Forgotten Nissans Of The ’80s & ’90s
Remembering The Golden Era

Do you remember how awesome Nissan was in the ’80s and ’90s?

Unfortunately global economics, mergers, market strategies and many other factors have resulted in a modern Nissan brand that doesn’t offer a whole lot for car enthusiasts. I wrote about this in an editorial late last year.


I mentioned in that article how eye-opening it is to look back a few decades and see all of the cool things Nissan was doing. We all know about the icons: the Fairlady Z, the Skyline, the Silvia and so forth. Then you’ve got other great models like the Cefiro, Laurel, Pulsar GTi-R, Primera, and the Sentra SE-R.


But if you dig even deeper into this era of Nissan’s history, there’s even more cool stuff to be found. I was recently looking through Nissan’s media archive doing some research on the P10 Primera (the Nissan-badged version of the Infiniti G20 I currently own) when I got lost in a spiral of obscure ’80s and ’90s JDM goodness.


With all of the great high resolution imagery available, I thought it was worth putting together a little story looking back on some of these interesting, but lesser known cars from Nissan’s past.


The Nissan March or Micra is the only car in this bunch that’s still sold today, and it’s generally considered a decent entry level subcompact. But in the ’80s the tiny little K10 March could be spec’d as something much more.


The lightweight hatchback could be had with a 900cc four cylinder engine that had both a turbocharger and a supercharger. It made about 110 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like much, but given its ultra light weight and tiny footprint, the March Superturbo was quite a performer.


The Superturbo not only earned a reputation on the street but also in racing of both the paved and unpaved variety. It was a legit late ’80s Japanese hot hatch, but not a Nissan you hear about often.


The Sunny is another model that’s well known, but most enthusiasts will likely picture one of the rear-wheel drive models from the ’70s when they hear the name. Actually though, the Sunny continued to be an interesting platform through the rest of its life. There were turbocharged B11 models in the early ’80s, like this ’84 1500 Turbo Leprix which made 115PS from its E15ET engine. Again, it’s not a huge number, but when you consider a Corvette was only making about 200 horsepower at the time it’s actually pretty damn impressive.


Later in the ’80s came the RZ-1 version of the Sunny with its sleek bodywork and high-spec 1600 Twin Cam Nismo version.


How can you not like the styling? Anyone else see a hint of Lancia in there?

Turbo Or NA?

Even through the ’90s there were interesting versions of the Sunny, like the Lucino Coupe, a Japanese version of the US-market 200SX. In the US these could be had in SE-R guise with an SR20DE, while other markets received an SR16VE version which made a very impressive 175PS. When most people think of great Japanese front-wheel drive cars from the ’90s, Civics and Integras will be the first that come to mind, but Nissan was right there with its own great FF models.


It might not be an enthusiast car in the traditional sense, but I thought this 1990 Sunny California 4WD wagon was too cool not to include among this obscure bunch.


Another Nissan that’s often overlooked is the Pulsar. Here’s an ’84 Milano X1 Turbo variant, which was powered by the E15ET motor.


And how about that black-on-green interior combo? So perfectly ’80s!


Also added to the Pulsar line-up in the mid ’80s was a unique looking two-door coupé called the Pulsar EXA, or the Pulsar NX in America.


And like the rest of the range, it too could be had with turbocharged power, as proudly advertised on its seats.


There have been many variants of the Pulsar over the years that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Here’s an ’86 Milano X1 Twin Cam hatchback with a CA16DE under the hood.


And here we have a Langley 1600 GT Twin Cam from 1988. Many of these badge-engineered variants were specially designed to be sold at various Nissan dealerships in Japan, each of which had their own line-up.


In the late ’80s the Pulsar EXA became its own model, available in both coupé and hatchback form. The EXA was never meant to be a performance car, but it had no shortage of personality.


In the ’90s the EXA was replaced with the NX Coupe, a car which became a cult favorite when equipped with the naturally aspirated SR20DE engine. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I saw one on the road.

Choices Abound

The Pulsar continued to evolve through the ’90s. There was the all-wheel drive, turbocharged GTi-R variant that I’m sure you’re all familiar with, but also a five-door hatchback called the GTI which was powered by the SR18DE.


I see your Civic hatchback and raise you this Pulsar, which could be had with the aforementioned high winding SR16VE engine.


Recognize this one? It’s a 1985 Nissan Auster Euroforma sedan, a relative of the Nissan Stanza which could be equipped with the turbocharged CA18DET. I’d so rock one of these today.


Subaru and Mitsubishi get all the credit for their AWD, turbocharged rocketships, but what about this Nissan Bluebird SSS-R from 1987?


For whatever reason, almost nobody talks about the Bluebird SSS, but it was just one more cool Nissan product from the good old days.


In the ’90s, the U13 Bluebird (which was visually similar to the American-market Nissan Altima) could be had with an SR20DET and AWD, essentially making it a sedan version of the GTi-R. Even in Japan I can’t recall ever seeing one of these things.


Sedan not good enough? How about a wagon? That’s where the Nissan Avenir comes in. The amount of engine and drivetrain options available on all of these cars is incredible compared to the limited offerings we have today.


And yes, you could also get an Avenir with an SR20DET and all-wheel drive, like this ’95 Salut X GT Turbo AWD; a worthy competitor to the more popular Subaru Legacy wagon of the time.


So there you have it, just a little glimpse into some of Nissan’s lesser known, but interesting cars from the ’80s and ’90s. And to think this doesn’t include any of the rear-wheel drive saloons and luxury models, 4x4s, or the neo-retro cars like the PAO, Figaro and BE-1.

Front-drive, rear-drive, or AWD. Coupé, sedan, hatchback or wagon. Naturally aspirated or turbocharged. Basic or fancy. Small or large. Nissan really had something for everyone.

Now where’s that time machine?

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia



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best mate at school had a fascination with the pulsar GTi, it was a great car.... the security mind you, wasn't. I'm guessing thats what he liked it though.

Im really interested in the oddities that Designers have somehow convinced the marketing department its a good idea to manufacture and as such found this fascinating.

(and full of revelations and realisations, a lot of those above, not all but a lot - ended up marketed here in the UK. and there was me, cursing the cars of my childhood for being boring.......)


Gianluca FairladyZ

My mate had a 100NX... he also installed a fast and furious like body kit.. hell this was one ugly ass machine....!


I came across this, a real original one, a few weeks ago at a shop nearby.  I didn't exactly know what it was at the time, but I knew it was special.


Anyone know of any US-market Stagea wagons on the market? Talk about a cool car...


Truly some awesome cars there. Love the styling and everything! Miss Japanese cars in the 90s :(


oh god. k10 superturbo....


In Malaysia, the Sunny California wagons are still rolling around, while the occasional U13 Bluebirds can still be seen from time to time, although the SSS version is really rare.


I fondly remember the B13 Sentra (Sunny) SE-R with SR20DE that red-lined to 7,500 rpm before V-tec became widely available in the US.  Drove a friend's SE-R back then and at 2,200 lbs, the car was quick.  Remember one night at the street drags it was the only car able to challenge the light-weight ED9 CRX. The next gen. B14 SE-R was not popular because it was larger & heavier.


roryfjohnston oh jeeeezzzus


my n15 gti.


I want them all in my garage. Right now. Unfortunately, most of them weren't sold in Europe and the Micras, Sunnys and Almeras (a.k.a. Pulsar) were never equipped with the turbos. A average-joe late 80's - early 90's Micra has ca. 70 hp and Sunnys and Almeras often came with 90 hp engines (1.6l, I think). The cars that were available are P10 Primeras with SR20s, 100 NX GTIs and Sunny GTI Coupes. The P10 is quite common, but I've also seen a 100 NX GTI for und 2000 € on this year, too bad I don't have the money for a project car, because it was a bit beaten up. And every now and then you stumble accross a Sunny Coupe, usually in impressive good shape. I would definitely look for one if I only had the money.


isn't the Pulsar Milano related to the worst Alfa Romeo in history, the Alfa Arna?


I owned 1990 Bluebird Turbo, Nissan Sunny N14 yet alive, 2 HCR32, 2 S14 kouki and Zenki still in my hands. I love Nissan.


sad america never got any of these cool models with the exception of like 2 or 3 of these, and they usually had lamer engines than their japanese counterparts. :(


When I was first getting into cars, Nissan was my first love.  Their 80's and 90's lineup was a big part of the reason why.  The Z and GTR are great machines, but they really need to bring back hot versions of their smaller cars.


Rob Sayers but that's hard when the smallest car sold is a nissan versa, and it's more bland than a bowl of mush.


muazyusof arna was a rebadged and boxer powered nissan cherry


It's kind of a phenomenon really and Nissan isn't the only manufacturer that this has happened to. You can look at some cool piston engined Mazdas that have completely taken a back seat in history to their rotary counterparts. Toyota has a plethora of interesting cars from the 80's and Mitsubishi was a pile of awesome that may have been held back by the fact that they all got rebadged by Dodge. 

And that's just Japan! Europe and America also released some pretty cool 80's vehicles that are much less desirable than their predecessors and successors. It's to the point where I'm wondering what happened in the 80's that caused so many interesting cars to suddenly get so unloved. 

Also, I'm a little sad that even though you mentioned the Silvia as an icon you didn't include the S12 in your list of forgotten cars because that and the S110 are pretty unrecognized even by people who consider themselves in the know.


awesomefearwave Rob Sayers That's a shame, Nissan sells the Micra in Canada and even has its own spec racing series!


PowerTryp awesomefearwave Rob Sayers i think the reason why nissan usa never sold the micra here is because we have the versa note, which is in the same class as the micra, and is similar in size. wished we didn't get the lame mushy versa note.


DanieleScozzaro did a bit of internet searching and yeah, it's related.


awesomefearwave PowerTryp Rob Sayers Funny, we have the Versa Note available here as well. Sometimes manufacturers do weird things...


The march / micra looks awesome, gotta love these designs, when rulers ruled the automotive design world!


Mazda Lantis Type R. Small lightweight coupe with a V6 that revved to 8000 rpm and 170 hp from the factory.


PowerTryp Canada is just weird...


Those Subaru J10 4WD...Mitsubishi god....i miss those days!!!!!


I remember seeing most of them in streets about 10 years ago. Oh boy, I wonder where they all went now. (Probably ended up being scrapped or exported to CoIS)


My buddy had a sentra se-r when we were getting out of highschool. i can still feel the slim tires scrabbling for traction, right foot on the floor laughing with two fingers on the wheel.


I need a N13 Langley in my life....


My neighbour has a very yellow NX Coupe, horrible shape sadly :/


Well i wasn't expecting a RZ1 here..So my project track car is this


always nice to see the less popular models get some recognition, the 100nx has quite a following in the netherlands i'm not a fan myself but its good too that not everyone lusts after the popular stuff.


In malaysia,the california,bluebird sss,u13 are pretty common sight. Not the highest spec but mods with ca18,sr20 and so on. The bluebird u12 is the most popular due to its status as taxi genting here.


MikeDonnelly Yeah, they make fine pocket rockets. I especially like those hardtop style doors... And now I kinda want one.


I'm an idiot.  I've seen various examples of many of these for sale over the years but like so many I was always after RWD.  There are some real bargains to be had for some fun retro projects if you can find them these days.


New Nissan car bubble coming


Nothing like a turbo bluebird, everyone I know thats had one wishes they still do.
Ive had mine for over 10years and ended up using it for circuit work.
Also have a turbo avenir in the stable.


Fantastic! Does anyone know what car this is from Street View in Japan? I'm afraid my JDM knowledge isn't infinite :( I'm not even sure it's a Nissan but it gives off a Nissan/Nismo vibe. I have a Street View carspotting series on Youtube ( )and I want to feature it in a video but I don't know what it is. And Mike Garrett, keep being awesome.


mike Im gonna need a link to these so called "Nissan Media Archives" you speak of... please. =)


inspector_exacto  That car you found on Street View Japan is an Isuzu Gemini - I think the one you posted is the I Mark RS model which is the Hot Hatch version.


Do more of these!


I have a 200sx with the lucino front bumper on it, It really is a fun fwd car. It is currently apart and is getting a built sr20ve+t that I hope to have completed soon. I wish more people realized how awesome nissan really was in the 80s and 90s.


Mike, thanks for spreading nissan awareness.
I've had conversations before about how nissan has lost their spirit in the last 20 years or so..
also about how S chassis, Z, and R chassis are fantasic, but there is much more to Nissan than these pop icons.
You've managed to sum it up and site the reasons why very well.
Can't wait to see what happens with your p10 project. Keep keeping Nissan obscura in the lime light.


I was fortunate enough to go see Nissan's collection at their heritage museum in Yokohama. The collection features a lot of these cars. Such an amazing opportunity. Not sure if they still let people in there?


I could kick myself! How did I not know that? Thanks a bunch!


MikeDonnelly Was sold as 323 F V6 in Europe. Great cars and cheap af, but I would prefer the MX-3 V6 (Eunos Presso or Autozam AZ-3 in Japan)


You would see pretty much all of these driving around in New Zealand a few years ago. My parents has a U13 Bluebird was a great car!


Nice article, that last picture is of a CA18DET BTW not an SR20


My k10 micra isn't quite a superturbo but a forgotten classic nonetheless


This is my 1995 200sx SE-R. I've had it since 1999. When I bought it people had no idea what it was, much less what and SR20 was...


to be honest, here in Europe, Nissan has always been a boring bland carmaker. we didnt get skylines, JDM engines, etc. all we got was the Primera and the Micra.


Around Raleigh, NC theres a family that drives around a fairly clean looking NX and a friend of mine also has a few 200SX's he drives


@apparition inspector_exacto In its own right, thats still a fairly rare car by todays standards


I'd say just about all of these made it to New Zealand at one time or another, with some becoming very common. I used to ride to school in an N12 Milano like the one above, and later on an N13 Pulsar too.

There was a wagon based on the U13 Bluebird that came with a 2.4 litre engine (KA24?) that I used to think was quite cool, I think it was called the ARX or SRX but my memory's fading a bit now.


Surprisingly found RZ1 here, yup it is true some of
forgotten Nissans are too good to passed away.
Currently I started my new RZ1 project with custom body kit
and SR20DE engine. Another 2-3 weeks my project will be finished


Bubble Economy Nissan - the automotive version of this:


@sssdozer hahaha....did not think it would take you long to chime in mate!


Lol had too, my coworker showed me this and im all about our fwd/4wd sr20dets! See ya posted up a pic of Lgee's u13 wtac car


Lgee's weapon!


There is so much depth in that Nissan catalogue. Here in Australia we're lucky enough to have a lot of that stuff or to have had them privately imported at some stage. I had a soft spot for the U12 Bluebird as my mum had one from new (Pintara TRX 2.4L in Aussie market )and I learnt to drive in it. Naturally this had me lusting for a imported Bluebird SSS-R but I've never seen a real one. I have however seen a U13 SSS attessa AWD which was pretty cool.

Picture below isn't mum's (I would have wished!) but is an example of the TRX. Hmm maybe I'll go check the classifides now...


Mike you legend! I owned a Sunny RZ-1, mine was the neatest one i'de ever seen, granted there weren't many around..
It was badged as a Sentra Coupe, as the sedan B12 platform was the normal Sentra. 
Mine had an E15E fuel injected powerplant, but you got them with a CA18DE too.
What a throwback!


i love almost all of these cars <3


There's also a pulsar gti-R in the wake forest area


One of the more obscure ones is the U11 based Maxima. vg20et and could be had in manual.


day_old_tofu This U12 was mint back in the day ('99-'00). Unfortunately not a factory black U12 TRX, I nearly bought it 6 years ago to serve as my daily driver but it needed a little too much work. Sadly I think it has long since gone to the wreckers - U12's aren't worth anything here in Oz anymore, I recently dismantled and cut up my old grey U12 TRX which was my daily driver. Couldn't even get $500 for it.

That being said....the vital parts were kept to serve as spares for my factory black U12 track car, which is still a massive work in progress.


dvsu12 day_old_tofu Yep it's unfortunately the fate of most family four doors. I had a quick look on carsales and saw only one rough U12 for sale. Clearly they have loads of potential and would make a cool cruiser for a low investment. I feel so nostalgic looking at them and even more so knowing they will almost likely all disappear over the next 10 years.

Good luck with your track car!


these are the Nissan's I remember! it's the small cars they make now, that are forgettable


You guys need to take a trip to Jamaica :D We have those by the bucket loads lol JDM all the way. The Blubird SSS from 87 - 90 is my personal fave - we have them running cabs with SR20's and ATTESSA. We have a pretty Milano Red B13 wagon 750HP. You can pick up a clean NX for next to nothing @


Cool report. Any chance you could do a similar one for Toyota? :)


Awesome story i see couple nx coupes in Washington st almost daily although Washington seems to b the land of old foreign cars that time forgot

Dennis Bergatt

I didn't forgot my Nissan RZ1.
It is a really rare car these days. Here in Germany it is called 'Nissan Sunny B12 GTI'. It owns a CA engine from the factory.
If you put some ducttape on the front badge some fanboys call it a 'Levin' or 'Karin Futo' because of it's similar headlights and front styling. I hope you like it guys :)

Dennis Bergatt

Sometimes I really understand these Kids calling the B12 a poor mans Levin because it really seems like Nissan got some styling ideas straight from Nissan.

Dennis Bergatt

It's CA N/A engine is definitely not the fastest around but Golf GTI at that time didn't have a DOHC engine with single ignition coils and a sound like the CA got.

Dennis Bergatt

Sorry Toyota


nice blog too informative. looking and reading your points its so impressive. doing more blog like this. i really appreciated doing like this.


Awesome! A RZ-1 on speedhunters :) This is my one, I have owned it for 4 years now. I absolutely love it. Sure, it might not be the fastest car every, but it's a lot of fun driving one some backroads in my country. The car will get some new JDM wheels aswell as a new suspension very soon.


Please run more posts like these.. its like playing the second disk of Gran tourismo 2 for the first time


My aunty got a fantastic silver GMC Canyon by working part time off of a macbook air... go right here >>
>>>> ᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵc­­­a­­s­h-­­r­e­­v­­­i­e­­w.c­­o­­mᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


Don't forget about the fan favorite B13


mopetidu thankss


The nissan Figaro is one of my favorite cars ever!


Gods, these are all so beautiful. The old Marchs, Sunnys, and Pulsars are just benchmarks on an amazing era Nissan has completely forgotten.


Oh my god i miss my old Nissan Sunny RZ-1 right now... Regret selling it a year ago (my parents need the money) Only bought it for $500 Bruneian dollars AND its my first 'real' car. FML


DavideSunnyGti Wow respect to you dude


I remember not 10 years ago I could still find classic nissans such as these being driven around in the bay area, now they seem to have gone completely. When I had my s12 I could still find parts for it, now just like my car, they have gone. 

I so miss that mid 80's smell of my s12. SRA 84.5 with bronze paint and red interior. God I miss that car. CA20E was a turd bucket though.


My dad had a 100nx about 10 or so years ago. Cracking little car and he still regrets selling it to this day.


You see a few NX coupes running Australia still these days!


My first car was a nissan primera p10, 1994 2.0 lx, first year with the multipoint injection system and a small face-lift, last year that it came with out el windows/mirrors, abs and airbags. Then fun thing is that I still own it more than a decade later, but now I'm just mostly running at trackdays and some small driving in nice weather. Also it still has a tow hitch and tows a caravan to the track U0001f602
Running laptimes of sub 1.50 at Arctic Circle raceway in Norway U0001f1f3U0001f1f4, not to shabby for an old daily driven 125hp FF car from the 90's.


I saw 100NX a few weeks ago in Moscow)


I'm pretty sure that if Nissan today offered a "Retro line" of their cars today, they'd find their buyers. No reason leaving these cars forgotten.


good car for the race and I'm sure very fast


good car for the race and I'm sure very fast


the car was very good 
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I used to have a 95 Avenir GT with the SR20DET and attessa 4wd. It had a floral interior and I left it on the stock wheels. They only came in auto from the factory but the GTIR box fits with a little work.
Used to scare the pants off Lancer GSRs and Mitsibishi Familia GT-X's at the lights after a GT28RS and Link G2 swap.


as i mentioned in my earlier comment, finally I just finished my RZ1
to see my project


I am currently working on my project Nissan Sentra , tsuru inspired with our very own Nissan SR20DE motor.


Hi just seen these posts not many people keeping these cars on the road now i have a very tidy Sunny Coupe B12
not many of these left on the road