By on April 11, 2009

A Stanza wagon? What the NSFW! Before you run for the exits/bookmarks, give me a minute to spell out my Curbside Classics criteria: 1) at least twenty-five years old; 2) used as a daily or regular driver; 3) shows the patina of age; 4) has a significant place in automotive history; 5) has a place in my personal automotive history; 6) has distinctive design features; 7) has an enthusiast following; 8) represents the unique carscape of Eugene; 9) is under-appreciated; and 10) inspires me to write about it. Believe me, the boxy Nissan (a.k.a. Prairie) is worthy.

I’ve always had a thing about boxes on wheels, and I drive one today. I guess being tall is part of it. But there’s more; something about the pursuit of maximum interior space while casting a small shadow just appeals. Of course, even such a noble cause can be taken to an extreme, like the 1968 Quasar-Unipower.

There are two trans-Atlantic myths about the origins of the modern mini-van/MPV. The American version credits Chrysler’s Caravan/Voyager twins (1984). The European version credits the Renault Espace (also 1984). They’re both wrong. Of course, the VW bus, and other small utility vans precede these, but they’re in a different class. There’s a reason the VW called itself “micro-bus.” The driving position, performance and handling dynamics were distinctly un-car like. The gap between cars and micro-buses was just waiting to be exploited.

The quest for innovative and efficient packaging of humans has been a recurring quest of star-designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. More commonly associated with such classics and exotics like the Ferrari 250GT, the DeTomaso Mangusta and Maserati Ghibli, Giugiaro also takes credit for numerous mass-production successes like the original VW Golf, numerous Alfa-Romeos, and a spate of other popular cars.

His first stab at a modern “people mover” came in 1976, when his New York Taxi Concept won a competition by the Museum of Modern Art.  That led to the definitive 1978 Lancia Megagamma, the first true modern MPV. With a 140hp Subaru-like 2.5-liter boxer four, the Megagamma for the first time offered near-luxury performance, comfort and space in a compact package. Lancia didn’t have the balls or resources to put it into production. But Nissan did, in 1981.

Not exactly as penned by the Ital Design master, but pretty close. And not only did they copy the Megagamma, but also improved on it in a very innovative way. By using sliding doors on both sides and totally eliminating the “B” pillar, access became . . . Axxess. The Prairie was a veritable origami-mobile, including clever slide-out storage compartments (under the seats) and so many hidden nooks and cubbies that some owners keep stumbling onto new ones years later.

Sold initially in Japan (1981) and in Europe (1983), the renamed Stanza Wagon finally made it to the US for 1986, presumably in response to the Caravan. Odd about that name change too, since prairies are more associated with America than Japan.

In 1985, I was managing a new start-up TV station in Los Angeles. We needed some vehicles for our news crews. I had seen a picture of a tricked-out Prairie used by a Japanese network, with a complete ultra-miniaturized control room for remote production. Cool, but we couldn’t afford anything like that or even live feeds. But when a Nissan dealer offered us cars in trade for advertising, I picked a handful of Stanza wagons. The news crews second-guessed me big-time, presumably out of feelings of inferiority to the big Econolines all the other stations used.

But the compact and efficient Prairies earned their grudging respect. And despite their best efforts to destroy them, the tall-boy wagons wore like iron. Some of them had well over 200k miles on them before they were retired. [ED: Wiki reports, "The first generation Prairies, while innovative, had undesirable body characteristics when driven hard, due to the removal of the B-pillar."]

Eugene attracts folks that come here for qualities other than . . . high paying corporate jobs. Most are escapees from the Bay Area looking for a simpler (and cheaper) lifestyle in a beautiful setting. And they prefer the older close-in neighborhoods that accommodate bicycling, busing or walking to work at the University or some research institute or non-profit organization downtown. Or they make hemp tie-dye underwear to sell at Eugene’s famous Saturday Market.

The point is, these folks gravitate to practical, boxy, durable cars, with four-wheel drive when possible, to get them to their favorite weekend hiking, camping, beach or skiing spot. There is a whole genre of classic vintage “Eugene-mobiles,” the VW bus being the most stereotypical of them. We’ll cover them all.

The Prairie might be considered the unsung wallflower of the bunch. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell you there are at least six of them in my neighborhood. Yes, this under-appreciated, vintage, historical, design-pioneering, 4WD box has patina from its daily use by its enthusiastic owner. It scores a perfect ten.

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57 Comments on “Curbside Classics: 1986 Nissan Stanza Wagon...”


  • avatar

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Can’t remember if I ever drove one of these. Also can’t remember if I drove the Axxess, this car’s curvier replacement. Shame neither of them sold well, for otherwise we’d have more such vehicles to choose from today.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Interesting vehicle. Still, I think I’d rather have a GM G-Series.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Ah, Allann Brothers Coffee, the WOW Hall, Birkenstocks – and never having to use an air-conditioner!

    I love Eugene and I remember those Nissan Wagons. At the time these were sold, however, you could buy a Volvo 245, which, except for the all wheel drive, was probably a safer car overall.

  • avatar

    You didn’t complete a sentence Paul:

    Most are escapees from the Bay Area looking for a simpler (and cheaper) lifestyle in a beautiful setting….

    …where they can extend their time between showers for up to 30 days.

    Note to Farago: That’s a fact, not a flame, and I bet Paul will confirm!

    Paul I assume the mid-80s 4WD Toyota SR5 “Curbside Classic” is coming soon then? They were like mushrooms here in the Pacific Northwest in the 80s- spreading everywhere you looked. Every one of them light brown, and nearly every one of them rotting by the mid-90s. They all seemed to have serious rust issues, but I still see a few (though every one of them rust-holed under the rear hatch handle!) on the road here in Washington.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Carlos: Volvo 245 – the most common Eugene-mobile of them all. Given all the old VW buses here, safety is obviously not that high on the list. Anyway, I don’t think the Nissan would be any less safe than an old Volvo; may more so.

    Chuck: the old Tercel wagons are a dime a dozen here, and will be honored here. They just won’t die. And they’re not rusty either.

    Frankly, it doesn’t rain quite as much here as further north. Where exactly are you? Our 42 inches a year (in Eugene) are less than NYC or Miami. But we could always use more sun in the winter.

    Thirty days without a shower? Hmmm. Well, I have noticed a higher BO quotient here. More to do with not wanting to use chemicals under the arms, probably.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Years later Chrysler implied they invented driver side sliding doors and the public fell for it.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    @paul Niedermeyer

    Love you articles as always! Probably among the best stuff published on TTAC (your auto-bio is fantastic!)

    Now, according to what I’ve heard/know, the box on wheels cars are the labor and legacy of Mr. Giugaro, as you point out. But wasn’t the 1st Golf the vehicle he penned under this theme? And later didn’t he himself consider the Fiat Uno the epitome of this design?

    Anyway, apparently this design has been disguised in curves because, especially due to the thin pillars, people associate these cars w/ fragility. So, modern makers thicken the pillars, give it some curves, lose the utility of the box and call it good. Ironic isn’t it?

    BTW, have you seen the Renault/Dacia Logan and Sandero? Don’t they bring to mind this Nissan? Ummm, seems to me the people of Eugene would line up to buy these modern boxy, wacky, not-for-everybody Renault/Dacias!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @FromBrazil

    Thanks. And yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!

    Especially the last yes, about the Dacia Logan Wagon.
    http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/05/dacia-logan_mcv_12.jpg
    Perfect for Eugene, especially the diesel version. We have a fully dedicated biodiesel service station.

  • avatar

    Paul, I’m a bit east of Arlington, WA which is in the Cascade foothills about halfway between Seattle & Vancouver BC.

    We’re in an odd micro-climate with the Olympic rainshadow helping, but the proximity of the Cascades hurting. VERY wet in Oct/Nov/Dec, but fairly nice the rest of the year. ~46″ of precip a year. This year most of it in the form of snow so far.

    WAsDoT rarely salts, so I don’t know what causes the old 4WD Toyotas to rust more than other cars but the ones I see in western WA all seem to be rusty. Especially as I mentioned right below the rear hatch handle.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Chuck, Our fall, usually well into November, is superb, and mostly very dry. December and Jan are our stinkers – time to head south.

    Regarding the Editor’s added comment about “undesirable body characteristics (of the Prairie) when driven hard”: they were pretty smelly after a couple of years. Maybe that’s why they all ended up in Eugene?

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    @Paul Niedermeyer

    LOL!!

  • avatar
    italianstallion

    Great article. Stanza Wagon! LOVE IT!

    We had a Tercel wagon (and a 5-door too) in the ’80s, but I always thought that the Stanza Wagon was much more interesting. I only recently learned about the absent B-pillar design feature (I would hate to T-boned in one of these).

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but I think what’s most appealing in all of the box-cars that you mention is an unselfconscious approach to designing for utility. Contrast this with utility-styled (or utility “themed”) vehicles. The Pontiac Aztek would be the worst offender in this camp, but most SUV/CUVs, the Kia Soul, US Nissan Cube and some aspects of the Honda Element are similarly overwrought.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    I would be surprised to learn that cars in Eugene had rust issues. I don’t believe they use road salt there; they do put down sand (or did, when I lived there). I remember lots of really well preserved old cars. The Alfa and TR6 I owned while living there had no rust. You do have to be careful of tree sap if you park on the street.

    Is there still a woman-owned garage there with all female mechanics?

    Chuck – some of the old time Hoedads, the forest fire fighters and tree planters could appear to outsiders as really dirty after a days work. But this was real honest sweat. I can’t say that hygiene was any worse off in Eugene than any other place I’ve lived. The packed subways of New York, especially in August and without air conditioning, were far worse from an olfactory perspective.

    Overall, Eugene is one of the best places to live in America if you want to be close to both the beaches and mountains. And it has some of the best roads to drive anywhere (unless you end up going uphill behind a log truck).

  • avatar

    I like the big greenhouse.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Great trip to the recent past. Keep em coming, Paul. I find this series a refreshing change from the doom and gloom coming out of Detroit , Wall st and Wash DC

  • avatar
    mcs

    I love this series! Keep ‘em coming!

    That led to the definitive 1978 Lancia Megagamma, the first true modern MPV.

    Personally, I think the 1932 Stout Scarab was the first modern mini-van. Flat floor, unibody, and a one box design. It even had configurable seating and a card table inside. There was also independent rear suspension and a prototype with an aluminum body and another in fiberglass.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    Your trip in the Wayback Machine triggered a memory of my early days in the business as a one-man-band at an ABC affiliate in southern Indiana back in the mid-80s. While there a Ford dealer made a similar trade-in-kind and I wound up driving an Escort for news wheels. Talk about an embarrassing turd of a car. Sheesh. The station later procured a Subaru wagon in another deal and the ‘Bu turned out to be the most reliable news car in that market. Rain or shine, blistering heat or 16 below, gravel or cratered roads, it got up and went where the other stations Commanches and Explorers couldn’t.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    It is something of a shame that practical vehicles like this haven’t seemed to have caught on in the U.S. Besides the Nissan Stanza Wagon and the subsequent Nissan Axxess, there were the original Dodge and Plymouth Colt Vista, the Mitsubishi Expo, and the original Honda Odyssey.

    A notch larger there was the original Mazda MPV and a notch smaller there was the Honda Civic Van-O-Wagon, the Eagle Summit Wagon, the Mitsubishi Expo LRV, and the second-gen Plymouth Colt Vista.

    Currently we have the Mazda 5 and Kia Rondo. I really like the Rondo I rented about a year ago (although the gas mileage was disappointing).

  • avatar
    vandstra

    “The point is, these folks gravitate to practical, boxy, durable cars, with four-wheel drive when possible, to get them to their favorite weekend hiking, camping, beach or skiing spot.”

    You just described the Honda Element.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @mcs,

    The Stout Scarab is one of my all-time favorites. I didn’t refer to it because 1) it was rather large and heavy with a V8; 2) it didn’t really lead to anything; 3)I ran out of room. But it was a landmark vehicle in its own right.

    @vandstra: But the Element is too new and expensive for the folks I’m describing. If they buy new, or newer, it’s Subaru wagons. There are no (or very few) Elements in my part of town. Six of these Prairies. Gobs of Subies.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Most of my friends shake their heads when they hear me expound on the virtues of old Volvo wagons and early 90′s Chrysler minivans.

    Then they realize that boxy designs just so happen to built for utility, function and comfort. I can do whatever the hell I want with them, drive em’ comfortably for hundreds of miles, and be completely inconspicuous in the process.

    The Axxess definitely carries forward that tradition. They’re virtually impossible to find here in the Southeast because of the hot weather and the lack of a need for 4WD. But if I ever find one worth the while, I’ll give you a call and let you know.

    It would be a good excuse to meet a kindred soul.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Paul…I’m wiping a tear from my eye after reading this review!
    Growing up in rural SE Ohio, where American cars still ruled the neighborhoods, my dad drove up to Columbus and picked up a new 1987 Nissan Stanza sedan. We were among the first to have a Japanese car in the area. It was the basic model for cheap highway commuting, but we couldn’t kill that car if we tried! 200K miles and all five of us in the family had our names on the registration at any time. 2 accidents, original transmission, original engine, close to 40mpg on the highway, and a trunk large enough for college-bound family members. It was a sad day when the third accident happened – someone ran a red and plowed into the side of the car. It was totaled, and no one was hurt, but it was time to put the car to sleep…
    You still see some of these Stanza wagons and sedans on the road.

  • avatar
    davey49

    These weren’t that popular near me but the Civic wagons were. I think these small vans/tall wagons are more loved by single people or couples with no kids than by families. Unfortunately the “family values first” people rule the car industry so there aren’t many of these around.
    One thing about all these cars. If they were being made today, you’d trash them all for being cheaply made and slow.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    I’ve felt terribly out of place for the 14 years I’ve been a car owner. Been a Microbus and Vanagon nut since I was born, my first-ever car was a Volvo 245 Turbo, my most recent a Subaru Impreza Wagon. Kids made fun of me. Girls winced on dates. Then I departed the east coast, never looking back.

    Coming over Snoqualmie Pass into the great Northwest, my eyes grew watery as I tried to take in the number of awesome awkward wagons day in and day out. My neighbor has one of these Stanzas. Then I saw the *3* Vanagon Synchros on my block. RealTime Civics, SR5 Corolla wagons and Subie GLs as far as the eye could see! Friggin’ P1800ESs!

    I’m thinking an Element is on the horizon in the next few years. You can try to convince America that its cool, Honda, but we both know its not, which is why I want it so bad.

    Excellent writeup, and I’m looking forward to the series!

  • avatar
    DanM

    does it come with an 8-track?

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “does it come with an 8-track?”

    Eight-tracks were long gone by then. It probably came with a radio/cassette combination, or a CD-player if lucky.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    The base one didn’t come standard with any kind of stereo, but it had the punch outs for speakers. Here’s a blast from the 80′s – the upgraded stereo w/cass deck had the graphic equalizer.

  • avatar
    the duke

    “There is a whole genre of classic vintage “Eugene-mobiles,” the VW bus being the most stereotypical of them. We’ll cover them all.”

    Eugene vs. Alameda Island? Curbside Classic vs. Down on the Street? Paul vs. Murilee?

    Methinks a classic rivalry is in the making…and I’m voting Paul!

  • avatar
    pariah

    These Curbside Classics reviews always make me wish I was twenty years older so I could have experienced these vehicles in their heydays.

    I dunno if it matches your criteria, but I’d love to read your review of a first-gen Escort GT.

  • avatar
    amorphis

    I rode in a Stanza wagon once in 1989, a year before I could drive legally.

    It had a two speed transaxle which was (could be ) used in 2wd mode. I was familiar with two speed rear ends on heavy duty trucks, so it was cool.

  • avatar
    don1967

    They called this the Nissan Multi here in Canada. Too small for a minivan, too tall for a wagon, too wimpy for an SUV. Something about it recalls the Popemobile.

    I remember a commercial depicting the awesome passing power of the 2.0 litre engine. They slowed a tractor trailer down to 50 km/hr and then blew past it at 120 (which was probably top speed) for the cameras. You could see the body rolling, and the tires practically peeling off the rims, as it swerved into the passing lane and back again.

    Ah, the good old days.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Paul Niedermeyer :

    1) it was rather large and heavy with a V8;

    I’ve got to disagree with you on that one. At 195.5 inches long and 65 inches wide, it’s smaller than the 2009 Chrysler Minivans (but 5″ longer than the 84 Grand Caravan) and at 3300 lbs for the steel version, it’s lighter than the second generation Grand Caravan (I don’t have the weight for the 1st Generation). It was definitely a vehicle well ahead of it’s time.

    This is a great series and I’m definitely looking forward the the next article.

  • avatar
    postjosh

    never really paid attention to stanzas but i will now. i have noticed one stanza survivor in our neighborhood. i think the cheap japanese steel of that era was no match for out road salt. also body on frame construction generally does better on potholes. the volvo 245 is definitely a mainstay of the survivor class here in new york city.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A friend owned one of these…I hadn’t thought about it for a long time. We packed into it for a ski trip in Vermont. Utility was written all over this puppy. So was body flex, though some of what we drove over may have contributed to the sounds emanating from deep within…oh to be in the 20′s again…Love this series…never know what might trigger a moment back in time…

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    Sweet ride! :D heh

    Nissan, Infiniti and Mazda are some inherently cool Asian brands. That is my opinion, however there it is.

    That new Z is really, really sweet.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    My family bought one of these as an experiment for my Brother.

    You see– my elder sibling was very VERY(CV Axles bi-weekly, Engine mounts on the in-between weeks) hard on his first car– a 1985 Dodge Aries K, and my parents thought “everyone keeps talking about how good foreign cars are!! Bet he can’t tear that one up!!”

    So, they found a pristine, old lady’s 80k mile example of a 1984 Stanza, which, in 10,000 miles would begin idling so rough, women begged for rides in it. Like an unbalanced washer on spin. Seriously. The steering column bounced up and down with the intense engine vibrations so hardcore.. we had to have it reinstalled. And the head bolts stretched. And the transmission would only go forward. And the gunny-sack upholstery ‘oozed’ this black stuff that wouldn’t scrub off. And it wouldn’t open from the outside.

    And… you had to knock on the starter with a hammer if it began to make this ‘wirrrrrrrrrr’ noise.

    And… it had functioning a/c that couldn’t be used because it exacerbated the engine idling issue

    And… the window cranks were so fragile there were spares in the glove box.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Right around this time, my stepdad moved up from a series of rear-drive Corollas to a front-drive Stanza 4-door hatch, maroon over maroon.

    I had a hazy awareness that Datsun/Nissan made small cars that competed with Toyotas, but this car was all news to me. The roominess and feature content were astounding. Of course, the abundance of polyethylene all over the interior would draw razzberries today, but it was undoubtedly part of the reason they were able to coax so much room and mileage out of so little engine.

    The ’03 CR-V my wife drives now is one of the spiritual successors to the Axxess/Stanza, as is the Element. As an earlier poster noted, Americans never warmed to this body style. Maybe it’s our Interstates and our less cramped roadways, or maybe it’s just our different notion of style. Yet even the CR-V is lower and rounder now by popular demand.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    Nissan can make a good basic rugged car. The old B14 Sentra soliders on in Mexico as the Tsuru, especially popular as cabs – I took a ride over some rough dirt mountain roads in Veracruz in one last week. The B14 is a definite ‘must consider’ as a used beater econobox.

    I always read these Curbside Classics. I love this kind of stuff.

  • avatar

    More than a decade ago, I ran into a fellow at an AutoZone who was driving a Prarie/Stanza wagon. Elderly guy, wearing a VFW hat.

    I talked to him for a while. As it turns out, he’d been a POW during WWII and had not received top-notch treatment. He carried his anger with him for a long time… and then one day he started fixing a Stanza wagon for a neighbor and he somehow found redemption in the machine. Forgiveness, maybe.

    Anyway, when I met him he was on his sixteenth mechanical restoration of a dual-door Stanza.

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    OMFG.

    I just bought one last week.

    And yes. It’s as awesome as the man says it is.

    You also get to have a lot of fun with the parts guys at the auto store when you go in and ask for spark plugs.

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    BTW, Paris-dakar: it’s B13 Sentra. Sold here from 91 to 94 ;)

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @Jack Baruth

    Wow! Does he send them to Eugene?

  • avatar
    VelocityRed3

    My God. I had one of these. The 4 door 5 speed manual type. First Manual I ever had with cruise & the only car I ever had with a sunroof. This bad boy had a 4 cylinder engine with 8 (Yes, EIGHT) spark wires. It actually had 4 sparks that lit up on the exhaust stroke for better emmissions.

    Wonderful little car until me & a friend of mine tried to replace the front rotors (press in bearings) at the Auto repair shop at Ft.Gordon. I totally messed up the half shafts & she never rode right after that. “Sold” it do my Dad when I got sent to Korea in 88 & never saw her again, but man what good memories. Thanks.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    FWIW VW had dual doors on their vans back in the 60s. I mean doors on both sides.

    We drive a ’99 CR-V and it too is a great little utilitarian vehicle. Basic interior, little engine and tranny yet it carries all four of us and the dog plus enough stuff for a weekend.

    I think America has far too many sheeple who make purchases based on a product’s “cool factor” (how it might bolster their personal image) than on how well will this product serve me. If times were leaner longer then perhaps those people would be fewer in number. FWIW I try to lean towards utility and quality and value first. Coolness comes way, way later.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I forgot about the body vs. road salt…yeah, this car HATED salt!
    It didn’t help that from the early 90′s onward, our so-called “Super Stanza” (since it wouldn’t die as much as we tried to kill it!!!) spent most of its life in the snowbelt/lake effect areas.

    By the end (ie – the crash written above), there were pockets of rust by the wheelwells but that thing kept on running.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I am dying for a curbside classic review of the Toyota wagon that had the instant teller (aka bank machine) on the rear liftgate.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    @NickR Patience. Coming – eventually.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    alex_rashev :
    April 12th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    BTW, Paris-dakar: it’s B13 Sentra. Sold here from 91 to 94 ;)

    Thanks for the correction. A B13 SE-R would be a great car, but I’m sure most have been ricer’d into oblivion.

  • avatar

    Ha! Take that Mr. Niedermeyer! ;)

    While this one is an extreme case, note the HOLE just to the right of the hatch handle. Next time you see one of these old Toyotas on the road check that spot and I bet you a sushi lunch there is a hole, a rust spot, or a primer spot right there. I see these cars fairly frequently as I drive around Washington state and I swear every damn one of them has a rusty rear hatch, and of those 60% have a rusty hole right at that exact location.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Chuck,

    When are we doing sushi? The one Tercel wagon I’ve shot so far has an impeccable tailgate. I’ll keep shooting others. We’ll call it the Tercel Wagon Curbside Classic Special.

    How shall I send you the proof?

  • avatar

    A buddy of mine had one of these in high school. I remember the thing had crazy amounts of interior space for its size. Nowadays I drive an Eagle Summit wagon, which is similar in concept to the Stanza. I love that nobody knows what I’m talking about if I’m asked what I drive, so I have to keep a picture on me to show them.

  • avatar
    fabcha92

    Hi Paul,
    Very interesting article.
    I own a Nissan Stanza Wagon, and I finaly learn that It was the “first” mini-van/MPV.
    Can we say that it also was the “first” car (sold in significant volume) to have sliding doors ?
    Another point : I never saw another Nissan Stanza Wagon in France.
    Where can I find the number of cars sold in France by year ?
     
    Thanks a lot.

  • avatar
    Hexar

    Great article! I had a 86 Nissan Stanza Wagon 4WD with manual transmission, when I was a graduate student in UofO in Eugene from 1995 to 1997. It was my first car (I was a foreign student at the time) It was pretty much the same car as yours, silver/grey exterior and blue interior, we drove up to Seattle and down to Los Angles in it many times. It was a great car.
    I remember one day, after finding a job in Alameda,  I was visited by four friends , and I took ALL 7 of us (with my wife and son and me) to San Francisco for site seeing, two friends had to sit on the trunk floor facing backwards (my Stanza only had 5 seats, without the two bench seats in the trunk), and I was driving up on a deep slope on one of the streets in SF, I forgot if it was a stop sign or a red light, because I was new at driving manual cars, the car died and moved backwards, although I slam on the brake really fast, the car stopped just a couple of feet in front of  the car behind me. The two friends sitting in the trunk were really scared. :)
    BTW, the trunk was HUGE, after the Stanza wagon, we bought a Ford Aerostar, and it has less trunk space than the Stanza wagon, I could barely fit a double stroller in the Aerostar, but no problem in the Stanza, but of course Aerostar has 7 real seats with seat belts.
     

  • avatar
    lindy

    I’m glad to see the Wally Wagon getting some recognition. One of our managers nick-named it in honor of “Wally World”, the destination for Chevy Chase driving the “Family Truckster” in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation.
    While it was very roomy and easy to load with people and groceries, I wish to add that it handled well too.  During a test trip on twisty two lane Hwy 89 above the Grand Canyon, I was pushing the Wally Wagon very hard to keep up with the lead cars.  I learned later from the driver following me that the chassis twist was so great that I was lifting the inside rear wheel on each turn.  The lack of a B-pillar did not hamper the handling.

  • avatar
    pixiedrea

    I’m working on my 1986 Nissan Stanza Wagon right now! It’s the same color as the one in the photos, but I’ve got factory rims on mine. I absolutely love this car, and I’m incredibly anxious to get her running again.

    When I was in high school the first car I drove was a 1985 Toyota Tercel Station Wagon, I guess that was the car that gave me my love for box shaped cars.

    I also own a 2010 Nissan Cube, so you can see the pattern here I guess?

  • avatar
    GoonieGoo

    I have a 1988 stanza wagon. Sometimes when I’m going down the highway people point and laugh at it. That’s because every where I go I go wfo “fast”. It’s the ugliest car I ever owned. I’m really ruff on cars and this one is tested tough. I’ve had it air born twice. I took the back seat out and I haul rocks, fire wood, and all the dumpster dive finds. A 4 cylinder with 8 spark plugs. I live in the mountains in Colorado. The Goonie Goo that’s what we call it. Starts every time even if it’s 15 below. And never get’s stuck in the snow,the best 4×4. The only thing I don’t like about it is parts are hard to find I need a rim for a spare tire.


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