The Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R was nearly powered by a V6

If history had gone slightly differently, the legend of the RB26DETT may not be as iconic as it is today

Nissan Skyline Gtr Front Jpg

In 2007 JDM fan boys around the world were in uproar. Nissan had disgraced the heritage of the GT-R badge by fitting a V6 under the R35 instead of the traditional boosted straight-six.

What those furious fans didn’t realise however, is Nissan was simply fulfilling a prophesy that had begun almost a decade earlier with the development of the R34 GT-R.

Nissan Skyline GT-R

You see, the last of the Skyline GT-R line very nearly wasn’t powered by Nissan’s iconic and revered RB26DETT powerplant.

Chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno and designer Watanabe both intended for the R34 to be fitted with a V6 engine, mounted behind the front axles for a front-mid-engined layout.

Nissan Skyline GT-R

However, the plan was thrown out because there wasn’t enough budget to develop a V6 with performance worthy of the hallowed GT-R badge.

Instead, the RB26DETT that had powered both the R32 and R33 soldiered on and was utilised once again.

During the R34’s development, Nissan – and Japan in general – was in the throes of a financial meltdown, having weathered seven years of what economists now call the Lost Decade.

Nissan Skyline GT-R

The 1991 collapse of the Nikkei 225 and subsequent interest rate stagnation had caused the company to refocus. Carlos Ghosn was brought in to slash costs in 1999, with only three of Nissan’s 46 models in its domestic market returning a profit. The R34 GT-R was not one of them.

The R34’s chief engineer Mizuno-san had, for some time, claimed that the RB26DETT engine was past its sell-by date and campaigned for an all-new, lighter and more efficient aluminium-block V6 for the R34 GT-R.

While development of Nissan’s VQ series of V6 powerplants was already well under way, developing a high-performance version of this engine for the R34 was deemed an unacceptable budget blowout.

Nissan Skyline GT-R interior

In 2017, the R33 and R34’s designer, Watanabe-san spoke to the media about the initial plan, confirming that the RB26 would have been given an early retirement if he had his way.

“The basic concept of all the Skylines was to deliver technological innovation to customers,” he said.

“In line with this concept, for the R34 we wanted to propose a new Skyline image with front mid-ship layout and a V6 engine.

“However, building a V6 engine for the Skyline meant constructing an additional engine production line, which required huge investment.

“After long consideration, we were forced to give up.”

Nissan V6 engine

History tells us the Watanabe and Mizuno would eventually get their wish, but would have to wait until 2007 with the introduction of the VR38DETT unit, itself a development of the VQ family, in the R35 GT-R.

While a road-faring going V6-powered R34 GT-R was never built, there were a handful of factory NISMO R34 GT-Rs with twin-turbo V6 engines built – they just happened to be GT500 race cars.

The same desires of the engineering and design team for wanting to move to a V6 for the road car were used to justify the race car ditching the straight-six – namely, better weight balance and a lower centre of gravity.

Nissan Skyline GT-R race car

Competing in the GT500 class of the 2003 All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (what would eventually become Super GT) were three R34 GT-Rs, all powered by a VQ30DETT.

In race trim, the engine produced in excess of 356kW @ 5600rpm, and more than 735Nm @ 4000rpm.

That would be the final year for the Skyline R34 in JGTC, replaced by the Z33 350Z in 2004.

What do you think? Should Nissan have built a road-going V6 R34 GT-R?


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Deputy Editor, MOTOR
Editor, MOTOR

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