Project Nissan Sentra SE-R- Turbo SR20 Final Build Items


There are times in your life you know you'll remember; for us this was one of them. The real question at this point was whether we would remember this moment as a fond memory or one where everything would go wrong. As it turned out the 2002 SE-R National Convention ended up being a very rewarding experience but also happened to have its share of excitement concerning whether we would be able to take our project home.

Turn the key to the ON position, listen for the fuel pump to pressurize the fuel rail and turn the key to START. VROOM, the idle quickly raises to 2,000 RPM and then settles to 1,500 as the ECU fast idles the car to bring it to operating temperature. Two minutes later the engine settles to an 800 RPM idle so good it has turned the heads of muscle car owners. Everything is working as expected but we thought the 2002 SE-R National Convention would be the perfect opportunity to showcase our efforts.

With our tools in the backseat, slicks in the trunk and CD changer loaded (was the Ipod invented yet?) we were ready to stretch our turbo's legs on the open road. As we left heading over the San Jacinto mountain range we hit an unexpected rain shower. As we passed Palm Springs the clouds parted and we decided to open it up a little as semi trucks doing more than 85 mph were passing us! No need to downshift; mash the gas in 5th at 85mph and Triple digit speeds come up so fast you can't even say “sorry officer” first.

SER National Convention Lineup
The plan was to head to Nissan's proving grounds. Due to electrical gremlins we never made it.

We hit Phoenix in just over 5 hours at an astounding 28.8 miles to the gallon.  Wait what the…KABOOM! As we pulled off the highway our project mysteriously died on us. It was almost laughable as we drove it 400 miles without a hiccup and the car just decided to give up the ghost when we arrived. The explosion we heard was fuel combusting in the exhaust. It pointed to an ignition problem but just as mysterious as the car dying was it starting up 10 minutes later and we were on our way. Friday afternoon, on the way to the Nissan Testing Facility, we ran into our gremlins again. POP! POP! KABOOM! We had a bad ground with our MSD ignition and we were losing our spark. Luckily our car was wired to run the stock ignition in addition to the MSD so we were on the road again with some much-appreciated help from fellow SE-R pilots.

SE-R Turbo Burnout
This is as good as digital cameras were 10 years ago. The 13×8″ slicks and Bogart wheels purchased from MotoIQ's own Jeff Naeyaert were cool because they cleared the B13 big brake kit I had at the time which was nothing more than the front brakes off the NX2000. Thanks to Mike Magers' open heart surgery on my ECU jumping a burnt trace on the daughterboard; we said what the hell and drag raced the car.

On Friday night we pushed our luck and went to Firebird raceway for a “Run what you Brung” event. I had a conversation with my soon to be Father-In-Law that said “Race the hell out of it Son! I'll tow you home if you need it.”  This gave us a chance to not only try drag racing for the first time but also learn how to launch on slicks. No problem! We stopped by the VP container and filled our empty tank with 3 gallons of VP's magic C16 formulated for turbo and supercharged applications. Our plan was to slowly walk the car up to 20 psi with the magic gas. First run, get to the water box, pull the e-brake, rev it to about 6,000 RPM and dump the clutch. A decent burnout but the slicks didn't rip us out of the box.  At the line I turned on the boost controller set for approximately 16 psi, revved to 6,000 RPM and GO. As soon as we left the line something was wrong, we were getting a bad misfire with full throttle stabs so we cruised past the quarter at 14.5 sec at 103 MPH. Okay, back the boost down to 14psi for the second run, revved the car to 7,000 in the waterbox, dumped the clutch and did a burnout (pictured above) until the slicks pulled us out of the box. At the line revved to 7K RPM, waited for the second amber and went; .637 reaction and a 1.9 60' and TRACTION in first gear at full throttle! We crossed the line at 13.3 at 105.6 MPH, not too bad for a newb. Our third run was about the same with a 13.4 at 106 MPH. There certainly are quicker times in the car; I didn't speed shift to be kind to the tranny and I should have heated the slicks up longer for a better 60'.

SE-R Turbo Racing at Streets of Willow
If you're thinking hey this isn't Firebird Raceway you're right. It's actually the car when it raced at Streets of Willow for the Super Tuner TV Nissan vs. Honda challenge. Everyone was too busy drolling over the R34 Skyline that was at Firebird to snap a picture of my car.

Saturday morning back at Firebird we had the chance to put our project through an endurance test on a short road-course. We pumped our tires up to 42 psi to stiffen the sidewalls for better cornering. First session out we took it easy learning the line of the course but we found we had enough power to leave the car in third gear for most of the course. We gave our friend Rob Cadle a chance to drive the car as he specked the turbo for the project and we felt it was a perfect way to say thank you for the help. He said the power delivery was very linear and reminded him more of a Normally Aspirated 4.0 liter V6 than a high strung turbo 4-cylinder. On the brief straight we were able to hit 110 mph without locking the brakes before the turn. It was comical passing 3 or 4 cars at a time on the straight without really pushing the car. After two sessions we were out of water for the water injection system and we were running out of race gas. Better to call it a day and get the car ready for the show.

2002 SER National Convention Car Show
If it looks a little somber it's because most folks were a little hung over from the free happy hour at the hotel the night before.  Kojima was killing it as usual telling stories of hypersonic speeds through the Arizona desert in the Disco Potato.  Don't laugh too hard at the wheels they were the best I could afford as a broke college student on a ramen budget.

We gave a few rides in the car on Sunday and watched prizes get raffled off during the picnic. The most unexpected honor came during the award ceremony where we took home the best turbo award. It was a special moment as all the long hours in the garage paid off at the track and the recognition from the SR20 enthusiasts meant a great deal. Over the weekend we saw many old friends and made many new ones. The owners of these cars are great people! We packed up and were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor for 400 more miles as we made our way home.

Special Thanks to JWT for the spare ECU and over the phone support.  As it turns out the electrical gremlins were associated with the external kill switch that, when exposed to rain from the drive over caused all the problems.  This kill switch now sits on my wall of shame.

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