It has come from beyond the grave – the most brutally ugly, ferociously fast, factory Nissan Skyline we have ever seen.
There will only ever be 20 of these predators, built up from second-hand Skyline R34s by Nismo – Nissan’s race and performance division – to produce the company’s last word on one of the most accomplished performance coupés the planet has yet seen. And today, we are in Japan to drive it.
Pity it’s raining. A wet mountain road and several hundred horsepower – that should mix like oil and water. One will float on top of the other, slithering about at the slightest swelling turbulence. So although the idea of climbing aboard the 500bhp monster that is the Nissan Skyline GT-R Z-Tune seems irresistibly tempting, it’s equally impossible to suppress the thought that deploying its rampancy on a sodden day will be an exercise in foolishness.
Unfamiliar mountain roads, an unfamiliar country, an unfamiliar car and a rev counter, I notice as I scrunch into the high-walled bucket seat, stretching to 9000rpm. Better fire up then, and face the rainfall. The straight-six kicks, settling to an idle so bass-filled that I get back out again to check the exhaust’s bore.
And yes – a small dog could crawl in there. Still, subtlety of appearance is not what this Nissan is about. Short of flying a streamer from the rear wing announcing that you’re going to perform illegal acts with an accelerator, it would be hard to make your desire to be an anti-social road warrior more obvious. In fact, there is subtlety in this car’s character, as we are to find out.
But first, let’s savour the white sheet describing the specification, a very rewarding task if you thrive on anticipation. Let’s get one nasty number out of the way right now – the £84,500 price. That’s one reason why there will only be 20 – the other is that Nismo celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Now, you don’t need me to tell you that for this money you could have one of the more fruity Porsche 911s, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, or a decent used Ferrari. And this is for a second-hand Nissan. That’s because Nismo only decided to build this ultimate R34 GT-R after it went out of production in August 2002. So it had to shop for mint, low mileage examples.
Now this isn’t the first time Nissan has bought back its own cars to refurbish them, by the way – it ran a programme in the US with old 240Zs, restoring them as an appetite-whetting prelude to the 350Z’s arrival. The difference here is that these GT-Rs are no more than a couple of years old – the 240Zs were as much as 30 – and they’ve been acquired for modification rather than restoration.
And the upgrades are extensive and gloriously arcane, too. For instance, the steel propshaft is now carbonfibre, saving five kilos. The door surrounds receive extra spot-welding to strengthen the bodyshell. The suspension bushes are replaced by harder versions generating less friction, and the brake hoses swapped for stainless steel braided varieties.
Also, the transmission tunnel and anti-roll bars have been strengthened and the electronic traction control unit, which sends torque to the front and rear differentials, reprogrammed.