By on November 29, 2021

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen the “Datsun by Nissan” Sentra first appeared in the United States in 1982, it replaced the cramped Datsun 210 in the econo-commuter role. A sportier (and quirkier) car based on Sentra’s chassis showed up here soon after; known as the Pulsar EXA in its homeland and the Pulsar NX here, these cars sold well enough to become medium-commonplace sights on American roads. Most disappeared decades ago, making today’s unrusted ’87 a rare Junkyard Find.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAmericans 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.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, t-top roof panels - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhat 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).

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, t-top roof panels - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI don’t find many T-top cars with both roof panels still intact in junkyards, but this Pulsar is in exceptionally nice condition.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, odometer - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsGiven 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.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThere’s just not much interest in a tiny, funny-looking Nissan with big miles and too many pedals these days.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, taillight - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese taillights looked radical at the time, so much so that owners of other cars would use tape and/or paint to get this look.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, speaker - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYes, the same pattern carries over onto the speaker grilles inside.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAir 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).

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

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36 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX XE...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I remember lusting after these with all their bits and pieces back when they first came out. The thought of transforming a coupe to a camback blew me away, but they where pricey and I didn’t have a garage for all the bits

  • avatar
    boowiebear

    I had a 92 NX SE in high school and loved it! I put a flush mount dual subwoofer system in it and had high end audio throughout. I took the t-tops off often. It wasn’t fast but was fun. Lot of good memories in it. A number of expensive repairs made it not worth fixing so I ended up with a maroon Camry. It wasn’t quite the same.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Back in the day, a girl friend (not girlfriend) of mine owned one of the earlier versions with the regular trunklid, with the 5-speed. It was gold, with a brown interior, and a set of “Limited Edition” wire wheelcovers slapped on.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Save the T-Tops! Bring back the T-Tops. A vehicle with a T-top, pop-up headlights and a manual transmission. And it gets crushed. That is truly a shame. And the interchangeable backs available on these made them rather unique and versatile.

    Just hate to see someone’s well loved/cared for vehicle, particularly a lower priced one, ‘non-collectable’, get crushed.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Everything about the late 80s could be summed up by showing a photo of the Pulsar tail lights.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Pulsar NX” remains one of the coolest car names.

    I generally don’t like notchbacks, but this one never bothered me – maybe due to the awesome taillights.

    Great find!

  • avatar
    KOKing

    I HAVE seen a Sportbak at a local Pick A Part, but in the customer lot, not in the pickings.

  • avatar

    In 1987 my aunt got a a divorce and decided after several decades of her husband picking cars, to get her self something fun. She ended up with a brand new Pulasar NX manual with A/C in bright red. She drove it every day but took meticulous care of it. It was parked in a car port and washed weekly, no food allowed inside, and service handled first at the dealer and then by a very competent indy shop. At around 10-11 years old the a bearing in the transmission went and she decided she wanted a new car (I seem to remember it having around 150k at the time.) My father offered to buy it and brought it to a local shop that swapped in a low mileage junk yard transmission.
    I had my learners permit at the time and drove the car frequently in the 2nd half of my Junior year of high school as my dad took the bus to work to avoid parking fees in the city. It was great car drove well handled well, but in need of more power even with the manual. The T-tops were awesome and taken off frequently. Only took off the hatch once for the full effect which was fun but not worth the work (it was pretty heavy as I recall). I even drove the poor little thing down some muddy access roads and pulled an old garden tractor out of a ditch with it once. Later my father took a new job an hour away and I got my Ramcharger so he used it as a commuter putting around 100 miles a day on it for years. It finally died in an accident still running (albeit with low compression) closing in on 300k miles. Shame because with the bigger engine it would be awesome to have around today.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Love the adjusted for inflation prices. Look at what you can get for $30k these days compared to this Pulsar NX. Amazing advancements in automotive tech over the last 30-40 years. Heck, any $20k car from today would blow the doors of this old Nissan

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Funky little car, too bad it ended up in the yard. Friend of mine had one, a part dropped off as she was driving on the freeway and bounced through the floor, nearly hit her. Can’t recall if she kept it after that happened.

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    Awww, too bad it’s headed for the crusher. It’s the perfect size to be flung a quarter mile by a trebuchet.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I actually sold these WAY back in the day – I had one of these with the twincam as a demo for a while. The base version shown here was a dog, but the twincam was decently fun to drive.

    Unfortunately, my boss – who was a MAJOR d*ck – made me swap out the Pulsar for a Stanza wagon (yes, the one with the sliding side doors) for my demo.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I wanted one these badly – 5 speed, t-tops, cool tail lights, sport back section, popup lights… so much 80’s awesomeness here. I had a Civic S1500 hatchback but lusted after the NX or even better: a Starion since it had the turbo.

  • avatar
    DarkJester

    I have 3 Pulsars & love them to death. My first car was an ‘87 SE with the 1.6 dual cam, it was peppy but not too fast. Now I have twin e16i base models and a sport model with a twin cam turbo swapped in. People with other sport cars try and race me & give me shocked looks when she can keep up with them lol.

  • avatar
    buck__wheat

    The A6 / S6 wagon behind it is much more interesting to me.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I have one of these in my yard. This one is in slightly better shape.

    The ’88-89 1.8 liter Twincam was the way to go. One could do a swap on a XE, but you almost literally need a Twincam parts car to do it (everything that touches the drivetrain is different).

  • avatar

    Good looking car. In 1980s I could only dream about car like this. Alas I was destined to drive Lada 2108 which actually wasn’t such a bad car but half of driving population had one.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    An Australian friend training at my command in the late ’80s stated that these were referred to as “Clip-On Nissans” down under.

  • avatar
    wantahertzdonut

    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.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    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!

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