This is the Nissan March R. Built in 1988, it is a supercharged and turbocharged 110 horsepower, hatchback with a limited-slip front differential and a weight well under 2000 pounds. And nobody's ever heard of it.
Part of this is because the car is a little bit confusing. It clearly exists in that race car for the road/road-going racecar spectrum that defines a homologation special, but it's not exactly clear what the car was a homologation for, or if this is the car I should be writing about at all.
You see, in 1987, Nissan started its own racing series called the "March Little Dynamite Cup Race," where you could rent a stripped, caged, twincharged (that's super and turbocharged) Nissan March, or Micra as non-Japanese markets called it.
In 1989, Nissan built 10,000 copies of a road car version of those Little Dynamic Cup Race cars. Nissan called these the Nissan March Super Turbo, for the 110 horsepower, 0.93 liter twincharged engine. Let's take a look at that motor. Turbo on one side.
Supercharger on the other!
One owner on the Japanese Nostalgic Car forums explained that the supercharger gives 10 psi of boost up to about 4000 rpm, at which point the turbo kicks in, raising boost up to 14 psi all the way up to the 6500 rpm redline.
How does the car know when to use what compressor? There's a magnetic clutch that activates the supercharger. Not only does it only engage when you give hard throttle so that it doesn't spin while pootling around town, it automatically disengages once the turbo really kicks in. Very cool stuff for a tinny little Micra.
Here's what the powerband looked like on this PLASMA MA09ERT engine. Wikipedia tells me that PLASMA stands for Powerful & Economic, Light, Accurate, Silent, Mighty, Advanced. I adore that more than words can express.
Lancia had homologated twincharged rally cars before, but as Jalopnik reader AJTaylor points out, Nissan was the first to sell them to the public in any meaningful numbers or at any reasonable price.
While the race car weighed just 620 kilos, the road-going Super Turbo clocked in at 770.
This is because the Super Turbo had things like, uh, an interior.
It also came with a car key that was a cat. A cat named after a sumo wrestler. I am not making this up.
That's a very straightforward evolution, but somewhere in the middle sits the 1988 March R.
The R and the Super Turbo share the same engine and dynamic upgrades, but while the Super Turbo comes with ordinary seat belts, full interior trim (with a bitchin' cloth pattern) and a normal steering wheel.
The R came with four-point racing belts, a racing steering wheel, a super tall gearshifter, what looks like a half cage, and I don't even know what other little race car-esque mods.
How much the Micra R weighed, I can't say. You can also see that the R does not have the exterior trim of the Super Turbo, clearly lacking a rear spoiler and I'm not sure what else.
It looks to me like the R is a race car version offered on sale to the public, while the Super Turbo is the true homologation special. This contemporary brochure (read the whole thing right here) seems to back that up, though being able to read Japanese would certainly help clarify that.
The thing about homologation specials, though, is that they're built to comply with mandatory road car production numbers set by the FIA for a large-scale racing series. Think of the Subaru WRX and the WRC, for example.
And that's exactly what Nissan did with the little March: they rallied it! Here's one in the '88 All-Japan Rally Championship.
Hardcore Nissan fans will note that this event also featured the Nissan Bluebird SSS-R, one of the most capable rally specials sold to the public.
I do not, however, have any idea how successful the twincharged March ever was in international competition. The only other shots Nissan has of their March competing are as a March Turbo in the '89 Safari Rally. A March Turbo is also shown on the '88 results.
But that's whatever. The real question is how come nobody has written more about these totally charming little screamers?
Photo Credits: Nissan