Progress Bar: R32 Part 5 – The Ecstasy And The Agony

This should have been a joyous post about how I picked up my R32 from the paint shop and now I could regale you with photos of its lustrous paint job and indeed I'm going to do just that – at least for a start. However, even the best old cars have a way of giving you headaches when you least expect it and that's exactly what happened this time.

But first, let's start off with the good and let me have you gaze upon the freshly-painted glory of my Nismo as she deserves to look:

So shiny!

Just for comparison here's how she looked when I first got her. You can see the paint wasn't horrible but it definitely had a duller sheen to it. A closer look would show the chips and scratches in certain parts.
You may have noticed the different lights on the front. I changed the old broken N1 headlights for a used but great condition set of the original headlights that came on the Nismos and paired them with D-speed clear corners. I think it quite nicely makes the front end look more up-to-date.
Compare this pic with the old close-up below and you can see how much nicer the new bumper looks without the cracking, faded paint, hacked-up intercooler opening, and badly scratched lip.

Here you can compare the nice new glossy rear to the old faded paint. I'll be mounting all-new OEM badges later.

The windows look much nicer with new molding instead of the cracked originals.

The door sills also got a fresh coat of paint.

Now, lets get to the bad part. She was running fine as we moved her around for those photos and I was all excited to show the new paint job to my friends but then after driving off from the shop she started running a bit rough. After a little bit I noticed white smoke from the tailpipe when I would give her some gas. You can just imagine the expletives that were running through my mind then.

The bad words started really flowing when the car suddenly lost power and I ground to a halt. Luckily I was able to pull it to the side of the road but after I did the car would crank but not start again.

After some trying the car wouldn't crank at all anymore and I had to admit defeat and call for a tow. There were no obvious signs of the issue, no warning lights beforehand, no gauges out of whack, and no leaks in the engine bay or under the car. Maybe the battery lost charge but that wouldn't explain the smoking.
Not how I pictured the day would end :(

My friends at the local Nissan dealer had called for a tow truck but luckily one from another company happened by as you can see from the picture. He had a regular tow truck and couldn't tow me so I said I'd have to wait for the flatbed the dealer had called since the GT-R is all-wheel-drive. The cool thing with John, the driver who pulled up is that he offered to wait until it arrived and keep his lights on to warn traffic especially since drivers in my town are apparently such idiots that they'll pull right up to a stopped car before realizing it's dead and they need to go around it (even with the hood up! Morons.)

After a bit of waiting during which I notified a couple of friends, the tow truck called by my friend at Nissan wasn't there yet and John offered to get a flatbed from their nearby shop and tow me to the dealer for just 40 bucks. At that price I said “Sure!” and pretty soon the flatbed arrived. And this is where the next pain in the ass part began. On an R32 GT-R you don't have the convenient panels in the front bumper that hide a tow point like most cars have nowadays. Instead you have to remove the front splitter to get to the two front tow points underneath the front of the car. Lucky for me I had read the service manual and knew that but it didn't make it any easier to lie down on hot tarmac for about an hour fiddling with the splitter to get it off (the body shop had fastened it down tight with a variety of fasteners – it wasn't going to fall off but it was a b*tch and a half to remove).

Again, luckily the two tow truck drivers were cool about it and lent me their tools and even broke out a race jack to lift the car enough so I could undo the front fasteners. Also a friend of mine had shown up after hearing from the local grapevine I was stuck on the road (I hadn't even called him up) and helped with the process too. After the lip came off the tow guys very carefully loaded the car and then my friend awesomely gave me a ride to the dealer to make sure the car got dropped off and then gave me another lift home.

After giving the car a cursory inspection the following day Nissan said it started right up after charging the battery but it still smoked when it ran. Since they were swamped with work and couldn't get to a thorough evaluation including a compression test yet I said I'd have my friend with the local race shop come take it and check it out himself. So he's scheduled to take it tomorrow to his shop and then I'll keep my fingers crossed but at the same time I'll be steeling myself for the bad news that a rebuild is in order. Ugh.

On a positive note, I was planning on a rebuild anyway since the car's so old but not until many months from now once I finished with cleaning her up. So now I'm awaiting my friends verdict and weighing my options. I know this is going to cost me a bundle but I'm trying to look at it from the best possible point-of-view and see it as a chance to address something I needed to do anyway. It's a bummer right now but my car will end up better than before once we get over this hurdle. Maybe we'll tackle the rebuild ourselves, maybe I'll find a tuning shop to do it, or maybe I'll say screw it and swap in a newer RB26 lol. We shall see.

I know one shop it won't be going to is SP Engineering in L.A. I called them up after I heard the bad news from Nissan since I had considered sending the car to them once my original plan called for a rebuild. I figured I'd get an idea of the cost if I had to do it now and the guy (named Chris) quoted me an unbelievable price (unbelievable even for someone like me with a fully-built 800whp R35) and was rude at the end too. A far cry from the great service I've gotten from TopSpeed Motorsports, ACG San Diego, Speed4Sale, and other shops I've dealt with in the past. Oh well, my money is better spent elsewhere than a shop that can't even treat a potential customer right.

So anyway, I hope to update with a future progress post with better news and a plan for going forward. Ending on a good note I'd like to thank A&A Towing for all the help and being so careful with my car, my friend Jason for showing up without being called, helping with the lip removal, and giving me a lift, and my local Nissan dealer Sonora Nissan for checking out the car ASAP even though they were super busy with an inspection from Nissan corporate going on. Overall, I still consider myself lucky that these great people helped me out so much at such a bad time.

And it could be worse, at least I'm not in the hospital after my car decided to barbecue itself with me as the juicy meat filling. That's a win in my book!


  1. That sucks! How many miles (or should I say kilometers...) does it have?

    Love the blog BTW...please keep it up!!

    1. I'm glad you like the blog. I pride myself on putting out quality, interesting content so as long as people find it worth reading I plan to keep going lol.

      As for the R32, the odo read about 75 thousand kilometers but it was an aftermarket speedo so your guess is as good as mine if that was accurate. That's why I was anticipating bad stuff happening eventually, just not so soon.
      Right now I'm weighing my options and maybe I'll have good news coming.

      You're not the same K-man with the awesome TSM R35 from GTRLife are you btw? Just curious lol.

    2. I check the blog frequently... There's a lot of great content I've learned that I couldn't find anywhere else so please keep it up!

      No sir...I wish I'd have an R35!!! Haha, I'm holding off another 2-3 years for a V Spec/V Spec II R32. I'm hoping for a stock well kept auction grade 4 car....hopefully they won't be as much as the Nismos or N1s and the demand will die down a little by then.

  2. Well I'm glad you find the blog useful. It's comments like that that keep me motivated to come up with more stuff to post so thanks for letting me know it's helping you.

    I think you're on the right track with holding off for a V-spec. Like I said in my post a couple of weeks ago I think it's only a matter of time before the crazy prices die down. They have to since I can't see demand keeping up - although it would be kind of cool if demand did stay up because it means there are a LOT of people that love the Skylines. But yeah, why buy a run-of-the-mill GT-R now at these prices when V-specs are around the corner for potentially less? I hope you find one that fits the bill!

    There's a guy on that goes by K-Man so that's why I asked about your handle lol. He was building an Alpha 16 R35 last time I checked and he's a pretty cool guy. Used to live in my neck of the woods iirc.

    Anyway, best of luck with your GT-R hunt. If you have questions feel free to post a comment anytime and I'll try to answer or if you need help tracking a car down let me know. Besides the regular importers I know a guy who brings them in on the side - he has two 1990 GT-Rs waiting for buyers last I checked and they're in great condition so he might have a V-spec to sell by the time you're ready.

  3. Even though demand is high at the moment, I don't think prices are too unreasonably insane. I've seen grade 3.5 - 4 auction cars sell for the low to mid 20's which isn't too unreasonable. I've noticed a lot of them on ebay aren't selling which is good if you're a buyer, and I also saw a low mileage Nismo sell for 28k about a month ago. But if I could snag a nice one down the road in the teens/very low 20's, it'll well be worth the wait. Or I could just move to Ontario and get an R34, but even now they're prices are sky high..

    And thanks! I might reach out to him when the V-Specs turn 25 years old

    1. Prices aren't TOO insane but they are pretty high compared to before when low-to-mid teens were common prices at auction. Thankfully like you said you can still score the occasional deal if you look hard enough.

      I wish I could get an R34 myself and I've joked with my brother in Australia that he needs to find a good one and hang on to it for me until they're legal lol. But first I gotta get my R32 sorted.

  4. It's exciting to think I'll be able to land a really nice one in a few years for around $20k. I'm going to keep it bone stock, but do the V-Specs have the standard turbos with ceramic wheels? If so, I might upgrade them to stock Nismo / N1 turbos if I can find them just for added reliability.

    1. Only the N1 V-specs got the steel wheel turbos unfortunately but since the ceramic rotors are supposed to be prone to cracking only with boost levels above stock then if you're keeping it all original and not planning on running higher levels then you're probably okay not changing them. I'd personally go with a new set of Garett's myself if I were going to swap turbos anyway but of course it all depends on your budget and priorities.

      I can totally understand the desire to keep it stock and want to keep it reliable but I have to warn you, GT-Rs seem to have this way of enticing you to mod them lol. I know I said I was keeping my R35 stock but it all started with a front lip, then new wheels, and next thing you know five years later it's running 800whp!

      I'm going to be chasing reliability myself for my car in the course of fixing what ails it. I've made some BIG decisions on that situation but posting about it will have to wait a bit longer until I get my ducks all in a row. I've been working on plans non-stop since my car died on me but some things still need to fall into place before I can post a proper update.

  5. Well, keep in mind I cringe every time I have to modify my cars in Gran Turismo or Forza other than tires. It's ironic how much I love JDM cars but also prefer my cars stock at the same time! Plus if some Japanese fellow(s) could do it for 25 years, surely I can. I feel like the 300-400 HP range is the perfect balance of power on the public road. I can't imagine what an 800WHP R35 must be like...I've always thought the stock R35 was overpowered as it is (along with most modern sports cars now days).

    Does Garrett still make the OEM turbos that originally came on the standard R32 GTR? I e-mailed them about it but never got a response. I figured I would like to replace the ceramic wheels just for their age alone.

    1. Garett doesn't make the original R32 turbos 'cause they're older journal-bearing models and were replaced on the R34 with better ball-bearing versions (with steel impellers on the N1 also). If you don't want to go bigger your best bet is to get a set of Garett 2860R which are equivalent to the R34 N1s. They're ball-bearing cartridge units so much better than the old OEM turbos.

      Here's a link to one listing I found for them:

      I've been researching turbos myself because now that my engine is ailing my project may be getting bigger lol.

    2. Oh, and that's some serious OEM love if you can't even modify your virtual cars without remorse lol. I respect the effort the original engineers put into a car a lot myself which is why my modding philosophy has always been to make it better than OEM if I can but keep it subtle. Which is why my cars don't have crazy radical add-ons - even my R35. I like to come up with mod choices that make the car look unique but not too wild so that it keeps people guessing. It helps keep things tasteful in my opinion.

    3. Hi Oliver,
      Thanks for pointing me at your blog at the SAU forum. Just finished reading the Progress Bar series and hope your R32 Nismo will soon be free from the mechanical gremlins! I'm very close to puchasing a R32 Nismo and I will definitely reference your posts when I start working on it. While info on power mods is plentiful, your series is the first one I found that touch on the restoration of the interior. Could you please share a bit more on your approach (eg, how to start, steps to follow, things to be aware of)? I plan on stripping the interior on the car I am going to purchase as the interior is hurting a bit from being parked outside for a few years. Thanks and I look forward to the future posts on the Progress Bar: R32 series!


    4. So the only difference between the R32 and Garrett R34 N1 turbos is that the R34 N1's are ball bearing with steel impellers? If that's the case then sign me up! Sorry for all the questions...I'm OCD when it comes to OEM...

      I also might install coilovers or lower it just a hair to give it a better presence, along with changing it to wider Michelin tires with 17" R33 rims or stick with V-Spec II rims if I get one. So I might not be totally OEM...if I do start adding to it, I'll be sure to keep it tasteful!

    5. Tasteful's good lol. I think the V-spec R32 BBS rims look great although to me the look leans more toward "touring" versus the "sporty" of something like a TE37 or Advan RG.

    6. @Chris: I plan on doing a proper DIY post on how to strip the interior but I'm not sure yet when I'll have a chance to do it. To remove the dash I followed this guide:
      It just discusses removing the dash though so that's why I meant to do a more complete guide that also discussed removal of the carpet and seats if someone plans to totally refurbish the interior like I'm doing.
      If you look around the blog I did two posts on where to get replacement OEM parts but if there are specific parts you need help with let me know and I'll try to point you to the best place to get them.

  6. Cool thanks a lot!
    I plan to close the deal in the coming week or so. Hopefully I'll be a proud owner of a R32 by then.

    1. You're very welcome. Best of luck with getting that R32. Please post a comment if you get it!


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