I'll admit it. The first exposure I had to the HKS R33 Nissan Skyline drag racer pictured above was when I won it as a prize car in the monumentally great Gran Turismo 2 for the original Playstation. That was 1999 or 2000, and sadly, despite the car's formidable in-game stats, it was a bit of a drag (no pun intended) to play with because the dragstrip was not included in the U.S. release of the game. (Suffice to say the car was not the most awesome thing to use at Laguna Seca, for example.)

Pity, because the real-life HKS drag car certainly walked the walk. In 2001, it made a 7.671-second run in Japan, setting a record for AWD cars that stood for several years. HKS announced this week that after years of entertaining fans, the car is being officially retired. It'll be displayed at an import drag event in New Zealand in February, after which it'll head home to Japan for good. Initially, HKS planned to rebuild and race the car at the NZ event, but they discovered that there was a lack of replacement parts for it and that the car's chassis has weakened over the years to the point where they felt it could no longer be raced safely without being completely redone. That, combined with the dearth of proper parts, made the HKS decision easy.

Follow the jump for a shot of how many of us first experienced this car, along with a 2002 video of the car in action and HKS's official press release.

Don't miss the video. Like I said at the top, that thing sure as hell walked the walk.

[Sources: HKS, YouTube]

In Gran Turismo 2:

In action:


Legendary HKS Skyline R33 Drag Car to Be Retired

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- HKS USA, Inc., the premier
manufacturer and supplier of automotive performance systems, today
announced that parent company, HKS Co., Ltd., has decided that it will
retire the legendary HKS All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) R33 Drag GT-R after nearly a
decade of racing. The HKS R33 Drag GT-R has long been one of the most
recognized symbols of the HKS global brand, and held the title to world's
fastest AWD Drag car for almost five years with its remarkable 7.671 second
pass at Japan's Sendai circuit in October 2001. After years of touring the
world showcasing HKS' great engineering talents, the decision was made this
week that the R33 would no longer be available for competition, yet it
would be displayed at the February Import All-Stars Zeroyon Drag Challenge
in Taupo, New Zealand, before returning to Japan.

"This was an incredibly difficult decision for the management of HKS
Co., Ltd. We labored long over the decision because of what the HKS R33 has
meant to HKS fans around the world, as well as the fact the car was to
compete in New Zealand in February," said Rick Lafferty, president, HKS
USA, Inc. and HKS International, Inc. "Just like any complex machine, time
and stress takes a toll and safety comes into question. The safety of the
driver and the audience was the deciding factor in the R33's retirement."

Although HKS Motorsports' original intention was to rebuild the R33 for
the upcoming New Zealand event, a number of critical problems were
discovered that forced HKS into making its decision. In addition to the
expected engine rebuild, several major components required replacement.
After searching for new replacement parts, it was discovered that many of
the parts used on the R33 were no longer available from the vehicle's
manufacturer. Another contributing factor was the overall condition of the
R33. The chassis' torsional rigidity has reached a critical safety point,
and without an extensive overhaul the car could put both the driver and
team in an unsafe position. All these factors are a result of the age of
the car and the exceptional stress loads it has endured over the years.

"While the HKS R33 cannot compete we wanted to provide the New Zealand
import racing fans the opportunity to see the car and at the same time
allow HKS and the HKS R33 to pass the drag race record challenge on to one
of the new generation Skyline drag cars," Lafferty continued.

About HKS USA, Inc.
HKS USA, Inc. is a leading manufacturer and supplier of automotive
aftermarket performance systems, parts and accessories. Delivering its
products to both the import and domestic car markets, HKS has been
recognized for its engineering and performance excellence in the automotive
industry since 1973. Established in 1982, HKS USA, Inc. is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of HKS Company, Ltd. Japan and distributes its products through
its worldwide dealer network. For more information about HKS USA., visit
their website at http://www.hksusa.com.

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