I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the early classic ('91 to '94) Nissan Sentra SE-R. I loved this car's sleeper image and the torquey power produced by its nearly indestructible SR20DE engine. I had even road raced an SE-R in SCCA SSB and IMSA Firehawk, where I learned to love its easy-to-drive, stable and nimble handling.
Years ago, I was impressed with the efforts of Evan Griffey and his pioneering project Turbo SE-R in Turbo Magazine. I read those pages many times and dreamed, determined to one day build my very own turbo SE-R.
One day a friend who owns a local performance shop,called me, complaining that a customer had brought in an SE-R for work and later disappeared, never to be heard from again. The guy stiffed him. After several months without contact, he stripped the trick parts he had installed in the car and pushed it outside his shop in disgust, where it became a mouse and squirrel condo.
Half-jokingly I told him to give it to me before he resorted to towing it away. Suddenly with a lien sale and a bunch of paperwork, I was the proud owner of a 1991 SE-R.
The car was a mess. It needed an engine, the suspension and brakes were totally shot and the interior was completely ruined by an invasion of vermin. With this in mind, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.
The car's interior was stripped and mostly discarded. The carpet was sprayed with disinfectant and hosed several times, and the seats, with their stuffing of mouse excrement, were thrown in the trash. Tons of poorly done wiring from a badly installed aftermarket stereo, alarm and some sort of unidentifiable aftermarket ignition system were stripped. Fur-lined mouse nests and at least 20 pounds of nuts filled all corners of the car.
With the interior stripped,...
With the interior stripped, I took advantage of its condition to inject Foamseal Catalyzed Urethane Foam into the car's unibody. Foamseal foam is pretty amazing stuff. It can increase the stiffness of large cross-section chassis members by up to 40 percent.
While the carpet was out, some sort of smelly unidentifiable liquid had seeped into the car's tar-like sound deadening. After freezing with dry ice (an old racers' trick) we easily scraped that away, disgusted; we would rather have a loud car than a smelly one. This trick got rid of about 25 pounds as well. The once-bare interior was completely washed and sprayed with disinfectant. Hantavirus is bad. The vermin also chewed up much of the Sentra's wiring harness; many hours were spent tracking and fixing shorts.
With the interior stripped, I took advantage of its condition to inject Foamseal Catalyzed Urethane Foam into the car's unibody. Foamseal foam is pretty amazing stuff. It can increase the stiffness of large, cross-section chassis members by up to 40 percent. We have used it in several project street and racecars to stiffen unibodies with good results.
The Foamseal foam was injected into every major frame section through the factory access holes. Foam injection is a popular mod in Japan to stiffen the chassis, but few are aware of it here in the States. Do not try to duplicate this with cheap hardware store spray foam, which won't harden inside the framerails of a car and has no structural properties.
Since much of the Nissan's interior had been thrown away, Phil Lee of Pro Audio Motorsports and Mario Lozano of Toe Speed Fabrication teamed to build some aluminum panels for the rear of the car. These replaced the factory rear seat, rear deck and quarter panel trim pieces.
The cleaned carpet and Sparco Torino Seats were installed, the latter by using Wedge Engineering adaptors. The Wedge adaptors made installing the Sparcos an easy bolt-on, a usually difficult trick as the SE-R's seatbelts attach to the seats. A Sparco Color 2 replaced the worn, sun-rotted stock steering wheel, Sparco Grip Pedals were selected to make heel-and-toe shifting easy and a Sparco Classic shift knob replaced the nasty, sticky rotten shift knob.
The Foamseal foam was injected...
The Foamseal foam was injected into every major frame section through the factory access holes. Foam injection is a popular mod to stiffen chassis in Japan, but few are aware of it here in the United States. We're one of the first to bring you this tip! Don't try to duplicate this with cheap hardware store spray foam; it will not harden inside the framerails of a car and has no structural properties.
Sparco Torino Seats were installed...
Sparco Torino Seats were installed using Wedge Engineering adaptors, making installion of the Sparcos easy. Usually this is a difficult trick because the SE-R's seatbelts attach to the seats.