The early ’90s was a golden era of motoring for the nation of Japan. Unprecedented economic growth coupled with an ambition to cement their place in history as one of the most forward-thinking and innovative automobile-producing nations on the planet resulted in every single manufacturer during this period producing a fun, affordable, reliable and stylish series of world-beating sports cars for every segment across the market.

While it remains a hotly debated moot as to which manufacturer reigned supreme for their halo cars, it’s difficult to look past the motorsport achievements of the Nissan Skyline R32 GTR as one of the last truly homologated road-legal race cars ready to be picked up off a showroom floor.

A now bygone era of motoring philosophy – “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was no better demonstrated than in the victories secured by this now legendary icon.

With only a limited supply of GTR’s Australian delivered, most of the examples you see running around today are Japan imports, further still, because of their age, relative affordability and accessibility, most of them have at some point had panels resprayed or the entire car sprayed, been involved in accidents or have been so heavily (and sometimes badly) modified that they no longer retain an originality about them (given their tunability, it’s even more rare to find unmodified examples)

Finding a quality example wearing original factory paintwork in reasonable condition is no small task, and in recent years due to rising demand for clean examples, the value has increased dramatically over the past 5 years, to the point where some are fetching near their original retail for limited-run models and special editions.

Even if you can find one with relatively straight bodywork, clean rails, minimal or no rust and with factory original paintwork still intact, restoring it back to an “as delivered” state is not an especially simple task as Nissan used extremely thin paint that leaves little room for both improvement and defect removal.

The example we are working with here manages to tick many of the unicorn boxes. Original, unmolested bodywork, factory original paintwork with sufficient depth for correction, unmodified engine and an original interior appointment that is within the realm of restorability while attaining all originality and keeping the car in true “survivor” condition.

Although it ticks all these boxes, unfortunately, the paint left a lot to be desired with severe oxidation on the roof, bonnet and boot lid of the vehicle, as well as some unusual residue that is possibly glued from attaching the rear spoiler lip. The usual swirl marks, accidental scratching and scuffs were also present across the entire finish, the wheels upon closer inspection were also oxidised from the constant heat and brake dust exposure and required exfoliation to restore and prepare the surface for Alchemy protective coatings.

Before we even get to this stage however the necessary preparation work was carried out on the now 25 year old finish which has been subjected to unforgiving Japanese winters over it’s lifetime as well as improper maintenance technique, which in Japan is severely hampered by space (to store the car as well as maintain it) and time (Japanese working lifestyle precludes many from giving their car the attention it needs) as well as an ever-increasing cost of ownership for cars more than a few years old.

As you would expect, the car was severely riddled with bonded contamination from years of exposure. It’s important to note, that neither polishing or washing alone is capable of removing this kind of contamination. In order for a polisher to achieve removal of the kind of contamination that forms a link with the porous unprotected paint surface, you would have to remove so much material thickness from the paint that it would actually have negative consequences for the finish long term as opposed to being a beneficial restorative process.

A gentle yet effective exfoliation of removal of the buildup of industrial pollution, acid rain, limescale residue, tar and road film is required to prepare the paint to a level where the results of polishing can be objectively determined. In this regard, we used both Alchemy Redeem synthetic automotive-grade clay combined with Alchemy Optimus to remove any oil-based products designed to conceal paint defects and finally Alchemy Aperate to chemically react with ferrous oxide iron particles produced by things like rail dust, industrial fallout as well as corrosion of exposed metal from things like paint chips.

I was fortunate enough in 2017 to travel to Japan and spend a week working with Japanese detailers and got a very good understanding of the methods and techniques they use on their domestic paint systems to not only remove surface imperfections but improve upon the factory texture at the same time without compromising the material thickness.

Because of this, we were able to improve the reflected image quality of the paintwork by reducing the ripple effect that distorts the clarity of images produced by the reflections while still maintaining excellent paint depth and a swirl and scratch-free finish in only 1 step utilising the Alchemy Phoenix polishing system.

Measurements taken in accordance with ISO standards on our glarimeter showed an 87 per cent improvement in gloss readings taken before and after Phoenix had done its work. This doesn’t take into account the improvements achieved by texture reduction which only a goniophotometer can quantify accurately but does serve to demonstrate the value added by the process of reversing all the signs of age and wear without altering the car’s originality or “survivor” status.

After washing and reinspecting the paintwork further refinement was achieved bringing out the even greater depth of gloss while also priming the surface to accept a stable bond with Alchemy ceramic coating layers, which are intended to preserve this level of refinement indefinitely! maximizing the investment by securing its condition and providing the necessary base with which to maintain it without the requirement for further money or energy spent in warding off the negative effects of time.

Not just limiting ourselves to restoring the paintwork, we also replaced the badges with factory originals to complement the now perfectly presented paint, as well as degreased, conditioned and coated the external trim and rubber seals with Alchemy Excalibur which while seeming to be an innocuous detail, really sets off the effort spent on the paintwork as well as preserves an item that commonly perishes and fails and is increasingly hard to replace as the cars become rarer.

Headlights and taillights were also reverted back to optimal clarity and protected by Alchemy Excalibur to ensure they do not become faded by UV exposure ever again.

As part of our wheel restoration for this GTR, the wheel wells were degreased and decontaminated, including with Alchemy Aperate to breakdown and remove any corrosive elements that have been festering on the surface and can lead to greater problems later if left untreated.

Brake callipers, suspension struts and assembly as well as springs were all thoroughly degreased as part of this process and then spray coated in Alchemy Excalibur to provide an anti-corrosive easy to maintain a barrier against the visible signs of age.

Moving onto the interior, the carpets and mats were both steam and chemical extracted to remove 25 years worth of embedded grime in the pile of the carpet that ordinary vacuuming cannot hope to achieve.

The same was done to the front and rear seats after removing the rear seat for easier access as well as affording us the ability to extract the area underneath that would ordinarily go untouched. This not only brought the fabric back to life but sanitised and prepared the surface for Alchemy coatings to bond with and protect the fabrics and carpet from showing any further signs of wear.

Using steam vapour we deep cleaned the trim and hood lining of the interior cabin including the tiny little grooves present in the vinyl material which over the course of 25 years become encrusted with debris that simply spraying and wiping a cleaner cannot remove.

We also tackled a common problem of Japanese interior cabins of the ’90s by removing and permanently resolving the “white” trim effect on the plastic door handles. The leather on the steering wheel was gently cleaned with Alchemy Revivify, a PH neutral cleaner formulated especially for automotive leather surfaces, it cuts through body grease and oils and reveals a beautifully revived, supple and matte factory finish without causing any damage to the leather top coat.

All the vehicles rubber trims and seals were also restored and coated. It’s an area commonly overlooked for protection but particularly as cars start to age, become increasingly rare and spare parts availability diminishes, the condition of items like seals become of paramount importance.
And with that, this ageing Samurai is given something slightly more valuable than even a new lease on life! A lease can expire! but with the proper care and understanding these works won’t need to be repeated again, ensuring maximum long term value should the owner wish to store it and allow it to appreciate in value, or whether they choose to continue to operate the vehicle on a daily basis and appreciate it’s engineering prowess!

With either option, Namikon craftsmanship combined with Alchemy coatings has both angles covered simultaneously.