Rare Rides: The 1986 Nissan Stanza Is a Van and Wagon for the Prairie

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1986 nissan stanza is a van and wagon for the prairie

Nissan and Datsun brought quirky, interesting, innovative vehicles to North American shores in the years prior to roughly 1994. Commenters — okay, I — brought up our subject Stanza in a post the other day about AMC Eagle creator Roy Lunn. Mr. Lunn used American Motors’ rather slim budget to create what was arguably the very first crossover vehicle from an assemblage of existing parts.

Let’s see what Nissan did with its early proto-crossover vehicle idea.

First, let’s settle some naming confusion. Though the Stanza carried the Prairie name (which I prefer) abroad, and the Multi name in Canada, the American market knew it simply as Wagon.

Debuting in 1981 for Japanese customers, it made the journey to North America in 1982. You could choose from a couple of four-cylinder engines, and either a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual transmission. In true crossover fashion, the Stanza Wagon was front-drive based, with an optional four-wheel drive system.

Five seats was the standard arrangement, but room for up to seven occupants was an option in this compact MPV. Sliding rear doors on either side beat minivan offerings to the dual-door punch by about a decade.

Structural integrity be damned, the Stanza Wagon skipped over a B-pillar. This allowed for an impressive aperture when both side doors were opened, and easy access for loading and unloading of people and cargo.

The rear seats also folded down, creating a small double bed when combined with the reclining front seats.

The first-generation Stanza Wagon continued through 1988 until its replacement by the Axxess for 1990. An Axxess would also qualify as a Rare Ride; it was sold in the United States for only the 1990 model year. The little Axxess fared better in the frozen land of Canada, where it remained on Nissan lots through 1995. If you find a clean one listed for sale in the US, let me know on Twitter or something.

Our example today looks rust-free and is located out in California with the rest of the rust-free Japanese 1980s vehicles. There’s some UV damage present, but the seller (who indicates just 50,000 miles on the odometer) is selling this derpy box for $2,700 reasonable dollars.

It’s high noon in the Prairie.

[Images via seller]

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3 of 57 comments
  • Scott25 Scott25 on Sep 10, 2017

    One of my dream cars for sure. Saw a clean one a few years back and haven't seen one since. I see Axxesses around every few months, but never one I would call clean. Also don't forget the arch-rival of the Axxess, the Eagle Summit Wagon!

    • John McKechnie John McKechnie on Jan 26, 2023

      I I had a Nissan multi 4 by 4 it was freaking amazing it would go anywhere you wanted to go And I used to make money betting guys That my car had 4 extra spark plugs a 4 cylinder 8 plugs nobody believed me

  • Smapdi Smapdi on Sep 19, 2017

    Reminds me of my Sidekick, pure windows... amazing visibility if slightly goofy looking.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic I drove a rental Renegade a few years back. Felt the engine (TIgerShark) was ready was ready to pop out from under the hood. Very crude!! Sole purpose was CAFE offsets. Also drove a V6 Cherokee which was very nice and currently out of production. Should be able to scoop up one at a fair deal.🚗🚗🚗
  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...