When the “Datsun by Nissan” Sentra first appeared in the United States in 1982, it replaced the cramped Datsun 210 in the econo-commuter role. A sportier (and quirkier) car based on Sentra’s chassis showed up here soon after; known as the Pulsar EXA in its homeland and the Pulsar NX here, these cars sold well enough to become medium-commonplace sights on American roads. Most disappeared decades ago, making today’s unrusted ’87 a rare Junkyard Find.
Americans could buy the ordinary Pulsar sedans and hatchbacks for the 1983 model year only, after which it became clear that the Sentra would be a strong seller (it must have seemed at the time that each version of the quasi-sporty Datsun 310— known as the first-generation Pulsar in Japan— needed replacements). The Pulsar NX remained available here from the 1983 through 1990 model years.
What did sporty cars in mid-1980s America need most (other than turbocharging and garish TURBO badging)? A T-top roof, of course, and this car has one. With the tops off and rear deck panel removed from the car, the 1987-1990 Pulsar NX became a sort of goofy-looking targa roadster (the 1983-1986 Pulsar NX got an ordinary trunk and decklid).
I don’t find many T-top cars with both roof panels still intact in junkyards, but this Pulsar is in exceptionally nice condition.
Given the clean interior and lack of rust, I’d expected to see very low miles on the odometer, but this car nearly reached 175,000 miles during its time on the road. Its owner or owners took good care of it, which suggests that it got traded in on a new car and then failed to sell at the subsequent auction.
There’s just not much interest in a tiny, funny-looking Nissan with big miles and too many pedals these days.
The most interesting feature of the 1987-1990 Pulsar NX was the Sportbak option, which allowed you to replace this detachable rear quarter/decklid assembly with a camper-shell-ish structure that turned your coupe into a wagon. I’ve never managed to find a Sportbak in a junkyard, but I remain hopeful. At least I have found a discarded Geo Storm Wagonback, so I got that going for me.
These taillights looked radical at the time, so much so that owners of other cars would use tape and/or paint to get this look.
Yes, the same pattern carries over onto the speaker grilles inside.
Air conditioning was still a costly and seldom-seen option on small cars during the middle 1980s, and so the A/C button looks like an afterthought. The refrigerated air added 715 bucks to the Pulsar NX’s $10,599 price tag (that’s about $1,780 on a $26,365 car in 2021 dollars).
The engine was the same 1.6-liter four with 70 horses that powered most Sentras in 1987. The Pulsar NX SE got a 113-horsepower twin-cam engine and cost $11,799 (about $29,350 today).
I think this commercial achieves Peak 1980s™.
In Japan, Pulsar EXA buyers could get an LA Edition.
For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
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