A blue 2023 Nissan Sentra SR is shown driving on a city road.

Nissan: Not Just a Brand, But an Experience

The best piece of advice a writer can follow is to write what they know. What I know is that I married a die-hard car enthusiast. With the last name of Carr, my husband may have had no choice but to become a fan of all things vehicular. However, I believe that even if his last name were Smith, he still would have been drawn to the automotive world. From the first time we met to what we watch on TV and even our son’s name, this near obsession has become intertwined with our everyday lives. So it should come as no surprise that I have picked up on a few things here and there, like how Nissan makes some pretty great cars. Whether we are talking about the newer 2023 Nissan Sentra or the older Datsun 240Z, it is apparent that Nissan understands how to appeal to the gearhead in all of us.

It All Started With a Fair Lady

It was, in fact, the Datsun 240Z, also known as the Fairlady 240Z, that began his love of Nissan. The 240Z was released in Japan in 1969, and hit America shortly after. It was an overwhelming success in both markets. The Datsun 240Z was built with the quality Nissan is known for along with plenty of JDM style, which is why it is not shocking that this was the first Nissan to attract my other half. The 240Z was the first real example of how much appeal and draw Nissan would have over the fanatics of the automotive world. The 240Z may not have been the fastest of its time, but speed can only take you so far.

When I asked my husband what it was about Nissan that he liked so much, he said that Nissan builds cars that embody the thrill and excitement that you get when you connect with a car. It isn’t just about how fast the car can go or what gadgets it has, it’s about the experience. He can remember looking at the Datsun 240Z for the first time and how it looked fast even when it was standing still. Even though it was built decades earlier, it had modern appeal and the combination of both classic and contemporary styling left a lasting impression.

A Race Car In Sedan Clothing

Nissan is no one-hit wonder, and has continued designing impressive vehicles that know how to leave you wanting more. Take, for instance, the 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R. The best way to describe this vehicle is as a classic nineties era chick-flick. In case I lost you here, I am referring to how every nineties chick-flick film revolved around two cliché characters, one who possessed inner beauty, and one who could see past the person’s overdramatized outward flaws. With a less than exciting exterior you would think that the grease monkey tribe of fans would shun the Sentra. Instead, they focused on all the details that went into making it an unforgettable ride that would leave you grinning from ear to ear.

Described as a true sport sedan, the Sentra SE-R was and is very much a race car at heart. At its core beat the famous SR20, an inline-4 twin-cam 2.0L engine that made 140 horsepower. That isn’t much by modern standards, but it was a lot for its time, more than contemporaries like the Honda Civic Si which only made 105 horsepower. This was mated to a five-speed manual transmission with a viscous limited-slip differential, which put the power to the road far more effectively than its competitors. A firm suspension kept the driving neat, and its quick takeoff meant that you were sure to see some slack-jawed faces at the track when the unassuming Sentra SE-R hit the tarmac. Plus, like most Nissans, the Sentra SE-R was both affordable and well-constructed, adding inclusivity to Nissan’s list of pros. Just like the Datsun 240Z, the Sentra SE-R pulled in even more Nissan groupies.

From NISMO to the Gray Market of Quebec

If you are at all familiar with Nissan’s rich racing history, then you know that almost anything seems possible when it comes to Nissan. If you aren’t familiar with it, I would like to direct your attention to NISMO and its influence on the creation of the Sentra Cup Car. NISMO, named for the melding of NISsan MOtorsports, is a division of Nissan. As the name suggests, it focuses on motorsports, and infuses what they learn on the track into everyday Nissan vehicles. NISMO is one facet that Nissan uses to explore ways to incorporate their motto of innovate, excite, and thrill into every Nissan vehicle.

As a global entity, Nissan’s innovations can be found all over the world. With unique cultures and lifestyles comes a barrage of distinct Nissan creations that exemplify the company’s values. Unfortunately, that also means that just because Nissan makes a totally rad car, it doesn’t mean you will be able to get your hands on it. Most likely, the only way to snag your dream machine would be through some sort of “gray market” importer.

A “gray market” import refers to a vehicle that is manufactured in or imported into another country, but is later imported and sold in the United States instead. A well-known and accepted example of a “gray market” vehicle would be a JDM import, such as the Skyline. JDM, for anyone not married to a Nissan obsessed car zealot, is an acronym of Japanese Domestic Market. This is an extremely popular market in the US, due in large part to other gearheads like my husband who recognize the value of a Nissan branded vehicle and everything it offers.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “Why the long diatribe about imported vehicles, and what does this have to do with the Sentra Cup Car? And what is the Sentra Cup Car?” I will tell you what it is, but first let’s start with a quick break-down of what the Sentra Cup is. The Sentra Cup is a series of races held in Canada, made up of identically modified Nissan Sentras. One of the coolest things about the racing series is that since every Sentra that is entered is identically tuned, the driver is the only varying factor, and therefore the advantage.

These Sentras are first stripped all the way down to their skivvies, then rebuilt by the same team. This team goes by the name of Motorsports in Action, and they hail from Quebec. The modified Sentras are now the Sentra Cup Car. These unique and inspired race cars can, in fact, be purchased in Canada. But if you live in the United States, I wouldn’t get your hopes up of procuring one for yourself, at least not until they are twenty-five years old and can be legally imported.

Potential Is In the Eye Of Nissan

This not so fantastical tale of street car to race car is not meant to discourage anyone who wants to get their hands on a Nissan of similar caliber. Instead, it is an acknowledgment that my husband knows what he’s talking about. Modified or not, The Nissan brand offers affordable vehicles that can be easily customized and are guaranteed to provide a thrill. It took a surprisingly minimal amount of changes to take the Sentra from road car to race car, and a lot of that has to do with how the Sentra was designed in the first place. This notion of transforming an everyday driver to a gearhead’s very own thrill ride for not a lot of money is the appeal.

You may have a difficult time getting your hands on a Sentra Cup Car, or even a nineties Sentra SE-R, but what about the 2023 version of the Nissan Sentra? The newest Sentra to the tribe has similar lines and outer features to the Nissan Z. It is clearly a sedan with attitude, and you know just by looking at it that driving it will be fun. Its price tag makes it even more appealing, and since it is a Nissan, it has been built to last.

Cruise down the freeway in the Sentra, or go outside the box and consider what your Sentra Cup Car would feature. Whether you decide to customize it or just enjoy it for what it is, you can rest assured that it will look mighty fine on a hill at sunset. If you are a gearhead, then you know what I mean. If you aren’t, let’s just say that the love felt between enthusiast and car is often shown through a sunset photoshoot, and will definitely feature the vehicle from every possible angle.

Nissan Knows How To Make Memories

Since the beginning, Nissan has put a focus on making sure that the experience someone has in one of their vehicles is just as memorable as the vehicle itself. Even as a passenger, you are sure to appreciate the ride, whether you have a predilection for fast cars or not. I am a testament to that, as my own personal interest in the car culture began with a Nissan 350Z. My not-yet-husband and I built memories and found a common interest in it that would ultimately bring us closer together. If you have seen the 350Z, you know why it was the car to win me over.

Despite my grumblings when approaching speed bumps, I will always look back and remember with fond sentiments that ridiculous burnt orange 350Z that growled like it had two protruding canines and a lust for blood. It was one of the first cars we had as a couple, and it was also the first (and last) time I ever attempted to learn how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. It was an unforgettable car that left an impression on us both, and I am sure when you climb into the seat of a Nissan, old or new, you will see that Nissan is more than just a name.