Curbside Classic: 1983 Nissan Pulsar Five Door – So Rare I Forgot It Existed

(first posted 5/21/2014)    This one had me stumped for, a while. I just didn’t remember this car being sold in the US; I thought the Pulsar moniker was used strictly for the coupe, like this one.  I recognized it from its European use, where it was the basis of the ill-fated Arna, a joint venture with Alfa Romeo to combine the drive train and other parts of the Alfa Sud with this body. And I do remember well this car’s predecessor, the Datsun 310, which it very much resembles:

That’s the 310 on top (Nissan N10/Pulsar/Cherry); they were not that uncommon. But this Pulsar is of the next generation, the N12. Wikipedia mentions it being sold also as the Holden Astra in Australia and the Nissan Cherry in Europe. But no references to the US. All their pictures of it have foreign plates.

My very less than satisfactory Standard Catalog of Imported Cars makes no reference to it whatsoever, but then it doesn’t even acknowledge the Pulsar NX coupe’s existence either, so that’s useless. But…there is another section in wiki on the N12 under “Nissan Cherry”, which is what the Pulsar essentially was too. Finally, an answer: “In America only the notchback coupe (“Pulsar NX”) was offered for most of the N12’s run although the 3- and 5-doors were sold in 1983 only.” That explains it. It had pretty much fallen into the recycle bin of my memory banks, but I remember it now! Sure…

What I do know is that this was a pretty challenging and confusing era for Nissan, coming right in the midst of their transition from Datsun to Nissan. And like many of the cars of that era, it carries both Datsun and Nissan names.  And the brand new FWD Sentra arrived in 1983.

So selling two FWD small cars with different names was…pretty much par for the course during Nissan’s difficult era, when they pissed away their once very powerful position in the US and watched it dribble away to Honda and Toyota.