Rare Air Volume 2: A Guide To Limited Edition R33 Skylines Part 1 of 2

Image credit: Nismo

Back in 2015 when I had just started this blog I wrote a guide to limited edition R32 Skylines. Fast-forward to now, 2020, and the next generation of Skylines are legal to import so I thought it was a good idea to write a new guide about the various limited-edition R33 GT-Rs out there. 

First off, some basic info on Skyline R33 production numbers overall. It might interest you to know that the R33 overlapped production years with the R32 since the 33 was first introduced in late 1993 while the 32 didn't finish production entirely until 1995, when the GT-R version of the R33 was finally introduced. From 1993 until 1998 according to GTR-Registry.com a total of 180,760 R33 Skylines were sold in a range of variants, from ho-hum 4-door RWD sedans, to 2-door RWD coupes, to the full category 6 kaiju GT-Rs.

Of that total of 180,760 cars, only 16668 were the coveted Godzillas - making for less than 10 percent of total R33 Skyline production. Just as with the R32 though, some of those monsters were more elusive than others.

The Nismo 400R

We'll start off with the model that's without a doubt the most coveted of all R33s - the Nismo 400R. 

Sources vary on how many 400Rs were actually made. Alex Gorodji claims in his book "Nissan GT-R: Legendary Performance, Engineering Marvel" that 99 were unleashed on the world while GT-R Registry says there were just 44. The generally accepted number is the latter and I think Mr. Gorodji got his higher number from Nismo's original plan of making 100 total 400Rs - but only 44 were actually made. Either way, these are VERY rare cars due in no small part to their original retail price of 12 million yen - more than double the price of a regular R33 GT-R and equivalent to a staggering 135,000 US dollars back in 1998! The price in fact was a huge factor in why so few were actually created.

So what did you get for double your dollars...err, yen, I mean? Unlike the Nismo R32, which was a simple homologation special to meet Group A racing regulations (introducing only a few aero tweaks and deleting a few bits like ABS and the rear wiper, but it was basically the same as a regular R32 GT-R) the 400R was a comprehensive reworking of the base vehicle. 

Like the Nismo R32 the 400R got some aerodynamic upgrades. Up front, a new bumper design included extra ducts to send more air to the intercooler, brakes, and the newly added oil cooler.




Image credits: Nismo

In addition to adding the extra intercooler ducts above the main opening (similar to what they did with the Nismo R32) Nismo also added a plastic air guide to tighten up the airflow in that main duct. This fed a Nismo intercooler, the first iteration of the uprated Nismo pieces you can still get today.


Image credit: Nismo

Also similar to what they did with the Nismo R32 was the addition of a small extension to the leading edge of the hood - you can make it out if you look closely above the front grille in the photo below. You'll also note the overfenders added front and rear to clear the 50 mm wider 275/35/R18 tires. These were mounted on a set of 18-inch Nismo LMGT1 wheels - forged three-piece units supplied by Ray's Engineering. Japan's strict shaken inspection requirements specify that your wheels can't protrude past the wheel arch so Nismo had to add those fender extensions to keep the car legal. 

The snazzy 400R stickers on the flanks of the car were standard and were totally responsible for the added horsepower this car had. I swear it had nothing to do with the engine upgrades that we'll get to in a bit.


Image credit: Nismo

The hood itself was swapped for a new all-carbon fiber vented piece based off the design used for the R33s raced at Le Mans by Nissan.


Image credit: Nismo

To cap off the front end changes the 400R got a unique nose emblem to replace the regular GT-R badge in the grille:


Image credit: Nismo

Moving back you'll note the 400R has a unique set of vented side skirts:


Image credit: Nismo

And then on the trunk the rear wing got a carbon fiber central element plus a carbon flap. (unlike the R32 which has a fixed one-piece wing, the R33 introduced a wing with an adjustable central element which was plastic on regular R33s). The logos on the side support struts that normally said "GT-R" were swapped for ones with 400R badging:


Image credit: Nismo

Of course the 400R badging had to extend to the back, and the rear bumper was widened to match the rest of the body kit.


Image credit: Nismo
But the thing that truly made the 400R special was lurking in the engine bay - the RB-X GT2 motor.


Image credit: Nismo

The RB-X was a strengthened RB26 block bored and stroked to 2.8 liters and blueprinted with forged pistons, rods, and crankshaft. Force fed by steel turbine N1 turbos through  an improved intake system and running custom ECU tuning this whole collection of awesome was good for 400PS (or 394 horsepower in our quaint American units) which was the reason for the 400 in the model name. The engine build was outsourced to Reinik, Nismo's racing engine builder for the Le Mans program of the time.


Crowning this glorious power unit was a titanium strut brace to replace the standard steel one.


Image credit: Nismo

For comparison to the 400R, the standard R33 GT-Rs powerplant was officially rated at 280PS (although everyone knows this was a bit of a fib due to the "gentleman's agreement" between the Japanese manufacturers at the time to not build cars with more than that - the R33 was accepted to be around 300PS in reality).

This being a Nismo house special, the whole package had to be upgraded to match the much greater power output so aside from the aero tweaks the driveline and the interior got some choice improvements.

A twin-plate clutch was paired with a carbon driveshaft that was half the weight of the standard steel one. Upgraded brake pads inside the standard R33 Brembos took care of hauling the car down from speed with the help of a special Nismo master cylinder stop, and stiffer Bilstein shock absorbers kept it planted firmly to the tarmac. Exhaust gases bid adieu via a low-flow cat and a titanium exhaust.

Facing the driver, the dash cluster was upgraded to an exclusive 400R unit with unique badging, a speedo that read to 320 kph instead of the 180 in lesser GT-Rs, and a tach with a redline of 9000 rpm and maximum reading of 11000 rpm, versus the 8K and 10K of standard R33s. The center triple gauge cluster was also redone to show finer gradations.


Image credit: Nismo


Your hands were then taken care of with a titanium shift knob and a padded steering wheel from the Nismo catalogue but with a unique 400R horn button.

Image credits: Nismo

The seats were shared with the regular R33 but got Nismo monograms on them just in case you forgot how special you were.



Image credit: Nismo

If all of that wasn't enough to differentiate the 400R from lesser R33s, Nismo topped it off with a unique build plaque in the engine bay:


Image credit: V-Spec Performance

Unlike the R32 special editions like the Nismo and N1 which came in only one color the 400R could be had in your choice of various R33 shades including paint code LP2 - the very first version of the famous Midnight Purple.

All of the 400Rs were made in a single model year - 1996 - with the sole exception of the prototype that Nismo made in 1995 and is safely tucked away in Nissan's heritage collection. This means that they'll be fully legal to import into the US starting next year when they turn 25 - assuming you can find one that is!

If you fancy adding one to your stable, be prepared to pony up big time - they weren't cheap when new and as you can expect from such a rare gem they're not cheap used either. The last one I saw for sale was going for $85K and that was a few years ago before R33 and R34 prices got full-bore insane. Nowadays, you're likely going to have to pay $100-150K if you happen to find one of the 44 that's looking for a new home.


One in forty-four aren't very good odds so if you'd like a unique R33 that's a bit easier to find the 400R wasn't the only special edition Nissan cooked up in 1996 - there was also the R33 GT-R LM Limited.


Image credit: JDM Expo

The R33 GT-R LM Limited (and R33 GT-R LM)

Compared to the 400R, the LM Limited was a more mundane car - or at least as mundane as an R33 GT-R can be. It was a limited run of just 188 examples (102 of which were V-specs, while 86 were regular GT-Rs) released in May of '96 by Nissan also to commemorate their participation at Le Mans, hence the LM Limited name. 

Now, one tidbit to keep in mind is that the LM Limited is not to be confused with the R33 GT-R LM, the absolute rarest R33 limited edition.


Image credit: Top Gear

If you've played racing games like the Gran Turismo series you'll probably have heard of and maybe even virtually driven the LM. It's an amazing looking car with absolutely huge fender flares, the sheer width of which is best appreciated from the rear:



Image credit: Top Gear
Interestingly, as wild as the LM is on the outside, it's actually pretty normal on the inside. The engine is a standard GT-R RB26 good for 300ish hp, not the Dom Toretto-special 5000 hp it seemed to have in Gran Turismo. 


Image credit: Top Gear

Uniquely though, it's rear wheel drive only - the reason for which we'll get to in a minute.

The driver's compartment is also pretty normal. Aside from a Nismo steering wheel wrapped with Alcantara, Nismo shift knob, and the special checkerboard upholstery on the seats it's pretty much a bog-stock R33.


Image credit: Top Gear

I actually had the good fortune to see this car in person when I went to Nissan's Zama heritage center back in 2017 as part of the DSport Tokyo Auto Salon Tour that year.



It's a rare treat of course to see a car that only one copy of exists in the entire world but you might be wondering why there's only one of these cars. It all goes back to the weird rules that govern participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

In the '80s and early '90s it was all about the Group C super prototypes - utterly mad cars with huge aerodynamic aids, over 800 horsepower, and capable of going over 250 miles an hour on the Mulsanne straight. That was pretty much Le Mans' golden age where it was as popular as Formula 1, but the costs also rivaled that series.

To try and cut costs the ACO (the governing body of Le Mans) decided to require "production-based" cars. The silly thing about the new rules though was that "production-based" required you to only make one road car to allow you to use it for the race. And that was the birth of the single, solitary R33 GT-R LM. It had the crazy aero and rear-wheel drive in order for Nissan to run a similar setup on the R33 Le Mans race cars.

Unfortunately the minuscule production requirements meant the R33 ended up racing against some real exotics like the McLaren F1 and Ferrari F40, and later on the Porche 911 GT1, so after just two years Nissan joined the other manufacturers at gaming the system and made the also one-of-one R390 GT1 mid-engine supercar - but that's a story for another time.

Suffice it to say, you won't be buying an R33 GT-R LM anytime soon since Nissan has it secured at Zama for its own use.

You can however get yourself an LM Limited!

Image credit: JDM Expo

Okay, compared to the wild LM, the Limited looks positively dowdy - like comparing Anne Hathaway to Rebel Wilson in The Hustle (although in the case of the cars chunkier is sexier). With 188 examples out in the wild though you have much better chances of claiming one for yourself.

And the LM Limited isn't without its unique traits. Overall, it's a regular R33 GT-R but it's painted in that bespoke BT2 Champion Blue paint and it gets a hood lip and twin extra intercooler ducts on the bumper a la the 400R. 


Image credit: JDM Expo

Also like the 400R the LM Limited got a carbon rear wing and the side plates got carbon inserts, although in this case the inserts said GT-R instead of 400R. If you look at the B pillar in the above photo you can see a small decal. This was a unique checkered flag sticker only for the LM Limited. Ignore the snazzy BBS wheels on that example though - the LM Limited shared the same alloys as the regular R33 GT-R.

If you're the type that prefers some moving pictures for your visual aids here's a video JDM Expo had made of that particular car before it was sold (spoiler warning: The touge shots will make you really want to go out for a drive in your own car!)




A few LM Limiteds have already made their way stateside - I talked about one imported through JK Technologies back in 2015 in this article.

The EPA compliance work for that car cost a ton of time and money back then but now, if you happen to find an LM Limited, the 25-year rule means you can just mosey on into the States with it next year!


You'll still need copious amounts of cash though because that particular LM Limited in the pics above was advertised by JDM Expo for around $65K a couple of years back. Now that the R33 is finally legal to enter the States expect prices to be considerably higher now for the rare examples that turn up for sale.

Well, that was a long article, but we're not quite done yet! Please come back for Part 2, where I'll talk about more common limited edition R33s but also a very special R33 GT-R that has a feature only ever replicated by the original Hakosuka GT-Rs!

Until then, drive safe and stay healthy!


Comments

  1. A very informative article! Thank you for sharing our photos and the video! - JDM EXPO-

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome and thank you as well for permission to use those photos and the video!

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