It’s been a few months since I first posted about my recently purchased P10 Primera, my first foray into modifying a FWD car since my last EK Civic in 2011. In terms of the old adage of smiles per mile/per pound, it’s proven to be an absolute gem so far.
That’s not to say that P10 ownership has been without its problems but, in reality, you can’t own any 25 year old Nissan and not be prepared for some hiccups if you’re actually out there and using it.
The first issue came about when accelerating out of a roundabout on a bypass; a massive bang followed by a loss of drive. Anyone reading this with experience of old Primeras will be thinking “driveshaft” right now and they’d be exactly right! The passenger side drive shaft had snapped clean in half.
A trusty gentleman from the AA arrived to load up the car and move it to Retroshine, where Adam and his dad would set about fitting a P11 gearbox that I’d not long since collected to replace the tired standard box (it had blown 5th gear) and a pair of P11 driveshafts. The P11 box supposedly has shorter gear ratios lower down and, considering how long-geared the P10 gearboxes are for such a relatively low powered car, I thought it would be a worthwhile upgrade. Also fitted at the same time was an XTC paddle clutch and lightweight flywheel that Freddie Sharvell kindly donated from his stockpile of parts.
Once fixed, I spent the next few months enjoying the car through the awful winter weather. Heavy rain, snow, ice, no matter what the British weather threw at it, the little P10 soldiered on. The stock suspension was drastically over-damped and uncomfortable but it made the car so chuckable and sure-footed on country lanes that any foibles could easily be ignored.
While my immediate focus was on sorting out my Cedric and Laurel, I still spent some time aimlessly browsing eBay for anything suitable for the Primera. One day I stumbled upon a set of super cheap 16″ BBS wheels; they were far from the tidiest set available but they were straight and, crucially, had a 4×114.3 PCD. I won the auction and headed South to collect them in Cedric shortly afterwards, after which they would sit in at the STL unit for a short while not doing too much.
I did get a moment to test fit them and look on with horror at the combination of stock suspension and larger wheels. It’s almost a shame really as the stock suspension was extremely capable and good fun when being pushed.
After a short while of not fiddling with it, I decided it was time to really get stuck into this car and get a move on before the track day season snuck up on me. I had originally planned on modifying an old set of S-body coilovers to suit with some P10-specific top mounts but, after contemplating it for quite some time and studying the quite awkward rear brake line and anti-roll bar mounting setup, I took the plunge and bought a set of BC coilovers. On a side note, STREET TRACK LIFE can supply BC coilovers if required, so please get in touch if you’re looking for suspension for your P10 or anything else that needs a healthy suspension drop.
These cost more than I had intended to spend on this cheap and cheerful car but I figured that, considering that I bought the car for track day fun, getting the suspension right was of the upmost importance.
Tyres were also crucial, so I picked up some Federal RSR rubber in 205/50-16 size to go on the BBS I’d bought previously. I bought RSRs because they are what my friend Mat runs on his P10 and we figured that they’d make a good “control tyre”, so neither of us have an advantage of track!
I got these fitted at my local tyre garage. Of course, this was when the UK was in the midst of a snow deluge, so it was quicker to simply walk and carry them to the garage rather than trying to drive them there. Of course, there was no chance I was actually going to fit them to the car during this weather but I just wanted them to be ready to go when the time called.
The aforementioned Mat and I went exploring in the snow shortly afterwards, which was a drive that reminded me that the RSRs that Mat was running were definitely not best suited to the conditions at hand.
Typically, just as I had spent money on fancy new parts, the flexi joint in the downpipe decided to break, resulting in the most embarrassing of naturally aspirated noises.
Regardless, the coilovers had arrived now so I tried to forget all about the exhaust as it was time to get on with the most exciting job you will ever do on a car: lowering it.
Adam at Retroshine was kind enough to lend me his ramp for the evening. If this was an S-body I’d have just done the job on the floor and dealt with it, but P10 suspension utilises a slightly more complicated design that I’m not familiar with at all. That, coupled with 26 years of service on salty UK roads would ensure that there were undoubtedly going to be some seized bolts.
The front suspension utilises a double wishbone setup, with the knuckle and upright arm tied into the shell with a curved upper arm that can control camber and caster.
Freeing the OEM shock involved disconnecting the upper arm and upright in order to give it space to be removed, along with unbolting the brake line mounting tab in order to access the bottom shock bolt.
Typically, figuring out the order in which to reinstall the parts along with the coilover unit on the first front corner that I did took over an hour of experimenting, as there seemed to be a certain process in which to do things. After figuring it out though, the other side only took around ten minutes.
Interestingly (and annoyingly), the front coilovers can’t really be adjusted in situ due to the upright arm so, after estimating the required coilover length and loosely fitting everything, we lowered the car down onto a trusty fitment stool to see how the front wheels would sit. I was happy with the result, so the coilover was removed, copper greased and tightened at the designated length before being fitted properly. I then set the other front coilover to the same length after performing the same preventative copper grease work before fitting it.
The rear suspension required less consideration with it being a MacPherson strut setup. If anything, the only headache was trying to remove the droplinks from their mounting point on the bottom bracket of the shock. Long story short, I had to order a replacement pair of droplinks!
The rear coilovers can easily be adjusted in situ, so fine tuning the ride height will be no problem. The shocks sit inside the arch well, similar to those on my C33 Laurel. However, the P10 is a narrow car, so unlike the Laurel, wheels wider than 8J could run the risk of fouling the damper (if the offset is one that will sit nicely under the factory arches). On a C33, the shocks are sunk much further into the arch well, so 9 or 10J wheels can be fitted without worrying about inner clearance.
With everything fitted, it was time to drive home and hope I hadn’t forgotten to tighten anything. The alignment felt off as you’d expect but the first impression was that the coilovers were far more comfortable during regular driving than the factory dampers. The stock spring rates are 8 and 5kg and seem well suited to UK roads, although I feel I might need to fit stiffer 326POWER items down the line.
I didn’t fit the BBS wheels to begin with as I wanted to ensure that there were no clearance issues within the arches, primarily at the front. The last thing I wanted was for an expensive RSR tyre to get chewed up by a sharp section of upper chassis leg, let alone eating away on the arch lining. In addition, the rear arches needed rolling too, which was something Adam and I couldn’t be bothered doing at midnight. Also, I didn’t want to cause excessive wear on the tyres by driving with wonky alignment.
One problem now was that, not only was the exhaust downpipe flexi still leaking, the rear section hung uncomfortably low at the rear. As you can imagine, low ride height with an ill fitting exhaust is a recipe for annoyance (and occasional sparks, so every cloud and all that).
I needed a solution quickly and, as I could have guessed, P10 collector Jimmy (who went with me to buy the car originally) had an answer. Lurking away in his garage was a full 2.5″ cat back stainless steel system with a cool little fart can at the rearmost point. He also had an eBay style manifold and downpipe too, which I thought I might as well chuck on while I was at it for the full NA rasp experience.
I set off ready for a day of working on the car, getting the new exhaust parts fitted and also swapping the wheels over. Unfortunately, on the way, I encountered some road works (that weren’t signposted) and, in avoiding one raised manhole cover, managed to smash my sump off a raised water main cover. Thankfully I was only a few minutes away from my destination, so I limped the car there (the oil was only trickling out slowly at this point), parked up and watched with sadness as the contents of the sump were ejected onto the side of the road. Wonderful!
The P10 is fitted with an oil pressure gauge as standard but, in this case, it appeared that the leak hadn’t been substantial enough to affect its reading.
I hadn’t been banking on having to deal with this (obviously!) but there was no point crying over spilt milk/oil. Thankfully, a spare sump was pretty easy to source via eBay, along with a replacement manifold gasket (a multi-layer SR20DET item fits perfectly, by the way), a Nissan oil filter and some fresh Titan Fuchs 10w50. I’m not too sure what oil grades other Primera owners swear by but I’ve used the Titan stuff in my SR20DETs over the last few years so I figured it’d be fine to use the same stuff.
With the oil situation sorted it was back to the exhaust parts. On the upside, the cat back I’d picked up turned out to be a 5zigen Border 304 system. On the downside, the back box pipework had been altered slightly to have it sitting at a pretty bizarre angle, which meant it fouled the anti-roll bar at my ride height. In addition, the flexi joint on the eBay downpipe was also blowing pretty strongly too. I chucked some Halfords exhaust bandage on there for the time being until I could get it fixed properly.
Thankfully, after all of these jobs it was time to fit a cool part. A bucket seat is of course a necessity for track use, so I removed the super snug OMP Champ from my C33 for the job. Along with Adam from Retroshine we’d experimented with trying to fit a pair of generic side mounts which, after standing back and scratching our heads, would require various bits of welding and chopping to the OEM floor pan in order to sit right. I really wasn’t in the mood for this (and potentially cocking it up) so I sold the side mounts and ordered up a BRIDE super low sliding side mount rail from Japan.
As expected, it fit absolutely perfectly and meant that I could mount the seat quickly and easily. Ideally I could do with mounting the seat a little lower using the rearmost side mount holes but, the underside of the seat seems to foul the rearmost bolt heads on the rail if lowered too far, so it’ll do for now. Most importantly, I can (just) fit 6’3″ of me plus a helmet underneath the headlining, which is a little lower than normal due to the electric sunroof arrangement.
One of the most important aspects of this seat rail for me was that it included an additional bracket that would allow for the OEM seat belt buckle to be fitted to it. I know it might be all cool and “race car” to rip your seat belt out and chuck in a heavy duty harness but, when you’re nipping into Tesco to grab your £3 meal deal in the morning or hopping out at the airport to grab your girlfriend’s luggage from the boot, harnesses are just a massive pain.
Of course, I have still fitted a harness (my old Driftworks setup from my C33) but I managed to figure out a way of doing so while retaining the seat belt for daily use, just like I did in my Laurel. A pair of threaded eyelets sit below the rear seat bench, which means the harness can be unclipped to make way for a passenger should I have a full car. At the front, I used another eyelet in the lower seat belt mounting hole so that the harness lap belt could clip to it and, over on the other side, I used an eyelet in the Bride seat belt buckle bracket to cater for both the other part of the harness and the OEM buckle, using the supplied serrated washer and nut. Simple!
With that done, it was time to finally fit the wheels which is, of course, was the most exciting bit. It soon dawned on me that I hadn’t done any width or offset calculations prior to fitting them and I only checked the factory stamps as I was chucking them on (16x7J+38 as it turned out). They were a very snug fit which, in non-drift/stance terms, translates to “they don’t really fit at all”. The fronts just snuck under the wings but were on a course to rip out the arch liners at the earliest opportunities, while the rear tyres wouldn’t fit under the arches at all.
This called for some light engineering, so out came the fitment hammer. I removed the front arch liners (which turned out to be huge and ran from underneath the side skirts to the front lip) and then gently beat the inner lip of the wings flat. The metal mounting tabs for the liners are always a pain on old Nissans and, if you don’t forcibly move them out the way and make sure they stay there, they just love to chew up a tyre sidewall when you least expect it.
Typically, removing the driver’s side arch liner revealed a nice big loom section cable tied to the underside of the upper chassis leg; classic 90s Nissan. It doesn’t appear to be close enough for the tyre to hit it (maybe if I had drift levels of steering lock it’d become a problem) but its’t still a bit too close for comfort, so I think I’ll start looking at pulling the fusebox apart and threading the lot straight into the engine bay either through the firewall or through the side of the wing (drift car techniques meet grip driving once again).
With the front wings sorted, the rear arch lips needed hammering flat to get them out of the way. As these are far from the most structurally sound pieces of metal on the car, I heated them up beforehand and proceeded with caution. Due to the size of the tyres, I had to flatten the arch lips all the way from where they meet the rear bumper to halfway down the front of them. Even now, the rear bumper mounting tabs are catching the tyres ever so slightly during moments of extreme suspension compression, so I’ll need to trim these down slightly to avoid any tyre ruining incidents.
What didn’t help matters to begin with was that the tyres were practically rubbing the coilover locking collars, so I had to chuck a 3mm slip-on spacer on both sides to push them out of the way
Oh, and while I was at it I fitted the replacement pair of rear drop links that I managed to get off eBay pretty cheaply.
And there we are, all caught up! The immediate to do list involves fixing the exhaust and perhaps quietening it down a fair amount while I’m at it, as it sounds very Honda-esque right now. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it certainly puts paid to any hopes of meeting the 105dB noise limits that most UK tracks enforce. Speaking of track days, I think the little P10 is just a brake service/upgrade and an alignment away from being ready, so I’ll be sure to hit up somewhere like Cadwell Park, Anglesey or Oulton Park very soon.
Thanks for reading.