Nissan Micra 350SR: Mid-Engine Madness
It’s fair to say that the Nissan Micra is not exactly a classic enthusiast’s car. Aside from the brilliant K10 Super Turbo and some one-make racing action, rarely have Micras been considered particularly interesting. There is also, at least in the UK, a rather elderly image associated with the Micra that has followed it through its various generations. Unsurprisingly this has harmed the appeal of the car to younger audiences, so in an attempt to change this Nissan UK commissioned what must surely be one of the wildest Micras ever in the early 2000s.
The March (as the Micra is known in Japan) Super Turbo is an undoubted high-point in the Micra's history
Micra R: Pint-Sized Touring Car
Tasked with turning the Micra into a full-on hot hatch was Ray Mallock Ltd (RML), who had previously worked with Nissan by running the Primera BTCC factory team in the late 1990s. The new creation was based on the K12 generation Micra and debuted at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, known as the Micra R. In this form it featured no running gear or engine, and was purely intended as a showpiece. However, shortly after the show Nissan UK requested the rest of the project be completed, and the work to turn the Micra R into a functional vehicle began.
RML took inspiration from their previous work with Nissan by fitting a de-tuned version of the engine from their BTCC Primera in the Micra R. The 2.0 four cylinder now produced around 260hp and, just to make sure the Micra R was suitably mental enough, was mounted behind the front seats and sent its power to the rear wheels. The six-speed sequential gearbox from the Primera was also carried over. The result of this powertrain was a claimed 0-60 time of less than five seconds, and a top speed in excess of 150mph.
Visually the R and 350SR were very similar, with a change of livery and wheels being the most obvious differences
Micra 350SR: More Usable, Still Mental
In 2005 the Micra R evolved into the Micra 350SR, in an attempt to refine the car slightly. The most significant change was the replacement of the engine: instead of the BTCC Primera engine, there was now a tweaked VQ35DE 3.5 V6 in its place. Surprisingly, this was not sourced from a 350Z and rather came from a Murano of all cars; though it was fitted with 350Z heads as part of the tuning process. There was also a Nismo ECU tune and cams added, with the result of this being an output of 305hp. The change of powerplant for the Micra was primarily due to how awkward the previous engine was to use in everyday situations: and yes, that means both iterations of the car were actually still road-legal.
Along with the new engine the 350SR also received a new gearbox, this time coming from the US market Altima SE-R in the form of a traditional six-speed manual. More parts bin raiding was employed with the use of an Almera radiator and chassis components, as well as 350Z tyres and wheels. Weighing it at around 1250kg the Micra maintained similar performance stats in its new form, as despite the extra power the V6 was noticeably heavier than the four cylinder.
The 350SR had a full roll-cage (which improved chassis stiffness by 30% over the regular car), racing seats and race-spec digital dash, so there was no doubt over how serious of a piece of kit it was: though it also retained the standard car’s cup-holders and electric windows. Brembo brakes and a fully-adjustable suspension set up were fitted to ensure the substantial power output could actually be controlled.
Once the transformation was completed from R to 350SR, the car was once again used for promotional purposes. Journalists were given the chance to blast it around Cadwell Park at the launch of the Micra 160SR production car (which was by comparison a lukewarm hatch, at best), which resulted in the 350SR being involved in a small crash. It was soon repaired, and was then handed over to Evo to run on their office fleet for a few months. Since then it hasn’t seen much usage, as the K12 generation of Micra has long since ended production and thus the 350SR isn’t overly relevant today.
There were vague rumours of a limited production run or one-make race series being considered, but these never came to fruition: not all that surprising considering the car cost a supposed £250,000 to build. Still, it was a fantastic example of a manufacturer letting its hair down and building something just because they could.