Paul William Walker IV is famous. Back in 1986 when he was 13, he landed his first job on the TV series "Throb," playing the role of Jeremy. What? You don't remember "Throb"? How about his 1991 guest spot on "Who's The Boss?" playing Michael Haynes? Not ringing a bell, huh? Of course then you cherished his every appearance on "The Young And The Restless" as Brandon Collins back in '93, right? So that's drawing a blank too. OK, then how about him as Officer Brian O'Connor in 2001's "The Fast and the Furious" and its 2003 sequel "2 Fast 2 Furious"? You remember him now? Well, this story is about that guy's car.
Actually, this 2001 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec II is a member of a fleet of vehicles Paul Walker has accumulated that also includes a '67 Nova powered by a late-model Corvette LS-1 5.7-liter V8, a Porsche 911 GT3, an Audi RS6, some exotics, some trucks and some plain old expensive cars. The Skyline, though, is the car that's most identifiable with Walker because it's similar to the R34 driven by his character in "2 Fast 2 Furious." Except that when we drove one of those movie car Skylines back in the July 2003 issue, it had its all-wheel-drive system defeated and was generally hacked up. This one is vastly nicer than that, although we had some problems driving it as well.
Walker started strong with the king of the GT-Rs. The V-Spec II is overstuffed with the latest all-wheel-drive tech, the highest output version of the GT-R's dual turbocharged, 2.6-liter inline six, a Getrag six-speed manual transmission, underbody aerodynamic trays and adjustable wings topside. Of course, it-like every Skyline-was never exported to America and is right-hand drive. It's also among the last of the GT-Rs, as production ceased in 2002 and the world is still awaiting the car's rebirth using the new Skyline (Infiniti G35 coupe to us Americans) as a base.
But as good as the GT-R is to start with, virtually everything on the car has been reinvented. Working with Enrico Del Mar of Modern Image Signworks (www.modernimage.net), whom Walker met on the set of "The Fast and the Furious," for which Modern Image did the vehicle graphics, the Skyline was shipped down to Advanced Engine Breathing Systems (AEBS, www.aebsracing.com) in San Diego with the intent of optimizing the car for track sessions on such road courses as California's Willow Springs Raceway.
As such, AEBS concentrated on building something flexible. Walker wanted an engine with excellent mid-range response and a chassis with quick reflexes and imperturbable steadfastness. This wasn't going to be some sort of 1,200-hp drag car that falls on its face the moment it's asked to idle or turn a corner. But it wasn't going to be a soft-riding street car either. This car would be built to be a rugged and fun track machine.
First thing AEBS did was yank out the standard RB26DETT and replace it with a new engine built around Tomei's Genesis Phase 3 long block, which is basically a re-imagination of the RB26DETT with the intent of surviving much greater boost levels. Toward that end it uses Tomei's own forged pistons, H-beam rods and counterbalanced crankshaft to withstand the onslaught. Sitting on top of it all are a set of Tomei camshafts and it's all battened down with Tomei reinforced steel fasteners. Compression was set at 9.2:1.
To feed the stout bottom end, AEBS selected HKS' GT-RS twin-turbo system featuring two ball-bearing HKS Sport Turbos both designed for quick spool-up for good mid-range power. They breathe in through an HKS Suction Intake kit (with two polished-aluminum intake arms capped by HKS filters), and pump out through HKS piping to a R-Type front-mount intercooler. An HKS SSQV blow-off valve is on-board to keep reversion in check, an HKS EVC controller monitors and controls the boost levels and a Tomei Reytek programmable ECU coordinates the various aspects of engine performance. A Nismo cat-back exhaust system is responsible for funneling all the waste gas away from the passenger bay and Walker's high-priced lungs.
Behind the engine are the usual Getrag six-speed and a Nismo clutch. Nissan's standard ATTESA-ETS all-wheel-drive system then distributes the resulting thrust to, no surprise, all four wheels.
The suspension was twisted into place with Aragosta coil-overs with remote reservoirs to avoid heating under extreme circumstances and abuse. Nismo anti-roll bars are used front and rear as well as a Nismo front strut tower bar.
While just about everything on an R34 is exotic by dint of being on an R34, the Brembo brakes on Walker's car take exotic to a whole other level. Measuring 15 inches in diameter up front, each rotor is made from titanium and squeezed by eight-piston calipers operating on Brembo's monoblock pads. The rear brakes are also Brembo titanium rotors, but they're 14 inches in diameter clamped by four-piston calipers and monoblock pads. With brakes this spectacular, you expect the car to accordion into a 6-inch thick disc when you hit the binders. Just outboard of the brakes are 265/35ZR-18 93W Dunlop SP Sport FM901 tires on Prodrive Racing wheels.
Because the car was built for track work, ASC fabricated an eight-point roll cage for the Skyline that could be in the Guggenheim. The interior also carries Nismo seats with four-point harnesses, a Nismo steering wheel, gauge cluster and shift knob and a brace of HKS Chrono Meter gauges monitoring boost, engine temperature, oil pressure and exhaust gas temperature. One oddity is that the speedometer is marked in kph, but actually reads in mph. This blew our minds the first time we merged the monster onto the freeway. We quickly ripped through a couple of gears and put the speedometer on 120 thinking that was about 80 mph. Nope. It was 120 mph. We slowed down, but not before relishing in the car's perfect high-speed manners.
Outside, there's a Nismo front bumper and side skirts, and Modern Image upped for the graphics. It looks nasty, but not too nasty. You know, Carmen Electra nasty, but not Courtney Love skanky.
We had a full day planned with Walker's Skyline and started with a trip to the all-wheel-drive Dynojet at K&N in Riverside, Calif. There it spun the rollers to the tune of a peak 414 hp at 7050 rpm and a chunky 323 lb-ft of torque at 5550 rpm. The most impressive element of the test wasn't peak, but the enormously friendly size and shape of the power curve. From 5000 to 9000 rpm, this car is an animal. That's a big, fat rpm range of sweet horsepower. Enrico, who baby-sat the car throughout the day, however, was disappointed, claiming boost controller problems and 450 hp at the wheels on AEBS's chassis dyno the week before.
Unfortunately, for straight-line testing we dragged the car out to California Speedway in Fontana, where the fart that is L.A. air quality originates. On the sort of July day where the sky is the color of burnt toast and you could broil a pork chop on top of the strip's Port-O-Potty, Walker's Skyline did run impressively. With Enrico satisfied that the boost controller problems were solved, he took the wheel and began to make runs down the track. Enrico drives the car all the time. In fact, he drove it up from San Diego that morning, so instead of beating on the car while one of us got used to the right-hand drive, we just figured he should make the runs. We also figured if the car broke, we'd rather he be driving.
The car breaking never seemed to enter Enrico's mind. He began to click off runs, one after another, launching the car at 6000 rpm and tearing through the gearbox at 9000 rpm. The kid could drive, and the car was fast. He made seven passes down the track, recording a best e.t. of 12.5 seconds at a very impressive 117 mph. Considering the car isn't set up for drag racing and the day's oppressive heat, that performance isn't just not bad, it's damn fine. Then, on the eighth run, the car broke. Or as one observer noted, "It done blowed up good." We're just glad Enrico was driving when things went bad.
"Basically the turbos were surging," Mr. Del Mar explains a few weeks after the test, further reminding us there were only 386 miles showing on the odometer at the time and they were still chasing down bugs. He says because of the surging, the computer decided to save the engine by going into a limp-home mode. He didn't offer any explanation about the oil coming out of the blow-off valve.
Due to the car refusing to rev over 3500 rpm, we weren't able to run our skidpad and handling tests, but earlier in the day we did do some braking tests, and the results are impressive. If we ever decide to slow the Earth's rotation, these brakes might do the trick. The car managed to stop from 60 mph in a brief 119 feet. Considering the Skyline is no lightweight, that's about as good as street brakes get. Plus the ABS made hard stops a no-brainer and heat was simply not an issue.
In our brief drive of the car, its benign manners were obvious. The seating position is perfect, the steering is quick without being vicious and the ride is better than any project car we have here. And before it took a dump, the engine was as sweet as any we've ever experienced, reving to 9000 rpm like it was nothing. Even the noise is subdued with plenty of turbo sounds, but no hard-core whistling, pops and crackles.
Fortunately for Paul Walker this isn't his only car, so he'll be able to make his commute. And Enrico Del Mar is already plotting a conversion over to a single-turbo system that he hopes will produce more peak power while circumventing the surging problem. We're open to driving it again and driving it the way it's supposed to be driven-hard on a track where the sheer ability of a Skyline can be appreciated.
Paul Walker was off making a movie in Boskaslavia or Eritreaclia, or something like that when we had access to his car. He should be back by now. We look forward to his call so we can schedule some more time with his Skyline when it's healthy. He can come too if he likes. He can even do the driving.
2001 Nissan Skyline GT-REngineEngine Code: RB26DETTType: 2568cc, turbocharged, inline six, four valves per cylinder, DOHCInternal Modifications: Tomei Genesis Stage 3 short block (forged pistons and conecting rods, Tomei cams, Nismo cam bearings) External Modifications: HKS GT-RS twin-turbo system, HKS R-Type front-mount intercooler, HKS intercooler piping, HKSdownpipe, HKS Racing Suction intake, HKS SSQV blow-off valve, Nismo cat-back exhaustEngine Management Modifications: Tomei Reytek programmable ECU, HKS EVC Boost controller, Measured Wheel Hp: 414 hp at 7050 rpmMeasured Wheel Torque: 323 lb-ft at 5550 rpm
DrivetrainLayout: Longitudinal front-engine, four-wheel drive, all-wheel driveDrivetrain Modifications: Stock Getrag six-speed transmission, Nismo clutch
SuspensionFront: Aragosta Racing coil-overs with remote reservoirs, Nismo anti-roll bar, Nismo front strut tower barRear: Aragosta Racing coil-overs with remote reservoirs, Nismo anti-roll bar
BrakesFront: Brembo 15-in. titanium rotors, eight-piston monoblock race padsRear: Brembo 14-in. titanium rotors, four-piston monoblock race pads
ExteriorWheels: 18x9.5-in. ProdriveTires: 265/35R-18 Dunlop SP Sport FM901Body: Nismo front bumper, Nismo side skirts, Modern Image graphics
InteriorASC custom eight-point roll cage, ASC custom rear panels, Nismo steering wheel, Nismo gauge cluster, Nismo shift knob, Nismo four-point harnesses, HKS Chrono Meter gauges (boost, exhast gas temperature, temperature, oil pressure)
PerformanceAcceleration0-30 mph: 2.1 sec.0-60 mph: 4.9 sec.0-100 mph: 9.6 sec.Quarter-Mile Time: 12.5 sec.Quarter-Mile Speed: 117 mphBraking60-0 stopping distance: 119 ft.