By on August 1, 2014

04 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne thing I love about early-to-mid-1980s Nissans is the combination of futuristic technology with endearing Japanese-to-English translations. We’ve seen a few Maximas in this series, including this rear-wheel-drive ’82 Datsun Maxima and this puzzling “Brake Fluid EVERYWHERE” ’86 Maxima. On a recent trip to California, I found this rare Maxima station wagon at an Oakland self-serve yard.
03 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis was just a few years before the Infiniti brand hit these shores, and the Maxima (like the Toyota Cressida) was seeming less luxurious compared to the competition as the decade of the 1980s wore on.
12 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI found an excellent addition to my collection of heartfelt notes to tow-truck drivers in this car.
10 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe paint is faded, but the interior isn’t so bad.

A powerful rebuttal to the notion of compromise.

As always, the US got the most boring commercials for Japanese cars.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Nissan Maxima Station Wagon...”

  • avatar

    You know, if it were painted brown, it would still be out on the road.

  • avatar

    As usual, I never have time for the good ones. Even has voice warning….

  • avatar

    The first station wagon my in-laws owned (when they had two little ones instead of 3) was a Datsun. By the time the 3rd one came along (my wife) they had switched to a Celebrity wagon. I’ve often wondered if my wife would have such a dim view of wagons if Dad had picked up a Maxima instead.

    • 0 avatar


      My Dad bought a Maxima instead of another Buick Century in 1989. A WWII veteran who once swore to never buy foreign, it changed his whole outlook. Mine too.

      Not my Mom. She got a ’92 Buick Regal a few years later. Guess what? Another GM Horror Show. A/C failed at 60K, various electrical, brakes always sunk to the floor, clunky A/T. Gave up after 5 1/2 years.

      Their next car was the Infiniti version of Maxima, and it was great. If they were younger and still alive, my parents would still be Japanese or maybe Korean car owners.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a Celebrity wagon for 11 years. It was a great car. Your in-laws may have had their reasons…

  • avatar

    Sigh. This is just about my dream vehicle if it were made today. The only true wagons available today are from mfrs known for high repair costs on top of high purchase price. I want a sensible and comfortable wagon from a mainstream mfr, not a butched-up CUV.

  • avatar

    I got hit by one of these Maxima wagons while riding my bicycle once. Ever see in movies how bicycle wheels get bent like Pringles potato chips? That really happens.

    • 0 avatar

      My wife and I brought bicycles on our honeymoon. They were on the car’s rear rack and we were backing up when a Honda Insight banged us. The only damage was my Trek 2100’s rear wheel. My wife said it was “potato chipped.” I love her more today than yesterday.

      • 0 avatar

        In the bike world, this is called ‘taco-ing’ your wheel. If you’re deep in the bush and you taco your wheel, you can often pound it back into shape by slamming it into the ground. You may have to undo your rim brake on the offending wheel and take it slow, but it beats walking.

  • avatar

    Is this RWD? I loves me those RWD in-line six Japanese sedans Maxima, Cressida, 929. They all feel like Cadillacs crossed with Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s FWD. Nissan switched from RWD in 1985, and it was the first year Maxima got a V-6 instead of a Straight 6, basically a detuned Z car engine and the basis of today’s Nissan/Infiniti V-6.

      Thanks for this. I bought an ’89 Maxima off my dad — a much more modern design — and boy, I miss that vehicle!

      A college friend once had its predecessor – a 1979 Datsun 810 Wagon, the top-of-the-line luxe model. Every Datsun of the late Seventies was ugly except the Z, and they ruined that one for ’84-’88.

      • 0 avatar

        The late 80s Max was a brilliant car, which was modern, looked great, rode well, and had plenty of power. Built like a vault.

        • 0 avatar

          Sigh. I wonder if there’s a business in rebuilding those.

          The closest thing to those Maximas in spirit is the Mazda6, assuming they don’t rust like earlier ones.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          The 4DSC, a legend then and now.

        • 0 avatar

          Oh yes, I can verify that. Still have an ’88 GXE sedan that I tried to kill in high school, it took everything I threw at it. Unkillable bastard that eventually won my respect. Redline neutral drops- daily I might ad, did nothing. Amazing.

          It handled great, had excellent road feel and it had the best brakes I have ever had in a car, even though it was non ABS! Plus the VG30E Z car engine sounded great at full song.

  • avatar

    I went on a test drive of one of these with my father when he was buying his first new car after I was old enough to care about cars. We both liked the Maxima, but he ended up going with an ’86 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. Not as practical, but much cooler looking (at least until the Euro style blackout trim became spotted with bare aluminum)!

  • avatar

    A nice woman used to pick up our newspaper for recycling in one of these. It was…

    …a brown diesel station wagon! (Don’t know whether auto or stick)

    I suspect Nissan and Volvo may have been the only sources for these rare smudge pots.

  • avatar

    Parents owned a sedan – it was a great car – way better than the 81 Caprice it replaced – that was an abomination.

    The only thing I didn’t like was the door open chime, sounded like a child’s xylophone.

    We haven’t seen a dash cluster picture in…..forever…is there a reason no more cluster pics? It is one of things I loved the most about this series – seeing the older gauges and the occasional odo pic.

    • 0 avatar

      Did these not have two mechanical trip odometers stacked above each other as well?…if I am remembering the right car it did, along with the Japanese voice reminder and a wimpy door chime…..

  • avatar

    Did Nissan build a diesel Maxima wagon, or was it only in the sedaniti remember a neighbor had a diesel Maxima back in 1982-83.

  • avatar

    Even more rare would be the dual-brand Datsun-NISSAN Maxima Wagon!

    They pimped one on Pimp My Ride once, and I was pissed at how it still sounded like crap for the poor kid they gave it to.

    Let’s spend $40k on a 25-year old car, and then do sh!t to the suspension, brakes, engine, etc to keep it running. (I think the kid delivered food to the lesss fortunate.)

    • 0 avatar

      They ruined all the cars on Pimp My Ride. Who wants a Toyota T100 with monitors- In the Mud Flaps!

      They had a kid with an old Buick Century. He said this:

      “The problem with the show is, they don’t fix any of the mechanical issues, and my car was a piece of s***. ”

      The whole article is here:

  • avatar

    Brilliant cars, but I always thought the front ends looked particularly heavy and over-wrought. I never cared much for the button- tuck upholstery that was also found in the Toyota Cressida of this generation. The next generation was much better styling- wise.

    Always funny to me to see many of these aging top-of-the line cars in junkyards in which the last owners clearly had money for lots of six-gauge low-oxygen copper cable to feed their big sub box, but no money for regular repairs or preventative maintenance. It’s all about priorities, I guess.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s all about priorities, I guess.”

      Jeff Foxworthy used to do a routine about having a $1500 car with a $4000 dollar stereo or a run down apartment with a ridiculous stereo. “We’re poor but we got tunes, man!”

    • 0 avatar

      Priorities indeed. In my area, I’m always amazed by the number of Land Rovers, Escalades, high-end SUVs, Bimmers, Benzes and the like with 22-inch wheels, decorative chrome, h/d stereo and the like. When you look closely, the exhaust systems are taped together, the tires are bald and the suspensions sound terrible when they clunk over something.

  • avatar

    I remember when this generation of Maxima was first introduced for the 1985(?) model year. There was a lot of anticipation for the SE sedan, which promised a more European-style flavor with blackout trim, electronically adjustable suspension, trunklid spoiler, etc. Then MotorWeek did their road test and discovered how underwhelming the chassis tuning really was. Nevertheless, the Maxima was still a pretty darn nice car for its day.

  • avatar

    Max always looked after his sister.

    His eyes were fixated through the darkness on the black pavement of US50-E dimly illuminated by the Maxima’s aged headlamps. His right hand was bleeding through the makeshift bandage and he felt the cool wind blow through his scraggly black hair. Shelia lay slumped against the passenger door in the passenger seat. Her baby started crying from the booster seat behind Max which caused Shelia to stir. She turned and sat up in the seat.

    “What, what time is it?” She asked.
    “Don’t know, still the night”. Max replied without breaking his concentration.
    “How long have I been out?”
    “Since we left” Max replied coldly.
    “Why’d you have to hit him!” she shrieked as Sheila punched her brother in the arm. Max leaned to the side a bit and then turned and looked at her battered face.
    “Look!” He locked eyes with her. “You called me and I got you. What else is there to say?”. Sheila wiped the tears from her bruised cheeks and took several deep breaths.
    “I have to feed the baby, Max. Its been hours” she said very calmly. Max again turned his attention to the road.
    “We can’t, we have to get to Aunt Jenny’s before the sun comes up”
    “Max…” she said as she took a deep breath. “The baby”.

    The Maxima decelerated and slowly pulled onto the side of the road. Max left the headlamps on but turned off the car. He opened the door to the first stand he had experienced in nearly four hours and Shelia made her way around to the rear door of the wagon.

    “Sheila, get in on the passenger side, don’t want you to get hit”
    “By what traffic, Max?” she said as she came around to the driver’s side rear door. Max watched as she pulled her six month old child from the dingy child safety seat and held him close. Shelia gently sang to him the song Aunt Jenny had sung to her:

    “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
    Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

    If that mockingbird don’t sing,
    Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”

    Max pulled a pack of Pall Malls from his left pocket and pulled a cigarette from the half crushed container. He held his bandaged hand over it as he lit the cigarette with a gas station grade orange colored lighter. He walked away from the car as Sheila sat down in the driver’s seat to feed her son. The mountainous landscape was beginning to ever slowly light up as dawn slowly approached. Max felt his smoke blow back on him as he puffed into the wind. Shelia looked up from her son to Max’s shadow was cast long against the shoulder. She smiled knowing at least one man in this world would never hurt her, or her son.

    “How far do you think we are from the farm?” She called out. Max walked back toward the car.
    “Keep your voice down Shelia”. He walked to the driver door and looked down at her. “I saw a sign that said we’re nearing Placerville, so we’re not too far off”.
    “Max, what happens; What happens if he comes back?” Shelia asked as she looked down at the ground. Max scratched his goatee and smiled.
    “I told you he’s not ever comin’ back”.

    The sun was starting to rise as Shelia put her sun back in the child’s seat and shut the door. Max decided to ride shotgun and catch some sleep as Sheila sat down to start the car, which did not turn over. She kept turning and turning the key but it would not budge. She began screaming obscenities at the car and Max put his hands over his face and jovially started laughing at their luck.

    “Keeping it classy eh sis?” Max remarked smiling ear to ear which broke Shelia’s grimace.
    “What do we do Max?” He smiled at her.
    “We walk on to Placerville, can’t be more than two or three miles. I have a friend in Diamond Springs who played bass me in The Devil’s Pals. If we can get to a phone maybe he can come get us” Max said as he exited the passenger door.
    “What about my car!” she yelled to him.
    “Its Chinese refrigerators now, sis” he said as he pulled open the rear passenger door to get his backpack.
    “No, no, no, wait” she said as she scribbled a note and taped it to the window. Max came around to the driver’s door with an open gallon of water container.
    “This is water?” he asked.
    “Yeah, we kept having to refill the radiator” she replied.
    “Finally something’s going our way” he said happily as he took a gulp of water from the container.

    Sheila held her son as Max walked down the shoulder in front of them. Slowly the car left their view as the bright warmth of dawn swept over them. So they beat on, shoes against the pavement, borne back ceaselessly into their past.

    (There are three Easter egg type references, can you spot them all? -28CL)

    • 0 avatar

      Nice story, but one nitpick: the headlamps are sealed-beam and probably glass, so they look crystal clear unlike many cars on the road now.

      I say this not to criticize your writing, but to criticize headlamps with poor longevity and to praise glass sealed-beams.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the info. I have never seen a Maxima of this vintage up close so I tried to keep the car specific detail light, but it never occurred to me the model came with the old sealed beam style lights and that they would not fade in the same way as today’s headlights. I can’t even remember the last time I was in a car with such a sealed beam setup (heck the MY86 Cressida I had eight years ago did not even have them). The last car I saw in person with such a setup was an early 80s 240 a few months back.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel like you could’ve really “explored the space” with the white trash setting though. I wanted more.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m going to guess on the Easter Eggs:

      1. The guy is named Max, a pun to Maxima.
      2. The door was hit on the left side previously. Sis used this door
      3. I’m guessing the Voice Alert system would have panicked if Max left the lights on?

      Are any of these correct?

      • 0 avatar


        Ty for the feedback. I suppose in hindsight I could have explored things a bit more but as I wrote it I felt a bit out of my depth. I’ve never seen a Maxima of this vintage in life, and my familiarity with the Nor Cal area and its inhabitants is light at best. I’ll see if I can come up with some deeper characters/situations for the next used up car.


        Wow you are quite perceptive, and I think you picked up on some of my own subconscious thinking because those were not my [conscious] references.

        1. This is a loose reference to Michael Mann’s film Heat.

        “I told you he’s not ever comin’ back”.

        2. Devil’s Pals is a Simpsons reference:

        “have a friend in Diamond Springs who played bass me in The Devil’s Pals”

        3. This is a paraphrase of the final line of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:

        “So they beat on, shoes against the pavement, borne back ceaselessly into their past.”

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, man, I got a sort of different picture of this car… not that this wasn’t a compelling story!

      Max strung the brightly colored amplifier wires out in the driveway, laying out where they’d go once he ripped out the interior carpet and trim. He’d just scored a 200A amplifier he scored from a friend of a friend a grade up, for only $100. He also got a pair of cracked 12-inch speakers in the deal that he taped and epoxied until they sounded like new. A dumpster-found speaker box he’d stored since freshman year was just the ticket to fit behind the back seats, with a few hack-saw modifications. Sure, he’d lose the wagon capaciousness, but who needs to carry a bunch of stuff in high school anyway. He’d gotten the Maxima wagon at a rolling stock auction where Red Cross unloaded their donations… it was a risk, sure, but after a new battery and drying out the pools of water in the carpeting and bleaching the mold away, it was a pretty b*chin’ ride! Max was worried about stock door speakers and how they rattled and buzzed ad mid-volume but if you can feel the beat, man, it don’t matter. Of course, since he was ripping into the dash and wiring anyway, it’s not too big a deal to swap out the head unit, LED’s are so cool, man! The spinning LEDs on the display were such a good use of the last of the hoarded allowance since middle school.

      Fast forward 5 years…
      Once graduating high school and driving to and from the garage at the community college getting the associates degree, Max finally moves out of his parents’ basement in east Oakland. He relocates into a low-rent apartment south of town that he shares with the drummer in his on-again off-again band while he works part time as an insurance adjuster to make ends meet. The wagon becomes the chase car for the rusted ’89 Aerostar with the stage gear, and the preferred ride of the band members because of the plush upholstery and somewhat cooler than ambient AC.
      One fine Friday night the band is convoying down to the bar for a gig when the check engine light comes on. Max hasn’t had enough money to buy beer, gas, and oil changes, so the oil has been suffering. “No big deal, it’s probably the gas cap, that’s what it always is, right?” Max thinks to himself as he follows the Aerostar off the exit and onto the feeder road. Not two miles later the engine suddenly gets much louder. Max figures something isn’t right and flashes his lights to get Paul to pull the van over with him. The three other guys groan as the Maxima comes clattering to a halt in the dust. The engine sounds horrible so Max cuts it off, opens the hood for the third time ever, and walks around to look at it. The oil must be around here somewhere right? And what’s that burning smell? Nothing for it but to press on until the bar, or at least a gas station with a garage. Except now the old wagon won’t crank. Dang! The band needs to get to the bar and set up, if they ever want to be invited back, and a paying gig is hard to come by these days.

      The guys and Max pile into the Aerostar and wedge themselves in among the equipment in back… but wait, there’s valuable stuff in that car, think of all the time and money sunk into that sound system! So Max goes back and writes a note that he hopes will keep the tow truck drivers away for a day or two, so he can come back and strip out all the audio gear.

      A successful gig on Friday and a flop of a daytime show on Saturday meant Max didn’t get back out to the old car until Sunday afternoon. By some miracle it was still sitting there, the windows already starting to cloud with dust. The radio and speakers came out easily enough, as well as the switches and aftermarket fog lights. Those will definitely bu useful for the next ride. As Max drives away with the goods tossed into the Aerostar he sees a tow truck in the rear view slow and pull over…

      Well, that was too bad, but Max knows where Red Cross auctions their vehicles, and he already has the accessories to keep his lifestyle going, if only he can save up the money. Max feels a bit melancholy but can’t quite put a finger on why… the car was really just an appliance to him – no love lost there – but somehow it became a part of his life, always in the background, shading his experiences.

      While Max moves on with his life, all these annoying letters in the mail from the city, what gives? The Maxima languishes on the impound lot and no-sales a couple of auctions, until one day Joe from accounting is browsing the online auctions and sees that rear window, the one that none of the glass shops can source, and figures that instead of replacing his wagon he’ll scoop this one up, have the glass shop swap the window over, and re-coup his money at the crusher.

      • 0 avatar

        I think yours is a more accurate story. I would have assumed the car never made it out of high school, though.

        That said, I still like 28’s version better. It makes me feel more emotions. A Nissan Maxima wagon does not create emotions, though.

        Both are excellent!

  • avatar

    I liked these models, but I prefer the refresh of the 1987 model of this same generation.

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