In merry old England, the Nissan Micra (known as the March in Japan) gets a bit of a rough time. Typecast as the wheels of choice for the old and slow (think South Park's 'Grey Dawn' episode) or learner drivers, they are anything but cool. Maybe if Nissan had given us the turbocharged and supercharged version above, things would have panned out differently for the little hatchback.
Launched in 1982, things got off to a promising start with the March Super Silhouette above, a racing version built for the car's 'mascot', Japanese singer & racer Masahiko Kondo. Under the bonnet was a 1.5 litre 4 pot with 160hp, more than triple the standard car's output. As with Nissan's Sylvia, Bluebird and Skyline silhouette cars, huge arches and wild aero was added giving the cutesy looks an extreme makeover.
In 1985, an update saw the introduction of a turbocharged version of the standard car's 1.0 litre engine, now with a massive 74bhp. It wasn't until 1987 that the world got its first glimpse of the lunacy Nissan were plotting behind closed doors. The snappily titled 'March Little Dynamite Cup Race' allowed competitors to rent a stripped out, race ready March complete with the most extreme version of Nissan's dinky little 4 pot. Capacity was reduced further to 930cc but a supercharger was added to the mix, giving the 640kg car 110bhp and no turbo lag whatsoever. They even had side exhausts, I mean, what's not to love?
Come January 1989, Nissan had released a road going version of the Cup cars, the March Super Turbo. Fitted with the same twincharged 930cc engine, it was the first mass produced road car to be fitted with such a powerplant. Sure, Lancia had got there first with the Group B S4 but only 200 were (supposed to have been) built. To become homologated for the sub 1600cc rallying class Nissan wanted to participate in, they would have to build 10,000 examples and they would have to be reliable, something the Italians were not known for worrying about.
Although it had the heart of a rally car, the production Super Turbos were pretty plush inside. The cars had standard fit sports seats, electric mirrors and air conditioning while an auto 'box was apparently an option. More importantly, an LSD was standard as were wider tyres. Even in production trim, the car weighed just 770kgs so power to weight was good to the point where it started to overwhelm the chassis. Torque steer was never too far away while the front wheels would light up easily thanks to the low end grunt provided by the supercharger. Push on and the options were understeer or understeer.
Although flawed, I can't help but want one for what lies under the bonnet and the model specific bodykit. I'm sure a few choice handling upgrades (VW Polo coilovers can be made to fit....) and maybe a little more boost could release some of the untapped potential in one of these, not so sure Grandma would approve though.