The GT-R badge has lived a pretty glorious 50-year history, from its origins as the drop-dead handsome Hakosuka through to the game-changing R35. Although the GT-R has been around for 50 years, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the commercial potential began to kick in.
At the start of that decade the R32 version arrived. The huge – and disruptive – racing success that followed effectively ended up ending several race series because rivals simply couldn’t compete. A star was finally born. As Nissan began to tap that desirability, special editions began to emerge, and these are some of the most special Japanese-made cars in history. We’ve picked a few to whet your appetite.
Let’s kick off with the most recent car to make this list, timed to honour the GT-R’s 50th birthday. This ultimate GT-R is so special not just because only 50 will be made, but that every single one will be different. Its bodywork looks like it’s taken from a DC comic, but customisation is a fundamental part of the build process.
From GT3-spec turbo upgrades to colour choices, bespoke carbonfibre trim, special dampers and anything else a buyer’s imagination can conjure, the GT-R50 is Nissan’s answer to the apparently growing demand for ultra-exclusive supercars. Price? Well, that’s just the £800,000 or so. Plus options and customisations.
Now let’s return to the first Godzilla; the car that deposed the all-conquering Ford Sierra Cosworth in Australian Group A touring car racing. To be frank, the R32 totally battered it. The series got boring, manufacturers started to pull out and the whole shebang collapsed. Just like the Godzilla monster, the R32 GT-R arrived, announced itself as the new king and smashed anything that got in its way.
The Nismo variant was a limited-edition homologation special introduced in 1990. Just 500 road cars were built with another 60 racing versions on top. It had extra air intakes and the grille mesh was removed to improve air flow to the intercooler. There was a bonnet lip spoiler to help direct more cooling air into the engine bay and a little boot lip spoiler to boost high-speed rear-end downforce. The R32 GT-R Nismo has only become more and more special as time has passed.
It doesn’t get much cooler than this. In 1996 Nissan decided to build a road-going special edition based on its GT-R Le Mans car. This detuned racer was the R33 Nismo 400R. It pumped out 400bhp from its 2.8-litre RBX-GT2 straight-six, courtesy of two larger turbochargers. What’s more, it was manual, with a motorsport-spec Getrag gearbox running power to all four wheels.
Nissan apparently sold just 44 of them, all for Japan, although other sources suggest a production run of 99 examples had been planned. Either way, you’ll need some luck and the right connections if you ever want to find one.
Don’t worry, your eyes haven’t gone wonky: this really is a four-door GT-R. Officially sanctioned by Nissan but built by Autech in 1998, it was designed to celebrate the Skyline’s 40th anniversary (not the GT-R’s).
Autech took the engine and running gear from the R33 GT-R and installed it into this longer, more understated body. It was still all-wheel drive and could still move like a GT-R, but this one could also pretend to be a sensible family car. What’s not to like?
Another date-specific GT-R special that we’ve included is the R35 45th Anniversary, which came 17 years after the 40th Anniversary car by Autech. The anomaly is annoying, but comes because this R35 was built to mark 45 years of the GT-R badge. Well, technically the first GT-R was launched at the end of 1969, but maybe Nissan was just a bit slow in realising the potential for a 45th Anniversary special edition and launched it the year after it should have.
It took the hardcore R35 and made it more usable and more everyday-friendly. Softer suspension made it less aggressive around town, but everything else stayed much the same except for a higher-spec interior and a plaque with that exact car’s production number. Just 100 were made, five of which made it to the UK.
Perhaps the daddy of all Skyline-era GT-R special editions was this, the phenomenal Nismo Z-Tune. It was built to celebrate 20 years of Nismo tuning action and gave no heed to such trifles as cost or build times. Each of the mere 20 that were built were hand-assembled, and boy were they special.
It took lessons learned from the GT500-class R34 racer and enlarged the engine to 2.8 litres, added a whole load of forged internals, two larger turbochargers and a mass of carbon parts to offset the weight increase. The Z-Tune weighed no more than a standard R34 GT-R. The best part? Power jumped to 500bhp. Just imagine what that must have been like…
The final run of R34 GT-Rs ever made was split between 718 V-Spec II Nurs and 285 M-Spec Nurs. The V-Spec II (V for Victory) Nur (for Nurburgring) was awesome enough, but the final hurrah was the M-Spec (for Mizuno, the car’s chief engineer) Nur. It took V-Spec II and added ‘Ripple Control’ dampers that were even more sensitive to small bumps and smoothed the ride a little without losing body control. it was also only yours in a special shade of gold, with matching interior trim accents.
Although power was officially 276bhp the sister Nur cars left Nissan with more like 330bhp. Upgraded greasy bits meant that tuners could instantly raise power to 450bhp on stock internals. Maybe the Z-Tune was the daddy, but the M-Spec Nur was the final bow.