December 28, 2022

The Rising Value of the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R

The R34 Nissan Skyline is the ultimate icon of late Nineties JDM performance, an embodiment of the prosperity, consumerism and rapid technological innovation of the Post Cold War era. In terms of fan favourites, the Toyota Supra nips at its heels, but the Skyline R34 GT-R ultimately wins for consumer appreciation - beloved for its handling, racing reliability, and modification potential. As a result, the Skyline has seen a meteoric rise in its value. Whereas used R34 GT-R prices hovered around $30,000 USD ten years ago, the average price for an unmodified example today comes in at around $119,000. This is, by the way, around the same price one would pay for a modern version - the base price of a 2021 Skyline GT-R in Premium trim is $113,540 USD. To find an unmodified, accident-free R34 is becoming exceedingly rare for this classic car in particular, for reasons we’ll explore. Special colours like midnight purple also commonly push the envelope two-three times the average price.

Modified R34 GT-R finished in GV1 Black Pearl - Photo by Andy Pang

The R34 GT-R debuted in 1998. Between 1998 and 2001, only 12,175 R34 GT-R’s were produced. Far fewer remain in circulation, as these cars have a tendency to live hard and die young. Rare variants like the Nismo Z-Tune and the V-Spec II N1 are almost impossible to find. V-Specs have an active LSD instead of a mechanical differential at the rear, as well as a firmer suspension, a body kit with side splitters, and a rear carbon fibre air diffuser for underbody airflow.

R34 GT-R V-Spec finished in GV1 Black Pearl - Photo by Andy Pang

The Nismo variation, or N1, is a track homologation with ultimate weight savings achieved with A/C, audio equipment, rear wiper, and boot lining deletes. Only 38 R34 V-Spec N1s were factory released. Another variation, the GT-R V-Spec II Nür, named after the German Nüburgring racetrack, had only 718 examples released. Hagerty recently reported the sale of an R34 Skyline GT-R V-Spec II Nür with 10 kms on the odometer selling for $549,000 - the most expensive R34 GT-R sale to date. 

R34 GT-R Nür finished in Millenium Jade - Photo by Nissan

The R34 GT-R blew away North American audiences in 2003 when a blue and silver 1999 GT-R with a C-West body kit appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious. The franchise’ star Paul Walker drove a 2001 Motorex R34 GT-R V-Spec II in his personal life, too. Life imitates art, as they say. The car also appeared in the Gran Turismo video game - GT-R actually stands for Gran Turismo Racing - and it was featured in the Forza Motorsport and Need for Speed video games as well. 

Brian O'Conner's blue and silver 1999 GT-R with C-West body kit - photo by Peter Olthof

With their bulletproof engines, mod accessibility, and drifting legacies, JDM cars are easy to love. But there’s more behind the sudden sky high prices of the R34 Skyline, and that story is worth looking into, as it tells us something about best practices when investing in the automotive industry. 

Modified R34 GT-R finished in GV1 Black Pearl - Photo by Andy Pang

The Skyline was originally produced by the Prince Motor Company in 1957. Prince merged with Nissan ten years later, taking the Nissan name. The Skyline nameplate was developed in a rapidly industrialising and modernising post WWII Japan, fast becoming a global economic power with competitive electronics, shipping, and automotive industries. The Skyline was the brainchild of designer Shinichiro Sakurai, who oversaw its execution in the Nissan Yokohama, Japan factory until his death in 2011, making the Skyline his life’s work, and a worthy one at that. Beginning as an unassuming 4-door luxury car, the Skyline metamorphosed into a legendary high performance sports car over thirteen generations. 

Shinichiro Sakurai, Source:

The R31, released in 1986, was the first Skyline to appear with red cam covers and the Nissan Induction Control System, but it was with the release of the R32 GT-R that the legend truly began to take shape.

1986 R31 Skyline GXE sedan finished in White - Photo by Jeremy, Wikimedia Commons 

The R32 was AWD, and equipped with Nissan’s RB26DETT inline-six engine. The R32 GT-R made racing history, winning 29 races over four seasons of the Japanese Touring Car Championships. These R34 predecessors are no slouch in the market themselves, with a clean, unmodified, low mileage R32 bringing in $25-40K around 2014, and climbing to $75K by 2018 in the US.

R32 Skyline GT-R finished in Gun Grey Metallic - Photo by Nissan

The ninth generation R33 GT-R first appeared as a prototype at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1993, and was released to the public in 1995. Improvements over the R32 included a stiffer body using high tensile steel, reduced weight and better weight distribution, higher safety ratings, Brembo brakes, and improved traction control, being the first Skyline to incorporate the ATTESA E-TS Pro AWD system.

R33 Skyline GT-R finished in Sonic Silver - Photo by Nissan

The tuning world was smitten, with top Japanese tuning companies like Smokey Nagata’s Top Secret, HKS, and Sumo Power helping to create the hype. Nowadays, the average price for a base R33’s is $60K, with rare, limited edition versions like the R33 GTR 400R trading at a million dollars.

Nissan GT-R entered by Sumo Power GT in the FIA GT1 World Championship - Photo by Adam Pigott

After these seminal breakout successes, the car world was poised for the big show: the tenth generation, R34 GT-R Skyline, released in 1998. It had a shorter wheelbase than its predecessor and a 5.8” colour LCD display with digital readouts for turbo pressure, oil and water temperature, and more. The Nismo multi-function display had a lap timer and G Force meter, too. These LCDs were high tech for the time, and the level of innovation these features represented is often compared to PlayStation’s advances in the late Nineties.

Nismo G Force Meter

This iconic car earned the name Godzilla because it is a veritable thrillride. The R32, R33, and R34 are powered by Nissan’s 2.6-liter RB26DETT engine. The R34 RB26DETT was paired to a Getrag 233 6-speed manual transmission. One notices a discrepancy between the factory rating of the RB26DETT and the results of dyno tests - official output was 276, but actual output was closer to 330. This is because the Japanese performance car industry had entered a gentleman's agreement to keep outputs below 300. Competing models like the MkIV Supra, Lancer Evolution VII, and Nissan’s own 300ZX entered into this agreement. However, as with many cartel agreements, it was eventually broken.

Nissan RB26DETT engine - Photo by Rocket John

In the early 2010’s, the average price of an R34 GT-R started at around $25K USD. By 2017, the high bid on a 1999 Skyline GT-R was $42K USD.

A 1999 R34 GT-R listed on BaT

In 2019, a 2000 Skyline GT-R V-Spec sold for 62,715 British pounds. In 2021, the high bid on a 1999 Skyline GT-R V-Spec listed on Formula Auctions was $200,000 CDN. At the start of December 2022, a 2002 Skyline GT-R V-Spec II sold for $199,000 USD.

A 1999 R34 GT-R V-Spec listed on Formula Auctions with a Midnight Purple Wrap

When analysing the logic behind the unprecedented rise in Skyline prices, it’s important to realise that the Skyline was priced at a premium even when it was originally released, with a 1999 MSRP of $45,606, equivalent to $70,185 in today’s dollars. Anyone paying ten times that today will tell you it was worth it back then. And just as one might argue that the computer graphics from Lord of the Rings still hold up today, the technology in the Skyline does too. Indeed, the R34 GT-R held its own against exotic sports cars - rivalling the Ferrari F355 in performance and desirability. In 2013, the tuner club GT Channel created this video of a 450 hp Nismo modified GT-R Skyline lapping with the Ferrari 360 Modena and Porsche 911 Turbo, coming in a close second behind the 911 and beating the Ferrari.

R34 GT-R Nür finished in Millenium Jade - Photo by Nissan

Another factor driving demand for the R34 is that the 1998 early model remains under a US import ban until 2024. The ever watchful eye of the market directs its attention to the white whale approaching over the horizon, but the car remains forbidden fruit for US drivers for now. Some specialist importers allow US buyers to purchase the car and pay for its storage until it can legally be imported to the US, so a limited supply is being carved out in advance of the ban lift date, when Americans will finally be able to import the car without jumping through a myriad of hoops. Canadians benefit from a 15 year import rule, so we Northmen have had access to Japanese R34 imports since 2014, at which time examples with light wear could be purchased for 2-3 million Japanese yen, roughly $20-30K CDN.

Japanese auction sheet for a Nismo-tuned R34 - Source:

Of course, import bans, like a nighttime curfew, are great temptations for rapscallions, and the tuning and JDM community is by no means in short supply of these. Motorex got their hand caught in the cookie jar importing a number of R32’s and R34’s, claiming that these were R33’s. They then declined to make the safety modifications required to make the imports US street legal, such as by adding US spec gauges and reflectors, and in 2005, the company headquarters were raided and the business shut down. The owners of the cars in question were contacted, and after demands were met that their imports have the required safety mods completed, the cars were declared legal. An estimated twelve R34 GT-Rs currently circulate in the US connected to this episode. The first legal import of an R34 occurred in 2018, under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards “Show and Display” exemption. The first 282 GT-Rs produced in 1999 (all finished in LV4 Midnight Purple II) and 258 M-Spec Nür models were eligible for import under this exemption.

1999 R34 Skyline GT-R - Photo by Alexander Migl

Meanwhile, the classic car market in general is experiencing a boom cycle, with an influx of Millennials who mirror the baby boomers’ love of classic cars. Forbes reports that auction house Barrett-Jackson has seen the number of Millennial buyers increase by an average of 48% every year since 2009, according to Craig Jackson, CEO. Sotheby’s has noted the same, with auction attendees being mainly Millennials in their late thirties and early forties - a demographic who grew up during the tech boom, are comfortable dealing with online auctions, and are beginning to accrue and inherit substantial wealth.

R34 GT-R V-Spec finished in GV1 Black Pearl - Photo by Andy Pang

In 2019, Nissan revealed the 2020 GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition at the New York International Auto Show. Subsequently, the 2020 GT-R Nismo special edition and the 2021 Nissan GT-R T-Spec Special Edition quickly sold out, the latter likely because of the way it exemplified the best-loved aspects of the R34, featuring exclusive colours first seen on the R34, gold painted NISMO forged 20” wheels, and wide front fenders. The 2020 GT-R Nismo special edition features a carbon fibre hood with clear paint inspired by the R34 Skyline GT-R V-Spec II N1. 

2020 Nissan Skyline GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition - Photo by Kevauto

Clearly, Nissan knows their audience, and they’re capitalising on the R34 legend. The Japanese automaker recognizes the value bestowed by any association to their remarkable R34 legacy, even simply by colour matching new cars to the R34. The R34 GT-R Skyline is such a behemoth of a legend, with a performance and cultural history that marks it as one of the greatest cars of all time, that it will continue to be a smart investment for years to come.