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

Hello everybody and welcome back to my guide about rare versions of the R33 Skyline GT-R. In the previous part I talked about the highly-tuned Nismo 400R, the one-off GT-R LM, and the commemorative LM Limited. This time I'm going to talk about a stripper version of the R33 GT-R and a very unique GT-R with a configuration that's never been replicated since.

The N1 R33 GT-R

If you've read my previous R32-centered guide you'll be familiar with the N1 R32s which were stripped down versions of the regular car. They were made because Nissan was competing (and still continues to compete) in the production-based Super Taikyu endurance series, formerly called the N1 Endurance Series after the FIA Group N rules that it used.

The R32 N1s went on a bit of a diet and lost their AC, stereo, and rear window wiper. They also only came in a specific thinner coat of Crystal White paint (paint code 326). 

As a Skyline fan you've probably heard of the R32's all-conquering performance in the All Japan Touring Car series where the Group A cars based on the Nismo R32 absolutely crushed the competition by winning 29 of 29 races they participated in from 1990 to 1993. What's less well known is how dominant the R32 also was in the Super Taikyu series. From the car's debut season in 1991 until its last in 1994 the R32 snagged the top three slots of the driver's championship every single year.

Nissan wasn't about to let that kind of domination fall by the wayside so with the debut of the R33 they also released an N1 version of the new GT-R.

Image credit: Bring A Trailer

For the R33 Nissan kept to a similar recipe as the R32 N1 - let the driver roast with no AC, have him get bored with no stereo, and make sure he can't see that ramen stand he's about to back into by deleting the rear wiper. They went a little further though with the R33 N1 and decided the prospective owner also had no need for fluff like an intercooler grille, rear window heater, and ignition cylinder lighting. They even removed the rear seat ash tray and passenger-side vanity mirror, the sadists!

Oh, but in exchange for those sacrifices (and the 44 pound/20 kilo weight reduction that they enabled) you got some nice extras. First, you had the same stronger N1 engine block as the R32 N1 plus steel-bladed turbos again replaced the ceramic ones on the standard R33. Second, you got a standard oil cooler fitted to keep the engine happy as you howled for hours like you would in an endurance race.

You also got some nice carbon bits that the standard R33 did without - a carbon front undertray and a carbon rear wing element to replace the regular plastic version. Like the Nismo R32 before it, the R33 N1 also introduced extra twin intercooler ducts above the main opening that weren't on the first regular R33 GT-Rs but would later become standard on them as well. The N1's suspension also got some work with a negative camber kit.

In keeping with the tradition established by the R32 N1, the R33 version could be had in any color you wanted as long as it was white - QM1 White to be exact.

Also like the R32 N1, its younger sibling wasn't built in one batch of cars like the Nismo R32 or the R33 LM Limited. Instead the N1 was built on order and a total of only 87 cars were made over the three years the model was available. 

That of course means an R33 N1 is an exceedingly rare thing to find. If you had the burning desire to own one though the chance recently presented itself on Bring A Trailer where this one popped up for sale:


Image credit: Bring A Trailer

Rarity didn't ensure a sale though and the auction ended with the reserve not being met and a top bid of $55,000. A credible source told me the reserve was set at $100K though, which seems pretty optimistic especially in a COVID-racked economy. As rare as R33 N1 models are they still have niche appeal so six figure asking prices are probably wishful thinking. We'll have to see if prices show more strength once the virus apocalypse passes.

The UK R33 GT-R V-spec

Another rare version of the R32 that I mentioned in my previous Rare Air article - this time in part 2 - were the 100 cars sold officially in Australia by Nissan's local subsidiary with some modifications to comply with the national vehicle codes. For the R33, Oz had to do without an official release, this time in favor of their former colonial masters in good old Great Britain.

Image credit: K66 Sky via GTR.co.uk

The official release of the R33 GT-R in the UK got started thanks to a guy named Andy Middlehurst. He was a successful touring car racer and had won the British National Saloon Car Championship in 1995 and 1996 using an R32 Skyline GT-R (then won two more back to back titles in 1997 and 1998 with a Nissan Primera). His family also happened to own a Nissan dealership and they set up a specialist Skyline department to handle service on the various gray market cars that had made it to the UK already. With the prominence he had from being a successful racer and his family's auto sales and service business, Andy Middlehurst was a natural fit to convince Nissan UK to officially import a select number of R33 GT-Rs in 1997.

It also happened that Britain had just revised their vehicle code to add a new Single Vehicle Type Approval or SVA that made it much easier to certify a car for import in small numbers by performing several minor mods to comply with UK road laws.

According to Andy Butler's book "Skyline: The Ultimate Japanese Supercar" the UK-bound R33s started their life by getting special ECUs fitted that did away with the Japanese 180kph speed limiter and had a tune more suited to the lower octane gas in Britain. Halogen headlights were fitted as well as a speedo that read in ye olde English mph rather than the new-fangled metric units.

Upon arriving in Britain, the cars were then fitted by Nissan UK with four oil coolers - engine, transmission, transfer case, and rear diff. Since Germany with its unrestricted autobahn was only a channel crossing away they figured this was a prudent measure to avoid a lot of warranty claims from buyers eagerly flogging their cars at prolonged high speed. A revised front bumper was also fitted that had a combined sidelight/turn signal since the original JDM ones didn't meet the UK's requirements. A different stereo was also put in that matched European radio frequencies plus a standard alarm as required by British law. Mechanically the cars were identical to Japanese V-spec GT-Rs.

On the rear bumper they also fitted a rear fog lamp and reflectors that were also required by British law - unfortunately they look quite ghastly and tacked on as you can see in this photo:

Image credit: Middlehurst Garage

Eww. Did Nissan UK swipe those off a five-year old's bicycle? Another seemingly questionable decision by Nissan UK that's mentioned in Andy Butler's book was the choice of venue for the car's launch. Normally if you're launching an amazing new performance car, especially one that held the Nurburgring production car lap record at the time, you'd expect to do it at a big motor show or maybe have a special race track event so that car journalists and the occasional well-heeled ex-cop, ex-FBI, now-wanted-fugitive type can have a taste test.

For the R33 however Nissan UK decided they had to be more stylish and launch the R33 at a men's fashion show! Yup, there was Godzilla, being shown off with a bunch of male models preening around in fancy tailored suits. I'm sure King Ghidorah was laughing his ass off.

Did I mention that they supplied a set of custom cufflinks to the lucky buyers of the R33 created by the fashion designer who hosted the show? 

Only 94 pairs of those cufflinks would find a home since Nissan UK planned to sell no more than around a hundred cars. Three cars made it to Britain as prototypes and kept their Japanese serial numbers while the 94 serial production cars got 17-digit VINs in line with British standards.

Image credit: K66 Sky via GTR.co.uk

And that's the story of the only R33 GT-Rs to be officially sold outside Japan. Before I move on to our final rare gem, since I've mentioned the Nismo 400R and the N1 R33 just like I talked about the Nismo R32 and N1 R32 in my previous guide, you may be wondering why I haven't mentioned the V-spec since that was also a limited edition for the R32.

Well, that's because the Victory Specification wasn't so limited anymore when the R33 came along. In the R32's case only 2,756 V-specs were made of both the original and V-spec II versions versus the total of 43,834 GT-Rs. That's only about six percent of total production.

For the R33, a total of 16,668 GT-Rs were made. 6,568 of those were V-specs, and that's not even counting the V-specs that were part of the N1, LM Limited, and UK-spec runs. That translates to nearly forty percent of all R33 GT-Rs being V-specs. Yeah, I don't think that's really all that limited.

Anyway, this last R33 GT-R is a truly rare bird and what makes it even special is that its defining characteristic has never been duplicated on any other GT-R except for the very first Hakosukas.

The R33 GT-R Autech Version 40th Anniversary

Image credit: Nissan
I give you the Autech R33 GT-R! 

Yes, it has four doors. No, you haven't drunk too much sake - and neither have I.

If you read part 2 of my R32 guide you might be familiar with the name Autech. While every import fan worth his salt knows the name Nismo a lot fewer have heard of Autech despite the fact that they're also an in-house tuning brand for Nissan. 

The exact delineation between Nismo and Autech's responsibilities within the Nissan organization is actually kind of hazy. Nismo stands for Nissan Motorsports so naturally they handle the racing duties but Autech plays a part in that as well - as demonstrated by the fact they're listed as the engine tuner for the GT-R teams in the Super GT racing series. Autech describes their company focus as "factory custom" cars - basically special edition vehicles tweaked in various ways. While Autech has released performance-oriented limited editions they also come out with more mundane Nissan models like minivans and kei cars with "lifestyle upgrades" such as upmarket interiors, fancier wheels, and even personalized upholstery programs for cars like the Leaf. They also apparently handle modifications for people with disabilities.

Nismo has also released limited edition versions of regular Nissan vehicles ranging from the GT-R to the Leaf to the Serena MPV so the two companies overlap in that regard. Generally though Nismo tends to release cars tweaked for more performance-oriented driving while Autech focuses on premium or luxury enhancements. 

I said generally because Autech has its wild side too - and that brought about the unique Autech R33 GT-R.

Basically what they did was take an R33 GT-R drivetrain - RB26DETT motor plus the AWD system - and plunk it into an R33 sedan body. Then they gave it the R33 GT-R coupe's front fascia and widened the rear fenders to give it a more muscular stance befitting a GT-R badged car.

This was all done in honor of the Skyline's 40th Anniversary in 1997 - not the Skyline GT-R mind you, which didn't debut until 1969, but the very first Prince Skyline ALSI-1 in 1957.

Speaking of those first Skyline GT-Rs, if you happen to be one of those offended at the thought of a 4-door sedan getting bestowed the legendary GT-R badge, well you really don't have any right to be. Having grown accustomed to seeing R32, R34, and R35 GT-Rs all running around with only two-doors most people think the GT-R has always been a coupe, however the very first GT-Rs were actually four-door sedans!

Back in 1969 when Nissan first hatched the idea of plopping an uprated S20 inline-six motor into a Skyline for racing purposes all they had were the PGC10 4-door sedans - and so that's what Nissan used and thus the original 2000GT-R was born (2000 referring to the engine displacement since the regular cars had either a 1.5 or 1.8 liter I4 motor). You can read more about the original 4-door Hakosukas in this article I wrote about the Prince and Skyline Museum in Okaya, Japan. That photo above showing one of those OG Hako sedans is from my visit to that museum last year.

Only 416 examples of the Autech R33 were made between late 1997 and November 1998 so they are a true limited edition. Personally I think they're very cool and would love to have one. I've never been a huge fan of the R33 styling-wise. It's always looked on the plump side to me so translating it to a 4-door format actually makes the proportions work better in my mind. But that's just me, feel free to disagree. 

And that brings to an end this series on rare R33 GT-Rs. Inevitably I plan on doing a similar one on the R34 especially since one example just made it into my care but that will have to wait for another time since the R34 - depending on how you count them - had more special editions than both the R32 and R33 combined!

Oh, and at this time I'll be adding a list of major information sources to the end of articles like this to avoid any claims like I've had before that I just copy and paste stuff from Wikipedia. No, I reserve Wikipedia for trivial stuff like how to do CPR or preparing my legal defense if I ever go to court, certainly not for something as hugely important as cars!

Until next time, stay safe everybody!


1. Nissan GT-R: Legendary Performance, Engineering Marvel by Alex Gorodji
2. Nissan GT-R Supercar: Born To Race by Dennis Gorodji
3. Skyline: The Ultimate Japanese Supercar by Andy Butler
4. Nismo.co.jp
5. GTR-Registry.com
6. Middlehurst.co.uk
7. Topgear.com
8. Autech.jp