. . . to Back on the Streets
copyright (c) 1995 by Terry Coates
The current state of the Showroom Stock "B" classifications is a mess. Once the regular season gets underway, it will be difficult to win a National race with any 1994 SSB car. I could fill this space going over this, but I won't subject anyone to that kind of rambling. There are only a half-dozen folks in OVR who care about it, and they already know what kind of dog-doo has been laid in our path. So onto other things. If the future doesn't look so bright, a trip to the past should bring some relief. Let's talk about my "old" race car.
Now it's hard for me to consider my 1992 Sentra SE-R an "old" race car. But when someone asks, that's what I call it. Oh, I could say "previous" race car, I suppose, but once the current race car Toyota MR2 is succeeded, the Sentra would become "one of my previous race cars." So I can save half the syllables by allowing myself to call it "an old race car."
As a Christmas present to myself, I had the body fixed. The Sentra's last track appearance was a regional at Nelson Ledges just after the '94 Runoffs. A VW Rabbit driver's mistake cost me a rear quarter panel and Dick Ruhl's Body Shop put a package deal together that would remove 29 races worth of dings. I officially retired the car from road racing and inherited a 1992 street car in the process. It had just over 5,000 miles on the clock.
I hate to drive it. Not because it's a bad ride, but because I have a car whose third birthday is about when you'll read this and by that time it'll still read less than 8,000 miles. Every time I drive it I put on an inordinate number of miles. The thing has only averaged 7 miles a day since I got it!
But drive it I must. A few days ago I found myself en route to Toledo on business. Five hours to study the Spartan interior of my Sentra. It's a true no-option car. At least the seats are cloth, but there is no radio and nothing to play with except the motor. But what a motor ...
The car is deceptively fast. The 16-valve 2.0L four likes to play above 4500 rpm (and screams to 7500), but there is still power in the lower revs. On the two-lane state routes between Rathbone and Toledo there were plenty of "moving pylons" to squirt around. Dozens of times I pulled out to pass someone doing, say, 50. A few seconds later I'm coasting down from 80 or so, resuming my cruising speed of 65. The car just isn't happy at 55 (and neither am I, frankly).
Deep down, the Sentra is still an economy car--although on steroids. I don't really like driving the car in the city. I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly why: It has an excellent motor and great brakes, yet I don't like doing the stop-and-go thing. I had started to become disappointed with the it. Until this Toledo trip: On the open road, the thing is a cruiser.
Okay, so it's not the typical battleship brought to mind by the word "cruiser". It's a bit loud and buzzy, but willing and nimble. Fifth gear in this car is fifth gear, not an overdrive gear, so the motor hovers around 3500 rpm on the highway. Engine and road noise are very noticeable, yet not annoying. But, hey, with no radio, what else is there to listen to? So my attention is drawn to the car, the road, and traffic. Three hours pass just as quickly as they would with the radio blaring cool tunes.
The full roll cage and belts are still installed so there is a little dance involved to get in and out. It's not too bad, although I'd never ask my wife to climb in there wearing a dress (unless there was no one else around). A window net and some decals are all that keep this from being a race car again. Ah, the beauty of Showroom Stock: Two more years of National eligibility, four more years of Regional eligibility, and an almost-new street car which is all but paid-for.
It was a long day with a bitter-sweet end. I'd fallen back in love with the Sentra, but realized the relationship will probably be cut short. "Paid-for" translates to equity. Equity is just another word for down payment. And that's the thing that will help me get into the "car-of-the-year", as required to stay competitive in Showroom Stock.
Which brings us back to the future. And tough decisions. I always wanted to try and keep the car that helped me to a second-place Runoffs finish in my first appearance. There's a lot of sentimental value there. Darn it, I just had it fixed. Heck, they're not even making them anymore. I mean, it's paid-for.
But no matter how many good reasons I can think of why I should keep the car, I can't shake the one reason why I shouldn't: I'd rather be racing.
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