If you can remember back to
our article Pre-Owned Performance - Nissan Skyline R32 GTS-t
you’ll know that the Nissan R32 Skyline GTS is a much better vehicle than its
reputation suggests. No, it doesn’t have the GT-R’s giant-killing RB26DETT or
the R33’s RB25DET but it’s still a great overall package. Consider the R32 GTS’s
modest 1320kg kerb mass and you’ll come to appreciate why the oh-so-smooth
RB20DET makes it a good thing.
And John Di Mauro’s late
1993-built R32 is just the machine to prove its potential.
John picked up his Type M
R32 about 2 years ago with just an aftermarket filter under the bonnet. John
liked the Skyline’s smoothness, refinement and style but – having owned a
VR4-powered Cordia, an 11 second Torana, RX-2 and various go-fast Commodores –
its all-out acceleration didn’t get his blood rushing.
There was no hesitation
when John made his first mods – they were so obvious every man and his dog can
tell you that the stock exhaust and intercooler are hopelessly restrictive. The
factory exhaust system came out and John offered a 3 inch mandrel system to the
back of the turbocharger. Oh, and John also replaced the existing aftermarket
filter with a new HKS pod fed by a 3 inch cold air pipe.
John shopped around for an
upgrade intercooler to replace the factory item and settled on the popular
Hybrid 600 x 300 x 76mm core. This is a pretty big ‘cooler so its no surprise
the bumper had to be sliced to make space. The intercooler plumbing was
fabricated by John and his brother-in-law.
The R32 isn’t John’s sole
project car but when he discovered a Mines computer hiding in a R32 Skyline
half-cut he bought (to re-power a Sil80) he roped it in for action on this
machine. We’re told the Mines ECU eliminates or lifts the speed cut, boost cut
and rev limit. John had been told all about the standard Nissan ceramic
tubocharger’s reliability problems at high boost so he wisely kept the boost
increase fairly mild – just 10 psi. A home-made bleed valve and restrictor
arrangement allows this increase.
Power at this stage was
about 215hp at the wheels on Paramount Performance’s Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno.
Not bad, but the engine had the intercooling and breathing capacity to support a
As John pondered a turbo
upgrade that would safely allow more boost, a mate offered for sale a
second-hand Mitsubishi TD06-19C turbo with internal wastegate. Perfect! Or almost perfect...
To fit the TD06 John
retained the standard RB exhaust manifold but used longer studs and a 12mm
spacer plate to mount the turbo further away from the engine (to provide
necessary clearance). We’re told the TD06 had the same stud pattern as the
factory exhaust manifold so there were no problems with mounting hole alignment.
The bigger huffer didn’t
give the same sort of throttle response as the old turbocharger but it did
provide a lot more top-end power. With boost pressure set to a high of 21 psi, the
TD06 pushed 270hp at the rear wheels. On the downside, it had problems
over-boosting and John tried a bigger exhaust housing to fix the situation. This
successfully prevented over-boosting but caused unacceptable lag. Top-end power
also went virtually unchanged.
A newer, more efficient
turbocharger was what the doctor ordered.
Recognising the limits of
the TD06, John stepped up to a GT28-type ‘440hp’ roller-bearing turbocharger
that is designed to suit CA and SR-series Nissan fours. Unfortunately, the
RB20DET engine employs a T3-style turbo flange while the CA and SRs use a
T25/T28-flange. At this stage most people would leap to the conclusion that an
aftermarket exhaust manifold is needed – but not Do-It-Yourself John!
With the help of John’s
brother-in-law, the original turbine flange plate was cut off the RB manifold
and a drilled-to-suit 32mm thick mounting plate was welded on. John says
the original manifold was heated and maintained at a high temperature while the
new adaptor plate was welded on using stainless rod. A key factor to avoid
cracking is to control the rate of cooling once the plate has been welded – let
the manifold cool rapidly and it will lead to cracking problems.
At the same time the turbo
was being swapped, the existing Mines computer was ripped out of the passenger’s
kick panel and a plug-in MicroTech LT12 ECU took over. The MicroTech unit
contains a MAP load sensor so John made the most of it and removed the factory
airflow meter to reduce intake restriction. A set of six modified Skyline GT-R
injectors and a Malpassi adjustable reg team with a R33 GT-R in-tank pump and a
Bosch 909 high-flow external pump. The ignition is stock.
With its new roller-bearing
turbocharger and tuned MicroTech computer, the car punched out a fairly easy
307hp at the wheels on 18 psi. Interestingly, John then decided to alter the cam
timing (using custom adjustable sprockets) and found about 13hp more at the
wheels - with only a touch more lag. John says the current cam timing specs are:
inlet cam timing retarded 2 degrees and exhaust cam timing advanced 6 degrees.
As you may have noticed in
our pics, a polished oil breather catch can and a GReddy Type S blow-off valve
were also installed at this time.
The standard Nissan
driveline is very strong, but when you add a no-slip ‘600hp’ brass button clutch,
the poor ol’ gearbox doesn’t receive much slack when the rear tyres hook up.
This is John’s fourth gearbox – he’s
blown a second gear, third gear and an output shaft! The diff is the original
viscous LSD – no problems with it so far.
John is pretty keen on the
drift scene and has his R32 set up for easily controllable power slides. Tein HR
coil-overs, pillow-ball upper mounts, a R32 GT-R rear swaybar and a disabled
HICAS system give John the handling balance and response that’s essential when
getting sideways at, well, a considerable speed... If he ever gets into trouble,
John can always stand on the R33 Skyline brakes which are currently being bolted
Cosmetically, John’s R32 is
surgically clean. The factory white paint is immaculate, he’s removed the
standard rear spoiler and the bumper is a base-spec R32 item that’s sliced to
suit the ‘cooler. The
wheels fitted during our photo shoot are 18 x 8s wearing 235/40 Bridgestone
Inside, John’s car is
inexplicably fitted with a R32 GT-R-like trim. John says he’s seen other GTS
Type Ms with a conventional interior trim, so we can only guess the GT-R trim
package came out in the late-model R32 Type Ms. John has also added an AutoMeter
boost gauge, aftermarket steering wheel, gear knob and pedals plus a JVC MP3
sound system with a 12 inch sub. All the essentials.
At this point in time it
seems John has taken his R32 GTS about as far as he intends. As a result, he
wouldn’t mind selling it to put some extra cash toward his other project – his
dyno queen/show car Sil80.
Hmmm. If this R32 is only a
‘warm up’, we dare to imagine what that l’il beast will be like!
Footnote - if you’ve got
around approximately AUD$23,000, John is willing to let his R32 go to you. If
you’re genuinely interested, John can be contacted at email@example.com
+61 7 4659 9711
Thanks also to MTG Engine
Systems, Banzai Motorsports, Dave, Troy, Anthony and Angela.