Buyer Beware: Why So SE-R-ious?

Everyone who loves cars has a special place in their hearts for their very first one.  So it’s one part nostalgia, one part self indulgence and one part common sense that led me to feature a 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R for this week’s “Caveat Emptor”- buyer beware, which celebrates intriguing cars I have found online for less than $5,000.    

SER1

The premise of this weekly column is that it’s fun to search for cars and see what you can buy for a limited budget.  Since many consumers find themselves looking in this price range, I’m here to help.  

The ground rules are simple:

  1. The car must be listed on www.CARS.com or www.AutoTrader.com, www.Craigslist.com, or www.Bringatrailer.com.
  2. It must be for sale by the time this article comes out.
  3. It must be under $5,000.
  4. It can be any type of car. Bonus points for enthusiast cars.
  5. It must be for sale in the United States.
  6. Creativity (I know it when I see it) is welcomed.
  7. I’m open to submissions, mthompson@rightfootdown.com.

This week’s winner is a 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R!  For sale  in White Plains, NYC Craigslist, buy here.

NOTE: Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware.  This is not an endorsement of this particular car for sale.  I have not driven it nor do I know the seller.  

This one caught my eye because the Nissan Sentra SE-R was my first car.  I bought one for $800 dollars, and I’ll forever love it, but I didn’t choose it on this reason alone.

SER-2

The Nissan Sentra SE-R is the first and only car to win a Car and Driver 10 Best Trophy for its complete span of production.  Similar to the Chicago Bulls, it took home wins in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994.  It’s not perfect but the Nissan Sentra SE-R in my unbiased opinion, is the car to buy right now and it’s sure to be a future classic.   

It’s not perfect but the Nissan Sentra SE-R in my unbiased opinion, is the car to buy right now and it’s sure to be a future classic.   

 

When buying an SE-R, there are some things to look out for. Like most cars from the 80s and early 90s they rust.   SE-Rs always rust on the quarter panels and rocker panels.  The transmission had a funky issue called “fifth gear pop out”.  It sounds just like what happens– when you put it into fifth gear, it pops out. It’s an easy fix now, with kits available for around $700.

The last issue is you and me, “the enthusiasts”. We know what this car is capable of and have been buying, modifying and racing them for the past 25 years.  It’s nearly impossible to find a STOCK one these days.

If you happen to find a well-loved SE-R, I have some advice for you: BUY IT. Then give it to me.  

Driving the SE-R is about the sum of its parts.  It’s not a stunner when it comes to the spec sheet. Like most classic cars, there’s something intangible that makes them great, perhaps the hard work and engineering that went in to creating it. Like my Mom always says,”It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” 

SERinterior

The soul of the SE-R is a 2.0-liter DOHC four cylinder engine that produced 140-hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, with a high redline of 7,500 RPM.  To keep all that power on the road, it has a limited-slip differential.  That small engine only needs to move around 2,500 lbs.  Today, the only lighter, affordable car is a 2016 Mazda Miata.  

When the SE-R debuted, it was compared to the BMW 2002 and the Datsun 510, both cars considered classics today.  There’s a reason for that.  The SER’s head designer, Kouichi Yasui, was an avid Datsun 510 fan and owner.  He wanted the Sentra SE-R to perform similarly to his own true love, his Datsun 510.  You did a great job, Mr Yasui.   

The SE-R is like your nerdy friend who practices jiu jitsu on the weekend.

My favorite thing about the SE-R is that it is so unassuming. The SE-R is like your nerdy friend who practices jiu jitsu on the weekend.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing. It looks so plain Jane that many of it original buyers had no idea of its capabilities.  They thought they were buying a grocery getter. 

SER-3

The only car today that I can compare this to is the the Ford Fiesta ST.  Even the Fiesta ST’s styling makes the Nissan Sentra SE-R look basic.

This week’s 1992 SE-R, for sale on Craigslist, has been modified, yippee.  A stock one would be better, but this one looks slightly tasteful. It could do without the Walmart flame floormats.   It has rust in the typical spots.  No sunroof, or ABS from the factory make it lighter, with potential for a great track car.   The seller is asking $3,000.  Even if you take it home, and the engine blows up, you’d still have a budget for a new  engine at that price. It’s a three-owner car with 121,XXX miles.  BUY NOW before SE-Rs are Seriously Extinct and Rare. 

Here are some pictures from the Craigslist ad.

SERCL SE-RCL2

 

SERCL3