Trundling gently up and down this road for car-to-car shots, we’ve held up a couple of cars, and the old Ford Ka has been delayed a bit longer than most. So when it slows to a halt as we’re turning around for another run, I’m braced for a scowl or maybe a hand gesture. I look across and the lady in her 50s is gesticulating alright. But she’s giving the double thumbs up and smiling madly. Before pulling away she shakes her head like she just can’t believe she’s seeing a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, blows a few kisses, and is gone.
I’ve been fortunate enough to drive some great cars in great locations and I’ve never experienced such universally positive reactions as greeted the R34 when we turned up in Margate. There’s probably no more subtle a colour than silver and this UK-spec car has the standard twin-pipe back-box rather than the optional Nismo drainpipe, so it’s quieter than a 370Z, but as we amble along the seafront on this busy, sunny afternoon, I’m getting a taste of what it must be like to be a celebrity. At one end of the scale there’s nudging and pointing, double-takes and ‘subtle’ raising of camera phones, and at the other plain awe, reverence and wild enthusiasm, occasionally with sweary, can-you-believe-this?! shouting. And it’s all sorts of people too, from kids to pensioners, parents to you. No question, driving an R34 gets you a whole lotta love.
Back in the spring of 1999 when I first drove one, the R34 was a stranger in the UK. It was evo’s cover car on issue 009 and it was an import – quite possibly the first – loaned to us by Simon Lerner of Intercar (still sourcing specialist Japanese cars today). I don’t recall it being spotted by anybody on our whistle-stop 24-hour trip from London to North Wales and back. It was a huge step on from the chubbier- looking R33 and more aligned visually with the delectable R32, the first Skyline GT-R to make it here, in tiny numbers via grey importers such as Intercar and Rare Imports.