The Dog II
By Sarah Forst and Mike Kojima
Photography by Jeff Naeyaert & Steve Mitchell
Racing, performance, Nissan Sentra and basket case are not words that usually go together. This is a story of how a sophisticated race car was built from a pile of parts with a double dose of hard work and intestinal fortitude.
The story starts when a 1998 B14 Nissan Sentra race car was purchased from a US Touring car team by NASA racer Tony Guardado. The car went on to be developed into the well known successful NASA and Time Attack racer known as the Dog Car that Mike Kojima successfully campaigned for many years. The Dog Car became a media star appearing in scores of magazines from Grassroots Motorsports to Super Street. In fact the Dog Car had the unusual distinction of being featured in every single publication that covered the compact car market at the time, with multiple appearances in some.
When the Dog Car was purchased it came with an ample pile of spares including a pristine factory fresh body shell and nearly enough parts to build another car. The Dog Car had many non-correctable issues with the previous team's chassis fabrication that hampered its competitiveness, so it was decided to build a new car. Dog II would be built from the ground up using the backup shell and spares from the first car.
Although the concept seemed simple, Tony embarked on the buildup that was to take 18 months and a considerable about of work. At the start of the project, the parts pile was shipped off to Technosquare in Torrance California, one of the best race prep/fabrication houses in Southern California. Ritchie and Howard Watanabe of Technosquare shook their heads in dismay when looking at the pile then dug in and went to work. The first job was to assess what was needed and to obtain all of the little parts that were missing to piece together a running car. A multi-page list of nearly a hundred items was complied and sent off to Nissan Motorsports. Even with Nissan’s special racer contingency pricing, the list ended up being over three thousand dollars. Lesson learned, it is sometimes better to start with a compete car.
This is no show car. Despite the lack of chrome, polishing and powdercoating, a lot of serious hardware lives here. A SR20VE engine sports an N1 intake manifold, throttle body, custom air intake with a big Cobra MAF and a custom fabbed 321 stainless header. A Setrab oil cooler lives to the right of the big Koyo racing radiator. A self draining breather box returns all oil blowby back to the sump. The clean aluminum triangulated brace bolts to the shock towers and an extension to the main rollcage for maximum stiffness. All oil is plumbed with Earls aircraft spec AN hardware. Coolent flows through G-Spec hoses.
Next, a fresh JDM SR20VE engine was obtained from an engine importer. The SR20VE is a high-performance variant of the venerable SR20DE that was never imported to the US. The VE features a higher flowing cylinder head, higher compression and most importantly a sophisticated variable valve timing system with high- and low-rpm lobes, much like Honda’s VTEC system. The VE was found on the Japanese Primera and Bluebird models. The reason why this engine was never offered here was probably due to decisions made by the same brilliant enthusiast hating executives at Nissan North America who decided not to import the S15, put the KA24 truck motor into the 240SX, the QR25DE engine into the Sentra SE-R and allowed the hideous B16 Sentra to make it into production.