We’ve been predicting for some time that the R34 (1999–02) generation of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs, not yet fully street legal in the United States, will be the most collectible of the bunch. This week, we have proof. A Show or Display–legal R34 Skyline GT-R finally hit the public auction space in the United States, selling on Tuesday for a hefty $320,187 (including buyer’s premium). That’s a record sale for the Skyline GT-R, for those keeping score at home.
Still, we’d argue, this R34 could have some untapped investment potential left in it.
For those out of the Skyline loop, the R34-generation Skyline GT-R is a white-hot commodity right now, and prices are going up by leaps and bounds. The model is only expected to heat up as these cars start to become available for general import to the U.S. under the 25-year rule. For comparison, the previous record for a Skyline GT-R sat at $316,553 for a 10-kilometer 2002 V-Spec II Nur sold in 2018. The V-Spec II Nur is higher on the GT-R food chain, showing just how far the auction market for R34s has moved. And those are just the public sales that can be tracked; we would not be at all surprised to learn of private sales that are already occurring above this mark.
For those who are still wondering what the heck all the fuss is about, this car has been the object of desire for countless JDM devotees. When you say Nissan Skyline, this is the car that comes to mind—despite the fact that U.S. buyers generally can’t get their hands on one. Most fans’ admiration of this car was forged from afar, at the controller of a PlayStation playing Gran Turismo or during the opening scene of 2003’s 2Fast 2Furious. Since the R34 was never intended for export to the U.S., it’s achieved a legendary status as the most forbidden of JDM forbidden fruit.
The R34 GT-R retains most of the bits that made previous GT-Rs so great. An RB26DETT engine producing 276 hp resides under the hood, a six-speed Getrag transmission rather than the five-speed in the R32 and R33 models, and power to all four wheels via the ATTESA E-TS AWD system. The R34’s secret sauce, however, lies in its amazing tech. It included the mind-blowingly cool Multifunction Display (MFD), something we take for granted in our commuter cars today. Rather than infotainment and climate control, the R34’s MFD included vital readouts like boost, oil pressure, injector duty cycle and much more.
There is a common misconception that R34 GT-Rs are illegal in the U.S. In most cases, that’s true—but there are exceptions. Federal law dictates that these cars are not eligible to import until they have reached 25 years of age, and this applies right down to the month of manufacture. Some do slip through the cracks and make it into the country, but owners who bend the rules run great risk of having their cars seized. Once caught, many illegally imported R34s are sold to buyers outside the states or, even worse, crushed.
Happily, there are ways that you can fulfill your R34 dreams without running afoul of the Feds.
This GT-R, for example, was brought into the U.S. under the Show or Display exemption. This rule allows cars that do not conform to U.S. safety and emissions standards to be imported for the purpose of show or display. At this time, only two models of R34 GT-R are approved for import under this criteria: the 1999 V-Spec finished in the color Midnight Purple II and the 2002 M-Spec Nur. Show or Display also limits use to 2500 miles per year, so daily driving is out of the question.
Other U.S.-legal R34s exist outside of the two Show or Display models. In the early 2000s, the company MotoRex went through the rigorous process of approving the GT-R for import. The majority of the cars it brought in and then upgraded to proper safety and emission standards were R33 models, but it also imported an estimated 14-16 R34s. In a story that could pass for a movie plot, MotoRex was shuttered by the DOT, which rescinded the cars’ legal importation status after the company’s owner ran into substantial legal and financial troubles. Luckily for MotoRex customers, they were allowed to keep their prized cars.
(Why buy if you can’t import? Some importers offer the option to buy an R34 GT-R and store it in Japan until it is legal to bring in.)
The cost to skip the line and have a R34 will be substantially more. Another Midnight Purple II car with fewer kilometers was recently offered by Vistec R Imports at a price of $335,000—and was quickly snatched up. Given the (entirely understandable) reluctance of R34s owners in the U.S. to part with their treasures, and Bring a Trailer’s ability to attract premium prices for big-ticket cars, we expected this Midnight Purple II example to handily clear $300K.
Indeed, it did. The seller indicated via Instagram livestream, after the sale, that they paid “mid 100s” for it last year, so a flip for $320K is more than a 100 percent profit. Yet we wouldn’t be surprised if, someday, even this price looks quaint. In the JDM world, this offering is as significant as a Ferrari 250 GTO is to Ferrari fans. More broadly, as millennial collectors mature, the R34 GT-R might one day become as necessary a blue-chip in a serious collection as a Gullwing Mercedes or a ’60s Ferrari is today. And watch out—a high-profile sale like this is certain to coax other, lower kilometer examples to market. Stay sharp, because this record may not last too long.