By on March 24, 2012

We saw an ’83 Pulsar not long ago, but it wasn’t until later in the 80s that Nissan’s semi-sporty commuter got really weird. Yes, interchangeable rear body panels!
I believe the wacky “Sportbak” wagon option was built on a different body than the regular Pulsars (but I could be wrong); this type of Pulsar could be purchased with this coupe attachment or a hatchback shell. The T-top style roof panels could be removed; they didn’t leak as much as their GM counterparts (which isn’t saying much), but there’s a reason that T-tops went out of fashion.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell why a rust-free 25-year-old car got scrapped, but that’s not the case here.

To understand the oddball styling on this car, it is necessary to understand its era. Now does it make sense?

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25 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX...”

  • avatar

    I notice that a lot of the Japanese cars from this era have the control “pods” on either side of the instrument cluster. I like how all of the controls are in easy reach of the drivers hand just off the steering wheel. Maybe these types of controls should be resurrected instead of poorly designed touch screen interfaces.

    • 0 avatar

      My 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix had something similar, so it wasn’t limited to imports.

      The rest of the car was a very funny ergonomic joke, but it was easy to turn on the lights.

      I will also say that I will take even poorly placed buttons over a touchscreen, always.

      • 0 avatar

        I had an Explorer rental this week. I will say that it drives far better (on the road) than the old body-on-frame version, and several people complimented me on my vehicle (not a common event with a daily rental). And the Ford Sync MyTouch has lots of functionality, no doubt.

        But ergonomically this vehicle is a disaster. The touch-screen has way too many things on it, and the snazzy graphic effects make it harder to read. With no feedback, it’s never clear whether you have pressed a button or not. Or where to find things. The “gauges” next to the speedo are small and gimmicky, and a five-way control on either side of the steering wheel provides a bewildering array of actions. Tuning to a specific radio frequency is something I was not able to figure out during my three-day rental.

        And the balance/fader control? After five minutes I did get it set up. To test whether I was really that clueless, I asked my next passenger to adjust the fader. It took him more than a minute to find it on the screen, and then another minute to figure out that dragging the graphic really doesn’t work so well. Who designed these things?

        Oh yes, the steering wheel feels like somebody stuck a $10 padded steering wheel cover on it, it’s only missing the snakeskin effect. Yuck.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Good luck on that wish, I don’t think they’re ever going back to the good ole buttons, dials and switches.

    • 0 avatar

      My 1986 Legend had a button just off the wheel that cycled through the radio presets. Loved that button. I really missed it on my next Acura.

  • avatar

    I see one near my office everyday, decent condition and the owner does change out the rear shell from wagon to coupe.

  • avatar

    Creepy, robot-like seats with tiny “eyes”.
    Did owners buy 2 shells and changed when they got tired of old look, was that a big job to undertake?

  • avatar

    I’m not sure if I should admit that an ’89 Pulsar is still the only car I bought new. Well, it was the 80s and there was this girl and… On the bright side, mine did last for more than 250K miles, albeit on two engines. It finally ended when the timing chain on the second engine (which was used) broke.

    As for the body panels, it was easy to take off and store the T-tops, although they did leak a little in very heavy rain or a car wash. The back hatch would come completely off. I thought about it just to do it, but it looked to be fairly complicated, and I would have needed to ask for help to do something fairly pointless, so I never did. (Not that I’m above having friends help do something pointless. It’s just that there were so many other pointless things to do. This was the late 80s/early 90s, after all).

    Girls did love the thing, though.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Growing up in Phoenix, I always wondered if these things came apart like a Bronco, or if they could be used without the back shell entirely. But no one in Phx was insane enough to drive around without being sealed up with their A/C.

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    I had an ’88 Pulsar NX “SE” as my first car. Perfect car for high school. Huge graphics down the side, t-tops, and sporty(ish). I did the typical “high schooler” makeover and added wheels, exhaust, K&N Air filter, and CD player. I always dreamed that someday my own kids would drive that car to their prom. Until the quality went down the crapper and we couldn’t keep it running. Lots of good memories with the Pulsar. The back was actually very easy to take off, just 2 bolts on the roof, and unhook and hatchback hinge and you’re done. When I’d see a week without rain, I’d take the back off and sort of have a convertible.

  • avatar

    Though this generation of Pulsar looked better than before and the switchable backs was a clever idea (though impractical if you were an apartment dweller), this was yet another sort-of-competent FWD coupe that was shamed by the Honda CRX I drove and loved at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Haha, I replaced my ’88 Pulsar with an ’91 CRX. Good call. Quality of the CRX was unmatched (my CRX still runs today… the Pulsar died in 2001). I did miss the T-Tops though! Now, if the CRX came with T-tops…

      • 0 avatar

        A CRX with T-top? Ewww. Here come the leaks and theft vulnerability and there goes the torsional rigidity. Later CRXs could be had with a sunroof, which is a better open-air answer.

  • avatar

    The transformer-esque ‘sportbak’ feature seems pretty innovative, I wonder why it seems to have died out. Perhaps it just wasn’t practical, as someone mentioned above about t-tops leaking, perhaps the detachable hatch leaked as well.

  • avatar

    I think I remember a Geo Storm that had a similar feature. Outside of Jeepers I can’t think of anyone who would have found this “feature” attractive.

  • avatar

    I had a nissan sentra classic, 1991 (in Canada, the late-80s gen Sentra carried on into the early nineties as the Sentra “Classic”) with the same motor and chassis as this car. The sentra was pretty mundane with its 1.6l motor but the 5-speed livened it up a bit. However, I couldnt really imagine these being sporty in any sense, more of a daily driver with a bit of exterior spunk. I am pretty sure they came with a t-top option as well.

  • avatar

    Love the pulsar. My aunt bought one new in 88 when the trans died at 150k my dad bought it (it was cream puff not even a scratch on it)So dad had a junkyard 5 speed put in. I was a Jr in high school at the time and drove it quite a bit. I loved the car oddly enough ours never leaked a drop even with me popping off the t tops every sunny day. It was read with a black interior looked awesome. The only thing I didn’t like was the power. To me it handled great but just didn’t have the power in fact I’m pretty sure it was about equal to my sisters omni. It died in a crash in the hands of my brother a few years later with around 200k on the clock. My dad replaced it with a CRX SI as his new commuter car. I drove the CRX a number of times as well. The Crx was by far a better handling and much faster car, but the pulsar was more comfortable and felt a little more solid even with the T tops. (Honda had an issue with highway noise and tin feeling back then too) All and all i miss the little pulsar. Oh almost forgot we averaged around 33 mpg with the thing.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove a 1984 CRX 1.5 for ten years, and it certainly wasn’t quiet. There was a lot of road nose, particularly from the rear suspension. However, the car always felt structurally solid with nothing rattling or shaking loose with time. It was a featherweight but it never seemed “tinny”.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Wonder if anyone remembers how much the Sportbak option cost back when these were new . I was aware of and intrigued by this concept back in the day . As I recall I rarely saw these , at least with the Sportbak option. I remember seldom seeing one with the wagon roof on it and as I recall it gave the car sort of a look reminiscent of the earlier unloved F10 wagon .

  • avatar

    Owned one, it was so underpowered I constantly worried about merging on the highway and interstate. Underpowered and under braked made for a poor track day experience.

    It was a fun car with the t-tops and removable hatch. The hatch didn’t take long to remove and made for a fun car at the beach. There was t-top storage under the rear decklid, but they didn’t include enough padding inside which lead to scratches and dents if you actually used the storage spot.

    The pop up headlights could get frozen in the down position in ice conditions and there were lots of broken mechanisms forced open and propped up as a result of even minor front end bumps.

    Other than the dismal lack of power, it was the 3rd brake light that caused most of the headaches, literally. It was VERY easy to hit your head on the light and I can remember a few friends who probably incurred concussion levels of blunt force trauma as a result of a sharp turn or short stop.

    LOVED the switch pods on either side of the instrument panel, both were very convenient.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Was yours the SE model? The 140hp never felt scary slow to me. I had forgotten all about the 3rd brake light! I had to constantly remind people about that. It was only necessary if you took of the hatch anyway since an additional light was on the spoiler.

  • avatar

    United Auto Recyclers has earned the URG 8000 Standard of excellence. We have 35 acres of computerized inventory and over 1 million parts on the shelf ready to ship. Call 800.228.2845 now and speak to a salesperson.

    Unless sold (manager kept them off the database for some weird reason) and if you or someone you know is seeking the removable “sport-back add-on or whatever it was termed, give the above joint a call.

    Those can be tough to find.

    Maybe they’ve been sold, I don’t know.

  • avatar

    Haaaaaaa! I haven’t seen one of these in years, even in rust-free California! When I was a freshman in High School here in Northern CA there was a junior girl at my school who had one circa 1990-91. It was black but her dad had it two-toned with silver for her and it had a gigantic LA Raiders logo painted on the hood. She always wore her bangs about 1′ high and wore baggy, pleated “MC Hammer” pants with the ankles cut at a strange angle. Also, neon pink Oakley Razor Blades. Her name was Andrea but she thought she was gangsta went by ‘Drea and this car had it’s own soundtrack of Color Me Badd, Bel Biv DeVoe, McHammer or Vanilla Ice. Her only complaint about the car was that she couldn’t fit 12″ or 15″ “hella beat” subs in the back, and she was stuck with a single 8″ sub. (I guess she didn’t have the wagon attachment?) One night during a football game someone keyed the crap out of her car with what looked to be more of a tire-iron than a little key, an incident that fueled my high school’s rumor mill for the next month or so before she crashed it and totalled the thing, rendering the previous vandalism only important to her own ego.

  • avatar

    I don’t have time to write tonight, but my wife owned an 87 Pulsar for about 15 years. I can relate to most of the comments from pulsar owners.
    If you have time, maybe you could read the story of her Pulsar on my link. below.

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