Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rally Sunny hidden in plain sight

On a bright and sunny summer day in Park Slope I walked by this rugged little punk. It was looking a little out of place all covered in tattoos and generally scruffy. The more I looked the more I dug it!
This is a 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R Coupe in Super Black. Laugh all you want; this is a little rally car.
At first I thought some kid threw a bunch of racing stickers all over his crap ride but it quickly became apparent that this thing actually races.
The SE-R Coupe was a hopped-up version of the thrifty subcompact Sentra (known in Japan as the Sunny). It introduced the now-legendary SR20DE motor which stands for 2.0 liter Dual overhead cam Electronic fuel injection. This car set speed records for subcompacts and has been a darling of the small car racing scene since.
Triple mounted rally lights perhaps? I can't think of what else would cause these crude cuts. I'd like to point out that there are no less than 4 plastic ties in this pic: the white on on the right of the grill is joined by 3 black ones seemingly holding the grill to the car. She's been around!
I'm guessing the arrow points to the towing point where you should attach a winch if pulling this little tough guy out of a ravine.
These little numbers are hood pins. Most cars that have them don't need them (I'm looking at you new Mustangs that will never crest 90mph). However if you intend to throw your car around washboard dirt roads, over jumps and bumps, and cross little streams then they are a practical assurance that your hood won't pop up on you while driving. You can own a car for 30 years and the hood will stay closed, but if you go off road the factory latch can give up at the worst time.
The SE-R came stock with 4 wheel disc brakes and MacPherson struts.
The clean spot on the door is where this has worn a number for some race. You can just glimpse that this thing is fitted with a full roll cage inside.
Yes! 2 racing seats and a full roll cage replace most of the interior. For those of you who might not know rally racing requires 2 people to do. The job of the driver is to go as fast as possible while listening to constant instructions from his passenger; the navigator. The navigator has the entire course or route broken down to each and every corner, bump, obstacle, etc. I found this rather ridiculous example of a rally team in action but it still gives you the idea.
A sunroof is nice when you're cruising along on a sunny day but in serious rallying you need rigidity more than a big hole in the roof. This problem has been crudely but effectively solved!
This is the most homemade heavy-duty mudflap ever just bolted right into the car. I imagine this thing has been on some wet, muddy races where you want the window open for ventilation but don't want a face full of earth slopping up at you.
Those '90s wings don't do a damn thing but at least it's on a real race car for a change.
You never know which direction your car will be facing after you break through a fence and slide down into a creek or something, so here's another tow point on the rear.
Well there we have it; a true race car registered and parked on the streets of a highbrow neighborhood. It's truly refreshing to see a car that was built for performance actually living the dream. So many high dollar muscle car cream puffs sat coddled in a garage being polished more than driven.
My favorite examples of race cars being raced despite their value are the huge Bentleys of the 1920s and '30s. These cars are worth so much and are so heavily insured that many of their owners do race them hard. The thought is that racing is what they were meant to do, and if you wreck it the value is so great you can rebuild it no matter how extensive the damage is.
Hats off little racer!

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