Progress Bar: R32 Part 6 – Big Nismo Six

Worst lotto numbers EVER!
A few weeks ago my R32 decided things were going too smoothly so it opted to throw a wrench in the works and start spewing black smoke out of its tailpipe. That's never a good sign when it constantly happens and the car is randomly stalling so despite having just gotten it back from a full exterior repaint I had to leave it with my friend's shop to have him check it out. Unfortunately the compression test showed exactly what we feared – one cylinder had lost compression. Number six was significantly down on the others – the numbers were consistent at 140, 140, 135, 135, 140 and then 120 for the last cylinder. Cue the sadface.

If you know about engines, you'll know numbers like that mean the motor will have to be opened up. Best case scenario it's just a faulty head gasket and may not need a full tear-down, worst case it's ruined piston rings, bad valves, or a few other possibilities that need a complete rebuild of the motor. Either way fixing the issue won't be cheap. Later on we found there was also an issue with the ignition system – a common problem with RBs. I'll go into detail on that later but for now let's talk about the motor itself.

To fix the engine I had two basic options – tear down and fix this motor, or find another RB26 to go in the car instead. Or I could choose option number three and say “F this” to this whole mess and drive my car into the desert, douse it in gasoline, set it on fire, and use it for target practice with one of my rifles while cackling like a madman as Metallica plays in the background. As therapeutically stress-relieving option number three might be I had to rule it out sadly.

Broken Skyline is sad :(
Option #1 would normally be a pretty logical choice since you have to open up the motor anyway to find out how extreme the problem is. If it's just the gasket then you can maybe pop another one on and be on your merry way – it still wouldn't be cheap given the labor involved but it'd be cheaper than a full rebuild. In the worst case scenario and you have to rebuild the whole motor it's still a good opportunity to swap in some better parts so at least the motor comes out better than before. Of course, that costs a lot of money depending on what parts you pick out.

And that's where the problem was that made it a tough choice for me. In the early-model (1989-1991) R32 GT-Rs like my Nismo, the RB26DETT has a well-documented issue with oiling. The biggest problem is that the collar on the crankshaft to drive the oil pump was designed too narrow on the earlier cars so the oil pumps would fail especially after the car had been run at high revolutions. Unfortunately, because the problem is inherent to the crankshaft the fix isn't easy or cheap since you basically have to take apart the whole motor, put in a newer model crank, and add a better quality oil pump for even more insurance against problems. (I had known about this issue already so I had planned to get my motor rebuilt anyway but that wasn't supposed to be until next year to spread out the costs).

And so because of that issue, rebuilding the original motor on my car would easily cost several thousands of dollars to do it right and fix the oiling issue at the same time. Ideally it would be good to swap the block itself for a sturdier and better designed N1 version – that alone would cost about 2 grand – and once you toss in a better crankshaft and upgraded oil pump you're looking at around double that depending on what you're getting. So in parts alone you're already at almost 4 grand for just three items. If you want upgraded pistons and rods, new bearings, valves, and gaskets, plus the labor of a good engine builder you can easily hit 5 digits for a full rebuild, and that's just the longblock without getting into the turbos, fuel system, etc. Throw in the hookers and blow you'll need to amuse yourself while your car is undriveable and the costs just become astronomical.

So given the cost of a decent engine rebuild option number two starts to look more appealing. It's possible to get a used RB26 from a newer Skyline for about 4 grand. If you can find a later-model R32 motor or one from an R33 or R34 you mitigate the oiling issues and potentially save a lot over a full rebuild of the original motor. And it's possibly the quicker route to getting the car back on the road.

Of course there's one big problem with option two – you're having to buy a used motor. Since you're basically dependent on what the seller tells you you could end up with a good unit that'll last you years or you could end up with one that has the life expectancy of a minor character in Sharknado 4. It's basically a crapshoot. Too bad Nissan doesn't make new RB26 motors anymore.

Or do they?

It was while mulling over the options and looking up used motors on eBay that I found a third option – a BRAND-NEW, NEVER-USED RB26. How is that possible when Nissan stopped making the RB over a decade ago when they ended R34 production?

Well, Nissan may have stopped making RB26s but not Nismo. You see, one of the beautiful things about Nissan Motorsports (and something I really love about them) is that unlike the factory performance arms of other car manufacturers like BMW's M division, Mercedes' AMG, or Ford's SVT, Nismo doesn't just run and support race teams or make special edition versions of their parent company's cars or develop the occasional performance add-on, they do much more. In many respects they're similar to other performance divisions but one aspect they greatly differ in is that they also tune customer cars on a regular basis and do maintenance work on them. Go to Nismo's Omori Factory in Yokohama and if you have a Nissan performance car you can have them do everything from a full, ground-up reworking of your vehicle into a high-performance beast to just doing a simple oil change and you don't even have to be rich and famous to do it. Try doing that at AMG without major connections and all of the monies.

Because of that tuning aspect Nismo has continued to offer rebuilding and upgrading services for customers' RB motors. In addition, Nismo decided to do a limited run of upgraded RBs hand-built from new components by the techs at Omori Factory. And that's how you got this – the Nismo Fine Spec Final Edition:

Image Credit:
The Fine Spec is basically a standard-displacement 2.6 liter RB longblock (no stroker kits or increased bore) but assembled with N1 components and hand-built and accurately balanced by a Nismo technician. Nismo made three very limited runs of this engine – 50 in 2003 that immediately sold out then another 70 in 2009 that also immediately sold out. Finally in 2012 Nismo decided to do one more run of 200 and apparently that was going to be the last hence they added the Final Edition portion to the name.

Amazingly I found two of these rare motors on Ebay and neither of course were cheap. Like a rat addicted to cocaine-laced Asiago however, the Nismo fanboy in me decided if I was going to have to revamp my R32's motor I might as well have a power unit built in the holy land and made by the high priests of Nissandom themselves.

And so I bid on the cheaper one, sold by a seller named “Nohomofo”. With a name like that I should have expected trouble but at first everything seemed good when I won the auction and he enthusiastically messaged me about the sale. While awaiting a final total with shipping however he suddenly backed out with the only notification being a terse email from eBay that the seller had canceled the sale. Jerk didn't even have the courtesy to explain why.

Thankfully I was saved by a more helpful bunch of people. GT-RR, an aftermarket parts company based in LA and specializing in GT-R parts happened to have a Fine Spec themselves. It had been intended for an R32 shop car they had planned but decided not to push through with. I had bought from them before for R35 parts and after hearing of my R32's self-destruction they offered me their motor. Even though they had posted the engine for a much higher price they said they were okay with matching the total of my first aborted eBay purchase and for that they have mucho thanks from me. Since these are rare motors and no other place I know of had them available they could have insisted on a much higher price than I could afford but they didn't. Thanks Kris and the gang at GT-RR for helping out this crazy Nismo addict.

Oh my, I think it just got tight in my pants.
Christmas came early!
I dunno what the Nihongo means yet but I do know the Nissan label says "ENGING" for some reason lol.
You don't get many chances in life to hug a brand-new Nismo crate motor :)
And so there you have it, I have a 1 of 200 Nismo motor set to be united with my 1 of 560 Nismo R32. Unfortunately the cost of the engine and the recent paintjob have put a serious hurt on my wallet and I have to hold off a bit until I can save up and get the rest of the parts for my engine build. But what a build it'll be! It's still a long ways off but I'm so looking forward to the awesome result once everything comes together and you dear reader will have a ring-side seat for the process as I document it on my blog – if I don't have that nervous breakdown that this car's been threatening to give me especially now that my "hookers and blow" budget has been badly depleted.

Next up in part 2 of this two-part Progress Bar I'll talk about the solution I'll be using for the ignition issue. Further on in future installments I'll be settling on other big pieces of the puzzle like the turbo kit I'll be using, fuelling setup, ECU tuning, and all the wonderfully nitpicky details that threaten to drive a car owner insane on a build like this. I hope you'll come back to this blog for all of that in the future!


  1. I hate that your RB decided to crap out on you, but a brand new RB from the Nismo gods themselves??? Maybe Nismo will jump in on the current US craze and decide to produce a few more RB's, thus labeling yours as a "Nismo Fine Spec Final Edition Just Kidding" model.

    So I'd presume the '92-94 R32s are less susceptible to oil pump issues? Just another reason to hold off for one!!

    1. Lol, Nismo's still cranking out new parts for the R32 and I've seen reports of prototype stuff like CF airboxes and whatnot but so far no word on a "Final Edition J/K" RB26 :)

      The '92 and up R32s got a revised crank with a wider oil pump drive collar so that fixed the biggest issue. No matter the age of the RB you can still get oiling issues if you keep it revved too high too often so a better oil pump is still a good upgrade but you need the engine out to do it. If you're just driving it on the street you shouldn't have issues unless you drive crazy and bounce it off the limiter all the time.

      The big track and drag builds go as far as bigger sumps, extended pickups, dry sump setups, etc but my R32's mainly a weekend street driver and with my other cars available to wail on it'll almost never see a track so I won't go that nuts on this build.

  2. Congrats on the new motor and thanks for all the information. I can't wait for mine to get here so I can find out what, if anything, will crap out on me. My car has an rebuilt R33 motor built by Garage Active, so hopefully everything is in top shape.

    1. I'm sure your car'll be fine. The R33 motor revises the biggest oiling issues and it was rebuilt by a Japanese shop i.e. people with a lot more RB experience than shops here in the US. If you're not slamming the car off the rev limiter repeatedly it should stand you in good stead.

      Although having said that I'm now seeing why the SAU guys weren't shocked about my motor woes. A friend of mine also had his #6 cylinder do badly on a compression test recently so that seems to go along with why the Aussies don't seem at all surprised about motor issues. With over two decades more experience with the RB than us I'm sure they've heard this stuff plenty of times already lol.


Post a Comment