Last week, I revealed my newly imported Nissan Skyline GT-R for the very first time. This was an exciting, joyous event, and you guys responded by asking me so many questions that I felt like I was Neil deGrasse Tyson doing a Reddit AMA, and I had just revealed a secret love for cats.
So today, I’ve decided to create a video that will answer many of your questions about my new car. It’s attached below for your viewing pleasure, unless you work in one of those offices where they have a strict ban on fun things, such as videos, audio, laughing, gossip, websites with “xxx” in the title, pets, making zoom noises with model cars, inappropriate touching, etc.
If that’s the case, then read on, because I’ve also decided to answer all your questions in a tried-and-true Internet format: the FAQ. So here goes.
Question 1: What did it cost?
I received this question a lot when I had my Ferrari, and it was always a great annoyance. And I mean a great annoyance. So much of an annoyance that I always wanted to respond to the question asker by inviting them over to my home so I could hit them in the face with a snow shovel.
Here’s why: it’s easy to find out what a Ferrari costs. Just go on AutoTrader, select “Ferrari,” and you have about 50 examples right there at your fingertips. Asking someone what it costs would be like raising your hand in physics class and asking the professor if gravity is real. If I were a physics professor, I would bring a snow shovel to class for this very purpose.
But there isn’t exactly an AutoTrader for imported Skyline GT-Rs, and I think the cost aspect is kind of crucial to the entire story of documenting the importing process from start to finish. So here’s the answer: the entire cost was in the low- to mid-$20,000 range, including the car, the shipping, the customs, and all the taxes and fees. For reference, you can find more imported Japanese cars here on Japanese Classics – home to the people who imported my Skyline – as they’ve plainly stated the prices of every vehicle they have available.
Question 2: Are there any modifications?
This is the most unmolested, untouched, original R32 Skyline GT-R left in the entire world. In other words: yes, there are several modifications.
The most obvious modification is the wheels. When I first committed to buy the car, it was wearing the original R32 GT-R wheels, which looked – to put it nicely – rather dainty. To put it not so nicely, it looked like someone had broken into an Amazon Fulfillment Center late at night and stolen the wheels off a forklift. So I decided to swap them out for R34 GT-R wheels, which I think look absolutely, brilliantly gorgeous. I am aware that some of you disagree, but of course you are wrong.
Other modifications are minor. There’s an exhaust, which has brought the car’s sound from “average” to “slightly above average,” stopping just short of LOOK AT ME, I’M JDM that you get from guys with lowered Integras. There’s an aftermarket steering wheel, which looks like it came off a 1970s Alfa Romeo. There’s also an aftermarket shift knob and an aftermarket mini-disc player. And there’s a “Tuned by HKS” sticker, which is a complete lie in the sense that my car has not been tuned by HKS, unless those were the initials of the guy who installed the steering wheel.
There’s also another interesting modification: although every single GT-R was sold with four-wheel steering (called “HICAS” for “Hey, It’s Cool! Awesome Steering!”) (OK, I don’t actually know what it stands for), the rear-wheel steering portion of HICAS has been removed from my car. In fact, it’s been removed from most R32 GT-Rs by now, partially due to concerns about unreliability – but also because most people absolutely hate how it makes the car drive. Fortunately, my Skyline still has front-wheel steering, which means I am capable of doing things such as turning.
Here’s another question I keep getting: do I plan to modify it? The answer is no, no, no, no, and more no. I love my cars to be as original as possible, and even the wheels were a bit of a stretch for me. My car will remain unmolested, untouched, and unmodified, until I sell it to the next guy, who will undoubtedly lower it and put stance nation decals on the windshield.
Question 3: Can you register it?
As I mentioned in the comments section of my column about registering an imported car, Japanese Classics makes this part easy: they went through all the hassle of getting my car registered the first time, which means my Skyline had a clean Virginia title when I picked it up. As a result, the registration process is simple – save for the typical hassles of dealing with the DMV, like waiting behind someone who’s trying to register a no-title 1989 Mercury Sable with $1,100 in outstanding parking fines.
A few Pennsylvania-area people have also asked about safety and emissions inspection. Well, here’s the deal: since the car is over 25 years old, it’s exempt from emissions inspection. This means I could remove all emissions control equipment and pollute all over my giant behemoth Hummer, which must pass emissions since it’s only 20 years old. However, the car does have to pass Pennsylvania’s safety inspection, which I suspect should be no problem, unless of course there is a big check box that says:
CAR IS LEFT HAND DRIVE? ___ YES ___ NO
If this question comes up, I suspect I may have trouble, unless I take it to a very sketchy inspection shop somewhere in South Philly and remind the guy with a wink that three Mr. Jacksons say it’s left hand drive.
Question 4: What about insurance?
Believe it or not, insurance was easy. Here’s how it worked:
1. I called Hagerty, a specialty insurance company who deals primarily with collector cars.
2. I told Hagerty I wanted insurance.
3. They gave me insurance.
Actually, it wasn’t quite so simple. Initially I called American Modern, an excellent Ohio-based insurance company who insured my Ferrari, and I told them I wanted a collector policy for a 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R. Then they began laughing and laughing, the kind of laugh you’d see various audience members doing on America’s Funniest Home Videos when there’s a hilarious video of a child falling down the stairs and probably breaking his face.
In fact, the woman informed me that my 1990 Nissan in no way qualified for a collector policy because it had been produced in “large numbers” and the value is “decreasing.” Although I informed her that it is considerably rarer than the Ferrari her company had also insured, and the value is decreasingly considerably less than the Ferrari, she was undeterred. I got the sense that she sort of thought I was trying to buy a collector policy for an Altima.
So I called Hagerty, and they knew what they were doing, and they issued the policy right away. It’s about $1,800 for full coverage for an entire year at 6,000 miles, with a stated value of $25,000. I find this to be a highly reasonable rate, especially in Philadelphia, where many drivers believe the best form of “insurance” is simply buying the largest 1970s Lincoln available on Craigslist for less than nine hundred bucks.
Question 5: How does it drive?
Ah, yes, the driving experience. So far the car has been fun, and enjoyable, and thrilling, and… I will cover all of that in the next column.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.