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I'm buying a Skyline... What should I look for?


Merli

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So you've decided to take the plunge into the rewarding world of Skyline ownership. In this brave new world, you'll find breathtaking performance, camaraderie between owners, constantly growing list of expensive modifications...

Unfortunately the first step can often be a faltering step, with many car yards and shonky private sellers out there to sell you a lemon, and believe me, there are plenty of lemon Skylines out there. From accident damaged Skylines, to rebirthed, stolen, and/or submerged Skylines, there are many things to check before handing over your hard earned cash for your new car.

This is a list compiled from the input of several members, and if you have anything else to add, please feel free to do so!!

Check (if you live in usa): Kroger Weekly Ad, or Myer catalogue.
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First points:

Check the car when it's clean. Ask the seller to wash the car before you go and see it. Dirt tells a lot of lies.

Check the car during the day. NEVER look at a car at night. If possible, look at it on a sunny day so you can use the sun to check the paintwork.

Examine the car up-close AND from a distance (front and back, and both sides).

Open and close all doors, boot, bonnet, and any panels that can open and shut.

What questions should I ask the buyer/myself? (Remember ask the seller the questions, but answer them yourself with your own eyes and brain):

Does the seller have a genuine reason for selling?

Does it have a full service record of it's life in Japan? (If it does, check that it's real and not forged. This is very rare as Japanese owners rarely throw the Service or Owners Manuals in the car when it goes to auction)

If it's a local car, does it have a full service record of it's time in Australia?

Has the car been in any previous accidents? Ask, but don't take the seller's word for it.

Look for yourself!

- Check the nuts along the front quarter panels and the radiator support in the engine bay... Are there signs of those nuts being removed? If so, ask yourself why.

- Check for other signs of engine removal. Has the engine been removed? Why?

- Check the paintwork!!! Check that all the paint on the panels match colour tone and depth. Stand back from the car at a slight angle and run your eyes along the panels with the sunlight and check for any blending marks. Look for ripples, waves, poorly fitted panels and mismatched colors.

What condition are the tyres in? Are the rear tyres worn a lot more than the fronts? If they are, I'm pretty sure you can figure out what the previous owner's driving style is like. Remember to factor in the price of replacement tyres into the buy cost. Don't skimp on tyres or continue to use bald ones. They're the only things sticking your ass onto the road and saving your life. Check for even wear marks, uneven wear indicates bad wheel alignment. Another thing you'll have to fix. More money.

Check the condition of the interior. Does the wear and tear on the steering wheel and driver's seat match the kms shown on the odometer?

Which brings you to checking the kms. Is this a 1994 Skyline with 30,000kms? It's 2004 now, do you really think the previous owner drove 3000kms a year? Contrary to popular belief, Japanese owners drive their car a LOT, just as much as we do. Expect to find in the range of 9000-13000kms per year on the odometer reading. Don't convince yourself that this is a "rare super buy with low km granny owner driven on weekends car"... Bullshit. It's a Skyline you idiot. Check that the numbers on the odometer are aligned properly.

Carefully push down on the front bumper and rear bumper and see how the shocks are. Ideally, shocks and springs should be rebuilt/replaced every 60,000kms, but this never happens.

Check for rust. Surface rust is okay and needs to be cleaned and treated with fish oil to stop further growth. Look for rust around the bottom of the doors and fenders, and around the boot area... Basically where water has a chance to sit and gather.

Check that the compliance plate date and make sure everything is okay.

Check to see if the car has any defectable modifications. Are you happy with those? Rembember if you get defected for them, that will cost you many hundreds of dollars.

Detailed Checklist:

Body:

Check for bubbles along molding or chrome (indicates rust underneath).

Stand back approximately 10 to 15 feet from the car and see if the car is level.

Interior:

Compare mileage on service stickers (door jamb/under hood) to the odometer reading.

Check the condition of the seats, belts and carpeting.

Check the windows to see if they open and close easily.

Check the brake, accelerator and clutch -- should work smoothly, no strange noises.

Check all exterior lights and flashers on the car.

Make certain that the air conditioning blows very cold air.

Check the glove box for the service manual and owner's manual. (Probably won't be there :D)

Engine:

Check for leaks in the Power Steering, Clutch Reservoir, Brake Fluid Reservoir, ABS Unit.

Get the engine compression tested and if it fails that, do a leak-down test.

Check the engine belts and hoses for cracks and wear.

Radiator coolant should be a clean, usually greenish (but sometimes blue or yellow) color.

Pull out the oil dipstick. Oil should not be gummy or grayish or smell burnt.

Check automatic transmission fluid, should be clear and reddish.

Check the spark plugs to check for overfuelling, detonation, sulphur deposits from octane booster.

Put the car on the dyno if you want to. I usually do as a last step just for interests sake. If it passed the compression test the engine should be okay.

Undercarriage:

GET THE CAR UP ON A HOIST!!!! How can you thoroughly check for accident damage if you don't look underneath the car where the most obvious signs of repair lie?

Look for weld marks, or thick black underbody tar. Welding marks are usually hidden by panel beaters with lots of underbody tar.

Check under the engine for leaking oil. Alternatively, if it has been wiped clean (the bottom of the engine, ie. the sump and crossmember), ASK YOURSELF WHY!! Who wipes the bottom of their engine? Be VERY wary of clean underbodies.

Check for leaking transmission fluid, power steering fluid, etc...

Check each and every shock absorber for leaks. Shock aborbers are expensive to rebuild.

Look for overspray on the bottom of the car, like the tow hook or suspension parts. This is a tell-tale sign of a respray.

Boot:

Look inside the trunk for an inflated spare tire. Has it been used?

There should be a jack and a lug wrench and wheel chock. Most came with a leather pouched tool kit with screwdriver, and allen keys too.

Check around the water galleries for rust.

Pull out the spare wheel and check the boot floor for rust and accident damage/repair.

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Take it for a drive:

DON'T SWITCH ON THE RADIO/CD... It will mask any squeeks or rattles the car might have.

Start the engine and check the warning lights and gauges.

Check for normal operating oil pressure.

Check that the steering wheel doesn't shake above 100km/h (arbitrary value, but choose a high one). If it shakes, it might mean it needs a wheel alignment, or that the car has had horrible accident repairs. Previously accident damaged cars with suspension damage almost NEVER EVER drive straight and true again.

How does the gearbox feel? Smooth to shift? or notchy and graunchy to put into gear? Any gearbox whine? Any grinding on gear changes? Might mean worn out synchros.

Drive the car on hills, highways and in stop-and-go traffic.

Listen for noises which could indicate engine problems.

Put the car in neutral and rev the engine. Check for smoke from rear exhaust.

Punch the gas pedal. Does engine respond without hesitation then return to normal?

Check the lights on the control panels. Make sure they all work.

Does automatic transmission shift smoothly?

Clutch should engage and disengage smoothly without grabbing.

Floor it at 3000rpm in 4th gear to make sure the clutch isn't slipping.

Drive in reverse.

Does car pull or vibrate when driving on a flat, smooth road?

Do the brakes grab evenly and does the car slow down in a straight line? Make sure it doesn't pull to one side under brakes.

Drive at 60km/h and listen for any unusual noises.

Accelerate to 80km/h, does the front end shake or vibrate?

Drive quickly over a rough road and listen for any loud squeaks or rattles.

Does the car bounce or bang over small bumps?

Check the temperature gauge to see if it shows a high reading

Accelerate hard on an empty road, does the car respond immediately? Try it again.

Accelerate on a hill, does the car respond immediately?

Cut off the engine. Then restart the engine -- does it restart easily?

Nissan Skyline-Specific Details:

Unfortunately, Skylines are commonly targetted by thieves who feel that they are too fsuking stupid to make a living doing anything legally. (I hate thieves more than anything) And believe it or not, Japan has thieves too (albeit a LOT less than we do). There is a large market for stealing cars and forging their identity and putting them back on the market. This is called "rebirthing"... Here's how it's done.

The BLUE Nissan Build Plate should have the details PRINTED on it... i.e. If you run your fingers over the details printed on it, it should be smooth. IT SHOULD NOT BE ENGRAVED... If it's engraved, it has a fake Nissan Build Plate with a fake Chassis Number. These are forged and put on stolen cars with a new and legitimate chassis number.

This BLUE Nissan Build Plate *should* also have two white plastic rivet-like fasteners holding it on... If they're missing, ask yourself why. The Build plate should NEVER be removed, unless perhaps for a full respray including engine bay...

How's this for a story. I checked out a 1997 Series 3 Silver R33 GTR a few years ago. It had this engraved Nissan Plate, but at the time I didn't know that this meant that it was a forged build plate. I had a very close look at the paint, and it was immaculate. DEFINITELY factory paint, so I was happy about that. I wrote down the chassis number, paint code and all the rest of the details from the BLUE Nissan Build Plate and the GREEN Compliance Plate. The details matched, but I thought I'd check them out anyway. So I rang a contact at a Nissan Spare Parts dealership and gave them the Japanese chassis number (not the import one that's given to the car at compliance) and asked him to tell me the details of the car. He told me that it was indeed a 1997 Series 3, but it was QM1 White, not KR3 Silver like the paint on the car. This made me very confused as that chassis number DEFINITELY belonged to a QM1 White car, but the car DEFINITELY had factory KR3 Silver paint!! It suddenly hit me that the car had been stolen in Japan, and the theives forged a real Series 3 chassis number and put it on the car. The car came to Australia and was complied with that forged chassis number, so everything matched up with the Australian compliance details!!! If they had chosen a chassis number of a KR3 Silver car, there would have been NEXT TO NOTHING to indicate that the car had been rebirthed! The only thing that would be telling would have been the engraved BLUE Nissan Build Plate. Please be VERY careful.

A few more points to remember:

Accident damage is a very subjective thing. If it's had panel damage, then all it means is the car is wearing new clothes. Doesn't affect the way the car performs, and if it's been repaired professionally, there really isn't anything wrong with it and it shouldn't put you off buying it.

HEAVILY accident damaged cars with suspension damage almost NEVER drive straight again. Do you want iffy steering when barrelling down the straight of Eastern Creek at 240km/h? Steer CLEAR away from these cars.

Do not be afraid to take up the salespersons' time.

Stay in control. Do not let anyone talk you into buying a vehicle you do not want.

Don't buy the vehicle the first time you see it. Go home and have a GOOD think about it. One more day isn't going to kill you, but it might stop you from making a bad impulse decision.

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  • 5 months later...

For the people who are interested in buying an R31...

This is a list that has been compiled by forum members from the R31 Skyline club, to help you make an informed decision when you buy your car.

What should I look for when I want to buy an R31?

Exterior:

Evidence of resprays

Cracks in indicators/ head lights /tail lights

Water in head lights/ tail lights (common)

Rust - common areas are on the roof near the windscreen, around tail lights, underneath rear spoilers, bottoms of the doors, above the rear doors and near the hinges on the doors, on wagons check the tail gate.

Remove spare tyre, jack, and carpet from boot and see if there's water in the bottom of the boot.

Wheels/scrapes

If it's a Ti, check the clear coat on the wheels, if the car has locknuts, make sure the current owner has the correct tool for them :)

Condition of tyres

Thickness of rotors

Brake pads / brake discs (pulling to the side on hard braking, squealing, grinding etc)

Interior:

Lights check/ dash gauges/ trip computer /clock

Electrics- power windows/ mirrors/ aerial

Cruise control (Ti)

Air vents (check that all vents move, and test that the heater cable is still connected, by moving the selector)

Lights in doors

Lights in roof

Indicators, headlights, high beams, hazard lights, number plate lights

Steering wheel (make sure the wheel isn't separating from the wire inside)

Rear demister

Door locks/ central locking

Seats: check that they are secure & dont wobble

Engine/mechanical:

Exhaust manifold studs

Diff - listen for clunks & whining

Check for fluid leaks (is the car parked on grass or gravel? If so, be suspicious!)

Check colour of radiator fluid (should show no signs of rust)

Autos: check colour of tranny fluid (shouldn't have dirty or metallic specs in it, and shouldn't smell burnt)

Leaking steering rack (Look for greasy stuff all over the rack).

Corroded Crank Angle Sensor Plug.

Spark plug condiiton (not running too hot, oil on plugs etc)

Windscreen washer bottle/ motors prone to leaks

Excessive lifter noise (tick tick tick tick) -NOTE!! All RB30 motors will tick, don't be too stressed about ticking, only be concerned if it sounds NASTY!

Before you start the car, pop the bonnet and have a look at the motor.

Move your hands over things (even if you don't know what you're looking at :() if there is any warmth in the motor to indicate that the car has been running, it may have cold start issues. (The seller may have warmed the car up before you came to inspect it)

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  • 2 months later...

Some notes after looking at seemingly nice Series 1.5 at a dodgy dealer:

Look for rust on the roof, on the door hinges (look between the guard and an open door), under the spoiler, shock towers. Another popular spot is around the rear guard from the weel scraping it (lowered/bigger rims).

My girlfriend and I are working on teh theory that the R33 imported at this time (Oct 2004) would have a bit more rust than a similar car that has been in Australia for a couple of years. This could be because of:

- Subjected to worse weather in Japan

- Held in an auction car park for a few months. very little scratches will evolve faster under rain/sea breaze. Hence the car imported 3 years back would be affected less.

This all of course can be outweighed by how the car has been cared about, garaged, serviced etc.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Get the car on a Dyno. You either get the car tuned befor you buy it or you walk away saving big money. I looked at mine for 4 hours on three seperate days. Finally got the thing it leaned out and killed the engine. Fuel pump / injector clean / after market blowoff valve fault. :microwave If only I got it on a dyno sooner

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hi i have a couple of things to add to the R32 list.

Engine Bay

there should be a metallic sticker on top of the cambelt cover with a space to fill out when the cam belt was changed. If there is no sticker, not even a discoloured mark where it should be then treat the speedo reading with doubt. Of course theres nothing to stop people replacing the instrument cluster altogether.

ABS units get tired and start leaking, 2nd hand $300-400 + fitting, rebuild about $600.

Suspension

squeaks from the front usually have some connection to 'those' upper arms, they dont last all that long especially on our roads. Nissans rrp is $440 pair + fitting.

check for wet bushes - front castor bushes aftermarket $140 pr + fitting ( non adj.)

rear end on 4wd Skylines, the subframe bushes in front of the rear axle are silicon filled. The subframe bushes behind the rear axle are solid rubber and last well. aftermarket cost $160 (set of 4) + about 10 hours to remove subframe, bushes and refit everything, could be around $800 - $1000.

check those shocks for leaks, a decent set will be around $1100 + fitting. There are no $50 shocks for these cars.

Interior

those vents are pricy, left hand side around $100, centre around $140

watch out for aftermarket steering wheels - they can affect the HICAS if not fitted correctly, car will drive weird .

also check the instrument cluster when you turn ignition on, there should be a hicas light come on with the oil pressure light etc. People remove the bulb when the HICAS is dodgy.

4wd systems

check for lights on dash coming on, it canbe just the fluid level in boot resovoir, the level should be checked when the car is running. P.s. when you turn ignition on you should hear a whirring noise as the 4wd pump primes up the system.

make sure the tyres front and rear are same overall circumference as this will prematurely wear out the clutches in the 4wd transfer case.

p.s. make sure you have enough funds in bank to maintain the car, they are a great performance bargain 2nd hand but new part prices are expensive, remember those gts4's were around $80,000 and GTRs $110,000 new.

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  • 3 weeks later...

there is great detail here guys thanx heaps.

i know this might sound silly but i must ask. how do i know what year GTR i am buying, i realise the rego sticker says 94 but is there any way of telling from chasis numbers or engine numbers? if somone could post up the codes that would be greatly appreciated. thank you.

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if you cant see any paint probs run a magnet over the car to check for bog. most repairers are very tallented and are able to hide it very well, thats what they are paid for

if the magnet falls off the car then its been crashed and bogged.

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  • 1 month later...

Firstly, thanks for everyone chipping in and expanding this checklist! :P

Secondly, as this is the Tutorials/DIY/FAQ forum, not many people come in here to answer your questions. You'd be much better served if you posted your questions in the General Automotive Discussion Forum, as your questions will be answered much faster! :)

But just as a matter of interest how many cars would you say are out there that are heaps of junk but look real nice (as in u know nice bodykit and paint job etc)?  because i know looks can be deceiving.

Now I don't want to go around slandering people or businesses, so I'll just answer this question briefly. Car yards are in the business of making money. Since they are in the industry, car yard owners ALWAYS have excellent contacts and friends who run panel beating shops. Car yard owners make the most profit by purchasing smashed and heavily damaged cars for pennies (either locally or from Japanese auctions) and get them repaired and repainted here by their mates.

Ever wonder by BBToys (Parramatta Rd, Victoria Rd, etc... hopefully you know who I'm talking about) always have Yellow and Green Soarers, Pink and Orange Skylines, Candy apple red and Lilac FTOs in their yard? :(

So, what happens if i go look at my car now, and find that its a rebirth???

Just hope that the police never find it, as they are completely in their right to confiscate the car and return it to the original insurance company who paid out the claim of the original owner. If they do that, you get NOTHING in return except for a handshake and pat on the back.

i know this might sound silly but i must ask. how do i know what year GTR i am buying, i realise the rego sticker says 94 but is there any way of telling from chasis numbers or engine numbers? if somone could post up the codes that would be greatly appreciated. thank you.

Yes, you can take the chassis number from the BLUE Nissan Build plate in the engine bay and ring a Nissan Spare Parts dealership. Give them the Chassis number and they should be able to look up the details of the car (Month/Year of Manufacture, Paint Code, Engine Number, etc etc) for you on their parts database. If you happen to call an unhelpful Spare Parts Department, don't give up... Just call another one. It's easy for them to look up, you just have to find a helpful Spare Parts Advisor.

WilliamsRacing, do what I said above to check your chassis number.

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Since posting this thread a year ago, I have gotten a lot more experience in identifying automotive smash repairs... I'll cover a few points for you:

1. Check headlight/tail-light alignment. They should have perfect gap between them and the fenders and bumpers. Uneven alignment means that they've been taken out and put back in askew. Ask yourself why?

2. Run your eyes along the bodywork and look for paint runs. That is, the paint was sprayed on too thick and dried in "drip marks"... These are commonly found in crevices or join areas. e.g. along the bottom of window seals, the bottom corner of the rear quarter window, the bottom of the A-pillar, etc etc.

3. Look for blending marks. Usually found somewhere along the top or bottom of the C-Pillar, you'll see a slight straight line bump where the spray painted has tried to blend in the new paint with the old. Blending marks can be anywhere depending on where the accident occured, but usually found along large panels that can't the sprayed individually and has to be blended (e.g. the roof's connection to the rest of the body and the rear quarter panels)

4. Look for masking marks. This is where the spray painter has masked off an area of the car that he doesn't want to paint. Masking marks are rough lines of paint where the paint has seeped under the masking tape and hasn't dried smoothly. They'll usually be visibly rougher than the rest of the paint, and rough when you run your fingers over them as well. Most common masking marks are found in door jambs, so open up all those doors, boot, bonnet and check very carefully.

5. Check for paint defects. That is, dirt that was on the car whilst it was being resprayed. They'll show up as tiny, tiny sand-particle sized bumps in the paint. They should be visible when you look at the panels at an angle, but you have to be conscious to look for them. You can also feel them when you run your hand over the paint. I have never seen a factory car with these defects as they would be fixed before delivery.

6. Check for delaminating clear coats. If the clear coat was sprayed on too soon after the colour layers, it won't bond properly to the layers underneath. As a result, you'll be able to see the clear coat "lifting" off the undercoats and it will be brittle and crack off when you touch it. This can be found anywhere, but I found it on one car at the bottom of the A-Pillar. common sense would suggest this delamination would start at sharp edges like the edges of panels and bends in panels.

7. Take the car to a trusted panel beater. They have a paint thickness tester which is basically a magnet that measures the distance between the metal bodywork and the magnet... i.e. the thickness of the paint. Most factory paintjobs will have a paint thickness of about 50-60 microns. But what you're REALLY looking for is a large DIFFERENCE in paint thickness.

e.g. If the roof, boot, rear quarter panels and doors have 60 microns, and the bonnet and front fenders have 130 microns, what does that suggest to you? :P Obviously if the whole car is showing 150 microns it's probably had a full respray. Cars that have been rubbed back to bare metal, repaired and then resprayed by a skilled panel beater are harder to uncover... But that is very very rare as it costs mucho dinero in labour to rub back a car to bare metal and respray.

Any car that I'm looking to buy, I do the following things:

1. Check out the car myself using the checkpoints listed in this thread.

2. Take it to my mechanics and get it up on a hoist to check for underbody damage that I wouldn't have been able to spot in my initial inspection. Get a compression test done on the engine and put it on the dyno.

3. Take it to my panel beater and get him to have a quick look at it. They do this everyday of their lives and they can spot 1000 times more paint defects in one quick walk around the car, than you could in 8 hours of looking at it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

hey guys can i ask some things, when buying a car do you really do all these things that is posted above ?

i would deffinatly want to test it how it sais above, but im almost 100% sure that the seller will refuse half those things, after all no one wants someone driving there car and revving the crap out of it, then saying "nah sorry i dont want the car"

and i dont think they will let you take it to be HOISTED and stuff.

how do you guys go about convincing the seller to let you do all these things to there car ?

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  • 2 weeks later...

If the owner won't let you hoist the car, compression test the engine, etc, etc, then don't buy it. You'll have to flip the bill for whatever you do though and that can really add up if you're unlucky enough to find a coupe of consecutive duds.

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  • 1 month later...
hey guys can i ask some things, when buying a car do you really do all these things that is posted above ?

i would deffinatly want to test it how it sais above, but im almost 100% sure that the seller will refuse half those things, after all no one wants someone driving there car and revving the crap out of it, then saying "nah sorry i dont want the car"

What you can do is - if you're satisfied with the car after you've inspected it yourself thoroughly and you really like the car and want it. Tell the seller, you'll give him a healthy deposit (so he knows your serious) and pay for an inspection at a mechanic/panel beater and if all is well after that (or at least only a couple of small things are required) then go from there, write out a little contract or something stating that if the bill for anything comes to over like $300 then you will not buy the car and want your deposit back. Something like that, I found a great template to use for that kind of thing in another forum I'll try and find.

Basically though the seller shouldn't hesitate in getting the car inspected (especially at your expense) UNLESS they have something major to hide.

I know what you mean though, I mean I wouldn't want to thrash someones car on a test drive and then say "no i dont want it" afterwards even though the car is fine just cause I changed my mind on something about the car or something like that, but then again it is a Skyline not a Camry so it shouldn't have a problem really copping a bit of a lead foot every now and then :(

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  • 3 months later...

You may even want to ask for the auction sheet to check the original condition of the car at the sale of auction.

You never know, it may have been banged up badly and then repaired to resemble an auction grade 4 car.

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  • 5 months later...

1 question, how do you work with annoying fussy sellers? eg they work and can only be available weekends when all the work shops are closed?

i faced this problem and couldnt get RACV to check out the car coz he was working or they didnt work weekends (or maybe they do and the weekend was to far away)

also if there busy and you want to take the car to workshops etc. mayb they dont have all day etc etc...

or should all buyers just not bother and walk away if they dont co-operate?

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hey i'm a bit concerned now about my car being a rebirth,

R32 GTR

is there anything else that can give it away, like i know there is the blue nissan build plate, and silver compliance plate.

and the vin is stamped into the firewall and the drivers side strut tower, is it stamped or are there plates anywhere else that ppl dont usually bother replacing that i can look to check the numbers?

also i would have thought it would be impossible to cover up these stamped chassis nmbers, i mean i get how they make new engraved plated and rivit them on, but how do they get rid of the old stamped vin numbers if its a rebirth, and how can i check to see if it is???

any info would be appreciated, im scared now and dont want my car confiscated!!!

cheers

dan

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