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Blue Horizon - Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

Canbell's 800 Horsepower Machine

Text By , Photography by XeroTalent

Canbell Racing, located in the heart of Osaka, Japan, has the distinct honor of running both a body shop and tuning factory for high performance vehicles. Imagine that; a shop that can deliver custom bodywork, paint your whip a new radical color, and finally top things off by building that race spec engine you've always dreamed of under one roof. It's hard to deny a shop that can encompass all aspects of automotive know-how, which is a unique quality that Canbell can pride themselves on among the thousands of tuner shops in Japan.

While Canbell's main income is attributed to their vehicle body repair work, it's a matter of walking though their facility littered with performance engines and defunct race cars that serve as an indication that motorsports lies deep within their roots. Taking years of road racing experience on various courses such as the Ti Circuit AIDA (course developed for F1 racing), Canbell Racing shop owner and engine build specialist, Sadao Nakai, persevered for two years and spent an unmentionable dollar amount to complete his personal GT-R BNR33 Skyline. The initial timeline began as the Skyline's factory RB26DETT was completely disassembled piece by piece as Nakai-san made plans to build an engine that was capable of handling the rigors of road racing. "Horsepower is an important factor within the engine buildup but my main focus was building an engine that was reliable and able to handle the constant beating I delivered on numerous tracks," stated Nakai as he gleamed a mischievous smile. A man on a mission, the smiley-faced Japanese took the inline-six bottom end and replaced its internals with an off-the-shelf Trust 2.7 liter stroker kit. Included with the kit is a chromoly crankshaft, an 87.5mm forged piston set, and chromoly H-beam rods. Using the Trust kit, the displacement was bumped up from the factory 2568cc to the new 2731cc displacement. Canbell's custom oil pan was bolted into place as the block was in its finishing stage.

With the bottom end near completion, the RB26 head was already midway though a custom port and polish job by none other than Nakai-san. there anything this guy can't do? Before final preparations began to fuse the head and block together, the cylinder head received a set of Tomei valve springs and retainers topped off with Tomei 270-degree duration and 10.8-degree lift intake and exhaust camshafts on Tomei adjustable sprockets. The engine slowly began to take its formidable shape as a Trust intake manifold and throttle body combo enabled the freshly ported heads to ingest generous proportions of air though a Trust 3-row intercooler. Feeding the belly of this beast is a monstrous Trust T88-34D turbo. Outfitted with a 17cm2 turbine choke size, the oversized hair dryer is coupled to a Trust exhaust manifold and boost pressure is regulated through a Trust Type-CH high-flow wastegate. Dropping serious amounts of cash into the blue money pit, Nakai-san was rewarded with a new and improved Skyline that delivered a stellar 800 bhp at 8000rpm with plenty of useable midrange horsepower, which proved invaluable when on the track.

Waging battle on the Ti-circuit at high rpms for extended periods on end, it was a no brainer that a serious fuel delivery system was proven necessary. Tucked away in the confines of the trunk is a custom fuel system combining three 280lph SARD fuel pumps. Fuel is pulled in through a custom surge tank setup and pushed into the engine bay where six 1000cc/min injectors pulse and feed the 2.7-liter monster while a SARD fuel pressure regulator keeps fuel delivery on check. Responsible for the RB engine churning out reliable horsepower is the ever-popular A'PEXi Power FC. "I've had my share of letdowns with numerous fuel management systems but, up until this point, the Power FC and SARD combination have been one of the best," says Nakai.

It's hard to imagine that a vehicle with such an extravagant body design could ever compete wheel-to-wheel on a circuit until your eyes meet the interior of this car. No fancy carbon overlays or flip-up head units. Nakai conceived the interior's design with the sole purpose of a fully functional racecar. A single carbon-kevlar bucket seat keeps Nakai's posterior in place as the unmistakably green Takata 340MPH harness securely fastens his body. A discontinued GReddy 80mm Twin Pressure Meter sits within a cluster of GReddy gauges located on the center console. Uniquely designed, the GReddy TPM is equipped with a twin needle system to monitor two independent boost pressure settings. In the Canbell's Skyline case, the monitor sensors were plumbed in the charge pipes before and after the GReddy intercooler. Encompassing the 80mm unit is an array of oil pressure, water temp, and oil temp warning meters all of GReddy branding.

"What's with the zip ties?" I asked Nakai-san as I perilously scanned through the car. "Were you a one-time drifter?" Nakai-san responds with a laugh saying, " You know, this car goes through so many changes, it's a case of finishing up the vehicles final shakedown before I finalize the whole interior setup. It's important for me to have all gauges and electronics easily accessible when I'm on the track."

Just as the final words leave his lips, the photographer barked instructions to move the car to another location. With a quick sleight of hand, Nakai grips the Nardi steering wheel as he reaches out with the right hand to hit the ignition starter button located just bellow the P-Lap II timer. The engine roars to life with a staccato rumble as the RB26 beast comes to life. Notching the OS Giken cross transmission into first gear, Nakai depresses the clutch, engaging the OS Giken triple plate system, and the car begins to slowly creep towards its designated spot. With a quick blip of the throttle, the HKS boost gauge makes a quick sweeping motion as the NEKO AF700 air fuel meter gauge flashes a series of numbers; relaying to the driver that engine vitals are in perfect working condition.

Chassis flex, body roll and sloppy handling are a nightmare that no performance vehicle should ever possess. Nakai and his Canbell staff wasted no time in stripping the factory Skyline shell down to its skeletal remains in preparation to stitch weld the chassis from top to bottom. While the chassis was in the process of being strengthened, a custom chromoly cage was fabricated within the confines of the interior. Further adding to the rigidity of the vehicle are gussets that were placed throughout the cage. Once chassis modifications were complete, Nakai took to the drawing board for weeks on end to create a one-off body kit that would complement the aggressive features of the R33 Skyline.

"Since body modifications are not regulated in the series I currently campaign in, I wanted to create a kit that would make other Skyline owners envious while imposing fear on other drivers as they see me barreling down on them from their rear view mirror," said Nakai as he gleamed an evil smile. It was a painstaking process, but after months of shaping and designing, the final outcome was none other than breathtaking. Custom front and rear diffusers were implemented on the body kit as a unique dual wing delivers serious downforce on the rear end as the Skyline blasts though the Aida Ti circuit. The silky smooth exterior received its final homage with a coat of custom blue paint applied to the GT-R's skin.

With over 800 ponies hammering away under the hood, it was only a matter of time before this thoroughbreds stopping ability became a limiting factor. Luckily for the Canbell R33, years of experience on the track and testing numerous brake systems on previous race cars, helped Nakai-san come up with a serious brake combination that would cause even the most anal of road racers to shed a tear or two. Symbolic of its classic aqua blue hue, a set of Endless six-pot calipers clamp down on a pair of 380mm diameter rotors up front while an Alcon four-pot caliper and 330mm diameter rotor combination are enlisted on the rear. Enshrouding the new brake upgrades are a set of forged 18x10.5 Buddy Club P1 Racing QF series wheels with a custom +10 offset.

With the company logo emblazed on the vehicle, it was an issue of Iji (Japanese for pride) that fueled Nakai and the Canbell staff to push the envelope even further when it came to suspension modifications. Swift springs mounted on a set of fully-adjustable race-spec coilovers by Factor Racing handle the grueling punishment put forth when battling on the track. Unfortunately for Nakai, the use of a full-pillow-ball setup throughout the vehicle isn't the most comfortable of amenities, but sacrificing a cushy ride for performance makes things a little more bearable. Cusco anti-roll bars are paired off with a Cusco front strut tower bar, while a custom one-off rear brace ties the rear tower. Additional suspension tweaking was achieved with the help of custom Canbell lower and upper control arms fabricated and built in-house.

While this blue beast of the east doesn't set a new standard in horsepower records, its potent 800bhp repertoire and handling capability are a serious threat to all those who compete against it. Planning a full race season for 2006, Nakai-san currently has in the works a generation II replica with more features and, believe it or not, more horsepower. How sick is that?!

SARD Racing
Alcon Brakes
Tomei Buddy Club Racing
HKS Cusco
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