Vehicles over 25 years old can be imported into the United States legally, allowing JDM fans to enjoy earlier iterations of the famed GT-R. Prior to this year, the newest GT-R that could be imported was the third-generation R32, but the gates finally opened in 2020 for the first year of the fourth-generation GT-R, the famed R33.
Released in January of 1995, the R33 GT-R was a benchmark car for Nissan. Powered by the venerable RB26 inline-six, the R33 featured a pair of updated turbochargers with ceramic internals, differentiating it from its R32 predecessor. The new sequential units produced enough boost to pump out a conservatively rated 276hp, with independent dyno testing recording results well in the 300 wheel-horsepower range.
The GT-R has always been a car known for its grip, and the R33 doesn’t disappoint. Equipped with Nissan’s HICAS rear-wheel steering and all-wheel-drive, the performance coupe was lauded for its all-weather capability and poise in the twisties.
With the moratorium on stateside procurement of the R33 recently lifted, our friend Rutledge Wood decided that he needed one for himself. Rutledge turned to Top Rank Importers in Cypress, California, who tracked down his ideal car: a virtually-stock Midnight Purple R33.
Maybe we should say almost ideal; before Rutledge even met his car, it made a stop at our shop for a custom exhaust system. Given the rarity of this Japanese legend, we decided to surprise him with something extraordinary.
Building The ExhaustWhen Rutledge’s car arrived at the shop, the already installed period-correct aftermarket exhaust wasn’t in great condition. Although we love seeing period-dated aftermarket components, this system was too quiet for Rutledge’s liking and didn’t have the desired tone.
Exhaust technology has come a long way since the R33 hit the streets, so to preserve that period-correct cool factor while still giving Rutledge the latest in MagnaFlow technology, we created a one-of-a-kind exhaust system using parts from MagnaFlow’s past and present.
Reversibility is always a concern when modifying a collector car, and we kept this in mind when going to work on Rutledge’s R33. We joined the custom MagnaFlow exhaust system to the stock downpipe with a factory-style flange to ensure a tight fit and the ability to return the car to stock if desired.
The factory-style flange connects to 3.0-inch mandrel-bent piping that goes all the way to the rear of the vehicle. Mandrel-bent tubing is preferred in performance applications as it maintains the pipe diameter around curves, improving flow, reducing heat, and increasing performance. We chose a 3.0-inch diameter pipe to provide the proper level of flow for the current power figures of Rutledge’s R33, and to allow some wiggle room if he decides to increase boost down the road.
NDT ResonatorThe new piping deletes the heavy factory mid-muffler that would typically handle unpleasant exhaust frequencies known as drone. In its place we installed a MagnaFlow NDT (No Drone Technology) resonator, which is small, lightweight, and incredibly powerful. Unlike a traditional muffler resonator that is packed with material to absorb sound, an NDT resonator functions as a pressure wave chamber. The resonator matches the unwanted sound frequencies that create drone and reflects them back into the exhaust system. As a result, the frequencies are canceled out, and the driver never hears them.
The resonator is mounted at the end of a pipe that tees off of the main exhaust piping. This position allows exhaust gases to flow freely (as they will choose the path of least resistance) while still capturing unwanted sound frequencies and passing the desired frequencies through the resonator, which helps to create the signature MagnaFlow tone. After the resonated section of the exhaust is a race-bred V-band connection located just before the rear differential. Removing the rear part of the exhaust requires nothing more than an 11mm socket, making rear differential and HICAS services a breeze. Since most of the exhaust system can stay in place during routine maintenance, this V-band should make Rutledge’s R33 ownership easier down the road.
The most exciting and eye-catching component of the exhaust has to be the rear muffler. In the early 2000s, MagnaFlow manufactured a limited quantity of titanium performance exhausts as part of a special project. Positioned as a showcase of MagnaFlow’s technological and engineering capabilities, this line of titanium performance exhausts targeted the high-end import market, with systems produced for cars like the aforementioned Toyota Supra and Mazda RX-7.
The specific muffler installed on Rutledge’s R33 is the last remaining titanium muffler in MagnaFlow’s possession, and aside from rarity, it’s special for another reason. This particular muffler graced another famous Skyline GT-R back in the mid-2000s, originally installed on the Need For Speed (NFS) R34 GT-R. EA Games, the company behind the NFS video game, imported an R34 Skyline GT-R as a promotional vehicle around 2005. The R34 would go on to become the video game’s hero car, complete with a digitally-modeled MagnaFlow titanium performance exhaust. Now, that storied muffler has found a new home on Rutledge’s R33.
The muffler employs full titanium construction, making it incredibly lightweight with a unique sound. The blued titanium tip features a removable silencer that creates the ability to adjust the sound level manually, depending on driving needs. This one-of-a-kind piece is mounted in typical JDM fashion, with a slight upkick and kink to the side.
Rutledge is thrilled with the sound of his new MagnaFlow exhaust system, and we’re sure it’s the first of many modifications to come on his R33 Skyline GT-R. As the years continue to pass, we cannot wait to see more exciting cars like the R33 on U.S. streets. Hopefully, we’ll be able to give them some MagnaFlow flair too.