Meticulously built JDM cars, curated by the most reputable names in the industry. That’s a single-sentence description of what Built By Legends (BBL) is all about. But does a market even exist for these restomodded Japanese cars? And is there actually potential to grow the brand?
I remember the Built By Legends guys asking themselves these very questions, while secretly making a plan to build their first BBL car some years back. The idea seemed a little over the top at the time, yet here we are in 2023, and I’ve just driven and photographed their second Nissan Skyline GT-R build – this time a BCNR33.
Built By Legends aren’t stopping here either; there are still a dozen or so other BBL projects on the way, including the natural successor to this car, the BNR34.
So is there a market? There certainly is. In fact, I feel like Built By Legends have already created a name for themselves in the booming collectable car space – one that cannot be replicated.
I first saw this R33 at last year’s R’s Meeting, where it was shown in an almost-completed state. Now that it’s had its BNR34 Getrag 6-speed gearbox fitted and a few minor details buttoned up, Mine’s gave us access to see it before anyone else.
But more than that – they let me drive it!
Much like the BBL BNR32 Skyline GT-R – a car we featured back in 2021 – this customer-commissioned build is nothing short of automotive perfection. It’s the dream build that GT-R fanboys have pieced together in their heads time and time again, only executed in real life.
Starting with the body, the donor car was stripped down to bare metal at Garage Yoshida in Nara – a trusted master body shop that takes care of all BBL builds – before being mounted on chassis alignment machine and measured, then adjusted, until it was straighter than the day it rolled off the production line at Nissan’s Tochigi Plant.
Next was some spot welding and additional reinforcement in critical areas to increase rigidity. Garage Yoshida then sent the completed chassis off for an optional rust-preventative cationic electrodeposition coating, which is what modern day cars get prior to paint. Finally, the Skyline shell was painted alongside its removable body panels, and semi-assembled before being transported over to Mine’s.
The paint finish is faultless, as you’d expect, but what needs special mention is the carbon fiber around the exterior. BBL collaborates with Mooncraft – a specialist in composites with a lot of motorsport experience – for this aspect of their builds. In carbon, Mooncraft recreated the original Nissan front bumper and lower lip spoiler as a single piece (it’s usually a 2-piece assembly), the NACA duct-equipped hood, the front fenders, and a trunk lid with an incorporated spoiler.
They even went so far as to engineer replaceable strips under the corners of the front bumper, so that if you do end up scraping this area it’s not the carbon fiber that’s being damaged.
Design wise, it’s all OEM+ spec, the plus sign referring to the carbon construction and neat touches like that integrated trunk and lip spoiler.
Speaking of cool touches, the BBL team didn’t want to do something so drastic as to shave the antenna entirely, so instead had a more modern short rubber version made. It’s the details that matter!
By the time the car arrived at Mine’s, Nakayama-san – their experienced engine builder – already had the powerplant pieced together. Starting with a Nismo RRR 2.8L RB block, Mine’s have created one of the most powerful and responsive engines they’ve ever put their name to. The official figure is 650hp, and having felt the explosive force once the boost kicks in, I’d say that number is right on the money.
Lifting the car up reveals an underside that is just as clean as the topside. Every bolt, nut and washer, silicone hose, bracket and component is either new or refurbished. This makes the finished car is as close to factory-fresh as possible.
Standing under the Skyline, I was able to nerd-out on the some of the upgrades, like the Trust extended oil pan welded into the cut sump, the Getrag 6-speed, and one of the very last pieces of the puzzle, the custom carbon prop shaft.
The suspension layout has been kept factory with Aragosta coilovers at the center of it all. This is one area that Built By Legends prefers not to go crazy on, as ultimately their cars are designed for the road, not the track. That said, every bushing is fresh and upgraded where it makes sense. That means firmer Nismo mounts for the engine, transmission and rear end.
Just like on the BBL BNR32, the upgraded braking package is based around AP Racing 6-pot calipers at the front and 4-pots at the rear, biting down on floating RDD slotted rotors. The old link that Mine’s had with AP Racing back in the R32 GT-R’s heyday is what pushed this choice.
Seeing as this car will initially be used as a marketing tool for BBL, all the major brands involved in the project are listed on each side of the car in JDM tuner fashion.
With all tires back on the ground, it was time to take the Built By Legends R33 GT-R out into the light of day. Oh, and drive it!
Let’s Talk RB
A short drive along the coast, close to where Mine’s is located, allowed me to get a feel for the refreshed Skyline.
The feedback through the steering is one of a car that is remarkably reactive and ready to be thrown into any corner at speed.
The engine is very special. This was my first time driving the high-spec 2.8L Mine’s motor, and all I can say is that it feels like a volcano wanting to erupt at any stab of the throttle.
I gave the loud pedal one serious push and was rewarded with an immediate surge of teleport-like acceleration, accompanied by the unmistakable wail of a full titanium Mine’s VX exhaust system.
We parked up and took some time to appreciate the car under the moody skies.
Lifting the lightweight hood, you are instantly greeted with the best execution of OEM+ that you can possibly achieve. Even the hood stay is made from dry carbon!
The MB7 is the highest-spec RB26DETT version that BBL x Mine’s offer, and has basically had the best of the best gear thrown at it.
The bottom end consists of an HKS 2.8L Step 3 stroker kit, made up of HKS’s new forged piston design, H-section connecting rods and a counter-balanced crankshaft. The cylinder head was sent off to Nagoya-san at NAPREC, where it was CNC-ported and refined to Mine’s’ unique specification before being reassembled with a revised valvetrain and higher-lift camshafts.
Despite being heavily modified, the engine’s look is beautifully conservative. The Mine’s green hue is carried over to the crackle finish of the cam and pulley covers, and again every hose, nut and bolt is either brand new or refurbished.
The NACA duct is positioned in a way that a constant flow of cool air is directed towards the hot side of the engine, just like on a BNR34 V-spec II.
One thing that really stands out is the glossy black titanium strut tower bar. This is a Mine’s product, enhanced by the design-oriented minds at BBL.
The attention to detail is so crazy that even the red background of the RB26’s iconic ‘Twin Turbo’ emblem on the intake pipe has been desaturated so that it blends in to the overall green tones.
On the subject of turbos, the GCG-Garrett twins in use now have a boost response curve that Skyline GT-R owners in 1995 – when the R33 was released – could only dream about. A fuel system featuring R35 injectors is there to support it all, while a Mine’s-modified stock ECU handles engine management.
BBL have also created the best RB26 oil cap, period. Shape-wise, it resembles the plastic OEM Nissan item, but is machined out of billet aluminum, drilled to shave weight, and then anodized black before being laser-etched with Mine’s and BBL logos. Drool.
Like every Mine’s engine that has come before it, the MB7 is a great example of how substance reigns over show. It’s a philosophy Mine’s has stayed true to since their start, and one BBL has taken to new heights. As the engine assembly is rated to well over 1,000hp, there’s peace of mind that it will keep on performing for many years to come. It’s yet another thing that makes Built By Legends cars so special.
Bespoke In Every Way
Looks-wise, the R33 wears monochromatic Mine’s racing stripes as well as the company’s signature on the doors and hood.
To finish it all off are RAYS Volk Racing 21A forged wheels, one of the latest designs to join the VR line up. They fit in well for this project as their mesh multi-spoke design bears a little resemblance to the BBS wheels Mine’s used to run on its demo cars. The 21As were custom-finished for BBL in a dark silver color, with the extra touch of a Built By Legends logo on each rim.
Another long-time Mine’s partnership dictated tire choice, Potenza RE-71 RS rubber offering up the highest street performance in Bridgestone’s line up.
That one-piece front bumper really is amazing, and Garage Yoshida did an awesome job with the paint.
BCNR33 nerds will also appreciate the headlights. When you want the best, kouki Xenon projectors are the only way to go.
The combined trunk lid and spoiler piece is as beautiful on the topside as it is underneath, where a secondary skin provides the structure and strength to make it OEM +++! Niikura-san’s signature is a nice touch. As the man behind Mine’s, he’s a true legend.
Open the door to reveal the cabin and you realize that we’re only about halfway done with the details.
The interior is so highly curated with numerous custom touches that I got goosebumps.
Starting with the color choices, the green tint of the carbon fiber exterior touches has been brought inside and used on the lower half of the dash, door trims and the seats. The rest is all black with contrasting white stitching. BBL collaborated with the same textile company that developed and trademarked the Alcantara brand back in the day and an Italian textile company for the synthetic material, which has a plush suede-like feel to it. In essence, what’s used throughout the cabin is Alcantara, but when sourced and used in Japan it’s called Ultra Suede.
I especially like the Recaro seats. Not only do they suit the interior perfectly, but give a modern, fresh touch to it all.
The details go right down to the switchgear and every other tactile point of the cabin, a Mine’s steering wheel at the very center of it all. The shift knob, a re-profiled BNR34 GT-R piece, has an OEM look yet a totally bespoke feel.
Looking at the car in its entirety, you can’t help but appreciate it for its uniqueness. You could try to build something similar, sure, but I think you’d struggle to replicate the minute attention to detail. And that’s before you factor in all the legendary people involved in creating the perfect GT-R build sheet.
Are BBL builds for everyone? Definitely not, but there seem to be enough customers out there to allow Built By Legends to thrive.
Now, let’s see what they do with the R34!
Dino Dalle Carbonare