By on December 10, 2018

1989 Nissan Stanza in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

By the 1989 model year, the weak-selling Nissan Stanza Wagon (aka Nissan Prairie) was gone from the United States, but the unrelated Nissan Stanza sedan continued to sell (poorly) through 1992. You didn’t see many of these cars back then, and they’re exceptionally rare Junkyard Finds today.

Here’s an ’89 that I found in a Northern California self-service wrecking yard last summer.

1989 Nissan Stanza in California wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOther than some body damage that may have occurred after this car entered the junkyard ecosystem, this Stanza is in nice shape for a 29-year-old car. The somewhat low mileage plus unfaded paint and upholstery suggest that it may have spent years forgotten in a garage somewhere in the Bay Area. Perhaps it was driven only to church on Sundays.

1989 Nissan Stanza in California wrecking yard, radio - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe “Auto-Metal” feature was considered pretty snazzy in 1989, though factory-issued CD players were starting to appear in cars by that point. No, the deck doesn’t detect the presence of a Slayer tape; it looks for the expensive Type IV “metal” cassette, which allowed higher recording levels than lesser tapes.

1989 Nissan Stanza in California wrecking yard, decklid badge - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Stanza car was based on the Nissan Violet (aka Auster aka Bluebird), which was considered a fairly substantial car in its homeland.

1989 Nissan Stanza in California wrecking yard, engine - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 2.0-liter engine made 97 horsepower; curb weight was well under 3,000 pounds, so acceleration wasn’t too miserable by the standards of the time.

It’s made for fashion models? Approved of by fashion models? There’s no telling.


We wouldn’t be surprised if, next to the word “value” in the dictionary, there was a picture of the new Stanza!


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22 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Nissan Stanza Sedan...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    Had an ’84 Stanza liftback, Twin-plug four banger was heroically loud when the the exhaust system fell off from the cat on back.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I spent a lot of time in these – my dad owned three (!) 1987 Stanzas in a row. The first one was bought new while the other two – one with a stickshift – were used. He piled 40k or more miles a year on these for his job and then would hand them down to me or my brother; whomever needed a car the most. Last one in my fleet rotated out of service in the year 2000 or so, 210k miles on the clock. Sold for $500, still running very well but with a crumpled hood that popped open at highway speeds and curled itself over the roof. I “straightened” it out with a pair of army boots.

    The seats in these were surprisingly comfortable, good stereo, and even with only 97hp, especially with the stickshift, about as fast as most of the 4cyl (and the lower V6) cars of the era. Of course being the stupid twenty-somethinger, I drove ’em like sports cars. Ha.

    These cars, however, were always in the shadow of the much better Maxima. And, arguably, the Sentra. The old man apparently test drove a Sentra but thought it was too noisy compared to the “lux” of the Stanza.

    When I bought a 1997 Altima after college, I was disappointed in the build quality compared to the 87s.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I just sold my 2001 Altima GLE this past week, it was very noisy on the road (engine and road noise) compared to my Taurus (which is not exactly what I’d call the quietest car around). But, many of the interior materials felt higher in quality than those in newer Altimas, and the newer ones are still noisy as hell.

      I couldn’t get comfortable in the Altima. My friend who initially wanted it for a commuter changed her mind after I let her drive it for a few days. Same complaint, could not really get comfortable in it. My brother (who had it before me) disliked the car as well and is much happier with his Fusion.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The U11 Bluebird was a slightly larger car than this T12. We only received the V6 Maxima version of the U11. The U12 Bluebird was sold here as the 1990-92 Stanza, after the Maxima was split off into a separate model (J30).

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    My high school had one of these for Driver’s Ed, purely out of cheapness. It was not a substantial-feeling car once you sat in it, and even for teenagers it was cramped.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    This year Stanza is much nicer looking (if a bit plain) than the previous version.
    My parents bought an 83 hatchback in light yellow/tan – which really looked like a rolling baked potato.
    Looked just like this:
    https://bit.ly/2EpaVA5

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I agree, this does look better than the previous body style, even if it has all of the personality of a loaf of bread.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My only interaction with a Stanza of any generation was helping to push-start a fellow Russian emigre’s 1st gen Stanza at a gas station. It was an interesting time in the early 90s, ex-Soviet citizens coming over to work in American academia and cutting their teeth on older used cars. In our group of friends we had our string of Civics (’82, ’85, ’90) and our ’78 Corolla, ’82 Corolla, ’85 Accord, ’84 Volvo 240, an old Diplomat, that early 80s Stanza, 1st gen Mazda 323, a pair of mid 80s Loyale wagons, Cutlass Ciera.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Drive a Datsun for all it’s (or should it be its?) worth…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Ive see one of these in the wild a few times. It sits neglected at a garage. The cars owner complained of minor noises frequently Ive been told.

    Its black, cherry fart can exhaust, no rear seat, trashed interior, I can only imagine why its noisy…

    Didnt these share their chassis with Maximas?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Number 21, fetch the Monarchmobile!!!

  • avatar
    tonyola

    These Stanzas looked an awful lot like the pricier Maxima. Probably no coincidence.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    Love how the headlights in these old late 80’s early 90’s (Accord) always look crystal clear. New cars headlight lens usually always strart haize over or yellow or both.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The headlight covers were still glass in the early post-sealed-beam era, so they continue to look good today.

  • avatar

    I don’t know, my ’89 Toyota Carina II looked more modern outside and inside and had 4AFE 1.6L engine which made 105 hp. Under hood it looked overengineered. It looks like Nissan was always behind Toyota, non-competitive. I never liked Nissans anyway and cannot explain why. I would rather prefer Mitsubishi to Nissan in 90s.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    They need to give up the exotic shapes of current headlights, and go back to glass. The composite lenses do not stand the test of time, and become dangerous if not dealt with. From my experience most people do not rectify their cloudy hazed over headlights.

  • avatar
    Garak

    The Bluebird was a really nice car in its day, it also performed well in many tests. The manual version was considered quick with a 11.7 second 0-100 km/h time – faster than most cars sold in Europe then, and perfectly acceptable today. It was also really light considering its size, and with power steering driving it was incredibly easy.

    I haven’t seen a single one in 10+ years. Since the car was a boring appliance model and had pretty good fuel economy, they were driven daily until they rusted out.

  • avatar
    stereorobb

    havent seen one on the road in ages. last real presence of these on the road i can remember was when i was in high school back in the late 90s early 00s and they were already clapped and circling the bowl then. last one i remember seeing in the wild was a really rough one that had no plates, abandoned under a highway overpass that looked like a bum had been living in it. reason i remember it so well was because i was thinking about trying to get it to start, drive it home, and get it registered as my beater/hooptie car. this was back in 01..

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    I’m always mystified as to why the Stanza didn’t sell well. It was the same size and price as myriad competitors like the Camry and Accord, with no glaring faults, but sold like moldy bread. Perhaps Nissan was using its import quota for the Maxima and Sentra. Was it not marketed enough? I think it was far enough in price from the Maxima as to not have the maxima eat its sales.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I think it just wasn’t marketed very well. As used cars in the late eighties and early nineties, they had a very good reputation for good value and reliability, but they were hard to find (there weren’t very many of them and owners tended to hold on to them). Now, used Hondas and Toyotas have long tended to command ummm generous prices, so that probably helped the Stanza’s reputation as a reliable import “if you can find one for sale.”

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