Close this search box.

Nismo Clubman Race Spec – 1991 Nissan Skyline R32 GTR

29 June 2023

Ah yes, we’re entering the retro-mod era, where the Japanese performance cars we’ve all known and loved are fast becoming classics and good folks such as Gwen are bringing them back to life, one epic restoration at a time!

Words: René Vermeer Photos: Archee Lal

What would you build if we tasked you with creating the ultimate R-chassis? Some would go down the more modern R34 Z-Tune route, a big-single R32 dragster, or even a face-tearing, 2000hp-plus R35 GT-R build. But, for the true, old-school Nissan and Nissan Motorsport heritage fans among us, you’d probably dream up something that Gwen had, at 36 years of age and eager to complete what was to him a dream build. There aren’t many colours more iconic than Nissan’s Midnight Purple, and there aren’t too many badges, trinkets, and logos as familiar and as nostalgic as the ‘old logo’ Nismo badge. It’s as if what Gwen envisioned was simply designed to ignite nostalgia wherever he would travel with it for the hardcore Nismos among us. But, we’ve come a long way since the glory days in the ‘90s. Technology has evolved to the point where performance cars aren’t absolute crap to drive on the street when they’re making good power, and industry knowledge and parts supply is better than it has ever been — meaning that our dreams are becoming easier to curate, besides the base price of this old Japanese tin of course. So, what do you get when you combine this retro passion with modern fit, finish and finesse? 

“My automotive passion started with playing with toy cars from an early age. I mean, to the point where I wouldn’t go inside school without a new toy car. Then it was the need for Speed games, Initial D, then meeting Nismo’s idea of car performance. Then, I experienced the beautiful sound of a single turbo RB26,” Gwen tells us of his passion, and direction that led to this R32 GT-R build. When Gwen came across this particular GT-R, apparently it was at the ‘just running and hopes and dreams stage’, as Gwen puts it. But, this wasn’t a red flag, but rather the canvas in which Gwen would build his ultimate machine. 

The first mission was to strip the Nissan in order to have the panel and paint completed. With the chosen colour, it was up to a small group of Filipino painters that smashed the entire job out within a matter of days. The engine bay has been painted too, to bring together the complete fit and finish we’d expect to see these days. Keeping in tune with the Nismo-inspired build, the GT-R now features Nismo front bumper ducts, and a swag of Top Secret trimmings — the icing on the cake being the custom R35 GT-R badges and Nismo heritage sticker. 

The trick paint work doesn’t stop there, though. The cam covers, coil cover, timing belt cover, and completely refurbished inlet plenum have all been painted in the iconic Nismo wrinkle, so you get the sense of pedigree this GT-R has when you pop the bonnet. It all gets a bit different from there, though. On a Nismo car, you’d see twin turbos, but Gwen has a love for single turbo GT-Rs and was confident he could have something built that had the Nismo look, but had modern day performance and reliability. Not to say Nismo cars weren’t reliable, but it’s more the move to single turbo technology, from Garrett with their latest G30-770 turbocharger. “I was actually aiming for a responsive single, not a bragging rights kW number. The original turbo that was supposed to go with this build was a TO4Z from Garrett. But, I just couldn’t resist the charm of that G Series. I am glad I went with the G30 as it’s responsive like having twin -5s, but far easier to work on. And, the sound of a screaming single turbo just hits the right notes.”

Although strong in factory trim, Gwen had Harley Barron and old school RB legend build the RB26 from the ground up. With forged pistons, rods, a ported and polished head, and GReddy 272-degree cams, it was sure to make some incredible power with the G30-770 bolted to the side. Tuned by the legendary Glen Suckling at GDS Automotive, Gwen’s fresh RB26 now makes an astounding 495kW at the wheels on pump gas and 24psi of boost. “Harley mentioned to me that it’s easy for the budget to snowball and obviously it did, from the titanium strut brace, to titanium exhaust system, to all the current technology and reliability needs for an RB like this — the GT-R Skyline rabbit hole does exist,” Gwen laughs. 

“I would probably go with a 2.8-litre stroker kit, but with a PRP cast RB26 block. Well, these blocks are still in development but it’s exciting. It’s an RB26 block with none of the weaknesses of an RB and all of the strong points of a 2JZ block,” Gwen told us, when we asked what he’d do differently if he were to do it again — always a fun question. 

“I always wanted an R34 GT-R in the OEM LX0 colour and the Nismo Clubman Race Spec resto mod virtue, but those are way beyond my reach now. Luckily I was offered this from the group up project R32 GT-R, so I took the task and followed my ultimate GT-R Skyline build.”

Honestly, it’s a little shocking to see this level of build in New Zealand. Looking under the bonnet transports you right over to Japan, to places such as the Nismo Omori factory. There’s a level of detail not seen on many builds these days and the entire build is true to Gwen’s vision of the ultimate Nismo Clubman Spec racer, with a little twist — even better that it’s a pure street car, with a sensible-sized turbo. No doubt with the level of detail we’ve seen here, it won’t be long before Gwen tinkers on something else, or perfects this build even more. We’d sure like to see what he builds next! 


This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 300