the engine up and listen to it carefully under the hood.  Does it make any funny noises?  It should get louder, but no new noises should manifest themselves.

ROAD TEST

During a road test, you'll be able to test the brakes, steering, and suspension of the car.  While i do strongly recommend using a lift to inspect the car, you will never know how it drives unless you actually drive it.  If you're buying a shell, you're taking a huge risk in assuming that the car will handle straight and properly.

Drive the car gently as it warms up.  Make sure that the car behaves as you would expect.  It shouldnt misfire, stall, or shudder.  Try some stop and - go driving.  Does the engine catch idle properly?  Does it droop down below the proper idle speed?  Does the engine even have the right idle speed?  (Should be 950RPM +/- 50RPM)

Take the car out on the highway once you're satisfied with the low speed stuff.  Make sure to pay attention to the transmission for grinding when shifting, especially into 4th gear.  Once you get on the highway, accelerate to 100, 110, and 120 kmh.  Taking a pause at each speed, and trying different gears - 3, 4, and 5.  Listen to the engine, the transmission, the wheel bearings, the differential - you can actually hear all of these things.  There shouldn't be any howling, humming (although some tires to make a lot of noise) or other strange noises.  The car should be relatively quiet and comfortable.  GT-Rs do not feel like "race cars" unless they're poorly modified or built for racing purposes.  While driving at highway speeds, pay attention to the steering wheel, the seats, and the shifter for vibrations.  Any vibrations are abnormal and will most likely get much worse with higher road speeds.  This is usually bent wheels, bad tires, loose steering or suspension parts.  You'll also want to let go of the steering wheel to see if the car pulls left or right, paying close attention to the road to make sure you're not in a rut or uneven surface.  If you feel any pulling, vibrations, or strange noises, the car has problems.  Problems can cost a LOT of money on a GT-R.

Make sure to test the brakes out properly.  Apply the brakes firmly at highway speeds, paying close attention to the brake pedal for feedback oscillations. This is indication of warped brake rotors.

THE INTERIOR

The interior of a GT-R is not incredibly valuable at this points.  A lot of the parts are shared with the GTS-T.  You will want to make sure that the seats are in good condition - as these can go for $800 a pair in decent condition, used.  The door panels are unique to the GT-R and have different fabric - as does the roof liner.  The GT-R Cluster is also unique, and pricey to replace - about $300-400.  

The dashboards are the same as GTS-T.  You will often find ugly dash pods screwed or glued into the surface of the dash, ruining it.  The dash vents also often break due to people installing air freshener clips into them.  

The window regulators are sometimes tired and struggle to raise the window all the way up, and appear to bind.  The window mouldings often tear and crack, and are very expensive to replace.

All in all, I would say the interior is the least difficult and valuable part to replace / fix, and if you're looking at a car with incomplete or damaged interior, it's easy to negotiate.

COMPLETE INSPECTION

You've probably heard this one before, but here it is again.  Get a complete vehicle inspection done, on a lift.  You'll find all kinds of leaks, potentially loose parts, rust, abnormal wear, etc...  These are all things that will end up coming out of your wallet unless you pick them up on the pre-purchase inspection.

 


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