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Weekend Racer

It's the first R34 GT-R landed in Australia - and, without doubt, one of the most all-round desirable...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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It seems like just yesterday when web goss started to spread about the release of the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R. The forum talk. The images of the undertray and body. The wonder over the factory LCD display screen. All of this excitement came to a head when Peter Neumeister had this brand spankers 2000 R34 V-spec unloaded on a Melbourne wharf. It was a momentous occasion for all Australian GT-R fans.

Interestingly, Peter had go-fast workshop AVO purchase this new beast, import it and - finally -arrange the compliance necessary for it to be driven on Australian roads. With strong ties in Japan, AVO found this task somewhat no-sweat, but when it came to getting approval for emissions - namely ADR 37/01 - things got tough. Terry of AVO says that the R34 GT-R engine is now a fairly old beast - around 10 years - and, with very little changes since its introduction, it struggles to meet tightening emission standards. The only way that the AVO guys could get the R34 Skyline approved was through the use of multiple cat converters and a handful of other techniques that Terry likes to keep hush-hush.

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After finally gaining compliance approval, the car then started its high-performance build-up. First up, the newly fitted multi cat exhaust system was replaced with a decent set of pipes that would let the RB26DETT breathe. The system used is AVO's own, comprising twin 2?-inch dump pipes off the turbos, merging into a single 3-inch pipe with a cat and rear muffler. There's nothing quite like the sound of twin turbines whistling out the length of fat exhaust pipe.

The turbochargers factory fitted to the R34, Terry says, are quite small; certainly smaller than those on the R33 model. The reason for this, and their unreliable (at high boost) ceramic turbines, is to give maximum boost response. Therefore - like you couldn't see it coming - AVO pulled the standard turbos off to make way for a pair of N1 roller-bearing units. They're an effective upgrade that doesn't cause drivability issues.

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The air intake path into the turbos was also free'd up with a matching pair of AVO pod filters, which are fed cool air by the factory over-the-radiator intake snorkel.

Next came the Nissan engine management system. Recognising the limitations of the Japanese spec computer designed for 100-octane unleaded fuel - as well as wanting the all-round flexibility of programmable injection - AVO installed a Link plug-in ECU. Running off a MAP load sensor, the standard airflow meters were rendered unnecessary - but a couple of dummy covers remain in place to fool any prying legal eagles. A larger set of Nippondenso injectors (around 600cc) was then plumbed into the fuel rail to help provide appropriate mixtures at high load and rpm. Boost control is also controlled by the Link computer, with maximum pressure set at 1.15 Bar (around 17 psi).

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By this time, Peter had made it clear that he really wanted to get into some circuit work, so it was a wise decision to get serious with maintaining low charge-air temperatures. The standard GT-R air-to-air intercooler made way for an AVO bar-and-plate type replacement. And - being nestled in the centre of the R34's gaping frontal air intake - it's ensured of plenty of incoming airflow. Plumbing in an AVO catch-can also eliminated the chance of blow-by gas and oil re-entering the intake.

As you might expect - given the relatively mild mods - the Skyline GT-R engine could get by internally untouched. AVO, however, have cracked this red valve cover engine open and inserted a stainless steel head gasket, in-house fabricated adjustable cam wheels and - while it was all apart - the sump was also modified. Terry says GT-Rs can suffer from oil surge (depending on the driver) hence this vehicle's increased pan capacity - from around 4.5 litres up to around 6.5 litres (baffled, of course).

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So - without having to go to monster turbos that totally destroy on-circuit drivability - how much roar does this 'R have? Try 260kW at all four wheels on AVO's DTS chassis dyno. Not bad considering it'll run happily all day at WOT - and just on double the power achieved after the multi-cat converter exhaust had been fitted....

Backing the RB26DETT is an AVO flywheel and 5-button clutch - a combination that's well capable of containing the torque. As per usual in a R34 GT-R, torque is then put through a reasonably heavy-duty factory gearbox, with drive apportioned front-to-rear depending on what the ATTESSA system decides.

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Compared to a constant AWD system, the R34 V-spec is a much more balanced car. Peter used to own a Mitsubishi 3000GT (complete with a few AVO mods), though he recalls, "it was a dog to drive fast".

Understeer city.

The 3000GT was a grunty tourer - not a heard-edged racer like the Skyline. But despite its factory beefed-up suspension, Peter's R34 now rides on fully adjustable Tein coil-overs with a set of adjustable castor rods - these, we are told, make a dramatic difference to handling. Thanks to Nissan's decision to fit monster Brembo calipers, however, this R34's brakes remain pretty much factory - the only mod here are a set of AVO pads.

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At high speed (such as on the track) the GT-R also has an incredible level of down-force for a factory vehicle. Its adjustable rear wing, deep-reaching front spoiler and the aforementioned undertrays all perform wonders. Those undertrays are also plainly obvious for all bystanders to see - they aren't exactly hidden. But, when you cast your eye over the rest of the R34 GT-R, why on earth would they be? The R34 carries over the GT-R's traditional pumped guards, body kit and menacing front-end - it's also endowed with an aggro set of 18-inch factory alloys, which are - in this case - encrusted with 265/35 Falken GRBs. And ain't that deep blue the choice of colour to have on an R34 GT-R?

Inside is more of GT-R style hardware - gripping race seats, a purposeful dash and the R34's central LCD display screen. This gives access to information on boost pressure, throttle opening, injector duty cycle, oil temperature, water temperature, exhaust and intake air temperature. Peter's vehicle also adds an Alpine in-dash CD stacker, Willans driver's harness and a set of white-faced Nizmo dials - note the 320 km/h speedometer and the 9000 rpm redline.

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Peter - who had a soft spot for these machines ever since the Prince Skyline of the 1960s - is more than happy with his weekend driver/circuit racer. With its terrific chassis balance and spread of torque, he's down to around 1 minute 56 around Philip Island, and around 1 minute 42 around Winton Raceway - not bad for a 'dabbler'. We're told there are no further plans to make any other changes - which is refreshing! Rather, he wants to keep enjoying what the car already delivers.

And who can blame him?

Contact:

AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operations)
+61 3 9584 4499

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