Junkyard Gem: 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX XE

The Nissan Pulsar first appeared in the United States as the 1979 Datsun 310, then came back four years later in hatchback and coupe form. The Pulsar hatchb acks got dropped here for 1984, leaving just the Pulsar NX (known as the Nissan EXA in Japan

). For the 1987 model year, the N13 Pulsar showed up in American Nissan dealerships, and it was a fascinating little car. Here’s one of those second-generation Pulsar NXs, found in a Denver-area yard recently.

Since it was derived from the Sunny, otherwise known as the Sentra

over here, this car could be considered a sibling or at least a first cousin to the same-generation Sentra.

By far the coolest feature of the 1987-1990 Pulsar NX was the swappable rear body attachments. This car has the coupe piece, but it also came with a wagon-shaped “Sportbak” attachment as well. You could leave the attachment off completely and get a quasi-convertible, though this was more fun when you removed the the T-top roof panels.

The MSRP for the base ’87 Pulsar NX with automatic transmission, which is what we have here, was $11,059. That’s about $30,673 in 2024 dollars.

The engine is a fuel-injected version of the 1.6-liter SOHC straight-four that went into the base ’87 Sentra, rated at 70 horsepower and 94 pound-feet.

The underhood emissions sticker says that it was sold new as a California-market car, not a federal “49-state” version. 

It came with factory air conditioning (a $715 option, or $1,983 after inflation). That Fujitsu TEN AM/FM/cassette radio appears to be either aftermarket or swapped from a different car. It would have been ideal for listening to the unforgettable popular music of the era.

70 horses with a four-speed automatic would have required character-building patience from the driver.

I thought about buying these FPS

aluminum wheels for my Subaru Sambar kei van, since that oddball 59.1mm hub hole is tough to find on any U.S.-market 4×100 wheels other than 1980s/1990s Sentras and their close relatives, but they were a bit too rough.

This taillight treatment was considered so cool that people soon copied it using paint or tape on other vehicles.

Naturally, that pattern carries over onto the speaker grilles.

The Pulsar NX was replaced in the United States by the 1991-1993 Nissan NX1600 and NX2000.

It’s the car for people who know where they’re going … and want to get there sooner.

The SE trim level came with a more powerful DOHC engine.