That Escalated Quickly…
In case you’re not familiar with the controversial way in which most Australians were introduced to the R32 Skyline GT-R, here’s a short history lesson. The Bathurst 1000 endurance event held at Mount Panorama Circuit deep in the heart of New South Wales each year had been filled with cars from the local Ford and Holden stables since its creation in the Sixties. If you were an Aussie and into your motorsport, you’d simply pick one of the teams, drink lots of beer and hope your favourite car eventually came over the finish line before the others did.
Things ran like this up until 1991, where rigid tradition was rudely shattered by drivers Jim Richards and Mark Skaife in their striking and completely unorthodox Skyline, which despite receiving weight penalties and turbo pressure limits before the race managed to trounce the native competition. It was a similar story for many other major race events of the time, including the now-infamous Calsonic-clad beauties which simultaneously dominated the Australian Touring Car Championship. The mass effect that this alien car had on the nation resulted in one car magazine referring to it as ‘Godzilla’ on the cover of one of its issues – an affectionate nod to its country of origin and monstrous ability on track which has stuck globally for all cars sporting the ‘GT-R’ badge ever since.
All of this madness unsurprisingly served as a fantastic marketing tool for Nissan to effortlessly shift the 100 road-going R32 GT-Rs which officially landed on Australian shores, models which largely stayed true to the JDM variant’s blueprint apart from a tweaked radio and windscreen. Needless to say, it’s now harder than ever to find a genuine road-going Australian GT-R, making them a valuable piece of any Japanese car collector’s puzzle. Anthony Scali’s example happens to be one of the fabled 100, and his unassuming coupé holds a lot more secrets than meets the eye.
As we all know, the Land Down Under has always been a very healthy market for imported Japanese cars, and Anthony here had no hope of steering away from this trend, even from a very young age. Firstly, he can thank his parents for buying a C210-shaped Skyline from new back in 1977. “This started a new chapter in my life,” he fondly recalls whilst reminiscing about his first memories with the car which the family amazingly still owns to this day. Following in a similar vein, it wasn’t by chance that Anthony’s first personal car came in the form of a Datsun 510, another vehicle that remains a valuable asset in the Scali household. Working on both of these now-classics sparked Anthony’s love for tinkering with imported cars, the engine builder/tuner fortunately managing to eventually live his passion on a daily basis with all sorts of JDM metal that now enters and leaves his garage.
But getting fed up of only working on other peoples’ exotic vehicles led Anthony to once again think about his own personal project car a few years ago. And with R32 GT-Rs holding a special place in his heart, it didn’t take much persuasion to snap up this then-five year old, bone stock Australian example. He admits that at first he had very little direction about what he wanted to do with it, thinking a trip to the local drag strip may plant some ideas in his head whilst giving him a chance to check out what all the hype was about. Suffering a shock defeat was enough for a clear plan to formulate almost instantly in his head. “I remember thinking to myself ‘this can never happen again!’ and from that point on I was simply hunting power,” Anthony recalls, marking this as the moment where the car would change forever.
The list of modifications carried out to this car is so long and progressive that Anthony likes to divide the story into two distinct stages to simplify things as much as possible. ‘Stage One’ began soon after that unmentionable night on the strip, and consisted of all the expected bolt-on modifications that lucky owners of the RB26DETT engine enjoy adding thanks to the large instantaneous power hikes they offer in return. Think hot camshafts, some high-flow turbos and an exhaust system and you’ll get the picture.
While this package would provide more than enough excitement for most of us, Anthony admits his interest in the project was fading as time went on. “I got a bit bored with it… There were no tailor-made parts around that I liked the look of,” a dispirited Anthony explains. Thankfully, a blessing in disguise was right around the corner in the form of an oil pump failure spelling the end of the original RB26 lump in the car. “I didn’t really think it at the time, but getting the engine out was the best thing that happened to my car,” says Anthony, using this as an excuse to really step up the game and start what would become the all-important ‘Stage Two’ of the car’s life.
With the engine building business picking up and Anthony managing to establish something of a name for himself as the go-to import tuner of the surrounding area, he thought it was time to either go full-on or give up entirely on his R32. The thought of the other Japanese cars which were still in the family after all these years, and the prospect of eventually passing this car onto his kids when they were old enough to handle it was the deciding factor in the avenue which Anthony chose to go down. Starting as he intended to go on, then, Anthony delved into the savings and got his hands on an ultra-rare ‘N1’ block made by NISMO and intended for motorsport use. This fabled engine has built up a legendary status thanks to its use in some of the most successful Skyline racing cars in history, including the aforementioned Bathurst-winning R32. See why Anthony wanted this engine in particular so badly now?
Although claimed to pack several hundred more horses than the standard engine, this wasn’t stopping Anthony plough his way through a raft of top-quality, well-thought-out modifications now that his enthusiasm for his car was back with a bang. “It feels like I had to sell my soul to the Devil to afford it, but I no longer wanted to take second chances with cheap bits,” he recalls whilst looking back at dealing with countless amount of broken cheap parts that just couldn’t handle the power.
Heading straight to the top of the parts pile, then, resulted in Anthony ordering a custom secret-spec combination of HKS cams, rods and pistons to further enhance the new block and its set of Garrett GT25 ball-bearing turbos. As parts arrived on a daily basis, a fairly substantial pile was now accumulating on Anthony’s workshop floor. Assembling the engine followed swiftly after a full porting and polishing of the cylinder head was carried out in-house.
It’s when it came to sourcing some turbo manifolds that Anthony realised that he could produce some products off his own back better than the pre-made parts available nearby. With the help of ITP Race Cars and friend Andre, it didn’t take long for some mandrel-bent stainless steel beauties to be whipped up to the perfect specification. It’s a similar story for several other parts of the car, with Anthony applying his signature touch to almost every aspect in one way or another to allow him to reach an overall level of quality and specification which he could not have dreamt of otherwise.
“When it came to the brakes and suspension, I went for the most expensive items I physically could afford, as it’s all about safety for me,” explains Anthony, telling us how the car is amazingly still his daily driver and often has a baby seat in the back so his son can enjoy the power this thing has too. And what a lot of power it is! Anthony carefully explains to us that the headline 881whp figure is a very conservative claim, with numbers well into the four figures previously being recorded at various stages of tune in the past.
“It actually scares me now!” was his reaction after explaining the car’s most recent competitive outing: a 1000m drag event where it promptly nailed an effortless time of 17 seconds @ 190 mph on road tyres. For Anthony doesn’t believe in driver aids such as slicks or nitrous oxide. In fact, look at the car at-a-glance and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that it remains a fairly standard GT-R, with its completely stock interior and no unsightly gauges or aerodynamic body panels protruding anywhere on the clean lines. “It actually drives like a completely normal car at low speeds, too…” Anthony adds, “…and it’s even good on fuel!”
What better testament to a car which is famous for claiming to be able to do it all than Anthony’s example here? Not only is it more powerful than most cars on Australian roads, but amazingly it’s likely to be a whole lot more reliable, too. Anthony confessed to us that he sometimes wondered whether it was sacrilege to ever start modifying such a precious car in the first place, but as one thing lead to another, the gradual changes have amassed to something a whole lot more personal. Just remember: if you ever line up alongside this car at a drag strip, it’s not quite as standard as it looks…
Engine: 2568cc RB26DETT N1 in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo engine, ported and polished cylinder head, custom HKS 2.8 crankshafts, custom HKS con rods, custom HKS pistons, custom HKS camshafts, HKS valve springs, HKS rings, twin Garret GT25 turbochargers @33psi, twin HKS GTII wastegate, custom stainless steel turbo manifolds, HKS mid-pipe and back box, Hypertune intake manifold, K&N air intake, ITP Race Cars custom inlet pipe, HKS oil pump, Trust sump extension, APEXi radiator, RB26 N1-spec water pump, Trust front-mount intercooler, Hypertune plenum chamber, APEXi power FC ECU with Blitz boost controller, Magnaflow fuel pump, regulator and filter, racing fuel cell in boot
Transmission: Pfitzner Performance five-speed dog box, OS Giken pressure plate, OS Giken flywheel, standard rear differential with NISMO centre
Chassis: 9×18” Enkei GTC01 wheels with Bridgestone tyres, Ohlins Flag-R coilovers with remote reservoirs, Endless six-piston (front) and four-piston (rear) brakes with Cusco booster bracket, Wilwood brake bias
Exterior: Standard Jet silver Metallic GT-R body
Interior: Standard GT-R interior trim, MOMO steering wheel, Blitz Spec R boost controller, Alpine head unit in glovebox
Contact/Thanks: Neil and John at Southside Engine Centre (0061893 171233), Jose and Joel at ITP Race Cars (006194 346608), Protune Perth (0061487 700555), Anthony’s partner Kelly Thomas and son Lorenzo, Andre Veenendaal, Ross Dobbie, David Bobowski, Steve Jones, Fabian Van Den Dries, Matt Collova… Without the help of these guys it would only be a pipe dream, thanks!
WORDS: Sam Preston PHOTOS: Brodie Butler