The first generation R35 GT-R came out in 08-09 depending where you were and they re-wrote the supercar rulebook. My first cost £54200 when new, which when you compare it to the 911 turbo or GT3 they belittled, it has to be considered one of the great fast car bargains. But how have the early cars aged? Well i’m going to answer that now. I was very unlucky when purchasing mine as Covid-19 rocked up maybe a month or two into my ownership. This resulted in only 2700 miles being covered over a 5 month period and the poor thing sat with nothing to do for weeks at a time.
I hated my R35 a little bit when I first got it, I couldn’t believe something so advanced could behave so badly at times. You’d go for a 3-point turn or reversing manoeuvre and the change from 1st to reverse was like being kicked by Chuck Norris. Repeated clunks bangs and other reassuring noises from the transmission tunnel were somewhat disconcerting. But it grew on me I came to love how analogue it felt, with good steering response and it’s propensity to oversteer when pushed hard. A miss-judged entrance to a bend under heavy braking, then saw lift-off oversteer. Which gave me an entertaining fright.
The early CBA cars ride badly. They’re downright unpleasant at times, great for handling, very bad for your back. I used to find myself flinching at an approaching bump or dip in the road it was that bad. However you do get used to it over time. With the “comfort” setting engaged the car is very slightly less brutal and that’s the best you’re going to get. In relative terms though for around £30-35k you’re getting something which will set blistering lap times and engage you on a twisty A-road on the way home from work. So basically pick your battles.
The R35s dual clutch was very cutting edge in 2008. However now it’s feeling a little dated, with occasional lurches as a gear is engaged. A clutch re-learn via ECUTEK or COBB can soften this but the characteristic is still there. My first R35 had a Litchfield clutch upgrade which gave me confidence despite the extra power, but shifts were still a little jerky at times. Early cars were known to have gearbox failures, but this is due to old software and repeated launches. Look for a car with modern software that’s not been launched tons of times and all should be well. I found in “normal” mode the automatic box collects gears but won’t give them back. You’ll be sat at 33mph in 6th but it’s too stupid to drop down a gear. My solution was to spend 99% of my time in manual mode.
A sparsely equipped cabin,means no prizes for guessing where Nissan saved money. CBA cars come with half leather seats but a touch-screen infotainment unit. Compared to German rivals the interior feels a bit cheap and shit. But I’ll be honest daily driving mine I quickly got used it and it’s perfectly fine to live with. I didn’t have any blown speakers in mine or any rattling trim pieces but I may have been lucky. Materials felt a bit cheaper but overall they’re pretty well made.
I’ve nothing against the newer GTR models, in fact the face lifted DBA cars 2011+ are my favourite. But for £28-35k the CBA really is worth a punt. They’ll have some cosmetic issues here and there but a well serviced example is more than capable of keeping you grinning. Personally i wouldn’t pay £8-12k more for the DBA but I understand why people do. Smoother gearboxes , longer service intervals and more modern appearance to name a few. The CBA cars are good and honestly I don’t think they can be matched bang for buck, especially a tuned one. Anything stage 2 or above will be absolutely capable of sticking with most things on the road and even more so the bends.