Japan calls the Nineties ‘The Lost Decade’. The economy collapsed and one of its nearly-casualties was Nissan. The Japanese giant almost didn’t make it through to the new millennium – Renault had to step in to save the carmaker in 1999. As part of its French alliance, today Nissan is the sixth-largest car producer in the world, fourth as a group.
But even though Nissan was continuously on the brink of collapse in the Nineties the company regularly managed to slip some gems into its commodity-based line-ups. Now that Nissan USA has released the SR name Stateside in the new Sentra SR Turbo, evoking SE-Rs of the past, it got us reminiscing about Nissan’s racy SR engines that served in all Nineties’ Sentra SE-Rs, starting with the B13 series that was the first Sentra SE-R to come with the legendary SR20DE, a rev-happy four-cylinder made famous in cars such as…
1. S-chassis - The drifters have ruined most 200SXs and Silvias but if you can still find a clean one you’ll be getting a timelessly designed sportscar with a ‘redtop’ or ‘blacktop’ SR20 engine (identify the motor by the colour if its cam cover) and neutral rear-drive handling. Note some cars came with naturally aspirated engines and some came with the turbocharged version of the SR 2.0-litre.
2. Sunny GTI-R - Sometimes called the Pulsar, this was a mere Sunny anywhere else, except it got a monster SR engine worth nearly 230 horsepower and an all-wheel drive system to fully homologate the car for rallying at the top tier of the sport. With low weight and all-corner traction the Sunny GTI-R was one of the most viciously accelerating car of its day with a 0-100kph time in under five seconds, which make it a match for today’s 350bhp Ford Focus RS or 380bhp Merc A 45 AMG.
3. Primera - During the Nineties the British Touring Car Championship was the series to watch with grids filled with works machines officially backed by the world’s biggest carmakers like Honda, Ford, Toyota, Renault, Peugeot, Opel, Audi, Volvo, and Nissan. The latter won its only title in 1999 title with a European-spec Primera powered by a 300bhp 2.0-litre SR series race engine. Nissan UK even made a P11 Primera homologation special for the public with about half the racecar’s power.
4. Rasheen - This oddity looks like the result of Tarta, Moskvich and Wartburg getting together to do a crossover int the Nineties. In fact it was based on a Sentra and offered the Skyline’s all-wheel drive system coupled with an SR20DE engine. Considering the Rasheen name is of Middle-Eastern origin it kind of sucks we never got this car in the Middle East. It was only ever offered through a single dealership network in Japan and the minute Renault’s Carlos Ghosn took over Nissan’s books in 1999 the Rasheen was killed off and forgotten.
5. Bluebird SSS Attesa - Most markets got Bluebird beigemobiles with single-cam four-cylinder engines either 2.0-litre or 2.4-litre in capacities, but Japan got a special Bluebird SSS Attesa Limited with all-wheel drive and the famous turbocharged twin-cam SR engine - in fact the code SR20DET means, SR engine series, 2.0-litre, D for dual-overhead-cam, E for electronic injection and T for Tubro.