Auzzie Write up about GTiR


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Although never officially sold on the Australian market, the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R has a strong following built on a steady supply of grey and private imports. Joe Kenwright looks at one of the most awesome hot hatches ever built

Audi quattro generated stream of me-too Japanese rally specials including Monte Carlo Mazda 323 seen here as Ford TX3 Turbo 4WD. The real duck's guts was the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R launched in August 1990 for a WRC rally attack came with 170kW, 1240 kg and ATTESA four wheel drive system. Detuned SR20DET Turbo engine arrived later in local 200SX. Early Prince grille badge linked it to elite Skyline GT-R, mid-life facelift had Nissan badges before December 1994 exit. European GTI-R detuned to 162kW for 95 RON and called Sunny. Japanese 170kW grey imports need 98 RON or higher. The GTI-R was part of N14 range launched in Australia later in 1991 but GTI-R does not line up with any local Pulsars as three door was not sold here. Global GTI-R hot-up industry leaves few examples standard.

Start just under $15,000 for scruffy early examples, later cars peak around $20,000. Mint original or highly modified examples approach $25,000 but add-on gear must be professionally-sorted to satisfy fussy techno buyers. Potential classic. Correct GTI-R model name will draw a blank on used car sites, which list it as a GTIR.

Forget Pulsar shopping jeeps as ballistic GTI-R belongs in rarefied EVO and STi territory. Cult status as seriously fast driver's car ready for street cruises and blistering track days but preventative maintenance is critical. Most already seriously thrashed with engine chips and turbos boosted beyond factory durability levels before they left Japan. Rare rally version had throwaway plastic interior and steel wheels ready for full rally kit.

Tough GTI-R driveline includes strong double synchro 5-speed manual, centre viscous diff, open front diff, viscous rear diff and reasonably strong clutch. Its own worst enemy as it will take massive upgrades after Mazdas and Subarus break leaving you to fix the overlooked areas.

Check any driveline whines or rumbles with suspicion as destroyed diffs and hubs cost thousands to replace. Dipsticks load them up with fat sticky tyres, crank up the boost and let fly with four wheel burnouts. Four stud hubs and wheel centres, clutch, hub bearings and driveshafts can only take so much. Check the whole car for structural damage and fatigue from ongoing track and rally competition in Japan and here. Look for signs of roll cage, leftover wiring and mounting points for electronics in the glovebox and around the dash.

Engine is strong but extra heat in boosted or chipped engines destroys oil seals and valve steam seals. Garrett T3 hybrid turbo lasts but heat-destroyed internal seals will feed oil into intercooler and engine. Rattly timing chain must be replaced before it breaks. Internal oil spray jets for pistons are critical but dirty oil will block them. Clean premium oil, coolant and filters are a must to protect grenade of an engine. Look for cracked or loose exhaust and dump pipe, broken engine mounts and worn propshaft joints. Pinging engines may have ruined pistons and bearings.

Correct model code is RNN14. Some imports were complianced legally then had ADR items removed before sale for certifying the next one. Others arrived as parts wrecks, escaped duty then registered with ID from local Pulsar SSS write-off hence no local compliance and potential for being put off the road. Odometers often wound back to 65,000-75,000 km between Japan and Australia. Good ones have full Japanese and local history including documented compliance.

Usual Nisan interior fittings and controls fail including heater fans and electric windows. Count the rattles. Is the body loose beyond repair? Can you insure it? High desirability makes lock-up storage and custom alarm essential.

Rear struts and clever lateral links play active role in limiting 4WD understeer and need careful re-alignment if ride height and wheel offset changed. Check for undersized rotors, cracked wheels and scrubbed tyres front and rear as both do it hard under ATTESA point and squirt driving style.