Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX XE

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

When the “Datsun by Nissan” Sentra first appeared in the United States in 1982, it replaced [url=

Americans could buy the ordinary Pulsar sedans and hatchbacks for the 1983 model year only, after which it became clear that the Sentra would be a strong seller (it must have seemed at the time that each version of the quasi-sporty Datsun 310— known as the first-generation Pulsar in Japan— needed replacements). The Pulsar NX remained available here from the 1983 through 1990 model years.

What did sporty cars in mid-1980s America need most ( other than turbocharging and garish TURBO badging)? A T-top roof, of course, and this car has one. With the tops off and rear deck panel removed from the car, the 1987-1990 Pulsar NX became a sort of goofy-looking targa roadster (the 1983-1986 Pulsar NX got an ordinary trunk and decklid).

I don’t find many T-top cars with both roof panels still intact in junkyards, but this Pulsar is in exceptionally nice condition.

Given the clean interior and lack of rust, I’d expected to see very low miles on the odometer, but this car nearly reached 175,000 miles during its time on the road. Its owner or owners took good care of it, which suggests that it got traded in on a new car and then failed to sell at the subsequent auction.

There’s just not much interest in a tiny, funny-looking Nissan with big miles and too many pedals these days.

The most interesting feature of the 1987-1990 Pulsar NX was the Sportbak option, which allowed you to replace this detachable rear quarter/decklid assembly with a camper-shell-ish structure that turned your coupe into a wagon. I’ve never managed to find a Sportbak in a junkyard, but I remain hopeful. At least I have found a discarded Geo Storm Wagonback, so I got that going for me.

These taillights looked radical at the time, so much so that owners of other cars would use tape and/or paint to get this look.

Yes, the same pattern carries over onto the speaker grilles inside.

Air conditioning was still a costly and seldom-seen option on small cars during the middle 1980s, and so the A/C button looks like an afterthought. The refrigerated air added 715 bucks to the Pulsar NX’s $10,599 price tag (that’s about $1,780 on a $26,365 car in 2021 dollars).

The engine was the same 1.6-liter four with 70 horses that powered most Sentras in 1987. The Pulsar NX SE got a 113-horsepower twin-cam engine and cost $11,799 (about $29,350 today).

I think this commercial achieves Peak 1980s™.

The name is Nissan!

In Japan, Pulsar EXA buyers could get an LA Edition.

For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Wantahertzdonut Wantahertzdonut on Nov 30, 2021

    These were always parked in front of the hair salon at the outlet of my neighborhood into the mid 90's. There was also a Nissan dealership across the street so perhaps some local deals were made. They were either the color of this one or red, with rust spots towards the later 90's. There was definitely a "type" that drove these.

  • Carlson Fan Carlson Fan on Nov 30, 2021

    1987? I'll take an Olds Cutlass 442 w/T-tops, those sexy chrome Olds factory rally wheels, and a 307 HO V8 under the hood! Now that's a cool 80's car!

  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon