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Pre-Owned Performance - Nissan Skyline R32 GTS-t

A pretender's GT-R? No way - the GTS-t is a lot better than that!

By Michael Knowling

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History

Nissan had a lot of money available for vehicle development back in the late '80s/early '90s. With the boxy R31 model at the end of its marketable life, Nissan splurged, replacing it in 1990 with the all-new-bodied R32. Without a doubt, it was a much more stylish looking car than the '31. Strangely, though, none of the R32 model Skylines were officially imported to Australia (with the exception of a limited number of GT-Rs). In Japan, the 2-litre GTS-t was the most basic turbocharged variant (available in 2 and 4-door configuration), the GTS4 (with the same engine, but 4WD) was the next step up, and - of course - the GT-R was the ultimate hard-edged 4WD road racer. The R32 model ended in late 1993 with the introduction of the larger R33.

Chassis

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All R32 Skylines - bar the GT-R and GTS4 - are rear-wheel drive. Now, while it may appear that the RWD GTS-t is significantly disadvantaged (relatively speaking), it isn't all bad news. The GTS-t is notably lighter than its AWD counterparts (1320kg versus up to 1480kg). This gives the car a noticeably more "chuckable" feel. The Skyline is also poised on the same design (but different spec) suspension as the awesome GT-R. This means it features double wishbone at the front and more wishbones and multi-links at the opposing end. Nissan's HICAS rear wheel toe control and an LSD are standard too. GTS-t models come factory equipped with ventilated discs front and rear (ABS optional) - with four and two-pot calipers squeezing these at their respective ends of the playing field.

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Standard fare is a set of 16 x 6.5 inch 5-spoke alloys of the very same style as the GT-R. You don't get big 225/50s in the GTS-t, though - and its 205/55 tyres also mean there's no reason to carry-over the pumped guards of Godzilla. The 2-door GTS-t and GT-R share the same basic cabin design, though, with frameless doors and an identical rear quarter window. The GTS-t has a relatively subtle rear spoiler and does without the GT-R's aggressive front bar - and it sure looks pretty tame without it, doesn't it?! The GTS-t's bonnet also wraps further over the grille.

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Interiors throughout the entire R32 range are very similar. You get the same sweeping, leather-grained dashboard, a grippy leather wheel, and a binnacle packed with an odometer/speedo, tacho, fuel level, fuel level, oil pressure and - in the GTS-t - a gimmicky boost gauge. The front seats in the GTS-t are relatively soft but still offer good support - especially with the driver's adjustable lumbar support and separate front/rear cushion height. The legs-way-out-in-front seating position, however, is a little tiring. Electronic luxuries include power mirrors (of the fold-in variety), power front windows and an ill-executed climate control system. Trim fabric is of a good quality, though the shades-of-grey cabin is quite gloomy overall. The 2-door GTS-t - amazingly - is officially listed as a 5-seater; though those three people sitting in the back would want to be awfully friendly with each other....

Engine

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The RB range of turbo engines are stormers - and the GTS-t's 2-litre RB20DET is no exception. Note that the R32's DOHC, 24-valve turbo is a lot higher spec than the R31's (red rocker cover) version. In its updated form, the GTS-t motor features a 8.5:1 static compression ratio, double overhead cams, 24-valves, multi-point fuel injection, direct-fire ignition and - of course - an air-to-air intercooled turbocharger. Boosted to around 50 kPa, the modest intercooler is tucked behind an opening in the left side of the bumper. Its exit air escapes through a grille in the wheel arch liner. Unlike the R31 version, the updated RB20DET also features a blow-off valve, located just before the throttle body.

With a full 158kW at 6200 rpm and a peak torque figure of 263Nm available at a useable 3200 rpm, this often underrated 2-litre isn't as lack-lustre as you might expect... Our test vehicle was equipped with a 5-speed manual gearbox (with an aftermarkert on/off-type clutch), however a 4-speed automatic version is also available.

Performance

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The R32 GTS-t does well as a performance car - and as an everyday car. When you're driving along with traffic flow, you notice that the conventional Skyline's practical car background hasn't been totally abandoned. It still rides nicely, has plenty of ground clearance, is relatively quiet and offers reasonable visibility. There's nothing that nags you as a pain in the bum.

On the power front, the GTS-t's throttle response is a little below par (during our 42 degree C test period, at least!) and - off boost - you can you can feel that it's only a poor 2-litre lugging a large-ish vehicle. It's never lacking enough to be a concern though, and boost comes up very willingly. Positive manifold pressure actually begins from as low as 2000 rpm (if you believe the factory boost gauge) and there's plenty of urge from 3 thou onwards. Torque holds strong for more than another 3000 rpm - right up its 158kW at 6200.

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Running the 5-speed manual test car showed capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in the low 7s - but with over 40 degree C ambient temperatures taking a shine off. Certainly, the car feels like it should be able to crack a 15-flat over the quarter mile. Fuel consumption over our test averaged around 11-12 litres per 100km.

The GTS-t's turn-in is beautifully crisp (probably thanks to the HICAS) and the front-end follows a line very capably. Steering weight and feel is perfect and there's absolutely no kickback transmitted through the wheel. As you might expect, RWD power oversteer is always a right foot prod away - but that RB turbomotor gives excellent middle-to-high rpm throttle control to help you keep it all under control. In real-road conditions its not-overly-firm suspension also gives good stability.

Modifications

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The GTS-t is an easy car to modify - it's turbocharged and it's a Nissan. Two major helping-hands... As per usual, you'd start off modifying the air intake prior to the turbo. A big aftermarket pod-type filter (complete with cold air ducting) or modification of the standard airbox will do fine. Just make sure you're not going to be picking air up from behind the intercooler core - where the air temp is gonna be way too high... A mandrel bent 3-inch exhaust should also be fitted at about the same time. After all, who would want Mr Nissan's collection of daggy ol' press-bent pipe strangling the works? Joining forces, the modified intake and high-flow exhaust should give another 20-25kW on top of the standard 158kW. Not bad.

Next we'd tackle the stock air-to-air intercooler. Don't bother fitting a water spray kit to this unit - instead, grab a larger core that will offer increased cooling capacity and cause less pressure drop. Following your improved intercooling, just bump up the boost to around 14 psi and you should be talkin' around 200kW - all within the scope of the factory management and injectors. Note that if you want extreme hp, the cylinder head on the RB20 is nowhere near as free flowing as on the RB25 or the RB26 engines.

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Japanese import wreckers are a good place to scour when looking for hot-up parts to suit the R32. Aftermarket suspension components, high performance discs and all kinds of electronic boost controllers are often available for not much $$. However, you'll never make a GTS-t as all-round ball breaking as a GT-R - so don't end up spending all of your money doing up a GTS-t!

Body wise, sling a GT-R front bar and rear wing onto the 't and you'd probably fool most people into thinking you're driving a real Godzilla...

Buyers Guide

The R32 GTS-t was first released in Japan back in 1990. Today, the only way you can legally drive one on Australian roads is if it's been privately imported and complied (that is, equipped with an Australian compliance plate). However, since the car is already around 10 years old, a low kilometre, immaculate example may now be hard to find. In Japan, many R32 GTS-ts would have already been crushed. Our 1992 test car - supplied by Adelaide Jap Imports - had 110,000 kilometres on the clock and was in need of some minor detailing attention. Still, its negotiable asking price of around $20,000 sweetens the deal considerably...

Unlike many Japanese imports, parts back up for the R32 GTS-t is potentially very good. In addition to the Japanese import wrecking support, certain new parts will still be available through Nissan Australia (who carry parts for the locally delivered GT-R) and - being a Nissan - many of the GTS-t's parts are interchangeable with other models. The differential, for example, is simply a run-of-the-mill R-series unit.

Summary

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As middle ground between the boredom of an everyday family-car based coupe and a hard-edged racer, the GTS-t is right on the money. Its sporty-but-comfortable ride, its ample ground clearance, its there-when-you-want-it acceleration and comfortable front seats all make it a highly realistic everyday driver. Often seen as a GT-R wannabe, what the GTS-t lacks in outright go, it makes up for in everyday usability. Don't be fooled though. Its easy low-7 second to 100 performance isn't too shabby, plus that RWD chassis makes for some enjoyable - if not blinding - handling. As with all Japanese imports, the GTS-t also offers a little bit of uniqueness on our Aussie roads - without being too overt.

Not a bad buy - even if it is getting a little long in the tooth....

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Contact:

Thanks to Adelaide Jap Imports for making our test car available.

+61 8 8369 1156

http://www.adelaidejap.com.au

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