Curbside Classic CA Vacation Edition: Nissan Pulsar – gen2 & gen1

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

How many show-car concepts over the decade have featured a “convertible” body, where the car could be transformed from one body style to another? In my memory, several; it’s an irresistible draw for designers. And how many have actually made it into production? The only one that come to my mind is this gen2 Nissan Pulsar. When I saw it and its gen1 predecessor two blocks away, it was my cue to take a look at this historically significant little car.

The Pulsar’s upper rear body section is removable, and can be replaced by the wagon-like Sportbak option, or left off entirely for a laundalet-like open rear seat. With the T-top opened also, an almost full-convertible feel was created. I remember seeing quite few of the Sportbak versions in its day, and its been a long time since I’ve seen one. I haven’t spotted a Pulsar at all in Eugene, but its still vivid in my memory; the gen2 version that is.

The most attractive young female employee at the tv station I was managing in 1986 bought one of the first Pulsars in LA in the fall of ’86. It was red like this one, and they were a perfect combination. The Pulsar was not only unique in its body configuration, but it was pretty aggressively styled too. A hot little number, both of them; sure got my pulse going.

That hardly applies to its gen1 predecessor. Built from ’83 to ’86, it was trying to be a bit adventuresome, but came off rather cliched in that Japanese school of hard-edged boxyness. The graphics package didn’t help either. No wonder it had long left my active memory banks.

These Pulsars sold in the US were Sentra based, and the only time that name was used here. In the rest of the world, Pulsars graced a variety of small FWD Nissan sedans, hatches and coupes.

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Paul Niedermeyer
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  • Tbp0701 Tbp0701 on Mar 31, 2010

    I know it's been three months since this was posted, but I had to do a search to see if there's a CC on one. The only new car I've ever bought was an '89 Pulsar. I was young, didn't see the dealer tricks clearly enough, was eager to spend money from my first full time job on a car, and a girl had a huge influence on my decision. It probably is a "chick car," but women really did like it. I wasn't nearly smooth enough to use it to full advantage, however. I also learned a few things: Just because a car looks fast and sporty, doesn't mean it is; it would not hit 100 mph nor accelerate too quickly. T-tops are not much more effective than a sunroof and less effective than a convertible, and you have to pull over, detach them and very carefully store them in the trunk. In short, sudden rainstorms or drops in temperature aren't countered by pressing a button. Having a manual without a tachometer is kind of silly. Careful use of the trip odometer when filling up is a pretty good alternative when the fuel gauge no longer works (and the entire tank would need removed to fix it). Never take out a five-year loan to pay for a rapidly depreciating asset. Don't be too enamored with styling and be careful who influences car purchases; someone else will probably soon release a car that looks even cooler, outruns and out handles it and is better made (I'm looking at you, early 90s Honda). Cars that appear cool in your early 20s don't have quite the same effect when you're five years older. A car does not have to be fast to be fun. And, finally, after nearly 250,000 miles, a timing chain's failing is catastrophic. All in all, I did put nearly a quarter million miles on it before the timing chain gave out. I never tried taking the back off. I also haven't seen one in a few years. The last one I saw has blinged out and had tires that had to be at least 20"; I was torn between nostalgic amusement and slight sadness of seeing it that way. Well, that was a lot to write on a three-month old CC, but thanks for the nostalgic trip. It's odd that, no matter how much I think I'd buy something else if I could do it over again, seeing one still tugs at something. I suppose you never really get over something you loved, even if you tell yourself it was just a car.

  • Matthew Hunter Matthew Hunter on Oct 13, 2010

    Hmm, the N14's are starting to get so old I can't back up my own knowledge base easily even via Google. The same chassis in the Sentra was raced successfully with a turbo 1.5L with a lady driver against guys in Porsches, & such only to take 2nd to BMW in sports car racing. 1st FWD "sports" car to race well. BMW had the knowledge to do so, but Nissan had the guts to try. It was thier Ace of Trump really. Anyway, in the Pulsar 2nd gen, pull the battery from engine bay & store it in cabin, adjust & upgrade some font end parts & it should easily outcorner a Porsche 944 & several others. Also, the sohc 1.6 backed by the cable clutch 5-sp stick will reliably do 40 mpg if driven moderately. I have a project '88 Pulsar in the garage with that base 1.6 single cam & stick. Also, EVERY time I had that car on the road, some punk in a Honda tuner or such really tried to egg me on. Of course, my engine was on its last legs. A mint replacement engine is on a skid in the garage.:) Also have 2 really good trannies complete with new clutches. I also know that this car converted well to e85 should leave a lot of tuner guys scratching thier heads wondering where that thing gets all its power - even here in Metro Detroit. Not that I plan to. Want to yeah.;) It should smell like race gas running at e85's stoichiometric air/fuel ratio though, esp with timing advanced to smooth idle. In the last couple of years, the great sites & forums for these cars have been vanishing much to my frustration.

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.