Saved from Scrap, Part II: 1987 Nissan Pulsar Sportbak

There was a time when car designers dreamed big and manufacturers allowed those dreams to live on in real-life vehicles. Nowadays, a tantalizing concept is unveiled and the production model looks like a warmed-over (and that’s putting it nicely) version of a formerly spectacular vehicle. Not so with the Nissan Pulsar, which managed to jump from the drawing board and into real life. Find this rare Pulsar Sportbak here on craigslist for $1,200 in Texas.

Special thanks to Barn Finds reader Marco Gamez for spotting this oddball from the 1980s. Similar to the Shelby Lancer we featured yesterday, this seller also claims he stopped this Pulsar from going into the junkyard. It’s not hard to believe – who still daily drives a Pulsar, let alone a Sportbak Pulsar? I’ve faced similar issues with my Subaru XT6 project where scrapyards don’t even bother to inventory parts; they just put it through the shredder. How many customers are showing up looking for Pulsar parts? The answer is not many, so kudos to the seller for saving one.

This Pulsar may run and drive, but it is far from road-ready. The seller points out numerous issues, from the dry-rotted tires to the rotten axles to the giant hydraulic oil stain on the driver’s carpet from a jack someone left in the vehicle (classic junkyard move). Cosmetically-speaking, the body is quite rough with mismatched fenders and damaged paint throughout. Perhaps most important, however, is that the Sportbak shell on the back remains in solid condition. The seller even ruminates that the shell itself would sell for nearly as much as the whole car.

The Pulsar was a clever vehicle through and through, with features including a T-top roof and other removable panels that transformed the Sportbak from a coupe to a convertible. Hell, you can lift off that entire rear canopy and transform the Pulsar from a clever coupe with plenty of storage space to an open-air cruiser with the T-tops removed. While this Pulsar will need a good amount of work to come back to life, its quirkiness and cleverness demand that it be saved and at least painted a uniform color.

Fast Finds


  1. Howard A Member

    I tell ya’, leave it to the Asians to cram everything into one vehicle. Sportiness, utility, economy, durability, I believe this was it. Again, same old thing, these didn’t last long in a salt region, and turned many folks off, but rusting aside, they were very good cars. Don’t let Scotty see this, he’s getting to know the truck transport drivers by their 1st name. I’m sure this thing leaks like a sieve, but for a cheap, open air cruiser, well worth it, if it runs, that is. I wouldn’t stick too much into it, especially if you can even find the parts. Again, ask Scotty about finding vintage Nissan parts. Probably why it was junked in the 1st place.

  2. Nova Scotian

    My buddy and his girlfriend had one of these. They all liked it and drove it into the ground. Interchangeable body tops is pretty cool. We gave it respect just for that fact. I drove a clapped out GM beater….

    • Danno

      Had a pal with one as well, it was a dependable little car. Kinda a PITA to do all the conversions, though – about the only thing we ever did was pull the roof panels out on sunny days. I don’t think the Sportbak was ever attached.

  3. Howard A Member

    Is the auxiliary 2×4 trunk prop rod included? Stupid prop rods,,,

    • jackthemailman

      They’re easy and cheap to find. No problem.

  4. Rx7turboII

    Not worth the money! I have a 1987 Pulsar with the single overhead cam engine in it and I only paid $500 for it and it was a one-owner car that needed some maintenance from sitting for 14 years. The sportback roof is rare and hardly anybody ever keeps it but it is not even close to worth $1,500! I have a New Old Stock one in the crate that I would sell for $500 that I’ve never installed so if anybody wants it for their pulsar, get ahold of me. This car at least has the twin cam engine so it’s a little bit faster but too much work and way too much money! I wouldn’t touch it for $500 to be honest

    • Chris Miller

      Hi Rx7turboII,

      Do you still have the Sportbak that you are willing to sell?

      Please let me know!

      Thanks in advance

    • Sharon Clark

      Any chance you still have the sportbak?

    • Joe charles wilkerson

      You still got that SportBak? I just weired enough to want one !
      Joe 951-901-7030


    I had a 1989 given to me. These cars just disintegrated and rusted away but the engines ran forever. NISSAN = RUST

    • jackthemailman

      Not so. I sold an ’88 Pulsar SE this January. Not a speck of rust on it; and it lived outside.

  6. Mike

    I daily drive a 1983 Pulsar 5 door hatchback, so I’m glad to see this one got saved from the crusher. I agree that finding parts can be a challenge, but rockauto carries a lot of aftermarket parts that can get the job done if genuine Nissan parts cant be sourced. I’ve been driving my Pulsar daily for the last two years and while it isn’t the fastest car on the road, I do get a lot of thumbs up and people asking questions or telling me stories about their experiences.

  7. Vin in NJ

    I always loved the tail lights on these cars

  8. Steve

    I know they made several tops for this crazy little car, but I dont remember them, what were the others?

    • jackthemailman

      Just one: a regular hatchback.

  9. Coventrycat

    First I’ve seen one other than period advertisements. Cool!

  10. chad

    Jun 22, 2017 at 3:29pm
    I know they made several tops for this crazy little car, but I dont remember them, what were the others?

    convert, sedan and hatch were the other options this can convert to. The 1 pictured wuz the most expensive.

  11. jackthemailman

    Too bad it’s an ’87. The SE (Yamaha-built 16 valve I4 1.8L) has a good engine. But only available 1988-89.

  12. Derek

    This is quite a thing; we didn’t get them here. I rather like it… D.

  13. John K

    Girlfriend from years ago had one of these. I recall it being very, very slow – – but she was cute as hell, so that kinda’ made up for it.

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