My mom had a term for cars like these: "grandma cars." As a car-spotting kid, I'd point out a unique, desirable, limited-edition sport compact of some sort—a Contour SVT, a Civic Si, an Integra Type R. The kind of car that hides real-deal performance in a mostly plain wrapper. Always the same refrain from mom: "it looks like the kind of car your grandma would drive!"
If you end up as the winning bidder on , be prepared for the same kind of reaction. Because to anybody who isn't a die-hard gearhead, this just looks like the most plain-jane econobox the car industry ever coughed out. And you know what? We're okay with that.
Welcome to You Must Buy, our daily look at the cars you really should be buying instead of that boring commuter sedan.
The SE-R was revolutionary in its day. Nissan took the cheap-and-cheerful Sentra and crammed in a 140-horsepower SR20DE engine and limited-slip differential. The result was a high-revving little gem that, at less than 2500 lbs, packed an enviable power-to-weight ratio. When we drove the SE-R in 1990, we called it a "shark." The car invited favorable comparisons to the BMW 2002. Talk about an achievement.
Even today, the SE-R is beloved by hardcore Nissan fans, autocrossers and trackday rats. The engines are stout and eminently tunable. The chassis is well sorted. The aftermarket is chock full of upgrades.
But tell all of that to your date or your non-gearhead friends, and they'll think your head gasket's a little loose. Because for all the performance and charm the SE-R delivers from the driver's seat, standing on the curb, it looks like a store-brand commuter car. Like the car that comic book illustrators draw when they're filling in the backdrop of a gridlocked city. Like the car kids sketch when they first learn how to hold a crayon and draw straight lines. Especially in rental-car white.
So if you show to your coworkers, prepare for some puzzled looks. To you and me, this 148,000-mile '92 is an honest survivor example, perfect for light modding or Sunday-driver status. But to the average observer, it's the blandest, most basic collection of parts that can legally be described as "an automobile."
In other words, it's what my mom would call a Grandma Car. Mom never understood. But I'm betting you do.