Little Blue Box: 1986 Nissan Stanza 4WD

I hope you have enjoyed Scotty G’s write-ups as much as I have! I think he is overly fond of Japanese cars, but perhaps it’s the effect of the long cold winters where he lives. When he asked me to have a look at this Nissan recently I was more than happy to, even though it’s Japanese. These 4WD Stanzas are sort of rare because Nissan didn’t sell many of these 4 wheel drive Stanzas and there aren’t many left. They were known as the Multi in Canada and the Prairie in the rest of the world. Unlike other little full time all wheel drive wagons in the 1980s, the Stanza lets you select 2 or four wheel drive. This Nissan is a real survivor with just over 100,000 miles. It is a two owner car and the second owner is flipping it. The sale included the complete maintenance history and boy did the original owner took good car of their Nissan.

Here’s the Craigslist ad Scott found so promising. The ad was taken down after I purchased the car of course. I wonder if anyone believed the “super rare” claim. I have no idea what would make the tires “great” but everything works, including the electric sunroof, because there’s not much else to work. The seller does point out the lack of AC.

The back doors slide open like a minivan with no B pillars. The front and sliding doors lock into the roof and the floor when closed.  The window winders cleverly fold so they don’t catch when you slide the doors open. It’s a little taller than a sedan and could be ordered with a rear facing rear seat.

Here’s an ad Scotty found showing how open they are without the seat belts and with the seat reclined. In other countries the seatbelt was mounted on the door

Here’s the 2.0L 97 hp engine. It’s smooth and quiet and doesn’t make much fuss when accelerating. The valve cover gasket seeps and has made a bit of a mess. This would clean up nicely.

This Stanza has an electric sunroof as one of its few options. The sunroof only drips a bit in heavy rain.  Scotty was wondering how I would write this up knowing that I am no fan of 1980s Japanese cars. Scotty suggested, and I quote “This piece of Japanese tin can only fools would like…” Some would simply call it “trashportation” but it drives very well even at hi-way speeds, the brakes are great and there’s just a little noise from the right rear strut on bumps. The 5 speed transmission shifts smoothly and the linkage is still precise. Scotty asked me to take pictures of the car so I sent him photos from of a “junkyard gem” featured on the Autoblog site to test his sense of humor. That one is gold, so the rust at least matches the paint pretty well. I don’t know what Scotty plans to do with it besides add new wheels and cleaning it up, but driving Scotty’s old Nissan really is a trip back to the 1980s, no nostalgia intended.


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  1. Sam

    A preview of the Honda Element…

  2. Howard A Member

    Well, for starters, living in the north does not mean someone has a desire for these cars. ( except the 4×4 part, I suppose) Scotty sent me a picture of it being loaded on the car carrier, all these newer cars, and this and my 1st reaction was, like the Sesame Street song, ” One of these things is not like the other”,,, The roof on these always looked out of kilter, but if you knew Scotty, you’d understand. I think he has clearance problems with every car. Why this thing was in California ( 4×4 and no a/c) is odd. (a/c in Cal. is as important as a heater up north) Lottsa luck, not for me, but for a tall guy that schleps a lot of gear around, and likes Asian cars, this has Scotty G. all over it. And a special thanks to David for checking this out. Not many other sites I know of will do that.

    • David Frank David F Member

      I am amused when folks don’t think there is snow in California! (This is California and not Florida.) Perhaps 12 feet of snow does not count. This would have been the perfect ski car back then. If nothing else, 4 wheel drive keeps you from having to chain up. This Nissan is from a few miles west of Sacramento, near the east bay, so not having AC is OK.

      • Howard A Member

        Hi David, we get just the opposite in Wisconsota, you know, where it’s cold all the time. Yup, just a stones throw from ol’ Santy Claus himself.

  3. ccrvtt

    This is a car for people who hate cars and hate themselves for having to own a car.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi ccrvtt, normally, that would seem to be the case, but I feel, every car, no matter how odd, had a following, (of sorts) and like I say, if you knew Scotty personally, BINGO!!!

    • David Frank David F Member

      This Nissan drives like a car typical of the 1980s. I’m no Japanese car fan, but I was surprised at how well this strange little car drives. It was a very useful car to folks in lots of countries. I would love to have had a car like this back then. It has lots of room to sleep and haul stuff, better than a minivan, decent mileage and 4 wheel drive. It sure drives better than the Scout I drove back then. There were lots of cars a lot worse. I understand many folks inclination in thinking the world revolves around muscle cars, but I don’t think folks who drive cars like these necessarily hated cars or having to own a car, that’s just silly.

  4. DRV

    I know of one with over 300k and still strong.

  5. grant

    Damn some harshness for Scotty and his weird vehicular tastes. So he likes oddball Japanese cars. Some people golf! That doesn’t make sense either. Enjoy your new toy, Scotty.

    • Jeff Staff

      I still can’t figure out why so much of the retired population’s fantasies of an ideal life revolve around access to golf courses.

      Personally, as I’ve been known to purchase an oddball or two (ahem…), I dig this thing. I dig anything, really, that was converted to 4WD back in the 80s and sold on the dealer lot. An era in which turbos, loud graphics and 4WD were utilized to move cars seems like a great time to be an enthusiast to me, as opposed to our current era of migration to FWD and OCD with MPGs.

      Now, of course, if raw horsepower is the only thing that turns you on, there are plenty of choices. Personally, big BHP is on par with golf in my book – variety is what keeps people living. Spice of life, and all that.

  6. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Congratulations Scotty! I almost did not click on this find, but the 4WD drew me in. Now I am glad I did. Best of luck and enjoy!

  7. Puhnto

    I liked these when they were new and did a test drive in one. They’re a very useful and practical little car.

  8. Jim Mc

    I like Scotty’s write-ups, and I appreciate his singular taste. It seems genuine and he’s often very informative. He’s a good, fun read.

    This looks like a cool little utility wagon. BUT….how much was it?!

    • Jeff Staff

      If you think his Barn Finds posts are good reads, I’d recommend getting on his personal email list. He leads a far more interesting life than I do!

      • grant

        How does one do that?

  9. Silas

    I owned one of these in the early 90’s. It was a decent little car that really went through snow well. We drove it from Wisconsin to California once. I have a picture of it out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

  10. RichS

    My grandparents bought a loaded one of these new – I actually used it as a drive away from the church vehicle when my future ex-wife and I were hitched!

    It was quirky and kinda slow but damn was it useful. The only thing I really hated about it was the starter replacement was a major PITA due to the 4WD.

    I’d be interested in it but the lack of A/C is a deal-killer. I’d go and pirate a system from the junkyard but I can’t recall the last time I saw one of these there.

  11. Rick Nelson

    I owned a 4WD Stanza Wagon like this one. I bought it in 1990 after our child was born. It would haul enough stuff for the three of us to take weekend camping trips and still have room for the crap my wife had to buy whenever she saw an antique store. We kept it for around four years and around 70,000 miles and never had any trouble from it. When my son started talking he named it Littlefoot (he was fascinated by monster trucks).
    These are very practical vehicles, and have acceptable performance, but will never be accused of being sporty.

    Like 1

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