Whoomp There It Is: Junior Mahabir's 1997 Nissan Sentra SE-R

Whoomp There It Is: Junior Mahabir's 1997 Nissan Sentra SE-R

Photography by John Jackson


Since Nissan’s resurgence to prominence in the market, few remember that the auto manufacturer was on the brink of extinction in the early to mid 1990s. Platforms like the Altima and Maxima failed to excite drivers, while the Z was on its last legs. The Sentra was Nissan’s entry-level platform, but lacked the commercial appeal of the Honda Civic, Acura Integra or, dare I say, Toyota Corolla. However, Nissan offered the Sentra in a performance-focused SE-R trim – which was enough for guys like Junior Mahabir to wet their pants.

You see, the SE-R was Nissan’s answer to the street-racers that opted for the V-TEC-powered Civics and Integras. The SE-R was equipped with an SR20DE 2.0L motor – a non-turbo version of the legendary engine found in the rear-wheel-drive S13 Silvia. Producing a factory-rated 140hp, the SE-R was labeled a pocket-rocket at the time and slowly began to gain a cult-like following. Given the popularity of its foreign cousin the Sunny GTiR, the tuner-friendly SR quickly became a favourite on our shores.

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Though this SE-R was purchased six years ago on his 18th birthday, Mahabir learned a lot about the Sentra platform by working on the 1992 Sentra GXE that he received when he was 16. “My father – a native of Trinidad & Tobago – had me turning wrenchs at an early age,” recalls the Queens, NY resident’ “It pays off now.”

As the proud proprietor of Tarmac Motorsport, Mahabir’s love for improving vehicular performance has spawned into a full-time business. Not only does running the operation allow him to work on many of the areas slickest Nissan projects, but allows him the time and space to work on his own projects. “I currently own the fastest FWD all motor SER in the U.S which is a 1997 200sx SER,” boasts Mahabir. “It’s actually being rebuilt with the help of Competition Clutch and Full Race to run the Pro FWD All-Motor class in the NHRA next season.”

However, this SE-R is Mahabir’s pride and joy as it is built for serious performance on the street and track. One glance at the car’s lengthy mod list and it reads like a list of Paris Hilton’s ex-boyfriends. The engine portion alone is pushing over 250 words, and is highlighted by items like ‘Garrett GT-35R turbo,’ ‘Crower pro billet con rods,’ ‘CP forged pistons,’ ‘fully ported SR16VE head’ and ‘five-angle grind.’ Mahabir has completely re-engineered the engine to produce major horsepower and built it to last longer than a horny teenager on Viagra.

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Aesthetically, Mahabir resurrected the 17-year old body with a fresh coat of red paint and a host of JDM Nissan Sunny pieces like the bumpers for the front and rear, as well as the side skirts. A Sunny headlight conversion and matching emblems help with the Japanese transformation, as do the JDM fold-in side mirrors. A little weight is shed thanks to the Fiber Images carbon fibre hood and custom carbon fibre trunk lid, giving the econo-box are race-ready appearance.

To keep up with the nimble EGs, EKs and DCs on the track, Mahabir drastically upgraded the Sentra’s suspension with a host of goodies. Adjustability is provided by a set of TEIN Super Street coil-overs, as the system is mounted on adjustable camber plates to dial-in just the right geometry. Chassis fortification comes from a collection of Cusco bars and braces, along with Suspension Techniques sway bars and Energy Suspension master bushing kit. A custom 13.1-inch big brake kit featuring a set of beefy Brembo four-piston calipers helps keep the FWD speed demon under control.

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A set of Volk Racing TE-37 wheels set the Sentra’s package off like a classic pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars sneakers, finished in bronze to add a great contrast. The 205/40-17 Falken Azenis tires provide Mahabir with the traction to make moves like it was an NFL runningback.

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The cabin is strictly business, with room to accommodate only Mahabir and his lucky passenger. A pair of Bride Brix II seats keeps the occupants in place, strapped snuggly into place with a pair of Takata four-point harnesses. The rear seats have been removed, allowing for the custom-built four-point roll cage to fill the otherwise empty space. GReddy instrumentation includes a trio of 52mm gauges, as well as the e-01 electronic boost controller. Mahabir’s two hands firmly grip a Nardi Deep Corn 350mm wheel to point the Sentra in the right direction.

When asked the total cost of the project, Mahabir replied “Man I don’t even want to know! I know its over $40,000…maybe $50,000.” We can only imagine how much the Sentra would’ve cost without the help of his sponsors – TheSpeedLounge.com, EatSleepRace.com, nyce1s.com and Full-Race.com. A special shout-out to his girlfriend Lauren who has been his main source of emotional support and stability throughout the entire process. We’re excited to see what his aforementioned 200SX SER Pro FWD projects turns out to be and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the NHRA schedule to see how it performs, as well as anything else that pops out of the Tarmac Motorsport garage.

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ESSENTIALS

Owner: Junior Mahabir
Location: Queens, NY
Vehicle: 1997 Nissan Sentra SE-R

ENGINE / PERFORMANCE

  • SR16VE shortblock / bored to 87mm
  • SR20DE crank, polished and balanced 
  • SR20DET GTI-R main bearings 
  • SR20DE rod bearings 
  • Crower pro billet con rods with Carr 296,000psi bolts 
  • CP 9:5:1 compression pistons 
  • SR20VE oil pump shimmed for 120psi oil pressure 
  • SR20DE main girdle 
  • ARP main studs 
  • SR16VE head fully ported, 5 angle grind 
  • JWT bronze valve guides intake and exhaust 
  • Super tech 35 mm intake valves and 31mm exhaust valve 
  • Stock modified retainers 
  • SR16VE cams 
  • CS adjustable cam gears +8/-8 
  • ARP head studs 
  • SR20VET head gasket 
  • SR16VE N1 valve cover 
  • Greddy Type R blow off valve 
  • Garrett GT-35R turbo
  • HKS Air Suction Funnel 
  • Tial 44mm wastegate 
  • Lovefab equal length turbo manifold 
  • ARP turbo manifold studs 
  • O2 Induction custom race intake manifold 
  • MSD 96lbs injectors 
  • Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator 
  • Aeromotive external A1000 fuel pump 
  • CS fuel rail 
  • Nitrous Express single fogger wet kit 
  • Custom FMIC with HKS core 
  • Turbonetics T-clamps and couplers 
  • NISMO radiator caps 
  • Koyo aluminum radiator 
  • FAL pusher/ puller fans 
  • MSD 8.5mm spark plug wires 
  • MSD Blaster SS coil 
  • Moroso custom oil catch can
  • UR underdrive pulley 
  • Place Racing solid motor mounts 
  • CS custom solid dog bone mount 
  • SR16VE N1 throttle body 
  • Taylor battery relocation kit 
  • Raxle Axles

EXHAUST

  • Custom 3-3.5” down pipe with V band 
  • Custom 3.5” exhaust system 
  • Apexi 80 mm World Sport 2 exhaust

PERFORMANCE ELECTRONICS

  • B&M fuel pressure gauge
  • MSD Digital 6
  • AEM EMS

DRIVETRAIN

  • ‘00 Nissan Sentra SE 2.0 (B15) manual transmission 
  • Clutchmaster twin disc 
  • NISMO differential 

EXTERIOR

  • JDM Nissan Sunny front bumper
  • JDM Nissan Sunny back bumper 
  • JDM Nissan Sunny side skirts 
  • JDM Nissan Sunny fold in mirrors 
  • JDM Nissan Sunny and GTS emblems 
  • JDM Nissan Sunny headlight conversion 
  • Custom carbon fiber trunk lid 
  • Fiber Images carbon fiber hood 
  • Custom carbon fiber sunroof delete plug 
  • OEM Nissan seals & weather strips

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

  • Brembo custom brake kit 13.1” front
  • Custom rear brake upgrade 
  • Cusco front strut bar 
  • Cusco rear support brace 
  • Cusco front 4 point under brace 
  • Active Tuning rear strut bar 
  • Tein Super Street coil over 
  • Tein adjustable camber plates 
  • Suspension Techniques front and rear sway bars 
  • Full Energy Suspension master bushing kit 
  • Custom ARP wheel studs 
  • Crown steel braided brake lines 
  • Volk Racing lug nuts 
  • Project Mu Reservoir tank cover

WHEELS & TIRES

  • Volk Racing TE-37 wheels - 17 x 7.5-inch
  • Falken Azenis tires - 205/40-17

INTERIOR

  • Pair of Bride Brix II reclinable seats
  • Pair of Takata four-point harnesses 
  • Wedge Engineering seat brackets 
  • Sparco seat sliders 
  • NISMO Shift Knob 
  • Greddy 52mm gauges (3) 
  • Greddy E-01 boost controller 
  • Custom Built 4-point roll cage 
  • JDM Nissan Sunny Floor mats 
  • JDM Nissan gauge cluster 
  • Custom carbon fiber A-pillars 
  • Nardi 350mm deep kron steering wheel
  • JDM Rearview Broadway mirror 
  • JDM Nissan sunny road flare

PHOTO GALLERY

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32 Junior Mahabir 1997 Nissan Sentra SER pasmag

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