After detailing a very competitive field of vehicles, we have finally arrived at our number 1 affordable future classic, the R32 Skyline GTR. If you haven’t read the other articles in our top 10 series, here’s a link back to the first article which will connect you with all of our top 10 cars.
Much has evolved on the value front for the R32 GTR since we began writing this article series. The GTR is internationally known for a variety of reasons, but the success of the brand today is largely due to the heavy legwork done by the R32 GTR, which set the standard for a sports car in the late 1980s and early 1990s, taking the GTR brand international whilst keeping true to the original GTR of the early 1970s. In this article we focus on the standard R32 GTR, as well as the limited edition vehicles such as the V-Spec, for the purpose of discussing the car as a modern classic.
In the past decade, we observed the R32 GTR becoming increasingly affordable, with standard cars often coming well below $20,000 (AUD). Although you can still find the GTRs in the under 20K price bracket, the market has substantially changed, with the last few years seeing prices firm up for most models, and even more so for the special editions or ultra-low mileage examples. Part of this trend may be due to the fact that as of August 2014, the R32 GTR was finally eligible for U.S. importation under the NHTSA ‘25 year’ rule. We have noted the enthusiasm in the US for the early model GTRs on forums for some time, and such a large market is sure to place pressure on demand and prices, particularly for cars direct from Japan.
For this article series we established that an affordable future classic must be available for under or around $20,000 (AUD). Despite the fact that many GTRs now exceed the $20,000 (AUD) ‘affordable’ threshold, we retain the R32 GTR in first position as it's still possible to purchase one in this price range, and its cost to performance ratio has time and again been proven unparalleled. For the reasons outlined in this article, we believe the R32 GTR is the ultimate future classic recipe.
Reasons for inclusion in the top 10
We have placed the R32 GTR in the top 10 for fundamentally similar reasons to many of the other cars in the top 10. However, the value of each of those elements attributed to the GTR is what puts it ahead of the competition. The GTR was an extremely advanced performance car for its time, with engineers modelling the driveline from the far more expensive Porsche 959 Turbo of the mid-1980s. What came out was not only a dominating performance street and touring car, but a legend was born. The performance, motorsport achievements, availability of limited editions and the increased awareness of the GTR throughout generations have in our opinion created the ultimate future classic.
1. Motorsport history
The R32 GTR competed in many international racing events, and although it is best known for its performances in the Japanese and Australian touring car championships, it has many more international racing credentials. One important point that needs to be understood to appreciate the GTR is that it was built as a Japanese ‘Group A’ car. This means that the standard R32 GTR has a true thoroughbred racing connection, which cannot be said for many other modern sports cars which purport to have racing links, but have little resemblance to their on track conuterparts. This Group A link between the R32 GTR and its motorsport counterparts significantly increases the vehicle’s desirability to enthusiasts, and particularly so when a car like the GTR achieves so much success on the track. Several of those motorsport achievements are outlined below.
The R32 GTR won all 29 races from 29 starts in the Japanese Touring Car Championship, taking the series title every single year from 1989 through to 1993, whilst up against some of the most competitive Group A cars such as the BMW M3 and Ford Sierra RS500. If this wasn’t enough proof of the car’s capabilities, the GTR faced an even broader spectrum of competition as it entered the Australian Touring Car Championship, up against not only the usual Sierra and M3 suspects, but also a huge field of V8 ‘Group A’ Holden Commodores, the BMW 635 CSi and the Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, among many others. What made those victories in the Australian championship particularly significant was that the GTRs had increased weight penalties placed on them to even out the competitive field. This started out at 50kg, but when the GTRs kept winning, the 1992 season saw the GTR imposed with a 150kg weight increase, as well as a turbo pressure release valve to reduce potential boost. Despite those handicaps, the GTR still won both the championship and the famous Bathurst endurance race at Mount Panorama in 1991 and 1992. Sadly, the year 1993 saw changes to the Australian touring car rules, which resulted in the banning of turbocharged cars, bringing an end to what would have undoubtedly been continued success for the GTR. All of this racing success led to the GTR acquiring the name “Godzilla” in the Australian media, a reference to the GTR’s country of origin and the fact that it destroyed the field of international touring cars on the track, whether it be a 1,000km endurance race or a sprint.
Below is a full list of the R32 GTR’s major international motorsport achievements:
Had the GTR been introduced in a greater number of championships and events around the world, perhaps its motorsport record would be even more impressive. The success of the GTR on the track has made the R32 one of the greatest touring car legends of all time, and the close link between the standard GTR as a ‘Group A’ car combined with its motorsport record, has been the most influential factor in our decision to place the GTR in the number 1 spot.
2. Performance and engineering
For a sports car released in 1989, the performance and engineering of the GTR was world class. The R32 GTR saw the introduction of a brand new RB series 2.6 litre engine producing 206kw, coupled to their new all-wheel-drive ATTESA – ETS system. The car in stock form would take you from 0 – 100 km/h in under 5 seconds. Although the R32 GTR was not a cheap car, it was a lot cheaper than the Porsche 959 Turbo on which its driveline was modelled, and provided a similar performance package which was easily matched with modifications.
The combination of the 206kw engine and advanced torque split driveline truly made the GTR an elite sports car from the outset, joining only a small group of other vehicles of the era which were generally related to ‘Group A’ touring cars or ‘Group A and B’ rally cars. The advantages of the driveline were easy to see on the racetrack, particularly off the start line where within the first 500 metres, the GTRs typically opened up a 10 car gap to the rest of the field. On the road, the story is much the same, and as tuners have taken to the RB26DETT engine, enormous power increases have been achieved, and these cars have endless tuning potential to satisfy the highest of performance standards even to this day (as long as you have the money).
The stock performance of these cars is enough to satisfy most people. However, if more performance is what you are after, the R32 GTR is a vehicle that has been tuned for many years now, and modification plans, parts and ideas are plentiful in the R32 community. The impressive performance, engineering and the fact that these cars can so readily be tuned to go even better, form an important consideration in our selection of this car as a number 1, and we believe that these factors will ensure continued enthusiast interest as the GTR gracefully ages.
3. Availability and limited edition versions
The R32 GTR in itself is not a particularly rare car when compared to some of the others in our list, with around 44,000 cars produced in total. However, production numbers are still low enough, and far too low if you count the increasing international demand for these cars which is unparalleled by many other modern classics. As noted earlier, this demand has further increased following the R32 becoming legal to import to the United States since 2014.
The desirability of the R32 GTR, which we do not expect to taper off any time soon, is another reason why we believe the car is a guaranteed future collectible. If the 40,000 plus production number is an exclusivity issue for you, the R32 GTR has plenty of other investment options which are more unique, but expect to pay a fair bit more than the $20,000 affordability threshold. Versions such as the V-Spec, N1 and Group A Nismo cars are rare alternatives in the GTR range, as are the 100 limited edition GTRs which were imported to Australia in 1991 for homologation purposes. There are also aftermarket modified editions from the likes of ‘Tommy Kiara’ and others, which should make you stand out from the crowd if that’s what you’re looking for. Here are some production numbers of various R32 versions to give you some perspective:
|Model Name||Number Produced||Comments|
|R32 GTR Group A Evolution||560||Nismo prepared 'Group A' homologation car|
|R32 GTR V-Spec I||1,453||Celebration special edition (see our ID-Guide here: http://classicregister.com/id-guides/how-identify-1993-1994-nissan-skyline-r32-gtr-v-spec-i)|
|R32 GTR V-Spec II||1,303||Celebration special edition (see our ID-Guide here: http://classicregister.com/id-guides/how-identify-1994-nissan-skyline-r32-gtr-v-spec-ii)|
|R32 GTR N1||228||Lightweight racing version produced for homologation purposes|
|R32 GTR Tommy Kiara Edition||400||Number included in standard R32 GTR count|
|R32 GTR (Standard)||40,390||Mostly sold as a Japanese domestic market vehicle, with the exception of small export batches for racing homologation|
Why is the GTR in position 1?
The significance of the GTR’s performance and racing history is probably reason enough to bring the GTR to the top of the list in itself, but it’s also what the car represents that contributes to its top podium spot. The R32 GTR really created a modern day legend, and is a perfect representation of the Japanese motor industry’s prime performance car period. Given the relatively high availability and low quality of many GTRs out there, you may be asking why we haven’t put the R32 further down the list. In many ways, however, those factors working against the R32 GTR will in the long run work for it. We believe that the global market, which now finally includes the United States, will more than absorb the high number of R32s produced. Furthermore, the larger size of the market means that there are few other cars that have such great support communities, and spare parts should continue to be readily obtainable. The number of cars that have been heavily modified will also influence prices in different ways in future, particularly as collectors seek the original unmodified vehicles, which are already a scarce resource. These factors including large production numbers, availability of parts and a large enthusiast community will ensure that the GTR enthusiast base continues to be widespread and accessible, and broader demand for the cars will likely follow well into the future.
Another major reason why the R32 was placed in position 1 was the availability of the V-Spec cars at reasonable prices. With only 1,453 V-Spec I and 1,303 V-Spec II cars produced, these cars represent a unique collector’s edition, and whilst they were available at such reasonable prices in the last few years, they had huge potential as an investment. Over the last several years, however, people have flocked to the rare GTRs, and it seems very difficult to find a V-spec cheaper than $25,000 – 30,000 (AUD). Despite this, we are still keeping the GTR in the number 1 spot as price rises are still a certainty for the special editions, even after the rises we have seen in the last few years, and we still regard these cars as relatively affordable.
Verdict / conclusion:
Although we have placed the GTR in position 1, that doesn’t mean the GTR doesn’t have anything working against it. One major issue that has probably held the car back is its lack of international distribution and hence no availability in factory left hand drive. As we have already mentioned, the car also has relatively large production numbers, and many of the cars out there would be regarded as low quality stock, having been heavily modified and in many cases, heavily abused. These are certainly drawbacks to be aware of, but the factors in favour of the GTR that we have discussed in this article have confirmed our belief that the R32 GTR has the most potential for value increases over the coming decades when compared to the other cars in our top 10 list. People will never forget the way the GTR tore shreds through the V8s, BMW M3s, and brought to an abrupt end the Ford Sierra 500s domination of international touring car racing. The GTR was also the car that forced many regulation changes across motorsport internationally, and was arguably a reason for Group A’s demise, since other manufacturers simply could not compete with the technology or performance leap displayed by the GTR in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
If you’re looking at buying a GTR, here’s our advice. Look for a low mileage car (under 150,000km), original and un-modified (or as close to original as possible). This may be easier said than done, but if you can find one, they represent the most reasonable value when compared to the equivalent special edition versions of the R32. There will likely be plenty of rough projects out there in future, so we would recommend that if you are looking at a project, it is best to look at the car that is unmodified or only slightly modified, and can be easily restored back to factory specification (e.g. no engine changes, major suspension or body modifications). The modifications, engine changes and poor treatment of many of these cars means that there are very few original and clean examples out there at any one time.
If you have a bit of extra cash to spend, the better investment certainly lies in the special edition models, such as the V-Spec cars. With such low numbers produced, these cars represent just about the most affordable factory special edition GTR. However, we have already witnessed significant changes in their asking prices over the last 5 years. The V-Spec series, although not all that different from the standard GTR, does at least give an additional element of 'collectability' which means a lot to the average enthusiast. Second to the V-Spec, a non-factory special edition such as the Tommy Kiara R32 GTR also represents reasonable value, although they are very scarce. Once you start looking at N1, Group A spec and Australian delivered cars, unfortunately you start moving well away from the ‘affordable’ category. Several sales of Australian delivered cars, for example, have exchanged at over $50,000 (AUD), with N1 spec cars often higher. As we write, there is a N1 spec car asking an unbelievable $150,000 (AUD). Although at this stage we think this is a completely unrealistic price, it may be an indication of where prices are headed in the long term.
Future value increases:
It is hard to say how long it could take for larger value increases to be seen in R32 GTR prices, and you may have to be in it for the long game if you go for a standard GTR. However, the influence of the USA opening its doors can already be seen in international price activity, and with the AUD and JPY at low levels, the US enthusiasts would be having a field day paying what they believe are bargain basement prices at 20,000 (AUD), or much cheaper in Japan.
There is a lot more to be said about the GTR, and many who read this article may have different opinions and their own thoughts on the car’s status as a modern classic. Please feel free to comment at the base of this page and let us know what you think. Thanks for taking the time to read this article, and we remind you to check out the entire top 10 series which can be viewed by clicking here. If you have enjoyed this, please give Classic Register a ‘Like’ on Facebook, where we often provide information on modern classics.