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One of the coolest, and certainly one of the rarest, Skylines in America

By James Tate

This is a special car. It's a Tommykaira R, a car so rare it would be sacrilegious to refer to it as a mere R33 Nissan Skyline. Only 400 R33 TKR Skylines were produced from 1995 to 1998, and this is the only one to ever reach U.S. shores. It's number 357. You're more likely to see a Ferrari Enzo on the road than one of these.

Tommykaira is a Japanese tuning company named for its two founders, Mr. Tomita and Mr. Kaira. It received 400 bone-stock Skylines directly from Nissan and hot rodded them from the ground up on its own terms. Each was even autographed at the factory by the people who built it and a Tommykaira owner's manual was stuffed in the glovebox. Then Tommykaira sold the cars directly. This one belongs to Charles Juckett of Tampa, Fla. He added it to his collection just two years ago in a quest for uniqueness. Charles identified the car as a Tommykaira when he saw it pop up on and quickly snatched it from the owner, who was unaware that it was more than just another Skyline. After Juckett had the car shipped all the way home to Tampa, he performed a few tweaks at his workplace, Z Fever. Charles was even foolish enough to let us take it for a spin.

Inside the right-hand-drive Tommykaira R, the driver is surrounded with evidence of the machine's pedigree. The stock vise-tight bucket seats and stock rear seats are trimmed in trademark Tommykaira red, and there's a Tommykaira steering wheel that's sublime to squeeze. In front and in plain sight is the Tommykaira gauge cluster, which houses, among other things, a 10,000-rpm tachometer with a lofty 8000 rpm redline. Tommykaira also mounted three gauges in a carbon-fiber surround, detailing boost pressure, oil temperature, and by far the coolest one, torque distribution between the front and rear wheels.

To the right of the steering wheel is the ignition. When the key is twisted, the car comes to life with a bark from the A'PEXi N1 downpipe and Tommykaira exhaust, then settles into a glass smooth 900-rpm idle. Thanks to Charles having deleted the catalytic converter and adding an A'PEXi intake, the TKR's voice is slightly more pronounced when clearing its throat, but it's far from obnoxious. This is one of those rare cars with more bite than bark. The slightly massaged twin Garrett turbochargers and 50-percent larger than stock Tommykaira intercooler extract a claimed 465-crank hp from the 2.6-liter engine.

While Tommykaira offers the TKR with a loud widebody kit, this car was purchased without that option, making Charles' car as much of a sleeper as a Skyline GT-R can be. The only visual cues to its intentions are the Tommykaira badges, wheels, and the lowered stance offered by the Tommykaira suspension.

With large 275mm Bridgestone treads wrapped around proprietary Tommykaira 18x9.5-inch wheels or 18x10-inch Nismo LM GT1 wheels (which are on the car in these photos) at all four corners, we expected the TKR to grip well, but at 3,500 pounds we knew it wouldn't be nimble. Wrong. The TKR has a magical ability to defy its heft. Toss it around and it feels like a tiny roadster. Thanks to the Skyline's 13-inch four-piston front and two-piston rear Brembo brakes, the weight is never apparent under braking either.

This tossability is a result of the Tommykaira suspension, which is fully adjustable, from ridiculously stiff to bumps back seat passengers around like popcorn in the microwave. The Skyline also sports ATESSA-ETS Pro, one of the most technologically advanced all-wheel-drive systems ever designed. This dynamic duo results in confidence-inspiring handling that urges the driver to push harder and harder. This is one of a few high-horsepower cars in the world that all but the most ham-fisted can squeeze epic performance out of. Aim the car at a corner, jab the brakes and turn the wheel, let the electronics sort out the details of the motion, stab the loud pedal, and exit looking like Colin McRae every time.

The rev-happy 2.6-liter zings to 8000 rpm in the blink of an eye, but there's no need to keep the inline six screaming. The Tommykaira ECU has been tuned for a linear powerband, and Charles added a GReddy Profec B Spec II boost controller to get those twin turbos up to full boost (14.5 psi) at around 3500 rpm, and keep them there all the way to redline. The twin-plate Tommykaira clutch has an easy uptake, and the lightened flywheel helps contribute to an impossibly fast-revving engine, by lessening the rotating mass at the end of the crankshaft. Every part of this car is there not simply to do its own job, but to complement the other parts on-board. Which is exactly how it should be. This is a special car.

By James Tate
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