Cult of GT-R

A True Story of Crime, Obsession and the World’s Most Coveted Car

Take a closer look at the right side of the crossbar on the letter T! Burnout, baby!

by Ryan K. ZumMallen

I wondered how it felt to hear the turbos spool and the engine scream as the . . . road straightens out and you fly into the night as if shot from a cannon . . . I imagined dancing through traffic stable and calm . . . You are free; you are alive; you have a soul. You lived the dream.”

Cult of GT-R is unusual for a book of automotive history. For one, there are no photographs or imagery of any sort on its pages. Then, the narrative shares facts from the past to present day but does so in a fashion more usually employed by fiction writers for it utilizes flashbacks and chapters that interrupt one another following different threads or aspects of the story. Then too, there are some decidedly lyrical passages such as the quote above.  

Some reading this will have immediately recognized that the GT-R in the title is a Nissan model introduced as a sedan then, in 1970, as a two-door with four-wheel-steering and -drive and two-plus-two seating. Importantly too, its engine was mid-mounted. Not an exotic but easily able to run wheel-to-wheel with them and more affordable by far. Downside: it was available only in Japan. 

That didn’t keep GT-Rs from being desired in other markets which led to a situation such as was written about in a book previously reviewed here. However, The Automotive Gray Market didn’t mention anything about GT-Rs or any Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) product specifically, although its story parallels parts of that told in this Cult of GT-R.

What motivates a car collector has changed little then to now. Choices are often influenced by sentiment related to memories from youth. For many collectors of Nissan GT-Rs that backdrop is different from prior generations with many having a cerebral connection from reading Japanese graphic novels known as manga, seeing films, most notably the ten in the Fast & Furious series, and playing video games, especially PlayStation’s Gran Turismo. Melding their car collecting with those cherished memories they’d been inspired by becomes a goal.

Chapter by chapter author Ryan ZumMallen explores people and events relevant to Nissan’s GT-R. It had been highly visible in both Fast & Furious and Gran Turismo making it, as his subtitle indicates, A True Story of Crime, Obsession and the World’s Most Coveted Car. There are chapters telling its history over the decades along with that of its maker. ZumMallen writes of an afternoon and evening he spent with a key current-day Nissan executive, Chief Product Specialist Hiroshi Tamura. The title’s “crime and obsession” refers to some of the more blatant attempts some made to import GT-Rs despite rules and regulations. 

ZumMallen is particularly adept helping his reader comprehend how vibrant, alive, and well-populated automotive enthusiasm is among millennial and younger generations just as he did in his first book, Slow Car Fast. Lending background, imparting understanding of what has contributed to the cultural shifts—and describing how they’re manifested—ought to be encouraging to those who lament or fear that the old car hobby’s future is in jeopardy. 

While it is apparent that ZumMallen puts effort and attention into crafting and writing the story he wants to tell, some of the details of publishing were not as closely attended to. With his first book which he also self-published, he numbered his chapter endnotes with corresponding superscript numbers in the text, although the notes section was not listed in that book’s table of contents. Cult does indicate their presence in the TOC as beginning on page 259. But then the actual individual numbering of pages concludes with page 254 so all after are on unnumbered pages. 

Frustrating for readers such as myself, who refer to endnotes while reading, as none are marked in any manner in this book’s text and only grouped by chapter in the endnotes with a few words of the text, a reader is left to search and search the text to try to locate each. Then too, most chapter numbers in the notes are identified with Arabic numerals but a few are numbered with Roman type. From the historian/researcher’s perspective, the lack of an index is sorely felt as well. 

None of those publishing anomalies detract from the story ZumMallen provides his reader for, as said, it’s apparent that he pays close attention to careful reporting along with crafting his story in a compelling fashion.

Collectors should know that this book was also available in a run of 250 numbered and signed copies, the Wangan Edition (after the Japanese racing manga series Wangan Midnight) at $44.99, ISBN 979-8-9874245-5-1; sold out.

Cult of GT-R
A True Story of Crime, Obsession and the World’s Most Coveted Car
by Ryan K. ZumMallen
Carrara Media LLC, 2023
286 pages, no images, softcover
no chapter end notes or index
List Price: $24.99 
ISBN 13: 979 8 9874245 1

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