By on December 27, 2017

Image: 1988 Nissan Sunny

Today’s Rare Ride comes to us — for the first time — from the nation’s capital. As we ponder what the owner was thinking, we’ll pore over a tidy Nissan Sunny imported from Japan. It’s rare, square, and almost exactly the same as the Nissan Sentra your aunt had in 1991. I’m really not sure.

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyDatsun first introduced vehicles wearing the Sunny nameplate back in 1966. Through four generations the car kept the Datsun name, only switching to Nissan for the fifth generation, which debuted in 1982. The Sunny/Tsuru replaced the Datsun 210 and was always called Sentra in North America. This B12 model was available in the United States from 1986 through 1990.

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyThe only all-wheel-drive model the United States received was the wagon variant, and only early on. Nissan simplified model offerings over the years, and by 1990 there was only a coupe, sedan, wagon, and a two-door sedan — all in front-drive-only. Today’s Rare Ride is the Japanese domestic market version of the Sunny. It has all-wheel drive, low miles, and brougham pretensions.

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyA five-speed manual transmission puts the power down through all four wheels via one of seven different inline-four engines. I’m not sure which one powers this; perhaps one of the B&B is more enlightened?

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyThe model-specific logos are a nice touch, and the front end is reminiscent of a Polish-manufactured FSO Polonez.

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyThe claimed mileage of 30,000 would seem accurate given the pristine state of the interior. Five small persons fit in plum velour comfort, and will wonder once inside why you didn’t just buy a Sentra.

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyThis 4WD Super Saloon E model came straight from the Sunny dealership chain in Tokyo.

Image: 1988 Nissan SunnyCurrent ask is $4,950 on Craigslist. For the diehard Nissan collector, that might be the right kind of price to bring the Sunny home.

[Images via seller]

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30 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1988 Nissan Sunny Is Nearly a Sentra and Definitely All-wheel Drive...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    “four generations the car kept the Datsun name, only switching to Nissan for the fifth generation, which debuted in 1982.”

    I can still hear the jingle from 35 years ago: Maaaajor motion, from Nissan! (at your Datsun dealer)

  • avatar
    overdale

    The front end looks like a lot of generic Euro and Japanese stuff from that era but nothing like an FSO Polonez (unless you are thinking of the late model Caro facelift and even then you’d need to squint quite a lot as the grille shape and angle of the lights are different).

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    A rare ride that no one would look twice at in traffic. ;-)

    Perhaps someone with an insurance background can inform us how an insurer writes a policy for something that is essentially one of one (at least in this country.)

    • 0 avatar
      Heino

      A great rare ride that should only be driven to car shows. Aside from it being bland and boring, this car and driver will not survive the kamikaze drivers on our garbage jewel the Beltway. Ironically it almost always involves other Nissan drivers (and used cop cars).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      For something like this, you get an agreed value policy. You tell them what you want it insured for, they tell you the cost per $1000 of value. Generally, extremely cheap. I have such for all my cars in Maine, through AIG. <$800/yr to insure my BMW, Rover, and Triumph, full coverage, high limits, low deductibles. When I had my M235i on the policy, that car was ~$500/yr. Wish I could get such a deal in Florida, but Florida…

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      Depends on where you go. As others have mentioned, the proper way to do it would be a stated value policy that properly accounts for the cost of replacement parts.

      That being said, given the age of the vehicle I think it’s quite likely you could just call up one of the call center based companies and they’d give you something based on the vehicle’s original cost new.

      When I was on the phones I saw all kinds of stuff that was technically ineligible but reps used the “manual override” flag and put it on anyway because they didn’t know better or didn’t care (usually both).

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    How about a real JDM Nissan Brougham?

    https://austin.craigslist.org/cto/d/1991-nissan-gloria-brougham/6433559238.html

    Or maybe a really interesting JDM Nissan small car, one you won’t have to convince people that it isn’t a modified USDM car?

    https://houston.craigslist.org/cto/d/1987-nissan-be1-5-speed/6425152419.html

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A few Sentra AWD wagons made it here to the states.

    https://bringatrailer.com/2017/04/30/rare-4wd-wagon-1987-nissan-sentra-xe-5-speed/

    They must have figured out they wanted a competitor to the popular Tercel and Subaru Leone wagons.

  • avatar
    Dick Steppage

    “As we ponder what the owner was thinking, we’ll pore over a tidy Nissan Sunny imported from Japan.”

    I’m too poor to pour over this pore-clogging but tidy Nissan…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Posting is deleted, but from what I remember this one had a E15E: port injected version of the standard USDM engine (minus 100cc’s). If it had been a CA16DE, I might have bought it myself.

    If you want true brougham pretension in a Sunny, that would be the Laurel Spirit:
    youtube.com/watch?v=177E_pg89f4
    youtube.com/watch?v=fE5cuEqxA2Q

  • avatar
    Styles

    According to the JDM parts catalogue (Nissan FAST), the engine in this one will be an GA15S or GA15E not sure exactly what this one will have, the pre-’87 ones has E15S engines. Japan had carburetted cars for a surprisingly long time, only phasing them out from very low-spec cars in the mid-late 90’s. This shape wasn’t uncommon here in NZ through till the early 2000’s by which time they’d all either rusted or been replaced with newer cars. NZ, the land of the $10k import. People just buy one on 3 year finance, and once paid off repeat the cycle.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Mine was 3-spud auto and just as buzzy as a Chevette on the hwy. I liked the colored diagnostic center that let you know when a bulb was out or if the washer needed topping up. Bulbs were a breeze to replace with easy snap back panels in the trunk & hood areas. The light grade sheet metal on these easily dinged any time another door came marginally close…

    I liked the ignition chime a kind of pulsating bell sound.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    The steel wheels are snazzy. I owned a little red 2 door Sentra from this generation. Tinny little thing with gray vinyl seats but it got me from A to B and was reliable as an anvil.

    I whole notion of driving a RHD car in traffic, and rowing a 5 speed with my left hand, fills me with trepidation.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I hear you, CincyDavid. I worked in the UK for a couple of years, and one of my bosses had 2000-ish Alfa Romeo Spider (convertible sibling of the GTV James May drove in a Top Gear challenge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NPbCczP3wQ). Living up to the stereotype, it had an electrical issue which would drain the battery if it wasn’t driven at least a few times a week. Prior to leaving for an extended trip to the States, he asked me to exercise it for him. I did the math on not being familiar with the surface streets yet, pre-Congestion Charge London traffic, driving stick with my left hand, and its being my boss’s then pretty new Alfa. I reluctantly told him, “Sorry, not a great idea.”

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      When I sold Nissans in the late ’80s, these were a hot item.

      Not nearly as nice as Civics from the same era, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Shifting lefty is easier than you’d think. Back in the day I rented a 1-st gen Fiesta to tool around England for a week, after the first day right hand drive felt pretty natural.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    If we were about 6 months in the future I may go buy this but as it is I’m in the middle of a move. I really want a clean B13 SE-R but this thing is very cool in my mind. I’d daily it though so it should probably go to someone who just wants to show it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Probably the cleanest Sentra of its’ era extant.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I wonder how much that former Sentra and this one are related… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85OysZ_4lp0

  • avatar
    gtem

    I love this thing, it’s a total nostalgia trip to the sea of boxy white JDM sedans that flooded the Russian Far East and Siberia in general in the mid 90s, many of them full-time 4wd models.

    Car runners in the 90s would ride trains from western Siberia into port cities with dollars in hand, and then drive these fresh-off-the-boat beauties back West, over a very harsh and sparsely inhabited landscape, often driving down frozen rivers (a lot of car running was done in the winter when the swampy unpaved roads were usable). Good money to be made, but at great risk. A break-down or mis-navigating and running out of gas could mean freezing to death. This was pre-import tariffs, with big profits for those that had the guts to partake in this gold-rush of used JDM vehicles.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrnOBl_qX0Q

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      In the video above, there is indeed a B12 Sunny, along with an EF Civic sedan, Corolla Sprinter “cargo” trim wagon, and a Subaru Loyale sedan. All in refrigerator white. All of them about 7 years old, when the dreaded “Shaken” inspection in Japan comes due.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Is it difficult to import used cars into Russia now?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The tariffs on bringing in the used RHD stuff has cut the flow down to a small fraction of what it once was. One work-around has been to bring in cars that have literally been chopped in half so they can be imported under the guise of “parts” and then there are specialized shops that will weld them back together.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          What about LHD, say from the U.S.?

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Same story, but plenty of stuff still gets brought in (higher end luxury cars and wrecked cars that get rebuilt especially). For a while there in the 90s people were bringing in a ton of Grand Cherokees, Explorers, Tahoes and just a random smattering of other mainstream domestics (aside from rust proofing they’re better engineered for a harsh Russian climate and poor quality gas than many Euro imports). Used Japanese cars from the American market were also a big thing, American 1st gen Highlanders and 2nd gen Siennas are all over Siberia. The big thing too is imported American big rigs, Freightliner Centuries are especially well liked for their durability and twin driven rear axles vs typical Euro cab-over rigs with a single rear axle and finicky semi-automated transmissions and weaker suspensions.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Very interesting, thanks for the info.

            I had thought about buying cars at auction and exporting them to places like Russia that seem to have a lack of used cars to fill the demand. Thinking about used rentals, trade ins, etc.

            My personal code of conduct would require a mechanical/safety inspection, etc., even if its being exported.


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