Welcome to The Garage’s second installment of forgotten (or forgettable) sporty cars where we recall an era of small, frugal but sporty looking cars that modern manufacturers have have forgotten about themselves, save for the Scion tC. This week we recall the Nissan Pulsar. Although the Pulsar was sold worldwide in several body styles, we are only concerned with the sporty cars imported to North America.
1983-1986 Nissan Pulsar NX
The first Pulsar imported to North America was the NX, which was essentially a rebodied Sentra. Buyers could choose from either an anemic four cylinder or a fuel injected turbo, but all Pulsars were all show, with little go or much in the way of impressive handling. The most remarkable feature of the Pulsar is its angular, ‘Totally 80’s!’ styling with requisite pop-up headlights.
But remember-at the time, a Sentra two-door was an econocar penalty box, with hard vinyl seats, and paper-thin carpeting. For a little more money, the Pulsar offered interesting styling, and an interior that you may have wanted to spend more than 30 seconds in before begging to get out.
1987-1990 Nissan Pulsar
In 1987, a new, vastly improved Sentra was introduced, and with it, a radically different Pulsar. In North America, the NX suffix was dropped. Still, the Pulsar was essentially a styling exercise, offering little, if any performance advantage over its Sentra sibling. To confuse matters, the Sentra itself had a sporty looking two-door hatch that was more practical, with more mainstream styling than the Pulsar.
Style was the Pulsar’s calling card, but what set this model apart was that it was, in a way, slightly modular. It could be a hardtop coupe, but it had removable t-top panels. The rear hatch could actually be removed for an even more open top feel. And depending on how you checked the optional equipment boxes, you could spec your Pulsar with an optional sport-wagon attachment to take the place of the hatchback.
End of the Pulsar
The Pulsar gave way to the NX coupe (a car The Garage will talk about in a later installment). Given the lack of fan sites or information found on the Internet, I am comfortable to conclude that the Pulsar was an unloved, forgettable car. The Pulsar likely sold well as a niche car; Nissan thought well enough to import it for seven years.
Looking back from today, the number of sporty cars Nissan offered us was staggering. In 1990, you had your choice of the Sentra SE coupe, the Pulsar, the 240SX, and 300ZX-a sporty car to suit any budget. Today? Well, there is the Altima Coupe, which is stunning from the 3/4 rear view, but the front end is a disappointment compared to the rest of the car, and price of entry is $22,000USD for a base model. And of course the 350Z, which is in a league all of its own.