Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder SuperDork
12/20/04 8:21 p.m.
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We flew to Atlanta, Ga., this weekend to pick up our latest project car. The 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R was listed on our "Under $2005 Classifieds" message board for "$1500 or trade for something interesting." We thought the SE-R was interesting enough and e-mailed the seller to learn more about the car.

It turns out that the seller, Mike Karp, had owned the car for just a few months, having picked it up as a trade-in at the dealership he worked at. The SE-R had 114k miles on it, was in okay condition, but needed a clutch. The car sported a collection of door dings to rival a golf ball, but had the original paint and absolutely zero rust. We said, "Great, pick us up at the Atlanta airport on Saturday with the car."

The car was as promised, a little scruffy, but with no rust and a clean interior. The clutch slippage is only noticeable when shifting quickly from gear to gear. A short pause allows the clutch to do its job without fuss. We drove back to Florida with a grin on our face. The car was smooth, fast and quiet. It also didn't burn any oil and got us 32 mpg on the trip.

Our plan is to fix the small problems that the car has and then start modifying it for SCCA autocross fun. We're thinking STX for this little bugger, as we really want to replace the weak factory viscous limited slip differential with something more effective, like the NISMO clutch-type LSD.

One problem that we fixed right away was the driver's side door hinges. Door sag is a common problem on these Sentras and is easily fixed. We went to our local junkyard and got the passenger side hinges from a 1994 Sentra. The passenger side ones have less wear and you can use them on the driver's side. The only thing you need to do is use the lower passenger one on the upper driver's side, and vice versa. The two hinges set us back $7.

During our trip to lunch, we stopped at our local budget paint shop (the same guys that did the CMS Volvo) and got a quote of $1000 to make our Sentra "look good." That includes blocking out the dozens of dings that the car has, and fix the dent on the left rear. We'll start saving our pennies.

We then went by the local car parts emporium and picked up a set of new wiper blades, distributor cap, distributor rotor and new NGK spark plugs. We also got some new #194 bulbs to replace the burned out ones in our instrument cluster. This wild spending set us back $69.

Our co-worker, Scott Lear, offered us a used Blaupunkt CD player to replace the Sony cassette player that the car came with. Has anyone ever seen a cassette player that is XM capable? Why bother?

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