By on March 2, 2020

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Nissan Maxima of the 1980s remains one of my favorite Junkyard Finds, partly because it began the decade as a sporty rear-wheel-drive cousin to the Z-Car and ended it as a swanky front-wheel-drive pseudo-luxury machine… but mostly because these cars came stuffed full of the quirky futuristic technology that made Japanese cars so interesting during The Turbo Decade.

Here’s a high-mile ’87 Maxima I spotted in an East Bay self-service yard last month.

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, gauges - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWe tend to think of odometer readings over the 300,000 mark as the kind of thing you’ll only see on Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Honda cars (with the occasional Volvo thrown in for good measure), but Nissan did a great job with the first generation of front-wheel-drive Maximas and they held together very well. This car racked up about 10,339 miles per year for 33 years, and I’ll bet it was still a runner when it showed up here.

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, dash switches - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne of the most endearing features of the US-market 1985-1988 Maxima is the no-proofreader-ever-checked-this hyphenation of the label of the SECU-RITY indicator lamp. I’m sure this started life as a single Japanese character, and then someone in Yokohama plugged in the English translation and made it fit. I’ve collected several dozen of these lights for my next stupid car-parts boombox project.

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, owner's manual - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter all those years and all those miles, the original “In Case of an Accident” guide remained with the car to the end.

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Datsun 810 became the Datsun 810 Maxima became the Datsun Maxima became the Nissan Maxima during the 1978-1984 period, and throughout this time the car retained an engine closely related to the one in the Z-Car of the time. Here’s the VG30 V6 of the 300ZX (with slightly fewer horses), flipped 90 degrees and driving the front wheels.

1987 Nissan Maxima in California junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost of the high-mile cars I find in junkyards will be in decent condition inside, because the kind of owner who keeps up with all the maintenance also avoids trashing the upholstery. This car is no exception.


Today’s automotive world is filled with compromise. To get luxury and performance, you have to sacrifice value. Nissan disagrees.

You’ll find links to 2,000+ more Junkyard Finds at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™… and you should.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Maxima Sedan...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Last year I saw an extremely minty version of this generation – in white. It was so wonderfully square.

    I drove for many years the younger brother of this car – the Stanza – which, in comparison, had a lackluster engine. Nothing sporty about it, but the old man drove three of ’em hard until they hit 200,000 miles and then would pass ’em on to me and my brother. Very reliable vehicles for the era.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had the gen 2 4DSC version of this, probably one of the best sedans I ever had. After I was through with it it bounced around the family for awhile and was still going strong at 200K miles. A fine car, but too bad what it became :(

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It’s a shame what’s happened to Nissan. They went from building solid, reliable (and sometimes quirky) cars like this, to the cheap, unreliable garbage they build today. I lay all the blame at the feet of Carlos Ghosn.

    They’ve taken on Mitsubishi, another make that used to have legendary reliability. Somehow fitting.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      See, a single 1982 Datsun/Nissan 210/Stanza was my family’s single foreign car.

      It was terrible. Bought from its mechanic, as an estate car about 1993-1994— under 90k miles. Stretched head bolts, an idle so rough it shook the steering column— automatic transmission that lost lower gears and reverse. Burlap upholstery that somehow matted, whited plastic trims— vinyl so thin it had stretch marks. Just gross.

      Our Taurus (1987) and Tempo (1989) were wholly superior.

      And I’m from a Mopar family!

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        And entirely irrelevant to this narrative, I’d say. A different model, 12 years old when you got it, and jeez, it didn’t behave like a new car! Obviously, by thought transference, all 1980s Nissans were junk. With logic like that, a career in politics beckons.

  • avatar

    As a college kid in the mid-1980s, working a summer job at Jiffy Lube, I remember the trepidation that accompanied seeing a straight-six Nissan sedan enter the bay. It was summer, the cars that came in had always been running errands and were at full running temps. The oil filter on this motor (or its kin?) was behind the engine, between two 3-port exhaust manifolds.

    Exasperation, cursing, and burns of some sort were almost guaranteed.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I always though these looked best in all black.
    Very menacing look for the time.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ? These were made with inline and V 6 engines ? .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The PU11 Maxima ran from 1984 to 1988 (Oppama production). Somewhere in that timeframe, I sat in a brand-new one of these in my front yard (someone’s rental or something) – young me was impressed with how nice it was inside (had very little experience with Japanese cars at that point) – and was later just as shocked to learn that the price was about double what I had been thinking.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I had a 92 or 93 Maxima as a Rent a Junk while my van was in a body shop. I thought it was very nice, smooth, with adequate power. Only bad part had nothing to do with Nissan. Whomever had it before me was a heavy smoker, you could not option for a “no smoking” car then. Almost started carrying a “Motion Discomfort” bag.
    Rental company called less than a week later. Wanted it back, “You weren’t supposed to get that type of car”.
    After that I had to suffer with some awful piles of dung such as a Grand Am.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Mom owned one of these. Same exterior and interior color, similarly optioned.

    It was a great car. It replaced an 81 Chevy Caprice B-Body with the V6 that was underpowered and problematic. The 77 Chevy Caprice B-Body she had was solid as a rock and had the bigger V8 and the FE41 suspension.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    This care was talking to you, literally

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    All that goodness wrapped up in the ugliest envelope in the industry. Hideously styled. Or the deconstruction of style, I don’t know which

  • avatar
    dal20402

    My first real girlfriend had a very-high-mileage ’85 that looked exactly like this one. Stick shift, handed down from her megacommuter dad after 200k miles when he bought himself a new Volvo 850 Turbo. Even at its advanced age it was pretty fun to drive. After several more years, quite a few more miles, and the end of the relationship, it developed a rod knock and that was the end.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Just wish Nissan were the same company today as it was in 1987. Junky cars with CVTs.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    SH
    IT
    BOX

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