prjktMAYHEM’s first car prjkt is the Nissan A31 Laurel Altima. Laurel Altima? Yes, Laurel Altima. Nissan produced the A31 not only for Japan under the A31 Cefiro badge, but also for a few select markets around the world under the Laurel Altima badge. From the outside, the Cefiro and Laurel Altima look the same. They are in fact the same body style. The interior, the brake package, the engine, the transmission and the wiring is where the differences are at. The A31 Cefiro and the Laurel Altima were produced between 1988-1994. There are zenki and kouki variations. The model for this prjkt is a 1992 model. Unlike the Cefiro, the Laurel Altima did not come with any of the engine choices that were available to the Cefiro. The Cefiro received the RB20E, RB20DE, RB20DET and the RB25DE (1994) and transmission options were 5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic and 4-speed automatic. The Laurel Altima engine options were the CA20S (single cam 4-cylinder w/carburetor; 102 crank HP) and the RB24S (single cam 6-cylinder w/carburetor 141 crank HP) with the latter being designated as Laurel Altima GTS-R. Apparently, the Laurel Altima was available in 5 speed manual and automatic. Every stock Laurel Altima I have ever seen in the Middle East was automatic. Someone saw a stock 5 speed manual edition in China a few years ago, but that is really pointless. In summary, the export A31 is a very watered down version of the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) A31.
The pictures above were taken in April thru July 2014 and was bought for 300 Kuwaiti Dinar. It was in dire need of sorting out. Initially, the bare minimum was done to get it to pass inspection for plate purposes, such as replacement of worn out brakes, power steering hoses and fix any fluid leaks. To not get any negative attention from the vehicle inspector when I went to the registration office, it was recommended that the car be painted, so it got a quick paint job. After getting the car inspected and registered for another year, I purchased aftermarket wheels from Rota Wheels in the USA
and a no-name brand adjustable coilover system (SS Auto Chrome has the same exact system, but I did not purchase it from SS Auto Chrome).
Also purchased was the Nardi Deep Corn 350mm steering wheel and steering column boss adapter for Nissan.
As well as these zenki dual projector head lamps.
This is pretty much where I stopped in June 2014.
Before and after buying the car, I started studying the available engine and transmission swap options. The overall plan for the car is to stay as close to OE in look and feel as possible. The engines that were being considered were: CA18, RB20, RB25, RB26, SR20, 1J, 2J, LQ4, LS1. If I were to still to a tried and true formula without much to think about, the RB series engines, with the exception of the RB26, would have been a pretty seamless option. Instead of following the crowd of A31 Laurel Altima owners and what they do for swaps, I elected to go SR20DET. Why? Firstly, I am really comfortable with this engine platform, having done many previous swaps with this engine. Secondly, parts are easily acquirable and reasonably priced when compared to the CA18 and RB series. Thirdly, as far as I know, I am the first to do this swap into the A31 Laurel Altima. Yes, there are many examples of the A31 Cefiro with SR swaps, but this is not a Cefiro, so at least I can claim this. What about 1J/2J, LQ4 and LS1 swap options? Sure, any one of these would be cool, but then I would be getting away from the OE look and feel of the original plan. To be more specific, the plan was to remove the original engine, transmission and associated wiring and adapt a Nissan 180SX or Silvia SR20DET engine, gearbox and wiring. Repeatedly looking at the layout of the Laurel Altima engine bay, I surmised that the engine and transmission would be the easy part. Wiring up and adaptation of purely RHD electrical and electronic components would pose the biggest challenges.
I left the car alone while looking in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region for exactly what I needed, but it really amounted to nothing. There were no SR20DET half cuts in Kuwait, let alone full swaps (engine, transmission, engine harness, ECU). It started looking like I would be forced to look outside the region for what I was searching for.
In late December 2014, I made some calls to some engine dismantlers in the USA and Canada for a 180SX half cut. I finally found one that I liked in Montreal, Canada.
The half cut arrived in Kuwait in April 2015, and was quickly transferred to the garage where the swap was going to happen.
I just want to pause here for a minute… Again, this is a Laurel Altima, and not a Cefiro. To call it a Cefiro is a misnomer, like a 240SX owner calling his/her car a 180SX or a Silvia. There were no LHD Cefiro produced in the 6-year run of the A31, and no Laurel Altima came with the RB series engine with the exception of the RB24S in the GTS-R option, and even this engine has no supporting community outside the Middle East and other parts of the world where the A31 Laurel Altima was sold. With this in mind, nobody in the Cefiro community could be of any help with the exception of maybe exterior and some interior. To further compound this dilemma, there are no factory service manuals floating around that pertain to the A31 Laurel Altima (nor are there any for the A31 Cefiro). Little, if any, is known regarding an SR20DET swap into the Laurel Altima, at least for the direction I was heading into. With this said, I would have to reference 180SX and Skyline R32 manuals to at least get me going in the direction I needed to be. To summarize this, I was on my own for everything.
With the CA20S removed, the big question was if the stock Laurel Altima engine cross member was compatible to the donor 180SX engine cross member. I was pretty confident that it was. How did I know? When the CA20S was in the car, I noticed that the engine mounts were the same as the ones found in CA- and SR-powered 180SX and Silvia. I have done swaps years ago with taking out CA18DET engines and transmissions from 180SX and Silvia and swapping in SR20DET into both without having to change out the engine cross member. I was hoping that Nissan followed suit with the Laurel Altima as they did with the CA- and SR-powered 180SX and Silvia. With the CA20S out, it was confirmed that the CA20S-equipped Laurel Altima cross member is the same used in the 180SX and Silvia. This discovery saved us a good portion of time.
As stated at the beginning, swapping in the SR20DET and transmission was going to be the easy part, and it was… as forecasted, the hard part was just beginning… wiring.
The Nissan Laurel Altima stock engine bay harness was trash. I noticed this after buying the car. 23 years of high heat and repeated engine washes with diesel or some other petroleum product had sucked the life out of any wiring in the engine bay, not to add that repairs to it over the years had further compromised the integrity of the harness. It had to go. Looking for another Laurel Altima engine bay harness was out of the question for two reasons- potential Laurel Altima donor engine bay harnesses were no better off condition-wise and secondly, I paid a lot of money for the 180SX donor half cut. I intended to adapt the 180SX harness into the Laurel Altima. The engine bay harness was completely removed from the Laurel Altima and compared to the 180SX engine bay harness. After comparing them, the 180SX engine bay harness was laid into the Laurel Altima engine bay just as it would be in the 180SX. Modifications were made for the stationary head lamp wiring, horn, windshield wiper reservoir wiring and wiper wiring. Essentially, all of the pop-up light features you would find electric-wise was disabled and the wiring removed from the harness. It basically became what you will find in the (P)S-13 Silvia.
Next section will be the interior wiring. This is the critical piece…