Work has recently commenced on re-assembly of one of the most unique projects in the Retropower workshop, the Nissan Sunny ZX Coupe. It’s a build you might well have encountered on the projects section of our website yet one that’s so ‘out there’ that we felt compelled to put together another, more detailed blog detailing its evolution.

As you might be aware, the owner of this project was adamant that the finished car be a wholly useable proposition, a car well suited to the environment in which he spends a large portion of his automotive life – central London and other highly congested cities. Said environment is precisely the kind where you really don’t want to have to contend with a hyper specialised, incredibly focussed manual transmission, which is why this is a build totally devoid of close ratio ‘boxes, close-cut gears or indeed a manual transmission of any kind.

The initial concept sketches give a rough idea how the Sunny Coupe will eventually look

This commitment to practicality can be seen throughout the car, including its engine and drive configuration. It will remain front-wheel drive and modestly powerful, though there was never any thought given to retaining its standard engine, at least not in its standard form. The CA18DE actually bolted to the car by Nissan had covered a limited mileage when it came to us, hence our current plan is to use the ‘large scale Meccano kit’ nature of late ’80s Nissans to our advantage, by turbocharging the engine we already have. Doing so will of course require a rebuild, the fitment of low compression pistons and under piston oil squirters of course, but the results will doubtless be worthwhile.

Considerable effort has been spent in ensuring the Sunny’s arches look the part

It wouldn’t be a Retropower project worthy of the name without a deep commitment to custom work and individuality though, which is why the Sunny sports some of the most extensive bodywork modifications we’ve yet tackled. The wings are probably the most obvious evidence of this, with both rears having been remade from sheet steel, a process that’s left the Sunny with a far more aggressive rear-three quarter profile. Custom fabrication work has also been carried out on the front arches, the sills and both the front valances, and while we’ll leave it to you to judge its overall effectiveness, we have had several people comment that the end result looks a little like a truncated R32 Skyline (no bad thing in our book).

The extensive bodywork revisions were crowned with a fresh coat of paint, in this case a Ford colour, Magnetic Grey. It’s a hue best known for its use on the latest iteration fo the Mustang though one we feel also looks right at home on the boxy Nissan Coupe.

A small selection of the freshly painted components waiting to be bolted to the ZX once more

We’re now in the process of rebuilding the car once more, a step begun by having all suspension components either replaced (a trickier task than you might first have thought given how rare B12 Sunnies of any shape now are) or blasted, zinc metal sprayed and powdercoated. All joints and bearings have been replaced of course, while a complete set of SuperPro polyurethane bushes can now be found, not to mention a freshly rebuilt set of Gaz adjustable coilovers. These are modest changes (particularly given the kind of work we normally carry out), but they should be more than enough to bring about huge improvements in the Sunny’s handling poise.

The relative scarcity of New Old Stock parts has meant restoring most of Nissan’s OEM running gear, the steering rack very much included

One final aspect of this build, and one we’re regularly asked about by those new to the car, is why the owner opted to invest so much into what must be one of the more obscure sporting offerings from Nissan’s immense back catalogue of models. The answer is simply that the owner has a real passion for Nissan Sunnies of all kinds, the B12 Coupe in particular, and we can’t say we blame him – it’s a striking shape and one that’s weathered the passage of time remarkably well. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

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