1995 Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R: The Dream Build
Phil details his passion for GT-Rs since childhood in Vietnam, buying his first R35 GT-R, then deciding to import and fully build his dream 1995 Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R in California with over 700whp #gtr33 #nissangtr #skylinegtr33 #nismo #jdmlegend
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1995 Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R
Photographer: Marvin Recinos
My Life in the Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R Scene
My name is Phil Nguyen, 33 years old. I’m originally from Vietnam. I came over to the States to study abroad when I was 16, in 2007. After graduating from college at Portland State University, I moved down to California to find a job and got to meet my wife. Now, I am a proud daddy of 2 beautiful girls.
As a business owner, most of my time is spent either at work or at home with my family. My only free time is usually Saturday or Sunday mornings where I like to take my car out for morning runs or going to cars and coffee events.
Falling in Love with Cars
Since I was young, I was always into car toys, playing car games (Need for Speed Underground) and loved watching car movies like every other car guy. So unsurprisingly, The Fast and the Furious is of course one of them. Funny, I remember back then when I first watched the movie, I was just watching because of all the cool cars in there. I didn't really understand the dialogs between the characters well since my English was not that good back when I was in Vietnam. Luckily, we had Vietnamese subtitles so I could still follow the storyline of the movie.
Then, during my college time in the States, I got introduced to Initial D and the whole JDM culture. The rest is history.
Choosing My Dream Car: Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R
I have always been a GTR fanboy since I was young thanks to Need for Speed, Paul Walker and the Fast Saga movies - I told myself one day I will own a GTR. That day came 3 years ago when I bought my first 2014 R35 Nissan GTR Black Edition. After owning an R35 GTR for a while and modifying it quite a bit, I realized I wanted to experience the true Skyline heritage. So I began searching for an iconic R32 or R33 model since R34s were still banned for import to the US at the time.
While researching the different Skyline models, I fell in love with the R33 GT-R. Then one fateful day at a car meet, I saw a Midnight Purple R33 GT-R (paint code LP2) in person for the first time. I knew instantly that I had to find one for myself and build it to perfection.
The Thrill of Ownership of a Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R
Driving and owning a right-hand drive JDM legend as unique as the Skyline GT-R in the US has been an amazing experience. Learning to shift fast with my left hand took some adjustment along with trying not go too far into middle lanes on the road. But the insane amount of attention and compliments I get when taking it to cars and coffee or just cruising around town makes it all worthwhile. That kind of reaction just comes as part of the package when owning one of these iconic beasts in North America.
Building My Dream Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R
What makes my 1995 R33 GT-R truly unique is that the entire current build process took just a little over 2 months to complete - transforming it from a stock example to the 700whp monster you see now.
It actually wasn't my original plan to do a full build right after buying it. I initially only wanted to do some basic service and maintenance. But after discovering a bad crank in the original RB26 block, I decided to go all out with a fully built 2.8L stroker motor using a Tomei crate short block. From there it snowballed into a whole OEM+ style resto-mod with a perfect blend of modern JDM performance and that classic R33 widebody aggression.
I went with genuine Nismo upgrades wherever possible along with a full catalog of Tomei parts from the upgraded twin turbos all the way to the full titanium exhaust. Finding and installing rare JDM goodies along the way became an enjoyable hobby during this fast-paced build.
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The Talent Behind the Build
The man behind the master engine build is none other than Karim (IG: @King_Z32). His skill brought this beast roaring back to life in record time. Suspension work was expertly handled by Brandan at Collectivegruppe. I contributed on various cosmetic upgrades myself as well. This car came together through key partnerships in the community around a shared love for GT-Rs.
Future Plans for my Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R
For now, I am totally content with the current state of the build. The plan next is simply to enjoy driving it as much as possible for many years to come. Maybe in a few more years, I'll look into doing some gearbox upgrades - possibly swapping a 6-speed Getrag transmission from an R34. But this R33 is my forever car no matter what.
I have to give huge thanks to my loving and supportive wife who enables my expensive hobby, Karim for his insane engine work, Brandan for treating my car like his own baby, and Marvin for initially connecting me with this R33. The car community - especially the GT-R scene - has provided so much knowledge and friendship to me over the past few years since entering this space. This is only the beginning as I look forward to meeting many more fellow Japanese classics enthusiasts at events across California in the coming years. My dream is to one day also add a Midnight Purple R34 GT-R tuned by Nismo's Omori factory to the collection. For now, the R33 journey continues stronger than ever!
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