So you’ve been bitten by the Godzilla bug and want to purchase a Nissan Skyline. What should you look for when buying? What should you stay away from? We’ll guide you through some common mishaps when purchasing cars that are 25+ years old. In a different blog, we will discuss different options (think GT-R vs GTST vs GTS vs N1) when buying a Skyline.
The first thing to look for is a four-letter word and pretty common with classics – R-U-S-T. Rust is typically caused by water exposure, so cars that are in floods or in snow provide ideal environments for rust. Northern Japan’s climate is similar to New England. It’s not Antarctica, but it’s also not the Mediterranean. Southern Japan is more comparable to the southeastern United States. Regardless, be on the look out for rust.
I know I need to look for rust, but where? As is typical with restorations, rust is often found on the lower door shells, back window, front cowl, rear quarters, sills, trunk area and floor pans. It’s not uncommon for Skylines to have rust in the trunk floor either.
Another concern with restorations is frame damage due to improper jacking. Check behind the rear wheels and undercarriage for dents or marks from a jack. Why does this matter? If it’s dented, you could have chassis damage and the doors may not close properly.
When checking out your possible new best friend, note how the car idles. If it’s idling rough, you probably want to check for vacuum leaks. We also recommend checking the dash for bubbles. When cars absorb heat over time, the adhesive loosens and material swells in the dash.
Several areas of the car also need to be inspected from a lift. For example, clutch slaves are notorious for being worn out on Skylines. Relative to other parts, these are not too expensive. A factory slave may range from $45 to $110 while a NISMO slave can set you back $200 to $250.
Oil leaks and suspension often require investigation from underneath the car as well. The oil system on the ‘89s are also infamous for having some issues; this system improved with each year. There could be a cracked oil pump, malfunctioning oil light, or other oil-related problems.
Given that the restoration market for Skylines is just starting to take shape, not everyone who owned a Skyline was worried about original or OEM parts. In fact, finding an unmodified Nissan Skyline would actually be the exception rather than the rule. So check for modifications. Not all modifications are bad. But when ordering parts, it’s good to know what you have so that you’re not befuddled when you order the correct part for your ’91 but it doesn’t fit because it has an engine from a ’93.
Spring for a local mechanic to check out your car on a lift. It’s well worth the money to have a mechanic get a closer look at the suspension, engine, hoses, belts, and possible oil leaks before purchasing. Worst case scenario, you are out a few bucks; best case scenario, you know exactly what to expect with the car you purchase. Just because the car needs repairs doesn’t mean it’s doomed for the scrap yard yet – it just lets you know what kind of work you’re in for. Yes, this is difficult when purchasing a car directly from Japan, which may be a vote for getting a car stateside or using a trusted dealership/importer. Ask lots of questions. Do your homework. Check the VIN (in multiple places).
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, even if you are buying a spectacular beast, she’s still at least 25 years old and may need some work to get into full beast mode. Unless you pay top dollar for a rare, near perfect Skyline, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to budget for restoration. See our upcoming blogs for details about common restorations.
Team Terra Firma
About Godzilla's Girlfriend: I'm a Skyline enthusiast who gets to learn daily and share info about the coolest Godzilla ever. I also happen to be a girl.