Have you ever been so happy you could cry?
Maybe when you got married. Or when your first child was born. For me, it was when I finally hit redline behind the wheel of an R34 Skyline GT-R— and not just any R34 GT-R, but a truly special one.
You can have your Bullitt Mustangs or your Le Mans–starring Porsche 917s. For an entire generation of enthusiasts, this car is The One. A 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec II, it’s just one of 11 R34s known to have been imported and legalized by MotoRex for use on the road in the United States. It had only 900 miles on the clock when it arrived and went into use as Paul Walker’s demonstration car, promoting whichever Fast & Furious movie was premiering at the time.
Walker would put more than 15,000 of the total 19,000 or so miles on this R34. Later in life, the Bayside blue Nissan went on to star in several BFGoodrich ads, for which it would receive the black and gold accents it carries to this day. Befit- ting the model’s status as the godhead of tuner cars, this Skyline has been treated to a sprinkling of modifications, including a lowered and stiffened suspension, a set of lovely Rays Volk Racing TE37 wheels, a louder exhaust, and a very 2000s Momo steering wheel.
This story originally appeared in Volume 9 of Road & Track.
To me, or anyone else who saw Brian O’Conner show up to that first 2 Fast 2 Furious street race back in 2003, even getting a glimpse of this car would be enough. But to be handed the keys? Sit in the driver’s seat? To drive something so special on the road? I’m getting misty over here.
How could I put into words what it’s like to drive an R34 Skyline GT-R, much less form an objective opinion on this irreplaceable example? The R34 was the last of the GT-R line to not be officially sold in the U.S. It’s one of those cars that hardly seems real. It’s just something seen on a computer screen or driven in Gran Turismo. In 1999, barely anyone in America knew what a Skyline GT-R was. Now, over 20 years later, it’s become one of the most highly coveted, most desirable Japanese cars on the planet. More than that, it shaped my childhood. And here I am, filling it up at a Shell station in Long Beach, California, like it’s a Sentra.
Despite its age, the R34 feels thoroughly modern inside. The window sills are high, and there’s a good amount of sound deadening. The patterned-cloth bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, while the pedals are perfectly placed for heel-and-toeing. The R34 was the last GT-R with a manual transmission. By the time the R35 arrived around the world, including in the U.S., Nissan had decided to go all-in on technology, equipping the new GT-R with a quick-shifting, dual-clutch six-speed automatic. For the first U.S. GT-R, the company also went with a turbocharged V-6 in place of the model line’s usual inline-six. The R35’s performance was stunning, but compared with this R34, the newer car feels a bit too much like it’s being piloted by computers instead of its driver.
The centerpiece of the R34’s cabin is the 5.8-inch full-color LCD display mounted atop the center stack. It features readouts for boost pressure, oil pressure, and the temperatures of various things. Modern sports-car stuff, all the way back in ’99.
Though I didn’t get to do much canyon-carving during my few hours behind the wheel, it’s clear after a few corners why people hold the R34 in such high regard. The shifter is precise yet buttery smooth, while the steering is gushing with feel. The car’s no lightweight, at least by Nineties standards. You can feel the heft from that complex all-wheel-drive system whenever you chuck the blue beast into a bend. But there seems to be no limit to its grip. It’s the type of car that eggs you on, always asking to be pushed further. And the more you push it, the better it gets.
The 2.6-liter RB26DETT inline-six puts modern turbo motors to shame. It’s not until about 4000 rpm that boost begins to build. But keep your foot in it and power comes on in a frantic rush all the way to a tingling crescendo at 8000 rpm. In true tuner-car fashion, the exhaust lets out a massive bang between gearshifts when you’re really on it. And you will, without fail, let out a massive giggle each time you hear it. I’ve never heard a better inline-six, turbocharged or otherwise. It makes a magnificent noise.
If for any moment behind the wheel your elation begins to wane, dozens of excited gawkers will remind you of your good fortune at every stoplight. I’ve never received more attention on the road. People didn’t hesitate to honk, wave me down, or even cut me off to get a better look. I can’t blame them; if I saw this car cruising through Long Beach, I’d freak out too.
Giving passionate enthusiasts the opportunity to see this R34 in real life was almost as satisfying as driving it. Almost.
1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R Courtesy Of Toprank Importers And Hive Autogarage.