The Saurus, Nissan’s lightweight mid-engined sports car that fascinated the world when it appeared as a prototype at the 1987 Tokyo motor show, is alive and well and racing in Japan.
Under the lights at the Harumi Fairground 16 months ago, the Saurus looked like a good idea that wouldn’t come to anything – a kind of Japanese Caterham Seven. But would Nissan build it? At the time it appeared unlikely.
After the show the Saurus seemed to sink without trace, although periodically it did the rounds of local dealer showrooms in Japan. It was a prototype, said Nissan and, no, you couldn’t really learn anything from driving it.
Then, in the latter half of 1988, came the reprieve. The Saurus was resurrected in faster, more developed form, but for the track, not the road, to form the basis of a new Japanese one-make race series called the Saurus Cup. And in January came an invitation to Tsukuba circuit to track test the reborn Saurus.
Nismo, Nissan’s competition wing, had brought along three cars – two in the original silver and blue colours of the show car and a third painted bright yellow. The first two were ‘training’ cars for learners, while the yellow car was the full-house racer, a significantly different machine from the original prototype.
The shape is much the same – a slim body, gently curved all the way round, with big flared wheelarches sprouting from each corner. As before, there are no doors nor roof and a tiny windscreen that looks as if it is just for show.
The tiny headlights of the show car have been replaced by a massive full-width spoiler to provide downforce. Another notable absentee is the passenger’s seat: Saurus is now a single-seater and, with a length of 3345mm, almost exactly the size of a Caterham Seven.