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After cancelling the Skyline GT-R in 1973, Nissan revived the GT-R again in 1989. At the time Nissan was competing in Group A Racing with the Skyline GTS-R. Nissan wanted to retire the GTS-R in favor of a more competitive vehicle. The new generation GT-R, E-BNR32 chassis (commonly shortened to R32), was designed to dominate Group A racing.
Nissan Kohki (Nissan's power train engineering and manufacturing facility) originally tested a twin turbocharged 2350cc bored and stroked version of the RB25 engine. This set up produced 233 kW (313 hp) and used a RWD drivetrain. Under Group A regulations, a turbocharged engine must multiply its engine displacement by 1.7, putting the new Skyline in the 4000 cc class, and requiring the use of 10-inch-wide tires. Knowing that they would be required to use 10-inch-wide tires, Nissan decided to make the car all wheel drive. Nissan developed a special motorsport-oriented AWD system for this purpose called the ATTESA E-TS. Although this assisted with traction, it made the car 100 kg (220 lb) heavier; the added weight put the GT-R at a disadvantage to other cars in the 4000 cc class. Nissan then made the decision to increase the displacement to 2600 cc, and put the car in the 4500 cc class, with the car's weight near-equal to competing cars. The 4500 cc class also allowed for 11-inch-wide tires. New engine block and heads were then developed to better match the increased displacement. The result was a 600 horsepower car. Later REINIK (Racing & Rally Engineering Division Incorporated Nissan Kohi) produced Group A racing engines between 373–485 kW (500–650 hp) depending on track conditions.
This new 2.6 L RB26DETT-powered all wheel drive concept was put into production as the R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R. The R32 developed 206 kW (276 hp) and 266 lb·ft (361 N·m) of torque, it had a curb weight of 1,430 kg (3,146 lbs). Nissan officially started its production run 21 August 1989, and began its Group A campaign in 1990.
The Skyline GT-R Nismo, identified by the model code suffix "RA", was introduced on 22 February 1990 and attracted a premium of ¥235,500 over the standard car. It existed to homologate a number of changes related to performance, aerodynamics, weight-saving and reliability for Group A racing. Those rules required a production run of 500 units, under the "Evolution" special regulations, but an additional 60 were produced and held by Nissan to turn into race cars, giving a total production of 560 units. Aerodynamic changes include: two additional ducts in the front bumper and removal of the protective honeycomb mesh to improve airflow to the intercooler, a bonnet lip spoiler to direct more air into the engine bay, deeper rear spats, and an additional boot lip spoiler to provide more downforce. The Nismo specification deletes ABS, which are not legal in Group A, and the rear wiper to save weight. The bonnet and front fenders are aluminium rather than the standard steel, again to save weight. Overall the GT-R Nismo weighs 1400 kg compared to 1430 kg for the standard GT-R. Tyres are Bridgestone RE71 in 225/55R16 fitted to 16" alloys. Mechanically the GT-R Nismo uses the RB26 engine of the 'standard' GT-R but replaces the stock Garrett T03 turbos with larger T04B models, sacrificing the faster spin up of ceramic turbo wheels for the enhanced reliability of steel wheels. The GT-R Nismo was only available in colour code KH2 "Gun Grey Metallic". Other minor, but noticeable, changes include a circular "Nismo" logo on the right-rear of the boot lip, lack of radio tuning controls on the dashboard console (since a radio was optional), and cross-drilled brake rotors. Nismo-branded options available included a 260 kmph speedo, 3" cat-back exhaust system, front suspection tower brace, sports shock absorbers, 17" alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler with built-in tail light.