1000hp Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R – A Life of Excess – 122
At this season’s first test and tune day at Champion Dragway I was out and about filming for our illustrious television show, NZPC TV, which I’m sure you all watch religiously every Sunday! Right? Anyway, as I sauntered around the hallowed Meremere grounds, nursing a very sore head from the previous night’s festivities, I noticed a low-key R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R roll up to the staging lanes. I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. That is, until I saw who was at the helm: none other than Nissan RB builder, Robbie Ward, of Rotorua Import Pro Shop (RIPS for short). I quickly rushed over to grab an interview with the man himself, as much for the TV show as to satisfy my own curiosity. Apparently, this car had been built for a customer in the UK and, according to Robbie, it “had a fair bit of power.”
Intrigued, I braved the damp weather and massive headwinds screaming down the track to climb the stands and catch the stock-looking Skyline’s run. Robbie pulled up to the line and once staged, stomped on the gas, bringing the car up to the launch controller-defined rev limit. The fridge-white Nissan seemed to buck and kick like an impatient stallion as it sat on the line, the exhaust popping and crackling as flames licked at the paintwork. And then it was gone.
The GT-R launched off the line in a cloud of tyre smoke, all four wheels spinning as though it was on an ice rink. Despite the very poor traction and atrocious headwind on the day, the Nissan blasted its way down the track at great speed, filling the natural amphitheatre of Champion Dragway with the howl of external wastegate and a gunpowder-like crack each time Robbie chopped up through the 33’s factory-spec gear box. As the car dwindled into the distance, I looked at the light board to see the numbers '10.77 at 215kph’ flash up.
Now, sure, Robbie had told me it had some power, but I didn’t realise he meant that much. To pull a 10-second quarter out of his posterior the first time the car has ever hit the track, in full street trim, and in fairly poor weather conditions, is pretty impressive stuff. I had to know more, I needed the full story.
Barely a week later, there I was, heading down to the thermal wonderland that is Rotorua. With plans to shoot RIPS’ newest creation for the magazine, and hopefully find out a little more about the big white whale that so captured my attention the week before. Anticipation was high. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but upon arrival, I was surprised to find everything very low-key. We were met at the gate by the ever-friendly Robbie and his right hand man, Avon. Avon, I might add, is a very talented bloke, and the brains behind some of the tidiest welds I have ever seen. As we got chatting, we took a quick tour of the honest, no nonsense workshop, filled to the brim with everything from half-built drag cars, to decimated gearboxes. There were even fully built motors bristling with massive turbochargers just sitting on engine stands in the showroom.
Robbie had obviously grown tired of our gawking and herded us off to the front of the workshop, where our star of the day sat patiently. Now, let’s be honest, the car isn’t much to look at, is it. The R33 has never been my favourite shape of GT-R, although this particular one does seem to work, subtly modified by way of a Nismo front bumper and 18-inch Advan AVS rims.
1997 NISSAN SKYLINE GT-R
“It’s as heavy as it looks,” quipped Robbie. “Yes, but surely you’ve stripped some weight out of it, especially to run that ten last week?” I replied. Robbie laughed. “Nope, she’s actually heavier than stock, clocking in at around 1850kg once you add the fuel system, turbo and myself in the driver’s seat! damned pies, I should probably lose some weight I guess!”
Sure enough, looking through the car, it comes complete with a full interior, stereo, and massive fuel system in the boot. The surge tank is a work of art, and a prime example of Avon’s awesome metalworking skills. Three massive Bosch pumps provide fuel to a set of 1000cc injectors mounted on a custom fuel rail up front.
By my calculations, to get down the quarter mile in around ten seconds with that sort of weight, you would have to have some fairly serious power. Robbie pulls out a dyno sheet and points to the peak power figure: 910hp at 1.7 bar of boost. “It’s running a 100 shot of nitrous, too, so at full noise I’m playing with 1000-odd ponies. Right. Enough talk, let’s go for a drive.”
As it turns out, being the good sport he is, Robbie had jacked up the use of a private road in the countryside a few kilometres out of the city. This was turning out to be a good day for appearing at work.
Our photographer, Quinn, quickly heads to our work hack, a decidedly camp purple RAV 4, and starts the beast up. “Oh, you’re not taking that are you? Avon, go get the R32!” laughs Robbie. Sure enough, two minutes later out rolls a 600 horsepower R32 GT-R. “You can use this one to shoot from, at least it’ll have a better chance of keeping up.”
So, there we were, early morning start long since forgotten, cruising through the streets of Rotorua in a whole big pile of Japanese muscle. As we dawdled along, I noted that the car seemed completely driveable in a city situation, even with its Tilton quad-plate clutch. Yes, that’s right, four plates. “Not to blow my own horn, but that’s the beauty of our RB30 engines, there is just so much torque”.
Once on the open road, we were joined by a mystery jet-black RX-7 Bat and cruised, very comfortably I might add, to our destination as Robbie explained the origins of the car to me.
As it turns out, RIPS’ reputation for building strong, reliable RB motors for not a whole lot of cash reaches far. This is actually an English car, sent all the way over from the UK to be built by Robbie, who will then send it all the way back. Sound ridiculous? I thought so too. But, according to the Pommy owner, doing it this way is costing him about two-thirds less than if he were to have it built in his own country, where he was looking at a potential $140,000 price tag. Even if Robbie had the sterling reputation of Queen Elizabeth, there’s still a healthy amount of trust involved in sending your pride and joy to someone you have never met, somewhere in the South Pacific.
It wasn’t long before we reached our destination, and the shoot was soon underway. Before I had time to find something to hold on to, Robbie planted his right boot deep into the carpet and I lost my ability to speak. Sure, I’ve been in hundreds of fast cars before, but this was brutal! The 600hp R32 quickly faded from the rear view mirror, and halfway through fourth gear I looked across to see the speedometer pointing at 150. Was that all? Of course, what I failed to remember at the time was that this car was straight out of the UK. Where they measure their speeds in miles per hour.
With the Turbosmart Progate 48mm wastegate screaming like a banshee, Robbie hit top of fourth and slammed the stick into the next gear. I can only assume I was grinning from ear to ear as I saw Robbie slide his thumb over to the nitrous button. An audible change in engine note could be heard as the car surged even further forward. By this stage, I didn’t even bother to look at the speedo, and simply allowed physics to introduce my body to the nether regions of the stock R33 bucket seat. Now, I’m normally quite a polite person, but on that day, coming back down the road, I swore like a drunken sailor with Tourette’s syndrome. Robbie simply laughed and explained just how he managed to build a street car capable of turning my vital organs insideout.
“Well, this is the sort of engine package we specialise in. We use a three-litre, six-cylinder RB30 block; it runs a stock crank, forged pistons and a set of H-beam rods. It’s all very simple really, there are just a few little RIPS secrets that we hold pretty close to our chests. Avon has fabricated a custom block brace to reduce flex, along with a high capacity sump, working with a JUN oil pump to make sure the motor never runs dry.”
Surprisingly enough, the R33 runs a completely stock RB26 DOHC 24V head, which is fed air from one seriously meaty intake system. The centrepiece is an absolutely massive Garrett GT42 turbocharger that you really wouldn’t want to have any kids go near, for fear of death by forced induction.
The turbo pushes air through a 600x300x115mm intercooler via 4-inch piping, and then up to the 90mm billet throttle body and custom RIPS intake manifold.
The RB30 generates its power thanks to Splitfire coils and an expertly tuned Link G2 computer. Huge amounts of waste gasses exit the engine via a RIPS custom stainless manifold, which dumps into a 5-inch down pipe and 4-inch exhaust system. So, a simple formula for a whole lot of horsepower.
I like the sound of that. As you might expect, there were a few sceptics in the UK tuning scene boo-hissing Robbie’s cost-saving approach to engine building. It seems as though there were quite a few people waiting to see the results of the 'RIPS UK001’
build. As it turns out, as soon as word got back to the UK’s Skyline Communityabout the R33′s first successful play on the drag strip, three more GT-Rs were quickly thrown on the boat.
Engine: RIPS custom 3.0-litre RB30DET, factory crank, forged pistons, H-beam rods, RIPS block brace, RIPS high-capacity sump, JUN oil pump, factory-spec RB26 DOHC 24v cylinder head, RIPS custom intake plenum, 90mm billet throttle body, Garrett GT42 turbocharger, RIPS custom stainless exhaust manifold, Turbosmart Pro Gate 48mm external wastegate, 600x300x115mm bar & plate intercooler, 4-inch intercooler piping, RIPS 5-inch dump pipe, RIPS 4-inch exhaust system, RIPS surge tank, 3x Bosch Motorsport fuel pumps, braided fuel lines, 1000cc injectors, custom fuel rail, Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator, Splitfire coil packs, NOS nitrous system, Link G2 engine
Driveline: Factory GT-R 5-speed gearbox, OS Giken 4-plate clutch, factory front/rear LSDs
Suspension/Brakes: Fully adjustable Tein coil-over shocks/ springs, factory Brembo 4-wheel disc brakes
Wheels/Tyres: 19-inch Koya Rush alloy wheels, 275/45R19 tyres
Interior: Factory GT-R
Exterior: Factory GT-R, Nismo front bumper
Performance: Dyno Power—910hp @ 1.7kg/cm (25psi) approx 1000-1050hp with nitrous, 0-400m —10.77 @ 215kph
Occupation: Engine Builder
Previously owned cars: About 20 Skylines
Build time: Three months
Dream Car: 1300hp R34 GT-R
R.I.P.S. thanks: UK Lee, Avon, Dean, Jason, Paul Bowden, Dre and Boost Extreme