Progress Bar – R32 Part 3: Sins Of The Past

One of the biggest problems with fixing up an old car is that you not only have to correct the abuses of time but also the abuses of previous owners. The Nissan Skyline may enjoy mythic status amongst enthusiasts but that doesn't make it immune to poor treatment and questionable modifications.

I took the R32 in for a routine timing belt swap since I didn't know when or if it had been done before. This was a job I didn't want to tackle myself since I knew screwing it up would give my engine the life expectancy of a producer facing a hungry Jeremy Clarkson. Unfortunately the required disassembly revealed some other issues that needed correction.

First, the harmonic balancer needed replacement since it was showing signs of cracking. Since I liked the idea of my crankshaft shaking itself to oblivion about as much as possibly having a one humanpower car I quickly searched for a new unit. An OEM part would cost about 400 bucks from Japan including shipping but I was able to find an aftermarket ATI version for the same amount with free shipping from Summit Performance here in the US. Even without paying for shipping they sent it out so fast that I had the damper in my hands already the next day. The ATI unit isn't just easier to get, it's rebuildable, and will hold up better if I build up the engine for more power later on.
I'll resist making some bad superhero jokes here.
 Unfortunately, the parts to fix the second issue would take a lot longer to get. When I first got the car we noticed that even though the radiator fan seemed to work fine the tips showed signs that it had rubbed on something at one point. We couldn't find where the rubbing was from without taking things apart but we did see that the previous owner had cut into the upper fan shroud for reasons clear only to him and probably a large bottle of sake. Once the radiator and shroud was out for the timing belt change however it was obvious that the lower radiator shroud panel had been improperly installed and that was where the fan tips had rubbed and hacked out a nice hole in the process. Since OEM Skyline radiator shrouds aren't exactly in stock at your local Nissan dealership I had to wait a couple of weeks to get the parts from Japan.
How hard can it be to properly install a small panel held on by a couple of clips?

There shouldn't be a hole there. No idea why they decided to add one. Better cooling doesn't make sense. Weight savings? Yeah right. Speed holes? Maybe. Because racecar? That's probably it.

Fan blades don't like it when they hit the shroud all the time. (Facepalm).
 While waiting for the shroud I figured I might as well swap out the radiator for a better aftermarket one that wasn't painted blue like the previous owner's preference. After torturing my credit card some more with a quick trip onto the interwebs I had a new Koyorad radiator and some Samco hoses on the way from a couple of US stores. 

At least the new radiator looks spiffy :)
The job took a while but thankfully I got my car back in time to enjoy it for a little bit before having to go off on my long overseas trip. My trip meant that some other planned stuff like swapping the clutch had to be delayed but that will be job number one now that I'm back.

In addition to the stuff I've already mentioned some other smaller tasks got done:
  1. In the process of swapping the timing belt the water pump was replaced for a new one. I went with a regular OEM water pump instead of the popular N1 swap for two reasons: 1) the regular pump is theoretically better suited to a street car since the N1 pump is meant to flow better at high racing rpms instead of the lower revs of street use, 2) the N1 pump has a slightly different bolt pattern that can lead to coolant leakage if used on a non-N1 block. If I get a chance I'll do a post on the differences of the regular and N1 pumps to help people decide which to choose for their car.
  2. The accessory belts were all swapped for new ones since those all had to come out anyway to do the timing belt.
  3. The door locks got rekeyed and now I'm very happy to have only one key now instead of the situation before where I had to use one key for the doors then another for the ignition. I also had a new GT-R key blank recut so my keychain looks much nicer now!
    From this ugly two-key setup... this lovely GT-R key with Japanese keychain from one of my layovers in Tokyo-Narita

  4. The fuel filter was replaced with a brand new Fram
  5. Lastly, I sold the old Regamaster wheels which offset the cost of the parts needed to fix the radiator issue. It's awesome when a car helps pay for its own restoration.
My R32 as she stands currently.
Next up on the to-do list will be swapping out the clutch and in the process hopefully lighten the heavy clutch pedal and get rid of the squeaky bearing that's been making the car sound like it's got hamster wheels under the hood. After that we can start to get the car ready for The Big Job(TM) – a full respray to restore her previously smashing grey paint job. Until the next Progress Bar everyone!


  1. Questions:
    Are you doing all the work yourself? If not, who are you entrusting the car to?
    Where did you get the new key?

    1. I'm not skilled enough to attempt to do the big jobs myself so I'm leaving those to either my local Nissan dealer (the service manager's a good friend) or my friend who owns his own shop in town. The key blank I got off eBay - the GT-R ones are still fairly easy to get but the Nismo ones are pretty rare now. I thought the GT-R one was cooler for here in the US anyway.

    2. I will likely hit you up for your friends information at some point. I'm lucky to have a wealth of expertise in my friends here in SV, so hopefully we'll be able to handle everything ourselves. In case we can't though, I will need some backup. I will definitely be picking up a couple of those blanks.

    3. Sure, just leave me a comment or email me at 23gtblog(at) if you need help. I also know someone in Phoenix who can help out for a closer source of info to you. I'm also trying to put together a little help network for Skyline owners in the US that I'll be posting about soon.
      Is yours the Calsonic rep posted on Nico? It looked really clean so I hope you're not having issues with it.

    4. Yup. That's my car. So far there are no issues with the transaction or the car. I was lucky to get to drive it, and thrash on it a bit, while I was in Japan. I am interested in getting involved in your help network. I will probably need some help once the car gets here and I try to register it.


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