By on August 27, 2013

11 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler scored big in the North American market with their K-car-based minivan in the early 1980s, and the Japanese automotive manufacturers wanted to cash in on the demand for front-wheel-drive (or four-wheel-drive) small van-like machines. Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi brought over the Master Ace, Vanette, and Delica, respectively, and you could get all sorts of little Japanese wagons as well, but nothing seemed able to pry many sales away from the Caravan. So, Nissan took their top-heavy-looking Prairie, slapped some badges from the unrelated Stanza on it, and shipped a bunch across the Pacific. Few bought the Stanza Wagon, which makes them very rare Junkyard Finds. Here’s one I found in Denver a couple weeks back.
03 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has just 151,369 miles on the odometer. Practically new!
04 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Stanza Wagon was a pretty good vehicle for its time, but it was funny-looking and didn’t have as much interior space as Chrysler’s minivans.
LWV12-Winners-HeroicFixIt turns out that the Stanza Wagon does acceptably well (relative to expectations, which are quite low) on the race track, as the Sputnik Racing Stanza proved in the 24 Hours of LeMons.
09 - 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith 102 horsepower, the Stanza Wagon wasn’t the slowest thing on the road in the late 1980s.


Such a happy little crypto-van!

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon...”


  • avatar
    graham

    If nothing else, the Stanza Wagon certainly made a good impression on Tom and Ray Magliozzi.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I love the graph paper backing on the instrument cluster. And look at that real metal on the cassette/stereo! Combined with the sunroof, this one was a pretty well equipped version.

    Now find us an Axxess!

  • avatar
    Swamp Yankee

    Had one of these during college and grad school. My friends called it the ‘Happy Meal’ because of the unfortunate resemblance to the box McDonald’s used at the time. But they still wanted to ride in it with the back doors slid open – especially in the winter in Vermont. Mine was the 4WD version.

    In the engine photo you can see an aluminum heat shield around the oxygen sensor on the exhaust manifold. If your dealer serviced your car (Bob Sharp Nissan no less) and forgot to replace it when they put in a new sensor, you might have ended up with a dead car on I-80 in Snow Shoe, PA sitting in a small garage with a guy named Booger who really had no idea how a fuel injected car with electronics worked. Took quite a while and a tow to a Nissan dealer in Altoona to figure out that a piece of fuse link next to the computer under the driver seat had blown.

    Other than that, a very capable, reliable car over the 8 years I had it. It even ran well enough to get me out of the Sierras with all but two of the spark plug wires chewed in half by rodents. Truly ugly though.

  • avatar
    tech98

    I had a friend with one of these. What I remember is the design misfire that you had to refrain from opening the passenger-side sliding rear door when filling up, or it would crunch right into the open filler door. It was designed for the right-hand-drive Japanese market and they chose not to modify this when importing it to the US.

  • avatar
    cheapthrills

    I grew up in an ’88 Stanza wagon. It was an excellent family car. As a kid, the best part was the jump seats which latch into the trunk floor and face each other. I’m sure they were extremely unsafe, with just a lap belt holding you into a seat with no backrest, but it meant Nissan could boast 7-passenger seating. This also had dual sliding doors a good 10 years before any minivans could say the same.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I had this babe in FWD. I loved it and it could make 36mpg with manual. Wasn’t fast. It had some mech problems. Fuel pressure regulator $400, rack and pinion – big labor. Cracked exhaust manifold. But you got to enjoy tight parking lots, commanding view of the road, excellent cargo capability, best carpeting ever. And get this – 2 spark plugs per cylinder.

  • avatar
    Hobie-wan

    My mother got a used 87 one. Manual transmission with sunroof and the extra jumper seats. She loved that thing and I did too even as a new teenage driver. Then she was going down the freeway and some jerk with a month and a half old truck and no insurance had his cruise control set high enough that he plowed into the back of her and manage to total it because he was busy futzing around with something on the floorboard instead of paying attention to the road.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    @ Slavuta: Looks and sounds like the two plug/cyl NAPS engines that came Z20/Z22/Z24 in the pickups and some cars. Paying for a plug change meant you had to check after the job. One of the rear plugs was almost impossible.

    Friend had one of these and was happy but said you had to nearly remove the engine to change the starter. I would love to have one like this right now.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      This car was hard to maintain in terms of engine packaging. Although, I managed to replace exhaust manifold, spark plugs, etc. But when it came to rack and pinion, and I also had bad fuel rail and regulator(MPGs went down), I wiped everything nicely and took it to trade. The dealer was so happy to see this car in such good shape, they gave me $1000 over I ever expected. That was 1998 and I still have the replacement of that Stanza Wagon.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    My wife had one of these when I met her. She loved it.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    With AWD these tall wagons were really the first compact SUVs, not really minivans. Instead of competing with the minivans, the Japanese should have been creating a new market. There’s more “U” in these early efforts than there is in current compact SUVs/CUVs.

  • avatar
    ray_d_eightor

    Couple things:

    1. My ex had one of these. Was excellent for DINC camping. Very dog-able vehicle.
    2. The money shot picture is all 4 doors open – WOW! How does it not crumple under it’s own weight?
    3. Was a real m-fer to work on anything in the engine compartment. I still have several sawed in half harbor freight wrenches in my tool collection that thing begat.
    4. IIRC you could adjust the fuel mixture or something via the ECM under the driver seat – “turn the screw until the light blinked green”.
    5. The factory printed shop manual was one of the best I ever read. First rate cartoon like illustrations, hundreds of them.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    So this is what happened to the original Gadgetmobile!

  • avatar
    Sooke

    It was called “Multi” in Canada. They all seemed to rust out where the body panels meet in front of the front wheels.

    A true minivan – none of today’s behemoths can in any way be described as “mini”.

    • 0 avatar
      jellybean

      Damn Sooke, you beat me to it.

      Yes, they were called Multi up here. I always liked them, but never bought one. I always thought they looked a little tank-like. Try to imagine a gun turret on top.

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    Heh, my mother still drives a 1990 Stanza XE sedan. It shares little with the Stanza wagon, but you don’t see the Stanza mentioned much anymore, so this was pretty cool post to see.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      When the 1st Altima was introduced many had a small Stanza label on the trunk lid under the Nissan Altima emblem. They might have been sold as Stanzas in some markets.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        Yes, I remember that. The first Stanza-Altimas had the Stanza badge as well as motorized seatbelts for the front passengers. Both disappeared after the first year or two of production.

        My mother’s car is one of the third-generation Stanzas that was sold in the US during the 1990-1992 model years. This was when Nissan offered a check (for $100, I think) to prospective buyers that came in and test drove a Stanza but ended up buying a Camry or Accord instead.

        I sold Nissans in those days while taking a break from college for several months , so I knew the Stanza (and its competitors) fairly well. The Stanza’s styling was too creased and boxy when the Camry and Accord started to have more sophisticated lines and a more refined ride. It wasn’t a bad car by absolute standards, it was just outclassed by its rivals.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    I remember driving a friends and even at 6’2″ you could NOT move the seat back far enough to actually fit with a safe driving position. Really screwed up use of interior space…but as noted by others, at least it was tall inside…Right angles RULED in the late ’80s!

  • avatar
    azulR

    Was there a website glitch last night? I’d left a message back then along with some others that seem to have gone.

    My mother had a Prairie back in the UK. As mentioned before, a great vehicle for dogs – she bought it to replace a Scimitar GTE in order to fit Irish Wolfhounds.

    From memory, the back bumper was part of the tailgate and would lift along with it, making it really easy to get to the trunk area. I’m not sure if US collision regulations would have forced a different arrangement in the States.

    Again from memory, there were three versions, two with a 1.5 and one with a 1.8. My mother had the middle trim, which skimped on power steering. That made it a less than pleasant to drive, though the utility made up for it.

    Of course it succumbed to rust after a few years.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    In the nineties was working at a florist / party planner and a co-worker had one of these , same blue interior/ white combo seen here .Perfect car for this line of work . It was tall enough and with wide opening rear hatch and side doors to haul all but the very largest floral arrangements or props or undocumented Hispanic workers to the country club , yet economical enough to make some money as we would get paid for mileage . Sort of like the first – gen Xb I drive now and also use for deliveries .

  • avatar
    richthofen

    There are two of these still roaming the streets in my town, an immaculate-looking blue one driven by someone at my workplace (huge parking lot so I’ve not figured out who yet) and a beige one that either lives in my neighborhood or belongs to a student at the adjacent university. Pretty good for a 25+ year old Nissan, so these seem like pretty tough customers. Ugly? Sure, they’re ugly. But in that 80′s Japanese way that now has, at least to me, something of a cool factor.

  • avatar
    Canandovq

    It had a 4 cylinder engine, but had 8 spark plugs, it behave quite well and was certainly a reliable vehicle.
    It was my company car from 88 to 89, lots of good memories from that time.


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