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Shed of the Week | Nissan Primera GT

Remember when the Primera crushed it in the BTCC? Shed does...

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, August 09, 2019

Not so long ago, ‘never raced or rallied’ was a standard phrase in any classified ad for a vaguely sporting motor. It was meant to convince you that the quietly melting car you were thinking of buying still had plenty of life left in it.

So, with that in mind, would you buy a car from an owner who not only didn’t try to hide its motorsporting activities, but who actually proudly proclaimed them?

If it was a Nissan Primera GT you might. Nissans weren’t the most inspiring cars on the roads in the 1990s, but by gum they were good at taking abuse. The standard P11 Primera of 1995-2002 was slightly less exciting than a piece of chewing gum stuck to your shoe, but the GT had enough bant about it to make it worthy of consideration by the discerning Shedman. Partly because it was developed (partly) by smiley Ringmeister Dirk Schoysman who, with more than 15,000 Ring laps to his credit, knew a thing or two about setting cars up.

The BTCC version of the Primera GT mullered the opposition in 1999, taking the manufacturer’s title with 19 wins from that year’s 26 races. OK, the road GT version is a bit down on power with 150hp, but its shortish gearing (it needs nearly 3,500rpm to run at 70mph in top) allied to a feeling that you will never, ever bust the 2.0 litre twin-cam motor sounds like a marriage made in heaven for your average hard-hearted leadfoot with zero mechanical sympathy.

Even in standard trim, the multilink-suspended, 280mm vented front disc GT looks after itself well. Despite its suburbanite appearance it’s a great basis for a cheap track weapon, especially when it’s festooned with more than its fair share of well-considered chassis mods, like this one. Take a squint at the list in the ad.

By the looks and sounds of the ad, this is not just a single-purpose circuit fun car. Of course, these pics might have been taken before the vendor took to the tracks. Maybe it’s all been stripped out now. Shed hopes it hasn’t. He loves the idea of a track car with a road atlas in the front seat pocket – handy for the tedious barren wastes of Silverstone – and with all the back seats still in place.

This one isn’t in the ChromaFlair two-tone reflective green paint that the 1998 GTSE Mystic special edition came in, which is a mixed blessing: although it looks great, that flip stuff is murder to match up if you’re aiming for concours spec. Not that you would be doing that with a 1998 Primera, so perhaps that’s a moot point. Instead, our one is in Resale Silver, which given its age and value sounds like another moot point.

Because it’s not one of those 400 Mystics, no leather will meet your touchpoints. As long as you don’t mind 20thcentury velour however you’ll find good support in the seats and a surprisingly good driving position. The turning circle is a bit large, but then so is the carrying capacity of this five-door, five-seat hatchback.

Gearbox oil needs to be checked every now and then. If the level isn’t right, getting into top or reverse will gradually become more difficult. Top links and bushes wear out, but replacements won’t break the bank. ABS problems are fairly common too, and will be down to either a sensor or a broken ring. If it is the ring, you’d be well advised to chuck a new driveshaft in there at the same time as you’re mending it because they’re considered to be consumable items and again they’re not madly expensive. A bust sensor will activate the dash light too and that’s an MOT fail.

Rust in this area can add complication to the fix. It’s a Japanese car of a certain age, so rust is to be expected. If you’re buying this particular car, which we are told is totally solid bar one rear wheel arch, check both inner sills. The tailgate is a known Primera weak spot, and it’s starting to go on our Shed. At least it gives any trackdayer you’ve just overtaken something to tut at after they’ve seen those small brown stains on your passage.

The MOT on this car runs out in November. The only advisory last year was for a non-excessive oil leak, which is hardly something to wet your pants over. Shed likes a non-excessive leak actually, because it means the engine’s getting fresh oil on a regular basis. If you decide to use the car more for fast(ish) public road use than for trackdays, your everyday annoyances could include dodgy headlights, moisture coming through the sunroof, and lost LCDs on the factory ICE head unit.

All the money spent so far has been on the chassis, so the platform is there for the next owner to splurge some cash on the tough and respected SR20 engine. It’s harder to get big increases on these normally aspirated motors than it is on the turbos, but old school tricks to improve the breathing (cams, flowed head, exhaust manifold, throttle bodies) would be a good start. But as Cupid Stunt used to say, we’re giving away the plot.

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