Nissan is selling the new Nissan GTR almost like it’s on half price right from the start. Half the Price of the 911 Turbo that is. But not before it dropped its middle name, Skyline. So what’s wrong with its middle name? Well you see, the Skyline represents Nissan’s significant flagship of performance coupes and sedans. The new GTR is far too great to associate itself with its Skyline siblings because it was built from ground up and was made purely to stir and shake the performance car industry. It did and became Japan’s proudest Euro eating supercoupe.
But eventually, no matter how great the Nissan GTR becomes, no matter the maturity of its status through the V-Spec program, the real experts will re-intervene. Nissan’s motorsports arm. They’ve been setting the standards in motorsports since way way back, building their versions of GTR within its factory in Omori aptly named, Omori Factory. right in the heart of Tokyo.
So what have they built before? Legends. The 400R and the Z-Tune. Based on the R33 Skyline GTR and R34 Skyline GTR respectively. They are the very ultimate editions of their generation. GTR supernovas. So rare and exclusive that it’s almost impossible to buy one.
We made a trip to Omori Factory, Tokyo. While everyone is busy trying to find out how the new Nissan GTR drives, we take a trip to a time when these Super GTRs were still directly homologated from its original sports coupe form.
Though very much excited to experience the 2 Nismo legends, nothing could take my attention away from my first Nissan GTR sighting. Mind you, this is in January and the car you see below is owned by Shin, the founder of GTROC which was in fact one of the first of the handful owners of the Nissan GTR.
I have to thank Alan Khoo of Nismo Malaysia for assisting us with their Japanese asscociate, making this trip that much warmer during the cold Japanese January. Though this isn’t the first time we’ve visited Omori Factory, It’s the first time we’ll be meeting Iwamoto-San, General Manager of Nismo Corporate Planning and Communications. After a short briefing, we were escorted to the garage where the Nismo cars rest. Finally!. I’ve seen the 400R in there in 2007 during my first visit. The Z-Tune still new at the time was busy doing errands and was being towed away just when I arrived. No matter, better late than never. I was handed the keys to the Z-Tune and Remus took the 400R. Now, to actually get the chance to unleash both Nismo legends in Tokyo is quite an experience if you ask me.
Nissan Gallery Ginza
First stop, Nissan Showroom, Ginza. Not your typical Kuala Lumpur city centre, Ginza remains as one of the worlds most expensive place to be in, packed with upmarket shopping, dining, entertainment, featuring famous department stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes. At 100,000 US dollars per square meter, it gives you something to think about our parking fare within the Nissan showrooms’s carpark for a mere 30mins of browsing. Not to mention, these ancient basement car parks are a bitch to maneuver the Z-Tune and 400R in. Remember Top Gear’s Video where they try to drive supercars through a french basement carpark? Well, It’s something like that minus that unforgiving supercar physique. The Z-Tune barely skims the smooth concrete floor as it descends from the ramp.
Parking in Ginza, Tokyo
No, You wouldn’t park such cars in the basement carparks in Kuala Lumpur, especially if it’s an older building like Sungei Wang or something. But try stopping by the curb of busy Ginza afternoon. There is just no where to stop, not to mention getting weird looks from the passers by. So we made it into the car park. As we entered the actual showroom, we were greeted by the then, new Nissan GTR and Nissan 2008 V36 Skyline coupe. Just awesome. It really reminds you how advanced the new Nissans have become even after the fact that I just got out from a previous generation of the Skyline.
Life with the RB26DETT
Some of the obvious Nissan GTR facts would be the missing RB26DETT super 6 cylinder turbo powerplant that has powered 3 generations of GTR which made it the king. As for the experience, even GTR purists have to admit there’s just nothing special about sitting in the cockpit of Skyline GT-R. The same mass-produced versions of plasticky and battle-gearish coin-op game interior always make its way to even the most sought-after GTR. But it does get a little better in the R34 with the additional mini-computer that processes and displays key data of your drive.
Having driven the R33 and R34 versions of the GTR, i have to admit that it remains special even with the obvious flaws, which you somehow either get used to or totally forget about when the ignition key is turned as you exercise the RB with some revs. Because, in the end, all GTRs are road legends and will forever wear that intimidating Gundam suit with the unmissable battle-mode stance.
So we got out of the car park safely. Me still in the Z-Tune and Remus taming the 400R. Driving these beasts in the heart of Toyko is nothing short of spectacular. All your life you’ve been fed with Option and millions of other Japanese medias not forgetting their videos. Slowly but surely, you inherit that JDM culture and lifestyle and compile your own JDM vocabulary. So actually driving there in one of their proudest JDM machines is unforgettable. Bystanders stared in disbelief and Japanese office ladies giggled away as the Nismo cult machines burbled past.
The Nismo Z-Tune Drive
The Toll plaza approaches. Not having a clue what the attendant was saying, i passed him some coins and waited for change. Remus’ 400R on the other isle hissed away since Japanese has always been second language to him. He signalled and we’re all set. I coasted off in 1st and come 2nd with the throttle mashed, I was greeted by that familliar high-pitched trumpeting sound unique to the RB engines, but somewhat deeper and rougher.. the Nismo Z-Tune drive begins..
Only 20 built, the Z-Tune was a pain to conceive. Right after the successful Z-Tune Prototype test mule, Nismo then rushed out to buy some immaculate Nissan R34 GT-R. That’s right. The Nismo Z-Tune is based off a used GT-R. But don’t be too alarmed, Nismo made sure they only picked the best examples and those that have done not more than 20,000kms. It sure wasn’t easy. But eventually, they are stripped down to the core, re-engineered and built from ground up again. Nismo didn’t just beef up the engine and put it on sale, the Z-Tune is powered by a 2.8 bored-out RB26 utilizing race parts from their GT500 race car that won numerous Super GT series. It was condenamed the Z2. Developing 500bhp out of the box, making the Z-Tune the most extreme R34 GTR Nismo has ever built for the street.
GT500 500bhp 2.8litre Z2 based on the RB26DETT
500bhp may sound really savage to drive but if you treat the Z-Tune nicely, it’ll pass as a road car. Even the twin-plate Nismo Super Coppermix clutch feels like a sponge to press on. Floor the throttle and you’re immediately treated to the front seat of their Super GT race car. At 3500rpm twin race IHI turbos pulls you back by the neck. Continue on and at 4200rpms, it punches you in the chest, leaving you seconds to breath before the next gear.
The Z-Tune doesn’t need rest since its built for the track. You can punish it all you want because Nismo has put in enough engineering not just for power and roadholding but also engineered the Z-Tune’s aerodynamics to cool down the volcanic turbos and fluids. Race inspired heat exchangers also made it’s way into the Z-Tune. To give you a clue just how serious they were, they’ve even fitted twin oil coolers just behind the rear differential.
Tokyo Skyscraping Highway
We approach the infamous Fast and Furious – Tokyo Drift highway sweeper where Gaijin grinned as he drifts through it. These sweepers practically allow you to orbit the city as it spirals for a couple of kms before it ends. The Z-Tune doesn’t feel tickled as it edges the speed limits in the bends. You can milk the throttle and almost never find out when it’ll run out of dairy. It just will not release its grasp off the road. Also another Z-Tune feature. The GT500 inspired SACHS 3-way adjustable race suspension bolted to the ultra-stiff body. The carbon fiber reinforced front strut towers is also exclusive to the development of the Z-Tune.
So ferocious is this JDM monster, Nismo employed special 6 pot Brembo monoblocks that clamps the 365mm floating discs up front with different Kiryu developed system at the rears. Stomp the brakes but hold on to your eyeballs as it decelerates with a force of 1.6g. At normal and enthusiastic driving the Z-Tune brakes are more than adequate to match its power. Coupled with the all-black Nismo LM-GT4 GT500 ultra-lightweight magnesium wheels, the Z-Tune will carve the curves at limits and stop on a dime when needed.
The Z-Tune may sound like it’s short on comfort. To be honest, it’s not hard at all to live with, in fact it does well enough with proper sports seats finished in all Alcantara and leather combination. It does feel a little more special compared to a regular V-Spec II. Especially so when it’s garnished with Nismo parts all throughout, and what 180kmh speed limit? this one comes with a stock 320kmh Nismo speedo and gauge clusters.
Have i forgotten about its looks? The Z-Tune is far from subtle. Nismo aerodynamic parts replaces the standard panels. Enormous air dams fill the front bumper to cool air, fluids and oils while the folded front fenders channel hot air out from the engine, and fender trimmings accentuate the wider track. In a nutshell, the Nismo Z-Tune is more than a fine track weapon and if unleashed out in the public, it will eat anything up it sees on the street.
An Image of a regular nightly meet up at the Daikoku Futo Parking Area
Daikoku Futo Parking Area
We exited the highway and found ourselves parked at Tokyo’s car nuts’ most patronised show-off spot. The Daikoku Futo Parking Area. Again, a famillair sight from Option Video, this is exactly where it all happens. Late night gatherings, rendezvous point for their top speed Wangan drives, ICE demonstrations, Gundam-minivans and plenty of show cars on most occasions. Notice the skyscraping highways?
It is here that I will be hopping into the Nismo 400R for the drive back to Omori Factory. In showroom condition, it is gorgeous. Probably the best kept R33 the world has known. It was built in 1996 mind you. At the time of launch, the 400R shocked the world when in just plain stock form will shatter supercars then with its 400 factory bhp. Not many to worry though, Nismo only built 99 pieces of this. I believe none is in Malaysia. I could be wrong, please let us know if you came across any.
The Nismo bodied 400R is easily differentiated from its regular siblings, firstly, up front, massive Nismo intercooler barely hides within the gaping air dam, bigger and wider wheels, 3 piece Nismo LM-GT1 wheels update the 400R, meatier sideskirts and bolder rear bumper completes the 400R while providing a wider and more powerful stance even at standstill. Finally, it is smothered in a light and milky yellow icing and laced with Nismo stripes. Totally unmistakeable for a 400R.
Considering the Z-Tune being the star of our feature, the 400R doesn’t lack attention. Its 400bhp 2.8 litre RBX-GT2 powerplant is an early attempt by Nismo in blending race experience into road cars. Without the 400R there may never be a Z-Tune to begin with. So, the 400R gets Nismo’s GT500 race injection, but what does it actually feel like? Though i was still hyped up by the Z-Tune, surprisingly, the 400R didn’t seem to dissapoint at all.
After driving the 400R, you’ll begin to appreciate that it’s never meant to be an inferior version of the later Z-Tune. In fact, where the 400R excels is what the R33 GTR should’ve been in the first place. Everything about the 400R is maginally better. Everything feels much tighter, much firmer, sharper and more eager to comply compared to the R33. So special is the 400R, it completely changes what you think about the regular R33 GTR which felt bulky, leans over like a yatch at full turn and above all, lazy.
Whip the 400R and it remains composed losing the ferocity and drama normally asscociated with its siblings. Power delivery is nothing short of smooth, gear changes are seamless to the revs and you now can comfortably squeeze the 6 throttles earlier in the bends. Now, that’s 400 bhp blended to perfection. To achieve such positive driving experience, Nismo surely had worked its magic on the 400R’s handling. Stiffening Nissans is a walk in the park for Nismo, a good move at the start considering the best suspension system works best on a stiffer chassis. Blast into curves, the 400R stays flat and precise. Even immediate changes in direction can amuse the freakiest GTR fanatics.
Driving the 400R alongside the Z-Tune back to Omori Factory into the early winter dusk reminds just how passionate Nismo has always been in motorsports. Actually successfully applying race-proven experience into their road cars where reliability is key plus going through thick and thin just to source for immaculate GTR donors for their Z-Tunes? That’s just insane!. Plus it’s also known that Nismo built these amazing cars just to celebrate the success of their motorsport participation.
Having experienced the best of Nismo’s road cars, We’re addicted. We may just return to Omori Factory next year and hope to find an early example of the Nismo R35 GT-R.
Images and Words: Tom Goh
- Nissan Malaysia: Edaran Tan Chong Motor Malaysia (http://www.nissan.com.my)
- Alan Khoo: Nismo and Impul Malaysia (http://www.nismo.com.my)
- Iwamoto-San: Nismo Japan (http://www.nismo.co.jp)
- Remus Chang: Coordinator
Nismo Z-Tune Prototype at the Nurburgring
Nismo Z-Tune Video by Best Motoring
Nismo 400R promotional video