The lesser Skyline models actually have some nice benefits.
The Nissan Skyline GT-R is best known among American enthusiasts as the illegal beast the US market was never lucky enough to get. When the GT-R finally came to the US for the 2008 model year, it dropped the Skyline name and completely ditched the model that it had always been based on. Even though the GT-R is the top-dog model for enthusiasts, there are plenty of lesser-known Skylines that are actually pretty neat to own. Like the Nissan GT-T.
We spoke with John, owner of Black Ops Performance in Orlando, Florida, and JDM expert who helped us pen our guide for buying a JDM car in the US. Black Ops doesn't just focus on importing GT-Rs, but normal Skylines as well. We've had the chance to drive an R34 Skyline GT-T, and there are many notable differences between a normal Skyline and the GT-R. The Skyline GT-T is a step above a base model, with a RB25 2.5-liter single-turbo inline-six mated either to a five-speed automatic transmission or five-speed manual. Unlike the GT-R, the GT-T is RWD, providing a very different driving experience than Godzilla.
Stagnitta describes the GT-T as being comparable to a S15 with a RB engine swap, meaning the Skyline GT-T offers a much more relaxed driving experience than the GT-R. Many people in the US have never had the chance to drive a Skyline, and without killing anyone's dreams, we can say it is actually a pretty normal experience. The GT-T drives a bit like an early 2000s Maxima, meaning that it has pretty responsive steering and adequate power. The main difference of course being the rear-wheel-drive. The GT-R on the other hand has much heavier steering and a much heavier clutch. Despite being based on the same car, the GT-R is less livable.
Unlike the GT-R, the GT-T shares many of its components with US-market Nissans such as wheel bearings, control arms, and tie rod ends. These interchangeable parts make it much easier to own a GT-T in the US. Stagnitta likes to say that the GT-T is half a GT-R at one third the price. He really isn't kidding about the price difference. An R34 GT-R is extremely rare these days, and finding one for sale in the US for less than $70,000 is pretty much impossible. A GT-T on the other hand can start at around $26,000 and there are plenty of available parts that can make it look just like a GT-R for around $5,000. A GT-R may be out of most people's price range, but a GT-T is a nice alternative to a new Toyota 86.
Buying a GT-T is pretty simple, there are only really two versions to look at, the base and the Aero. Both cars are available as either two-door or four-door variants, and both have some of the unique features from the GT-R, like rear-wheel steering. However, the GT-T uses the same brakes as a 300ZX instead of the Brembo units found on the GT-R. You could call the Nissan Skyline Japan's Mustang. It can be had with varying levels of power and can be either affordable or massively expensive. Both seat four people and both are practical daily drivers. Just remember, the GT-R isn't the only Skyline out there, and a more basic model might actually be better suited to some people.