Fire-breathing Skyline GTR is a labour of love

With performance figures capable of embarrassing the most expensive supercars editor DAVID HOOPER finally gets a ride in a totally unique and very special Nissan Skyline GTR.

The understated Skyline lets its performance do its talking.

IT’S not every day that most motoring journalists get the chance to have a ride in a supercar, unless you work on Top Gear, or one of the glossy mags of course, but an opportunity came my way the other day – and it was one not to be missed.
Now, we’re not talking Ferraris or Bugattis here – oh no – I’m talking about something much more affordable – which is precisely why the Nissan Skyline has developed something of a cult following the world over.

The rather sad looking engine as it was when Martyn bought the car.

This particular example is owned by a good friend of mine, Martyn Clifford, who in his day job runs a small garage in North East Lincolnshire repairing every day cars – including mine, called
His hobby, however, is building and showing cars which have a habit of wiping the floor with any other car it goes up against in shows all over the country, such is the attention to detail Martyn puts into his work.
He has inherited much of his skill from his father, Colin Clifford, who has now retired, but was widely regarded as one of the most talented classic car restorers in the country.
I knew Martyn’s Skyline was a special car – I’ve watched its progress over the last couple of years as it was transformed into the car it is today, I’ve almost been blown backwards out of the workshop when it was fired up as I stood behind it, but until now, I’ve never had the chance to go for a spin.
Getting into the car, you sit on custom made seats with hand-stitched graphics, and slide into the red racing harnesses which complement the standard seat belts.
There’s a sense of anticipation as the 1996 R 33 GTR fires up. Its 2.6-litre twin-turbo tuned engine comes alive making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up – admittedly, partly through fear!
It started life in Japan where it was tuned by Mines Motorsport, one of Japan’s top tuners who specialise in Nissan and Mitsubishi models.
It’s a straight six with 24 valves, which in standard form originally produced 284bhp, but for Martyn, that was just the starting point.

The finished job is quite a transformation.

It now has low and high boost pressures, which can unleash ridiculous amounts of power – I have been in slower racing cars! Although it was only a short ride, and on public roads, it was enough to give me a taste of what this amazing car is capable of. A Formula One car wouldn’t much quicker off the line, thanks to the Skyline’s four-wheel-drive system helping it to get the power down. It may even be quieter, too, as the Skyline snorts, pops and bangs as the waste gates do their thing getting rid of the excess gasses as the car switches from flat-out acceleration to heavy braking.
The seats scoop you up with such force you get a real jolt as the car heads for the horizon, and yet it’s a proper four-seater which Martyn takes his family out in at the weekends to the various shows they attend.
Martyn takes up the story. “When I saw this car in September 2009 I was told it had 500bhp and was in need of some TLC. I went to look at the car which I found on Pistonheads and found that it belonged to a guy in the Army who had been serving in Germany and while blasting along the autobahn had destroyed its original expensive twin plate clutch. He had to have a stock Nissan one fitted to get the car home to the UK.

The see-through casing is a lovely touch.

“I went to see the car and found it needed rather a lot of TLC, but having seen what was under the bonnet (although very scruffy) I was tempted. I roadtested it and decided to strike a deal and fetch the car home to become my new Motormaxd project car.
“After getting the car home despite terrible clutch slip and a very poorly gearbox I set about restoring my GTR to its former glory, I stripped all the interior out, removed the body kit and bumpers, wing liners and all lights and wipers etc.
“The car then went to Galyer Motors, in Grimsby,  where it had all the bodywork finely tuned and resprayed with a few extra bits smoothed and blended in to give it my own personal touch.
“While the car was away and having found several Mines stickers on the car and a plaque under the dashboard and on the ECU, I emailed Mines in Japan and gave them all the info about the car I had and asked them for any information they could give me.
“They soon replied and it turned out the car had been used by Mines to demonstrate their tuning parts and tuning systems and had run at 620bhp at 1.2 bar boost and 720bhp at 1.9 bar boost on the dyno and the engine had been fully built using lots of very expensive HKS parts including pistons, crankshafts, conrods, camshafts and pullies, turbos, ECU, 1000cc injectors etc. The list went on, so I was the proud owner of a very special machine!
“When it came back from the bodyshop to my garage, it looked stunning. I put the car on a ramp and removed all the wheels, brakes, suspension, exhaust and under car parts etc to recondition them all.
“While I was working on the underside of the car in my spare time the interior was being retrimmed in red and black leather and the interior dashboard trim was colour-coded white and the interior illumination converted to red LEDs.
“Once all this work had been completed the final and most difficult section to finish was the engine bay which was very scruffy and needed so much work to bring it up to the standard of all my previous projects.

The GTR has plenty of grunt on the Santa Pod drag strip.

“The engine was stripped as far as possible and hundreds of parts sent to be chromed and powder coated and other parts fabricated in stainless steel.
“The engine bay was repainted and the engine reassembled as the parts returned, looking pristine.”
Martyn couldn’t resist investing in a new set of wheels and liked the look of the aptly named Rotor GTR 18in rims and Falken FK452 tyres, so he bought the limited gloss black rims with the red lip stripe which went well with the car’s colour scheme.
“I fitted new gauges and a new boost controller as the old one had been locked at 1.2 bar boost in Japan and a few other bits and bobs to make the car as I wanted it for comfort, safety and visual effect at the shows. It was finished off with the new leather interior and contrasting red racing harnesses.
The car was finally completed in April 2010 and has been used as much as possible since then. It has been to several car shows, been on track at Silverstone and Donington Park and drag raced at Santa Pod and has recently taken part in Ten of the Best, at Elvington, near York, where Martyn attended as a member of the GTR Owners Club which he said was a “truly awesome day out where I managed 16 ¼-mile runs with an average of 11.45 seconds with poor road tyre traction in the first two gears”.
Fortunately, there was no damage to the car, so all-in-all it was a successful day and another event to add to this special car’s history!
Which is where we came in with my passenger ride – which was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry – and hope to repeat on a race track in the not too distant future.
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Rating: ★★★★★★

On track at Silverstone during a track day, the Skyline proves it can mix it with the big boys.