By on June 23, 2012

The Corolla has been with us since the 1966 model year, the Civic since 1973. The Sentra didn’t appear until partway through 1982, and first-year examples are quite rare (the closest I’ve come in the junkyard is this ’83 sedan). Here’s one that I found at a Denver yard a few weeks ago.
177,000 miles out of a Late Malaise Era econobox is pretty good.
Truly small station wagons, like small pickup trucks, are no longer with us. That’s a shame, because these things were very useful.
The E15 engine produced just 67 horsepower, but the car managed to get better than 50 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Sentra was also the first US-market Nissan to be branded as a straight-up Nissan, though this ad sneaks in the Datsun name.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Nissan Sentra Station Wagon...”

  • avatar

    When I was in high school, my friend and his sister pooled their funds, made from babysitting and mowing lawns, to buy a new one of these. It was an 87 coupe, red with grey interior, zero options. But then they saved their money gain, and put a really nice component stereo system in it (no silly 15″ sub). That little Nissan was really cool. We had a lot of fun times in it. Simple with a 5-speed, it was a car you really drove, back when we could be reasonably expected to know how to drive stick.

    I’ll never forget the key in the ignition ding-dong-ding-doing-ding-dong chime. That little detail though potentially annoying, spoke to the car’s overall whimsical spirit.

    And I guess the time we were living in, as well.

    God, I miss those days.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’95 Infiniti G20 had the same “tin bell” ding-dong sound. I thought it was pretty funny, considering in ’95 the G20 was a $24k car (which is somehwere in the mid-30s today). I kind of liked it, though. Seemed playful, much like the car itself.

  • avatar

    The interior shot looks like it is from a mini pickup truck or something.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    58 sounds amazing, but this was back in the days of the raw EPA numbers when a Caprice would get 28 mpg or something. The ad even goes through a ton of disclaimers to downplay expectations.

    It gets to be a question of semantics, but the 5-door subcompacts like the Fit or Prius C are essentially the same thing as this, even if they’re not billed as wagons.

    Is the 3rd-gen Camry wagon next up?

    • 0 avatar

      You may be thinking of the Prius v, which is very wagon-like.

      You are correct about sky-high EPA figures, but this lightweight car (maybe 2500 lbs) with 67 HP and a stick may actually get 58 mpg if driven at the 55 mph speed limit. But it polluted much more than today’s cars. Good fuel economy does not equal ‘clean’.

      Today’s economy cars have 140 – 160 HP, 10 airbags, and weigh well over 3000 lbs, more like 3200 lbs, and then people complain when they don’t hit 40 mpg while driving 75 mph.

  • avatar

    My first new car was a 1983 Sentra two-door hatchback, 5-speed. Bumpy ii is right, MPG figures were highly inflated then. My best MPG ever in that car was 37, and I averaged 33 highway, 31 overall (with more than 50% highway). I had a friend who had the stripped “MPG” model. I recall that he might have actually hit 50 MPG.

    My 83 Sentra was a great car for the time. Compared to the Chevettes many of my peers drove, my car was more comfortable (much), more economical, and significantly quicker. Even my 2-door had a back seat that adults could use. You could put the rear seat down and lie down in the hatch.

    • 0 avatar

      Your numbers sound much more like real life. I went back as far as goes, and they list a 1984 sentra wagon at 35/27 with the 5-speed. (those are “new” numbers)

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, I spect my ’83 Civic 1500DX with the 5spd manny tranny got around 35mpg highway and I think I got 350-400 miles cruising range out of a tank of gas as I think it had all of 12 Gallons or so capacity and yes, it was the hatchback body too.

        Mind you this was in the 1990’s when I had it.

  • avatar

    If they could bring that car back with just two changes – electronic port fuel injection and ant-lock brakes, I would buy one this week.

  • avatar

    1982-1983 was the year Datsun was changing all of their cars to Nissan in the US. This was the time of their big transition of models from 210s, 510s, 610s, etc. to many of the names that were used for a long time like the Sentra, Stanza, and Maxima. I remember a neighbor of mine having one of these cars except i think his was a 2 door. It was a good car that lasted him a long time. Competition in this era included Chevettes, Omni/Horizon, Escort, Corolla (still RWD till 84) and the brand new Renault with AMC badges Alliance. The wagon design was practical and I wish they still small wagons today. Also the upright design and size made it easy to park and drive. Beats some of the new cars with crazy styling that makes it so you need a back up camera to see out the back. Also it will be interesting in another 20 or 30 years when the Junkyard Finds on the 3-D Internet show all the the electronics and how out of date they are. It will also be interesting to see how many mysync or navigation systems are still holding up on old cars then. I’m sure you could pull out the radio in this Nissan and it would probably still work. A dial and two knobs. The good old days!! :)!

  • avatar

    Clipable easy to reach & change light bulbs covers trunkside. Thin easily dented sheet metal. Shoe polish bumpers. Sweet chime from the ignition lock. The 3-speed automatic made for raucous HWY cruising. Definitely a time when 5-speed manual was better. I believe a/c was dealer installed kit.

    • 0 avatar

      In my 83 Sentra it was factory air, and it even had an “economy” button. The economy button seemed to actually work – the engine didn’t work as hard to run the airconditioning, and the air was usually cool enough.

  • avatar

    Nice find there MM.

    I spotted a red Sentra wagon back in 2009 when I went on an expedition of sorts to see what’s still being driving within a few blocks of my apartment and this red Sentra wagon was one of them.

    it was the top line XE wagon, most likely an ’84 though.

    I also spotted a bunch of others that day, including an ’83 Cressida, a late 80’s Camry, an early 70’s Datsun 120 pickup truck amongst other assorted older vehicles that afternoon.

    Even here, these are not common anymore though I used to see several of these of the 80-85 time period near where I live, including an ’80 Datsun 510 wagon, but that was 2-3 years or so ago.

    • 0 avatar

      A place I lived 90 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA, a couple of years ago had a red 510 two-door sedan with Minilite wheels that was driven daily, and the same household had a faded but roadworthy-looking red Sentra wagon from this generation. I never saw it move, but it didn’t look immobile at all and was parked on the street in front of the house.

      A guy up the hill had a seemingly showroom brown ~83 VW Rabbit (with alloys!) and a mid-60s Dodge pickup that he was in the process of restoring.

      I liked that neighborhood.

  • avatar

    My step-father had a first generation hatch that lasted him until about 1998-2000 or so. The entire bottom of the car disintegrated from all the Ohio winters- put it on lifts to do a repair and the lifts impaled the thing with a god awful crunch. I’ll always remember the car for one of the most “wtf” car incidents I’ve ever witnessed.

  • avatar

    I sure wish I got a used ’82 Sentra instead of an ’81 Mitsu built Plymouth Champ [Colt]!

    I had a ’97 Altima with the unique chimes, but my 2005 Sentra had normal buzzer and the horn honked instead of beeping like other Asian cars.

  • avatar

    My parents bought one of these brand new in 84. Much of my early childhood was spent in that super base model Sentra wagon. No a/c, manual transmission, power nothing. White with brown cloth/vinyl interior. Only fancy thing was a tape deck my dad splurged on for the car. There was a time when I knew where in New Jersey we were based on what song was playing from the Men Without Hats Pop Goes the World album. That being said, that white 84 Sentra wagon is an icon of my childhood. There are maybe a half dozen of these first gen Sentra’s left in the U.S. Dad went through three gearboxes and two engines before giving up on it in the early 90’s. From that point forward, it was whatever beater we could buy for $500. Lots of GM X-bodies and A-bodies after that until my dad splurged on an 80 Mustang with a 5.0 for $1000. The next time he bought a new car for himself was 1999 – a silver Ford Contour SE Sport.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 82-83 They offered a diesel version of the Sentra, 2dr coupe only w/5spd. It got roughly 50MPG highway. Also around early 80’s a Maxima Diesel was offered with a 6 banger.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Friend’s dad had a Sentra 2-door sedan with the diesel engine, but theirs I know for sure was automatic, and it had air conditioning. Very slow, but the engine was much smoother and quieter than the VW diesels of that era. They had that car until it broke down suddenly with a bang one day … no one clued in that it had a timing belt that had to be replaced before it broke!

  • avatar

    The only thing slower than this 1982 Sentra is either a Sentra with an automatic transmission or a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe.

  • avatar

    I drove my ’87 Sentra to 256k before it was rear-ended. Exact same carbureted engine as the above ’83 example. 37 MPG Mixed, 42 HWY.

  • avatar

    For some reason I seem to recall my a/c being dealer-add on. It was a long time ago. I don’t recall the ‘economy’ button. Mine a had a black square button with a blue light that you had to remember to press every time the car was started.

  • avatar

    I bought one of these for $120 a few years ago from some crazy old lady when I was attempting a 24hours of Lemons run. Finally ended up having a salvage yard just pick it up and take it away.

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