1987-1990 Nissan Pulsar Sportbak

During the space race of the 1960s, Americans were captivated by the idea of space travel. It permeated every aspect of our culture, from songs and TV shows to magazine articles and an explosion of science fiction entertainment. Automotive manufacturers were quick to hop on the bandwagon, giving their latest models out-of-this-world names like Ford Galaxie, Mercury Meteor, and Oldsmobile StarFire.

After the moon landing in 1969 and the final Apollo mission in 1972, the country’s burning interest in the space program was reduced to a flicker. However in the 1980s, there was a resurgence of space-inspired names as a whole new generation of vehicles adopted galactic monikers. Here are a few examples:

  • 1981: Chrysler introduces the Dodge Aries.
  • 1983: Nissan brings the Sentra to the USA as the Pulsar NX.
  • 1984: General Motors shows off the “Saturn” concept car to the press, which eventually becomes its own brand name.
  • 1985: Chevrolet introduces the Astro van.
  • 1986: Ford introduces the all-new Taurus.
  • 1987: The GM Sunraycer experimental solar vehicle makes headlines when it wins a 1,950 mile race across Australia.
  • 1988: Mazda introduces the Cosmo (the 929 in America).

Today’s article is about one of these cars, the Nissan Pulsar. It was first imported to the US in 1983, and was restyled in 1987. Although they aren’t exactly common, these cars and I keep crossing paths. There is a guy who regularly brings his Pulsar to the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show, and I also spotted this red one in a local junkyard. You might say the car draws me in, as if it had a strong gravitational field.

What makes the Pulsar so interesting is its rear window. The car was available as a regular coupe or with an optional Sportbak roof. I like the idea of the car’s design being modular, where it can be changed to suit the owner’s preferences.

This isn’t the first coupe in the world to undergo a wagonback conversion. Take a look at our Isuzu Impulse Wagonback post. You can also do a Google Image search for “Corvette wagon” and you will see that some Corvettes, particularly C3s, had the rear glass replaced with a large roof similar to the Sportbak roof on this Pulsar. The thing is, the Pulsar could be ordered with this roof from the factory, and it is meant to be user-swappable, not permanently installed like some of these other conversions.

I think this is a pretty cool little car from the 80s that you don’t see every day. Even though it wasn’t the fastest or the coolest looking thing on 4 wheels, it is rare and weird, and I think that makes it interesting.