There's no denying the effect wide fenders, big wings, and carbon fiber can have on the way a car looks—it's a recipe that works more often than not. But sometimes it's just not necessary, and something as simple as the right set of wheels matched to a fitting ride height is all that's required to take a car to that next level. It's that sort of restrained modifying methodology that initially led us to this '98 Nissan Skyline GT-R in the first place. What's under the hood, however, convinced us to hang around and take a closer look.
As a right-hand drive nation that has allowed its population access to used JDM machines for more than two decades now (although not without some restrictions), Australia has a thriving modified Japan street car culture, and one that's largely built around horsepower. Nissans are a favorite, so when you factor in the BNR32's utter domination of V-8-bred Australian touring car racing in the early '90s, it's little wonder that Skylines of the GT-R variety are revered in this part of the world.
Like so many other Australian GT-R owners, Mushin Ali found his way into this late-model BCNR33 through another imported Skyline—specifically an R34 GT-t. Despite being a pretty solid package in its own right, for what Mushin had his mind set on doing, the GT-t's 2.5L RB25 was never going to cut it. Instead, he found what he was looking for in this previous-generation GT-R, aka JET26L. From the outset, Mushin's idea was to take the largely original R33 and build it up into a tough yet fully streetable weekend machine capable of running quick e.t.'s on the strip when the need arises. And this is where Sydney's Just Engine Management comes into the picture. Despite its name, JEM is a multifaceted operation with a reputation in the local community for its ability to build badass Skylines. With JEM's owner and head tuner, Adam Neish, providing guidance, a plan of attack was devised and Mushin's GT-R went under the knife.
Although it was heavier than the original RB26-powered GT-R (3,400 pounds for the BCNR33 versus 3,146 pounds for the BNR32), Nissan addressed some of the R32's shortcomings in the R33, providing a strong foundation for tuners to build on. That's an important thing in this instance, because rather than going down the route that many other Australian GT-R owners in search of ultimate street performance do these days—namely an RB30-based engine with an automatic drag-spec transmission behind it—Mushin was hell-bent on sticking to the Skyline's original script.
According to JEM's in-house dyno, 807 hp is generated by Mushin's RB26 engine—an impressive figure considering it still maintains the factory crank and 2.6L capacity. Of course, some serious power-making components were called for, and on top of 8.5:1 forged JE pistons, there are Argo I-beam rods, a cylinder head that features HKS 272-degree cams, and a Supertech valvetrain for easy 8,000-rpm-plus pulls. Then, things got real in the turbo department... Where once a pair of small T25-based Garretts resided, you'll now find a single Precision Turbo PT6466 perched on a custom Turbo-1 manifold and running dual TiAL wastegates. It's not hard to miss. There's the expected stuff, too: a large front-mounted intercooler, a custom 3.5-inch exhaust complete with high-flow cat to keep on the good side of the authorities, and a suitably spec'd fuel system comprising of 2,000cc injectors, twin high-flow fuels pumps, and a 1.6-gallon surge tank mounted underneath the car. An Australian-made Haltech Platinum Pro engine management system gives the correct firing orders.
A number of the Skyline's original drivetrain components have been retained—the five-speed manual tranny and active limited-slip rear included. The aftermarket bits come in the form of an OS Giken triple-plate clutch and flywheel and a Cusco one-way front LSD. To date, the whole package has stood up to everything Mushin has thrown at it—hard launches notwithstanding. Elsewhere around the underside, you'll find HSD MonoPro coilovers, Whiteline sway bars, ZSS rear camber arms, and Hardrace rear traction rods. A slight upgrade to the factory Brembos was added with DBA slotted rotors and EBC pads.
The R33's factory-pumped fenders have an ability to swallow up large wheels with ease, in this case 18x10.5" matte bronze Work Emotion D9Rs. From a performance perspective, wide rims were a requisite when the Skyline's power increased almost 300 percent—wrapped in 285/30R18 semi-slicks, they do a good job of translating all of the Nissan's might to traction.
Wheels aside, one of the defining aspects of the Skyline is its factory-original exterior, which goes as far as the OEM Super Clear Red paint. There are, of course, plenty of routes that Mushin could have taken, considering the amount of body kit options out there, but he had no interest in messing with the GT-R's timeless design, and you have to respect that. The same thinking has been carried over to the interior as well, and the immaculate series three trim, dashboard, seats, and steering wheel are all as Nissan intended them to be. The only additions are a Zeitronix wideband meter and Shadow boost gauge.
Having a GT-R like this in the garage is a dream of many, but for Mushin, it's an absolute reality. "When you get in the car, you just want to thrash it," he told us. But don't go thinking that it all ends here, because according to Mushin, there's still plenty more work to do in order to completely fulfill his original vision. The plans are pretty serious and will inevitably involve a Tomei or Nitto Performance Engineering 2.8L conversion, an even bigger turbo to match the increased capacity, plus an OS Giken OS88 six-speed sequential gearbox. With closer to four-figure-deep output and the ability to machine-gun through the gears, the future's looking very fast for JET26L—even if the license plate won't fit for much longer.