One Owner Wagon: 1988 Nissan Stanza 4WD

I absolutely love these quirky, old Japanese economy cars which never really had much love back in the day, but have been saved by an enthusiastic owner who has lovingly maintained it for the last 30 years. It’s not what you would call a desirable classic being a fairly standard car in its day, but this will now be rarer than most supercars you see on the road today. The interest is growing in this category day by day, so snag yourself a relative bargain by heading over to Craigslist here and investing $13,500 into this 1988 Nissan Stanza Wagon, out of Denver, Colorado. Thanks to Gunter Kramer for this wonderful tip!

This 1988 model Stanza was first built in 1981 in Japan and was known as the Prairie in its home market. It was known for being very utilitarian and practical thanks to its folding seats and rear sliding doors on both sides. Whilst it was not much of a looker, it sold well in the US up until it was replaced in 1988 with a newer more rounded model, making our car today one of the last versions to roll off the line. Even better is that this car has only covered 29,000 miles in its life. With its flashy 80s-style graphics on the side, the car suffers from no rust and has always been garaged by its one owner in Colorado.

The interior is in great condition too, with no rips, tears, or cracks, and comes with the original tape deck. This car looks like it has been driven only for a few months a year, in the best weather, and never left in a car park or in the elements as there are zero dents, dings, or bumpy patches. The engine bay and underneath the car are both spotless – almost as if it has just come out of the factory in Japan.

So if you wanted a trip back in time, and wanted a really unusual car for an event such as RADwood, then you would likely be 1 of 1 and really stand out even in a crowd of Supra’s and RX-7s. I cannot fault this car, and it’s making me lust after some plain cars from the 80s. So if this one does not appeal to you, what other 80’s economical cars would fit the bill?


  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Oh man, that is a gem. Nice write-up, Elliot, and nice find as always, Gunter!

    I had a blue ’86 4WD 5-speed Stanza wagon a few years ago that I never should have sold, especially for a $4,000 loss. It was nice enough to go to a museum of 1980s vehicles in Illinois but this 1988 example looks even nicer!

    Like 7
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I forgot to include a photo of it being picked up by the owner of the museum. It was really nice but that museum should have held off for the one in the story above, that’s a jewel.

    • Lothar... of the Hill People

      Scotty are you talking about Volo Museum or Wheels ‘O Time or somewhere else?

      There’s a museum specifically dedicated to 80’s? Sign me up as a lifetime member.

      Stay cool; see you at the pool.

      Like 1
  2. nycbjr Member

    Wow what a find!! I would drive it. Peak 80s Nissan!!

    Like 1
  3. Ron Denny Ron Denny Staff

    What a time capsule. I had a blue ’87 “Prairie Wagon” that blurred the lines between a station wagon and a minivan with those unique sliding rear doors. It was a fun, funky, functional little wagon that met my family’s needs for five years until my two boys got older and we needed the room of a Caravan.

    Like 2
  4. PaulG

    Always thought the design of the sliding door with the swinging door having no B pillar was genius, almost like a hardtop…
    My wife Drove one for a few years in the early 90’s and really loved it.

    Like 7
    • Geoff

      I’d be a little worried about how this would hold up in a side impact accident with no B pillar there.

      • edward sel

        Well, they’ve got extra-strong floor bolts for the front seats, and the rear-door windows go down so you’ve got extra structure in the rear door panel there.
        Any other concerns? BTW, that price includes the upgraded floor mats – oh, and this vehicle is a babe MAGNET (wink). Now you relax here while I go wrestle with my manager to try to get you approved!

  5. Edward Sel

    Wow – I have never seen these – but, in the ’80’s, with the doors closed, like in traffic, you wouldn’t know it’s a “mini mini van” – and 4WD too? How did the owner – in Colorado, of all places, keep the rust away? I had to look at the Craigslist ad, which showed/confirmed that the engine is a 2-litre, so you aren’t underpowered (relative to a 1.6 Corolla, for example), and the rear windows on the rear sliding doors go down too, and something else I have never seen is the speakers at the rear are set into the headliner..this thing is like part Subaru, part AMC, part Renault, and too perfect to modify – the pics of the undercarriage show it’s clean enough to eat off of – unbelievable. It’s a 5-speed, with front-wheel drive until you select four wheel drive, and a nice big greenhouse for sightseeing and toting…maybe order an OEM roof rack (to keep the interior nice), and off you go to Pike’s Peak…Note: I’m not sure why the timing belt would have been replaced in a service by the dealer in 2013, except maybe from age/lack of use – like tires, right? Speaking of which – check those date codes, etc. The only sadness is that if you drive it “for real” it will never stay as nice as it is now, but hey, maybe use it as a ‘tow-behind’ on a motor home, with a cover or something…anyway, as always, why don’t they make something like this again – that doesn’t cost $50K, and what this country needs is a good 5 cent cigar.

    Like 2
  6. ace10

    That’s a really nice 80s wagon.
    My preference would put it in third place behind the 4WD wagons from Honda and the Toyota, but none of these cars are exactly plentiful these days.

    Like 1
    • Edward Sel

      ace – but did they put out such a model in the 1980’s, because I don’t remember such an animal – but I also don’t think I ever saw one of these.

      • SubGothius

        ’85-91 Honda Civic wagons had a 4WD option, and Toyota offered the ’82-88 Tercel wagon and ’88-94 Corolla wagon with 4WD.

        Speaking of, always thought it was kinda neat how the Tercel wagon’s tall and narrow rear quarter windows were translated to short and wide windows on the Corolla wagon, keeping the oddly-proportioned window theme but rotating it 90 degrees.

        Like 1
  7. Brad460 Member

    As is typical I’m drawn to unusual, normally underappreciated 80s cars like this.

    Superb condition and hope it stays that way. I’ve got a few underappreciated vehicles now in the form of a 80 buick x car, 84 fiero, 83 civic wagon, 83 z28, and an 87 crx, tho the crx is actually appreciated by some folks.

    Another neat car to find would be a 4wd 80s dodge colt Vista wagon

    Like 1
  8. Christopher Gentry

    80s use em and toss em cool cars . Toyota starlet or a tercel 4 wd wagon. For that matter a early ford escort (us version , euro version would be better but exotic here )

  9. Big C

    These are as collectable as old house paint.

    Like 1
    • Edward Sel

      Old house paint probably has lead in it – these run on unleaded gas, and in this condition, try to find another one.

      Like 1
      • Big C

        Why would I?

      • edward sel

        Big C – Why would you? Why, to carry your old house paint around in, of course!

  10. Edward Sel

    It IS collectible – maybe not by you, but to each his own.

    Like 3
  11. Stan

    Their was a mitsubishi wagon model like this also, may have been a 90s offering…Anyways an old boss had one, and he never missed work because of a snow day, in fact he was early lol. Cant recall the model name. Maybe eagle ?

    • Edward Sel

      Yes, but the Eagle was the formidable AMC AWD wagon (3 and 5 door versions) – much closer to the Jeep than this Nissan, but pre-SUV, so the only AWD American-made wagon, 1980-1987, then made in1988 by Chrysler after they absorbed AMC in ’87. Wiki tells the interesting story how they had well-appointed sedan interiors, and only full-time AWD, based on Jeep architecture, but with an independent front suspension, so a comfortable car-like ride on regular pavement. Too bad AMC went under (sold out), IMO, because the Eagle was a big seller from day one. You can still find them for sale occasionally – not sure about the rust factor.

      • Stan

        Ed it wasn’t those, we all know those classic cars 👍…
        I looked it up… it was called an Eagle Summit wagon. Awd. 1992 approx . Cheers 🍻 rare cars.

        Like 1
  12. Christopher Gentry

    YES the Eagle Summit. I had forgotten those. Even had a relative that drove one.

    • edward sel

      Not to be a wanker, and of course you are correct, although the name “Eagle” itself was a “Badge Engineered” product, with the name coming from the convoluted M & A at that time between AMC, Renault, Jeep, and Chrysler..then Mitsubishi? WhatEVER – the point is I believe that technically the vehicle to which you are referring (if mfg’d in 1991) could be the Eagle Vista Wagon, a regular 4 door (no slider, but still with the tall rear window) with a 5-speed (on the 4WD version only), and which was discontinued in 1992 and replaced by the Eagle Summit Mini-Van, which was based on a Mitsubishi RVR, and does resemble the above Nissan more closely, despite being called a ‘mini-van’ and which was produced from 1992-1996 and which was also available with an AWD option – and guess what? Even with the rear slider it had a B-Pillar, so a little more human-life-value engineering, and the Mitsu may end up being the best iteration of the Japanese versions – maybe by 1991 they had seen the real-world downside to no b-pillar, but all of ’em trace their lineage back to a 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept vehicle from Italdesign, so, Fix It Again, Tony!

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