Godzilla – Nissan Skyline R34 GTR
There’s a saying along the lines of “you should never meet your heroes, since you’ll only end up being disappointed”. Do any Top Gear fans here remember the episode where Richard Hammond met Evel Knievel? Yes, I know it wasn’t actually a Top Gear episode, but rather a stand-alone program called Richard Hammond Meets Evel Knievel. It’s clear to see that Hammond was clearly not impressed by his various encounters with his childhood idol throughout the hour long segment. But will this happen every time we meet a hero? It can be argued that this is mostly only relevant to situations where you meet other people, whereas I was about to come face to face with a mechanical legend. Yes, I was about to meet Godzilla. The Nissan R34 Skyline GTR.
Well, whats there to be nervous about? It’s just a car after all. A car that I had first spotted in the original Need For Speed: Underground game back in 2003. Now, in 2015, I was about to see one – in the flesh. Granted, I had seen one at Dezzi Raceway about a year ago, but that car was stuck with the burden of only being registered for track use. Feel like going out in your R34 to grab some food? Negative. Won’t be happening in a non-road legal car. All those moments of watching it in videos on YouTube, and customizing them with outrageous bodykits in Need For Speed were about to be thrown together in one whirlwind experience.
A few people reading this are probably becoming rather confused now, due to me harping on about what is seemingly only an unusual looking Nissan. So I’ll sidetrack here and answer the inevitable question… what makes the R34 GTR such a legend? Basically, Nissan never sold this car on our South African shores. In fact, the R34 was only sold in a few territories outside of Japan – namely Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Us South Africans are able to purchase the R35 with no problems from our local Nissan dealerships, but where’s the sense of occasion in that? There are rumoured to only be 4 road legal R34’s in South Africa, so statistically that means that 1 in 12 million people in South Africa own a R34 Skyline.
Still not convinced? Just take a second to watch this video, and then come back here and carry on reading. It’s fine, I’ll wait.
Back? Good. That video leads me neatly to the next point in this saga, which is the fact that the R34 is famous for being a tuners dream. Throw more than a bit of money at the engine, and you’ll be pushing 1000hp through the incredibly strong 4 wheel drive system. Certainly not figures to be laughed at. However, this R34 isn’t unleashing 1000 angry horses on to the streets of Durban. Why not? Well, this car is fully stock standard. Standard internals. Standard gearbox. Standard exhaust. You get the idea… not one piece of the engine has been changed over it’s 88,000km life. Exterior wise, the car is still standard, rolling on the iconic R34 GTR rims, which I personally do approve of. Greatly.
But enough about the facts and figures. It was time to take some photos. In total, I had about 30 minutes overall to shoot this car. Once in a dark parking lot at Gateway Shopping Centre, and again about a week later at Pavillion Shopping centre in an equally dingy parking lot. At Gateway, I had a Canon 5DMK3 in my hands, with the somewhat legendary 16-35mm f2.8 lens. Shooting at Pavillion was made a reality thanks to my battered Canon 550D and standard 18-55mm lens.
Surprisingly, I felt like the 5DMK3 let me down a bit this time. I’ve previously used it with a 24-105mm lens to shoot the Toyota Supra, and this time, it seemed to not really deliver. It may also have something to do with the fact that the sensor was a bit… dysfunctional. And I was relying entirely on the artificial lighting from the car park roof. But still. It just seemed to lack a certain clarity, or crispness. When looking through these photos, have fun trying to figure out which ones are taken with a 550D, and the ones with the 5DMK3.
At both locations, the R34 was a hive of attention. No fewer than 4 people stopped us during the hour and a bit we were in the Umhlanga rocks area. Many couldn’t believe that a car of this caliber had somehow arrived in this part of the world. But that’s indirectly one of the great things about the R34. It stands out. It’s a conversation topic. It makes people do a double-take, and twist their heads back when driving past.
Being an import direct from Japan, it still has many of the Japanese instrumentation inside. Case in point being the somewhat dodgy aftermarket satnav system, which was all still in Japanese. However, there was one bit of technology which was still functional that I was very interested in. The R34 offered a digital display panel as standard on top of the dashboard that showed many aspects of the cars engine in real time. Rather advanced technology for a Nissan in 1999, and still pretty cool today.
And now, the search for rare and interesting cars to shoot continues. What should be up next?
Facts and figures:
– Production of the R34 ran from 1999 to 2002, with a total of 12,175 cars being made (of which 3,965 were in the GTR guise).
– Standard from the factory, they were advertised as having a mere 206kw. However, these figures have been proved to be rather “conservative”, as independent power tests put the power output at over 246kw – or around 330hp.
– The nickname of “Godzilla” first appeared in an Australian publication in the year 1989, when referring to the R32 Skyline.