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1987 Nissan HR31 Skyline GTS-R: Godzilla's precursor on road and track

By MOTOR staff, 25 Aug 2019 Features

Nissan HR31 Skyline GTS-R history feature

Precursor to R32 GT-R not given the credit it deserves

If any car has ever hogged the limelight from another, it’s the GT-R taking attention away from the GTS-R. And we don’t mean the banana yellow Holden VS Commodore with the giant rear wing.

No, we mean the HR31 Skyline GTS-R, effectively the late-’80s, rear-drive, turbocharged straight-six precursor to the R32 GT-R. Made for the Japan market only, it has a special Aussie connection courtesy of Jim Richards, who raced one to win the 1990 Australian Touring Car Championship.

50 years of the GT-R: The R32 - The "Godzilla" legend begins

Motorsport is to thank for this car’s genesis. Nissan Australia had been campaigning its Skyline based on the Japan-only GTS and GTS-X Coupes, but in pursuit of more pace took advantage of the Group A homologation rules permitting lower-volume ‘evolution’ models for racing.

Enter the GTS-R. Power from a now six-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engine was increased thanks to a larger throttle body, bigger Garrett turbocharger, larger intercooler and tweaked ECU. A lightened flywheel mated the ‘RB20DET-R’ inline-6 to a five-speed manual transmission and limited slip differential driving the rear wheels. There was also ‘HICAS’ all-wheel steering, as well as improved suspension geometry over its DR30 predecessor.

Production commenced in 1987. All were painted “Bluish Black” and came with fixed front and rear spoilers to overcome the DR30’s notorious aerodynamic instability at race speeds. BBS 15-inch wheels were available as an option, wearing 205/60 tyres.

Only 500 units had to be built to meet homologation requirements but 823 GTS-Rs ended up produced. All were sold on the first day of release. It is said the GTS-R contributed vitally to the R&D efforts of R32, the program that resurrected GT-R. And it’s in this car’s shadow the GTS-R continues to live, having never really outgrown its cult status, even though it more than deserves to.

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1987 NISSAN HR31 SKYLINE GTS-R
Engine: 1998cc inline-6, 24v, turbo
Power: 154kW @ 6400rpm
Torque: 245Nm @ 4800rpm
0-100km/h: 5.8sec (est.)
Price: $40,000 (current value estimate)