Top Gear NISMO R35

Coincidence or Fate? 1st US Nismo GTR and the Man Behind It

Nismo GTR

The First US Nismo GTR:

In the world of automobiles, there are a plethora of categories and classes of cars to choose from. You have regular people carriers such as the Honda Accord. On the other hand, you have sportier cars wearing unique badges such as STI or Stradale. This stands for Subaru Tecnica International, which is the performance division of Subaru. There are many other performance divisions such as AMG accompanied with Mercedes, while Nismo accompanied with Nissan.

So what does this all translate to? Performance rolled with a factory warranty from the manufacturer. If something goes wrong, the manufacturer will square away that issue. Now you might be asking, so now what. Let me introduce you first to Matt McCullough. He is the individual who started a forum website called NAGTROC, which stands for North American GTR Owners Club. This is a site where owners collaborate and interact. It is also a site where vendors such as AMS, Switzer, SP Engineering, or Bulletproof Automotive showcase the latest and greatest products for those owners looking to modify their GTR, but one thing that stands out is the feedback in regard to certain issues that arise whether it be an OEM manufacturer issue to something related to modification of the shifts points in the TCM computer. In my opinion, this site is like a geek squad 24/7 help desk, local bar, and a Wal-Mart tied into one. You can get technical help, chat about dinner recipes (yes they have a cooking thread on the site Haha), and having the ability to shop for parts. He’s been an advocate for the Nissan, Nismo, and GTR brand for quite some time. Matt said that “it all started for me 15 years ago with Gran Turismo”. Anyhow, there are two categories of car owners. You have people that modify every aspect of the car, while you have purists, who leave the car alone and enjoy it as is. Now this is where Matt comes into play again. He is the owner of the very first Nissan Nismo GTR built for the United States.

For the most part, everyone is somewhat familiar with Nissan’s GTR. We know it has improved lap times around the hallowed Nurburgring since it’s debut, has the ability to be practical and work as a daily driver, and having the reliability in mind. For most die-hard enthusiasts, we are familiar with the old C10 Skyline (Hakosuka) as well as the R31, R32, R33, and especially the R34. Surprisingly, Nissan stopped production of the R34 and was developing a new car to take the place of it. I never knew they used a Nissan Skyline V35, which is an Infiniti G35 in the U.S. as the base to design it. After years of extensive R&D and testing, the new R35 was unveiled in 2007 at the Tokyo Motor Show. Kazutoshi Mizuno was the man behind the development of not just the R35, but also the 350Z. Anyhow, year after year, the R35 improved and acquired faster lap times. In 2012, more changes were made. Below is a breakdown.

2012 DBA R35 GTR:

2012 DBA R35 GTR

Aero Upgrades:

-Reduced Coefficient of drag by 3.7% while increasing down force by 10%
-Increased airflow to engine compartment: intercooler, radiator, and brakes
-Revised front & rear bumpers


-Better quality


-HP increase: 485->530
-Torque increase: 434->448 ft/lb
-Improved exhaust as well as the ecu calibration


-Carbon-composite strut support bar
-Revised front suspension “Level Ratio”
-Modified front caster to 6 degrees
-Lighter Rays wheels


-Increased rotor diameter: 380 mm->390 mm
-Increased airflow from modified rotor thickness and cooling channels
-Revised caliper specs
-VDC ratio modified

Overall, these changes smoothed out the edges of what previous R35 owners wanted improvements on.

Black Nismo GTR

So what makes the Nismo GTR different than a regular GTR? The first change is the Nismo tuned 600-hp, 481 torque, 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine accompanied with aero parts complemented with a tuned suspension. I remember back when the first GTR was released it was making 450 hp. A few years later with a revision in 2012, the motor was producing 545 hp and 463 ft/lb of torque. That is a 55 hp and 18 ft/lb of torque difference. Four craftsmen called “Takumi” hand build the engine for every GTR that rolls off the assembly line. Before it used to be machine built. From what I’ve read when Matt released information on the Nismo GTR, it has a different setup in regard to the turbocharger to suit track use as well as changes to the suspension and tire setup. If you remember way back when Nismo built up an R34 with Nissan. The same concept applied. They redesigned the whole car from the ground up. They used carbon fiber in areas of the body to not only save weight, but also add more rigidity to the chassis. They also retuned the suspension for track use, while hand building the engine at Nismo’s sacred Omori Factory. That particular engine had transplant parts from the racecar such as the beefed up cast iron block as well as the same turbochargers used for the 24 hour Nurburgring race. Another cool fact is how limited these Nismo R35’s will be just like how they only produced twenty Nismo Z Tunes. On a side note, this concept of designing and tuning translates to the 2007 and 2008 model 350Z’s (Fairlady in Japan). The chassis was seam welded by Autech, who manufacturers race cars for Nismo. In relation, the body and aerodynamics was addressed just like Matt’s GTR. Overall, Nissan and Nismo have kept that tradition of making the ultimate of the ultimate with the R35.

NISMO GTR back home


Kevin: First let me congratulate you again on finally getting the car! I know you have been waiting for it for quite some time. So how do you feel to be the first person in the US to have a Nismo GTR? I know you were familiar with Nismo. You had a Nismo edition 350Z years ago as well as the first BE GTR a few years back.

Matt: “It’s an honor that Nissan & Nismo would do this for me. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.”

Getting the keys to the 1st Nismo GTR in the US

Kevin: So besides the usual Nismo tuned aspects of the car, what else was done differently at the factory to the engine, suspension, but also to the overall car compared to the three other model GTR’s (Premium, Black Edition, & Track Edition)?

Matt: “The chassis is welded with a special adhesive process. This gives the chassis an 8% stiffer rating than the other GTR’s. The aero is Super GT derived. It cuts down on drag and is functional. The engine uses a larger turbo and was used in the GT3 race car. The ignition timing was increased to achieve the 600 horsepower. Nismo used the same spec suspension as the Bilstein setup, but Nismo gave it their own spring and geometry setting. Front and rear bumpers are made of full carbon. The weight savings is around 30 lbs from the base car, but 45 lbs with the titanium exhaust. The U.S. spec Nismo doesn’t come with carbon seats due to DOT safety. It weighs in at 3790 lbs.”

Nismo GTR engine

Kevin: Overall, any differences that you have noticed driving that other R35 owners should know of? Is the suspension and ride comfort more forgiving in comfort mode and a drastic improvement in race mode?

Matt: “I’m still breaking the car in, but I’m not able to tell a significant difference. It is extremely stiffer than my old 12 Black Edition. The normal setting in my Nismo feels stiffer than the race mode in my 12. The comfort mode makes it manageable, but comfort wasn’t high on the priority list.

Kevin: How is the driving feel compared to the past GTR’s you have owned?

Matt: “The steering feels light and precise. On a side note in regard to the engine, the turbos sound different almost like a jet engine. I can tell from then on that these are different than the previous three model GTR’s”

Kevin: Has Nismo addressed more cooling benefits overall?

Matt: “In regard to the aero, there are more venting and duct work on the car. The cooling has been addressed, but it is more on airflow management. They haven’t added any upgraded oil coolers or transmission coolers.”

Kevin: What about the tires?

Matt: “The Nismo has a specific model tire from Dunlop. They call it the NR1. It has a different tread pattern as well as tread depth. The sidewall are stiffer for better feedback. They are the same size though, but they widened the front wheel a ½ inch for better contact patch. To my surprise, the front fender is actually wider to accommodate the wider wheel. The reason is upon putting my clear corners for the car, they didn’t sit flush like the OEM ones that came with the car.”

Kevin: What about the transmission? Have they beefed up the any of the hard components such as the transfer case or the gear set?

Matt: There aren’t any differences with the Nismo compared to a premium 15. It has a more refined transmission software logic. They tweak the settings every year to further refine the driving feel as well as performance.”

Kevin: I have noticed that you got the titanium exhaust option for your car. Any difference other than it being titanium?

Matt: “I’ve been a big fan of the Spec V. I wanted it for the motorsports heritage, but it also has functionality. There are heat sinks welded on it to draw heat out and guide air through the rear diffuser. The exhaust tone is similar to the standard exhaust. Weight savings is around the 12-15 lb range.”

Nismo GTR titanium exhaust

Kevin: Any future plans with the car? I know this is a very limited edition car, but to me it seems like there is nothing else to add on.

Matt: “No mods. I just want to use the car for what it was made for. I made it clear to Nissan to use this car to hone my skills and build up the Nissan Nismo brand. Expect more track time, auto crossing, and drag strip passes in the future once break in is over.”

Kevin: Do you think the R35 platform as a whole still has more room to improve? Or will it transition into the upcoming R36?

Matt: “It has plateaued…it’s still at the top, but once it hit that plateau the other brands have caught up. We are at the end of the R35 line, but there is still a few years left with it. The r36 is definitely on the way.

Kevin: I remember driving the Nissan Vision Concept 2020 in Gran Turismo 6.

Matt: “The concept 2020 is a sneak peek toned down version of it.”

Kevin: Any shot outs that you want to give?

Matt: “Yeah, Nismo Japan, Nissan North America, and all the NAGTROC members for the support. It all started with Gran Turismo with the Nismo GTR. It’s surprising to think 15 years back that this would ever happen.”

Thank you Nismo Japan and Tochigi factory for the 1st US Nismo GTR

Kevin: Thank you for your time Matt and it was an honor to interview the first Nismo GTR owner! Keep us posted on your overall experience with the car.

Matt: “Absolutely. Once I get some break in miles on, expect track, auto x, drag strip times and videos. Follow me @MCGTRNISMO on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.”

My thoughts:

All in all, the Nissan GTR to me is a very precise tool with many uses. You can go to the drag strip, clock a 10 second quarter mile, pick the kids up from school, while stuffing the trunk with your weekly groceries. Even with Matt’s Nismo GTR, you can essentially do the same thing. It might be a rougher ride, but this was built for one purpose and that is to perform. I can now clearly see how Nismo used their same concept of designing the R34 Z Tune to Matt’s Nismo GTR. They both use carbon fiber body parts with actual race derived aerodynamics. It even translates further in the engine department with parts used in the actual race cars. You can clearly see how much pride and effort that Nissan and Nismo take to make something special. For Matt he owns a piece of history accompanied with an experience he will never forget. Overall, the R35 pushed car manufacturers beyond what they believed possible. I’m anxious to see how Matt likes the car and see what kind of times his car puts down. Moreover, I hope Nissan and Nismo push harder in the future development of these cars. Stay tuned for a follow up interview!

And now the videos!


YouTube video

Nissan Press Release event with Matt:

YouTube video

2015 Nismo GTR R35 Photo Gallery: