Project Serious Sentra
Going Back On Our Word
(In The Name Of Performance, Of Course)
Text & Photos By Evan Griffey
[Put into HTML format by Dan Thompson]
This article originally appeared in the Turbo & Hi-Tech Performance March 1997 issue and was reprinted with permission. For more info on Turbo Magazine check out their website.
From conception, the Serious Sentra has been a sleeper. Great lengths have been taken to keep things looking fairly tame. In fact, we questioned adding upgraded FET driving lights because they could compromise the stock look of our Nissan. Let me quote from that story, "When it comes to Project Serious Sentra we have resisted the temptations to veer away from the car's sleeper look. Most of the inquiries have centered around adding a body kit. Everything from your basic wing, airdam and side skirts to Trans Am-style wide-body kits have been "recommended." Recently, swapping from our underhood intercooler to a high-visibility center-mount unit was proposed. This proposition fell on deaf ears."
The in-your-face lead shot pretty much makes a liar out of me as my deaf ears have evidently been drilled out. Before adding the body work, the car looked like, "an intercooler with a Sentra attached to it," or, "the prototype for the new "Harmonica Series" of intercoolers." The change in thought stems from watching inlet temperatures jump to around 175 to 180 degrees. As boost was turned up to 18 psi, there was slight detonation so the T28 is dialed in to 16 psi. In order to regain that extra two psi, inlet temperatures had to drop and moving the cooler out of the engine bay was the most viable option.
We called around to see if there were any front-mount intercoolers offered as a package. There wasn't. However, Herman Chan at DRAG Competition Products was interested in seeing what would be involved in developing a kit. Herman selected a Garrett bar-and-plate or staked-plate design core. He supplied us with an intercooler to test fit. We went to Kaminari and talked with President Bob Grimmer about adapting their front fascia around the intercooler. It was at this meeting that the concept for the SE-R Big Mouth was born. Kaminari stylists scribed on our stock airdam what areas could be cut away and what was needed to support the Kaminari piece. When dropping off the Nissan, we told Herman we wanted to retain the full integrity of the bumper. Other than that, we relied on Herman's experience concerning end tank design and intake pipe sizing and routing.
For end tanks there were two possibilities. One was positioning the inlet and outlet on the same side of the intercooler. The other was to put the inlet and outlet on opposing sides. The same-side approach reduces pressure loss but there is only six inches of core for the air to travel through as the charge moves from the top of the unit to the bottom. In this configuration, charge air travels faster which means there is less time for it to be chilled. In the opposing-side setup, the air travels the length of the core (18 inches) offering more cooling capacity than a same-side cooler. The air also travels slower, enhancing the cooling effect. While this configuration has more pressure loss than a same-side unit, our bar-and-plate cooler features double-fin construction on the ambient side and single fin on the charge side which reduces the amount of pressure loss. So an opposing-end tank was selected.
Focusing in on piping, shorter intake pipes are a bit better. But, more importantly, straighter pipes flow better. Wide turns are better than abrupt turns. The diameter of the intake piping in forced-induction applications is not as important as one would think. Herman has tested two-inch piping and 2.5-inch piping back-to-back on a turbocharged engine. He reports a definite difference in response as the smaller tubing provided crisper performance. The front mount intercooler on Project Serious Sentra is the same core as used on DRAG's new Honda kits. The new Honda kits feature a T4/T3 turbo, the front-mount cooler and chromed intake pipes. DRAG plans to apply for 50-states-legal status.
With the intercooler in place we thought it stuck out too far past the leading edge of the bumper. Bob had told us the Kaminari added a bit to the bumper but we were still quite concerned. Upon seeing the Nissan Bob said he couldn't have planned it better himself.
Work began in earnest to create the Big Mouth airdam. The Kaminari stylists modified its existing bumper cover/airdam by adding tooling foam and sculpting out the Big Mouth window to appropriately frame the intercooler. The rest of the Kaminari aero package was added and ready for paint.
From Kaminari the car went to nearby Body Pros for paint. Before energizing the spray guns, Body Pros smoothed over door dings, removed emblems and prepped the Nissan with PPG materials. Instead of color matching the new panels, Derek Teklak thought it was best to paint the entire car. With this door open, we opted for something more than a stock hue. We asked Derek to add a splash of pearl to warm up the finish. Derek recommended a tri-stage violet pearl scheme. A tri-staged paint job consists of a white basecoat, a light hit of violet pearl and a clearcoat sealer. Derek says the key to this kind of paint job is atomization of the pearl. When this is done properly the pearl effect will be consistent down the entire side of the car. The paint job included color matching the mirrors, front grille and door handles. As with any paint job, color sanding and buffing have a dramatic effect on the final outcome. Wally Teklak handled this operation on the Sentra. Wally's efforts helped the pearl pop off the car when seen in the proper light.
Kaminari has made a mold of our one-off Big Mouth airdam. It is available with a grille insert for those Sentras without intercoolers. For those who want intercooled turbo power, Herman says the SE-R cooler will be offered by DRAG. In upcoming installments we will see if the front-mount intercooler helps with the detonation problem and we may even begin the engine dress up stage of the project.