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The New Kid

It's been a while since Nissan enthusiasts in the United States really had something to get excited about. There's always the older cars to fall back on, the old 510s and Zs, if old is your thing. Then there's the 300ZX, the SE-R and the underachieving 240SX. Nissan hasn't given America anything new, though, in about half a decade. When I say new, I mean new new, spanking-new, a fresh platform to give the omnipresent Honda-Acura market and burgeoning Toyota and Subaru sectors a good run for its (their) money.

Now, finally, Nissan gives us something new. Though the 2002 Sentra SE-R Spec V may not be exactly all we were hoping for, at least it's new, and it has a lot of good selling points. It is very affordable, to begin with, and comes with equipment not found on other, more expensive vehicles in the same market segment, such as a helical limited-slip differential. And the QR25DE engine, a big 2.4-liter four, makes huge torque (a claimed 180 lb-ft) at just 2000 rpm.

The pictured SE-R is not owned by any one individual and was constructed for this month's cover shoot through the collaboration of several aftermarket companies. Heading the list is Street Concepts, a do-it-all custom shop located in Garden Grove, Calif. Street Concepts has done it all, from corporate show vehicles and professional entertainment system installs to import project cars like the one shown here.

The first thing you'll notice is the car's utter lack of body kit pieces. The only thing available at the time of assembly was a pre-production Nismo front bumper spoiler, but it was apparent the addition of a pavement-scraping front end would unbalance the car's front-to-back symmetry, so the body components remain factory issue. That said, there has been a small amount of activity carried out on the Sentra's exterior. The Nismo rear wing will become a staple aftermarket piece for this car, while the DG Motorsports carbon-fiber hood lends the exterior scheme some aggression and a modicum of weight savings to boot. The front and rear light assemblies have been treated to a Wet Works lens tint, and the graphics were supplied by Modern Image.

The cockpit received a more comprehensive makeover. The front seats are now Cobra Sidewinder buckets roped with Schroth belts to keep the occupants strapped down. With the new fronts in place, the seating surfaces were covered with some very tricky carbon-fiber-look black leather--this stuff is the shit! It really does look like a patchwork of woven strands at first glance.

Red suede accents the black woven look. The door panels also received red suede accents, as well as real carbon-fiber armrest/door handle inserts from California Automotive Design. CAD also painted select portions of the dash to match the overall red-and-black motif. Ichibahn gave up some choice interior accents for the cause: shift knob, steering wheel, pedals and special floor mats (gotta have those). Kenwood provided the audio, video and navigation equipment. The KVT-910DVD and KNA-DV2100, both DVD-propelled touch-screen units, serve as head and navigation units, respectively. In the trunk, two Kenwood amps have been mounted to power the speakers, one for the mids and tweets and another for the 10-in. Kenwood subs sunken into the trunk floor.

Since this particular Sentra is still pretty new, performance enhancements are slightly less difficult to come by than a full body kit. What Street Concepts came up with for this Spec V is pretty kick-ass stuff, however. The suspension has been screwed down using an Eibach lowering spring kit, so that the Sentra chassis now positively crouches over a set of monster RD Sport 19x8-in. wheels. These were strung with Toyo FZ-4 tires, sized 225/35R-19, for some serious street-hugging clout. Behind the front RD rollers you can glimpse a big brake kit from none other than Brembo, with cross-drilled rotors, braided lines, four-piston calipers, the whole deal. Pretty damn sweet, if you ask me. Even if you don't ask me, it's still pretty damn sweet.

Under the hood you won't find much--nah, just a complete friggin' supercharger system put together by BorgWarner and Area 51 Fabrication/Climax Racing. The actual blower is manufactured by BorgWarner, while all brackets and pipes were fabricated by Area 51 to adapt the supercharger to the SE-R's engine bay. This is a one-off system as it sits in the pictures, but Street Concepts tells me Area 51 and BorgWarner are even now collaborating on a production kit that will probably based on a slightly smaller blower unit, in the interest of engine reliability and longevity.

Power enhancements don't end there: Area 51/Climax also installed a 75-shot NOS dry fogger, ported to the intake manifold, to help cool intake temperatures and, of course, add a little zest to the BorgWarner supercharger sandwich. The diminutive "Sneaky Pete" reservoir is mounted between the amps in the car's trunk, and is only good for a surprise holeshot or two before it's time for a refill. Ah, well; you can always opt for a bigger bottle! A Magna Flow exhaust with high-flow catalytic converter pipe waste out the rear. Other engine bay enhancements include various chrome-plated and powdercoated pieces, dressed up by Orange County Plating, and a Holley race-series battery.

There isn't any hard performance data concerning the engine's output yet, as the supercharger system is still being tuned for optimum performance and the fuel system is currently being reworked to match up with the augmented charge of incoming air. Despite this fact, Street Concepts' project SE-R Spec V should be a pretty good indicator of what's to come from this new sport compact platform. Great aftermarket stuff for the car is already available, with even greater things looming on the forced-induction horizon, as well as a full Nismo body kit that you'll soon be able to get your hands on. Nissan has heeded the compact import enthusiasts' call, as have aftermarket Nissan tuners. All we need to do is wait just a little bit longer.

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