Dark Force Skyline

Plenty of high quality Japanese parts combine with Australian know-how to create this bruising R33 GT-R V-spec...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • 1997 Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R V-spec
  • Lots of A'PEXi and HKS equipment
  • Recent engine build with forged pistons
  • Awesome performance with drivability

In the last few years the Australian go-fast scene has grown comfortable with the techno marvel that is Nissan’s Skyline GT-R. No longer are tuners quivering with nervousness as soon as the bonnet goes up.

Duane X’s 1997 R33 GT-R V-spec came into his possession just over a year ago having already been tweaked by interstate workshops. The car had the preliminary breathing mods – an HKS twin pod filter induction kit and high-flow exhaust (which was recently replaced with a 3½ inch A’PEXi system). These are usually the first tentative steps in GT-R modification and, typically, they yield massive improvements.

But they’re just a teaser!

Duane’s V-spec had been elevated to the next level with the fitment of an A’PEXi replacement intercooler (which has proven to give considerable cooling and airflow gains over the stock unit), the associated pipework had also been upgraded, and the stock blow-off valves have stepped aside for a pair of HKS Super Sequential jobs. Phhhssst!

It is now well known that GT-R turbochargers are not particularly durable when pushed beyond the standard boost level – the ceramic turbine wheels simply can’t hack it. Recognising this, the previous owner replaced the stock turbos with a pair of HKS 2540 ball-bearing turbos. And these weren’t just a random choice – they were carefully selected to provide the desired power output together with the best possible boost response and torque spread. But it must be pointed out that lag is slightly increased compared to the standard turbos.

The HKS 2540 BB turbos are a bolt-on upgrade, which means there’s no need to remove the factory exhaust manifolds from the DOHC head. A pair of off-the-shelf twin-passage dump pipes bolt to the back of the turbines to enhance boost response and gas flow.

With these HKS turbos fitted, boost pressure can be safely increased with accompanying fuel system and management mods.

The standard R33 GT-R injectors are way out their depth with these big turbos pumping so they’ve been replaced with HKS 600cc squirters working with an HKS rail and adjustable pressure regulator. The standard in-tank fuel pump has also been upgraded to a Bosch Motorsport 044 unit. Fuel and ignition timing are controlled by an A’PEXi plug-in programmable computer which remains connected to the standard airflow meters. The cost-benefit analysis of converting to larger Z32 airflow meters isn’t a favourable one.

Engine flexibility was further enhanced with the fitment and tuning of HKS adjustable cam sprockets. Boost pressure also comes up as fast as possible thanks to an A’PEXi AVC-R electronic boost controller.

With these mods (along with an OS Gikken clutch), the car previously made up to 344kW at the rear wheels on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno. Certainly, the car had plenty of get up an’ go - but with around 60,000 hard kilometres on the odometer, the engine required a freshen up part way through Duane’s ownership. Nothing drastic here – a relatively straightforward rebuild with forged pistons, a slightly ported head and balancing. Brisbane Tuning and Turbo Centre are credited with the engine build and a Power FC retune.

Duane says the engine now runs much happier than it did previously and this can be seen in the final power output – there’s now 386kW at the wheels on just 1.3 Bar boost (up from 344kW at the wheels on 1.5 Bar). Performance? Well, there aren’t any up-to-date figures but you can bet the farm on an 11 second quarter mile pass (given traction and a good launch).

This straight-line go is augmented with the R33 V-spec’s active AWD system, front and rear tower braces and aftermarket KYB struts which provide balanced and predictable handling (the R33 having much better AWD calibration than the earlier R32 version). Grip is assured by huge 275/35 rubbers worn on Blitz three-piece 18s. The brakes are V-spec Brembos with the stock front discs replaced by DBA slotted and drilled versions – no need to spend money on an aftermarket brake kit if it’s not necessary.

The car’s dark purple body colour has also been extended indoors with the fitment of a colour-coded steering wheel trim, handbrake lever and gear shift boots. Also jutting out are an air-fuel ratio meter and boost gauge (mounted in an A-pillar pod), a shift light and on-dash AVC-R unit. A Razo gear knob, A’PEXi turbo timer, Alpine head unit, Alpine sub and full-rangfe speakers and a pair of amps complete the interior mods.

Despite the enjoyment provided by his high-power V-spec, Duane currently has the car for sale at around AUD$55,000. The reason? Well, it doesn’t have enough doors and space – Duane has a young daughter to think about and the V-spec is pretty tough to justify. As a result, the mighty Nissan will be making space for a new Ford Territory.

But Duane won’t be giving up his speed thrills. You can fit a pretty serious mountain bike in the back of a Territory...


Brisbane Tuning and Turbo Centre +61 7 3393 1588

If you’re genuinely interested in purchasing Duane’s V-spec you can contact him on 0407 883 263.

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