Any car lover will instantly have a picture of a car in mind when hearing the words “Skyline” or “GT-R”. These three designations are linked to one of the most famous cars to ever come out of the Land of the Rising Sun: the Nissan Skyline. Made popular the world over thanks to video games such as Gran Turismo and the Fast & Furious movie franchise, it is a genuine icon in the motoring industry. It conquered the world thanks to its advanced technology, such as four-wheel steering, all-wheel drive and a very potent straight-six engine. A racing variant, nicknamed Godzilla, even won the All Japan Touring Car Championship four seasons in a row, winning all 29 races across those years. It would also become a favourite platform for many tuners, some gaining a legendary status thanks to the cars they produced, such as Mine’s. Even today, these names resonate within the Japanese tuner car community to the point where six-figure prices for fully restored cars are far from an exception. And this is where Built By Legends comes in, a company looking to build the best possible (restomod) version of Japanese performance cars from the 1980s and 1990s in collaboration with some of the most legendary tuners.
The Skyline name dates back to 1957 when Japanese car manufacturer Prince launched the Skyline as a luxury sedan and station wagon. Prince merged with Nissan in 1966, with the Skyline name living on. A couple of years later, the GT-R designation was first introduced on the C10 generation of the Skyline. For late-1960s standards, this was quite a fast car thanks to a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 160bhp. For every generation that followed, Nissan would build one or more performance-oriented variants of the Skyline. By 1989 it was time for the R32 to take over the reins, which laid the foundation of what most people think of when hearing the name “Skyline”. The most sought-after model is the GT-R, with its famous RB26DETT twin-turbo straight-six engine producing 280 horsepower. This engine would also be used for the R33 GT-R and R34 GT-R that were introduced in 1995 and 1999, respectively. The Skyline GT-R would become a motoring icon thanks to its advanced technology and world-beating performance. It would feature in many video games, and eventually, the Fast & Furious franchise propelled it into the stratosphere.
Built by legends
Built By Legends (or BBL for short) is not your typical one-stop-shop building a restomod of some important historical sports car. Built By Legends brings together several legendary Japanese car builders to create the ultimate driving machines based on Japanese tuner cars from the 1980s and 1990s. The company was founded by Masaharu Kuji and Katsu Takahashi, who met as founders of a dotcom start-up years ago and discovered their mutual passion for cars. At the beginning of the new millennium, they were producing an English version of the Best MOTORing video series on VHS (remember that?). This sparked the idea to eventually bring together Japan’s best, both in cars and in tuners, and produce top-level restomod cars of Japanese origin.
In effect, BBL seeks only the best in the business and has created a world-leading Skyline restoration programme in the process. Working with industry legends gives BBL full control over the builds. Although the first builds have been a Mine’s Skyline R32 GT-R and a Mine’s Skyline R33 GT-R, BBL focuses on a broader spectrum of Japanese tuner cars. For instance, BBL is currently working on the EG6 and EK9 generations of the Honda Civic, built with Spoon (another legendary Japanese tuner). The list of possibilities is virtually endless, as we can already imagine cars like the Mazda RX-7, the Toyota Supra MKIV, the Honda S2000, the Toyota Corolla AE86 and so on.
On any of the builds, no nut or bolt is left untouched when a donor car is restored. Every panel is fixed or replaced with dry carbon components, the chassis is straightened thanks to advanced 3D mapping technology, the engine is completely rebuilt, etc. Replacement parts are used wherever necessary but always of the highest possible quality. From top to bottom, BBL works with masters in each field, whether it’s down to the interior (Studio 6 Zero), weight reduction (Opera Performance) or carbon components for the exterior (Moon Craft).
The Mine’s Touch
If you’re a hardcore JDM fan or have played countless hours on Gran Turismo 2 through 6, you should be quite familiar with the name Mine’s. Founded in 1985 by Michizo Niikura, Mine’s specialises in engine management systems and aftermarket components to improve performance, efficiency and reliability. It was among the first companies to sell re-programmable ECU systems, for instance. Mine’s software programmes are available for hundreds of types of Japanese cars, but its high-performance parts are specifically engineered for just a handful of cars. The company is primarily known for its work on cars like the Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution series and the Subaru Impreza WRX.
Since the early days of the company, Mine’s has been focusing heavily on performance. Back in 1988, they managed to tune a Nissan HR31 Skyline GTS-R to a top speed of 290kph. That’s about as fast as some of the most exotic supercars of that era. Aesthetically, Mine’s tends to enhance the aerodynamic performance of a car by optimizing airflow and not by bolting on crazy wide fenders or humongous spoilers. So don’t expect flashy Fast & Furious style builds, but a subtle, more refined touch aimed to perfect the car instead of making it scream “Look at me!”. From the outside, that is, because underneath, it’s a whole different game.
The BBL Mine’s R33 GT-R
We can go on and on about the work employed by the craftsmen and -women of all those illustrious companies working along with BBL, but it’s perhaps best to take just one car as an example. Using the 1989-1993 Skyline R33 GT-R generation as a base, the BBL Mine’s R33 GT-R comes in three levels of performance ranging from the 500+ bhp MB5 build to a 600+ bhp MB6 build and the range-topping 650+ bhp MB7. This all comes out of the iconic RB26DETT twin-turbo straight-six originally used in the R33 Skyline GT-R, increased to 2.8 litres of capacity. Further modifications to the engine include a Mine’s VX-ROM ECU (the brains of the engine), Mine’s titanium exhaust pipes, Mine’s fuel delivery pipes and more. Each engine is meticulously built by Master Engine Builder Toshikazu Nakayama at Mine’s. The suspension and braking systems are also completely overhauled, with high-performance parts that are in line with the engine type.
The exterior is also given an overhaul, although the original look of the R33 Skyline is very much retained. The work includes dry carbon front and rear bumpers, a dry carbon bonnet, a dry carbon trunk spoiler, a new set of forged wheels by RAYS and so on. The car is painted to OEM specs with the option of integrating the trademark Mine’s stripes. This attention to detail and originality continues on the inside, with a fully reupholstered interior. And although it looks quite stock, even here, BBL uses only the best materials such as Ultrasuede and Alcantara. Details such as the Mine’s D-shape steering wheel and BBL x Mine’s gauge clusters come as standard. Of course, there are plenty of bespoke options to choose from, too, as is quite common with such projects.
What’s also on par with most, if not all, restomod cars is the price tag that comes with it. We’re talking about a base price of around USD 500,000, which is an incredible amount of money for a Nissan. But, before you bring out the pitchforks, the Skyline isn’t just any Nissan, it’s the Nissan! It’s the ultimate symbol of Japanese engineering and car-building technology, now perfected by the crew and partners of Built By Legends.
For more information, please visit BuiltByLegends.jp