So i’ve had imported a R32 Skyline in 2014 and wrote a few articles here on it. After 3 years of ownership I have a final verdict, don’t do it.
Don’t do it unless you have an unlimted budget and you can get the best car possible. I got a car that outwardly looked great, had great ratings on the Japanese auctions. I’ve had numerous non stop constant issues the entire 3 years and finally today i’ve had the last straw.
The car I bought was listed as having minor surface rust on the undercarriage and minor rust on the “baffle” according to the auction sheet. Me and the importer I used considered this to be a minor issue. Surface rust on a 25 year old car from Japan is to be expected, we were not sure what the baffle was but as it said minor rust I was willing to accept it.
The reality of the situation was the car had NO surface rust underneath. It looked perfect. The car outwardly was almost like new, well just much nicer looking then a typical 25 year old car. But the “reality” here was hiding something. A previous battery in the car had rotted through underneath the battery and corroded the drive side frame rail. I did not find this out about the frame rail until I got into an accident with this car. An accident that normally would be me just buying a hood and a “front cut” and moving a new bumper bar, lights, and a single fender over. The frame rail needed to be rebuilt, since the car more than doubled in value since I owned it I thought it would still be worth fixing it, so I did. It cost $5000 to fix all of this. I paid $4000 for the car. This was “worth it” at the time because cars with this mileage and condition were going for $12k due to a massive price jump. I couldn’t replace it.
Then there was the electrical issues. The car was dying at random from when i bought it, on the highway I might add, and the wiring harness for the headlights melted. Eventually I took it to an automotive electrician who found a short to fix this. The problem? That was the third guy. By then numerous other things had gone wrong in the car as a result of this. Including me electrocuting myself.
Since I got it, even before the accident, I had constant overheating issues. I tried resolving it myself and failed so I took it to a mechanic. The first guy flushed the car multiple times and this did not fix it. He didn’t want to deal with it any further so I brought it to Nissan who did the same thing plus replace the thermostat. This worked, for a while actually. I had the car perfectly fine for like 5 months and trusted it enough to do autocross with it. Then one night time summer autocross the car overheated again.
This mechanic at this point failed me multiple times and I couldn’t find out what was going on myself. So I took it to another guy, a guy known in town as an import mechanic that worked on modded cars and Nissans like 240sx and some Skylines even. I decided I was going to explode my wallet at this guy and make sure this issue was resolved forever. He ordered a radiator for me, replaced the water pump with a nismo unit, redid the cooling hoses, and even drove it himself for two weeks to work to make sure all issues were resolved. Gave me the car back.
By that point I almost had the car for two years. Repairing the frame rail took the mechanic almost 6 months and I had to sideline the car a few times because I had a budget for it.
A Month Ago
At this point I was trusting the issues were fixed, ordered a bunch of stuff for a major upgrade in the future to a larger turbo, did a bunch of work on the car preparing for this. I was driving it to work once a week carefully to make sure it was fine. Then one day the radiator exploded. No joke, exploded. Massive fracture on it in an arc like pattern made me think that the fan blade somehow contacted it causing this. The fan shroud was also heavily damaged. The guy I worked with thought that maybe the shroud was damaged from the previous accident, contacted the fan, and then was pushed into the radiator causing this. It seemed possible to me, but I was skeptical. At this point I told him to thoroughly go through the entire car, check engine mounts, check radiator mounts, I ordered a full gasket kit (including head gasket) plus mounts for the car, everything. At this point I was through working on the car myself in regard to this cooling issue so I didn’t even attempt it. This work was done, after a while I got the car back for all of one month.
So by tonight I thought the car was fine. I had been driving it for a bit over the month regular without issue. Drove it hard. Did some canyon carving. I then installed mods to prepare for the turbo upgrade, like clutch upgrade and all of that. Thinking FINALLY, this thing is working. Nope.
So friends from work wanted to check the car out so we go to this bar every tuesday to hang out. I bring it.
Driving home I suddenly lose power without warning on the highway. I had been religiously checking gauges and things due to the overheating issue being so triggering. This time that did not help. I pull over I notice massive amount of smoke coming from under the hood even more than when the previous radiator exploded. I smell boiling coolant and change my worldview to nihilism where before I just saw red. What the ever loving fuck could be the problem at this point? EVERYTHING I can think of was touched. All things related to cooling was replaced I could even think of. This time, however, the car will not start. Inside the engine bay was the hottest I have ever felt in any car ever.
It is dead.
Unfortunately I had been having problems with my cell phone and I live in a sparsely popular side of Las Vegas. No cars coming. I am about 5 miles from home and it’s 12am. I go walking around and no gas station has a pay phone anymore. Also nobody will let me use their phone because the culture in this city is cancerous. So I walk home. After an hour I get my main car, a Mustang GT I never had ANY issue with quite literally aside a tire blowout. I get back to that car and it’s like an hour and a half later, I touch the head in the car and get burned so bad I have a blister right now. Obviously a bad sign given the time passed. To think I almost just opened the radiator cap to start with, luckily i felt the heat coming off it.
These haven’t been the only issues with this car. It’s been, overall, a piece of shit. And this was considered a GOOD one by many, including the people I had do a thorough post-purchase PPI on and all the failed mechanics I took it to telling me it’s a “find” and “perfect”. The added difficulty of nobody in this city knowing anything at all about it and me having to rely on my knowledge alone. If you want a car like this live in Chicago or LA. A place where there is 10 times the population of Las Vegas and so probably far more experienced shops to help you with issues you can’t figure out. OR use someone like RHD Japan to import a car, people who will fully inspect and guarantee the vehicle.
Right now i’m about ready to just dump this shit in the trash. Or sell it as a “shell”. Even if I get it running again I wouldn’t dare sell it to someone as a functioning vehicle.
Now you might think I would never import a car from Japan ever again. I would. I would but, as I said above, if I had an importer doing a full inspection of it and guaranteeing it. However that is not enough, I would NEVER import a car not sold here again unless I ran my own shop or it was an extremely simple classic vehicle like a Ford Capri. So I would import a Supra or a RX7 but not a Skyline. I may consider it if I lived near AMS Performance or some place like that when I was in Chicago. However in Las Vegas you have very little choice in terms of car knowledge to tap into. It wasn’t my intent on getting a TRUE project car, I was expecting a turn key vehicle with typical simple old car problems. This isn’t what happened.
In regard to this shit? I have totally and utterly given up and cannot recommend this path. Want a classic vehicle? Get something like a classic Mustang with a V8 and a simple carb setup. Or a LS1 C5 Corvette since EVERYONE knows how to work on that if you have issues and you have autozone parts catalog. Do not get some rare in the US yet still regular as fuck car from Japan.
Months ago I started an import process on a FD RX7, when I last thought my issues with cars like this were over and it was only a temporary thing. I am getting this through RHD Japan who said they will guarantee the car. However since I paid for it and until now has been since almost December. It’s been a ridiculous length of time. Since this is a car sold here and I have ZERO intention on modding it and it’s pristine with only 27,000 KM and they are going to go over it with a fine tooth comb I am still PRAYING for no issues.
I am lucky. I am lucky in that I am not one of these fools who has a tight budget and thinks they can daily drive a car like this. I have a decent job that pays quite well and I am past the point where I would even feel safe dumping more money into the car now. I obviously have enough money for 3 cars and a house so I am not financially limited like other people. I can’t imagine the idiots on reddit being egged on to daily drive one of these on a shoestring budget. I always warn them only to get downvoted as they seek confirmation bias.
If you ever want to do this REALLY think it though. REALLY think it though. Think “isn’t there a car sold in the US that is better than this?”. Think, do people around here know how to work on this? Think, can I afford to spend the cars price over once again fixing shit? Think, am I a master mechanic? I bet if you are you might be good rolling a dice on an import like this. I can go on giving better alternatives to almost anything you can import and go on with more issues i’ve had and go on with how hard it is to find some mechanic who isn’t a dipshit to help you out with these cars when you hit a brick wall.... but i’m done.
I hate to type a depressing post like this but seriously, this car made me rethink my life.