Curbside Classic: 1991 Nissan Bluebird (U12) SSS Attesa-X Hardtop – This Bird Has Flown (A Lot)

Tokyo’s a big place. If you look hard enough in this town, you can find anything. Even a scruffy-looking high-trim Bluebird. I actually have two of these SSS U12s in my files, but the other one is the usual super-pristine type, freshly resprayed and aftermarket-shod. Originality has a higher value than cleanliness, in my book, so we’ll have a look at this well-worn example.

We’ve actually already had a quick look at this generation of Bluebird hardtop, but not in this grade. What we have here is the near top-of-the-range, the SSS Attesa (Nissan-speak for AWD). Not sure what the “X” stands for exactly. Maybe it was formerly known as the Attesa-Twitter. Or maybe it’s the adult-only version, the triple X triple S, if you will. Too many letters, my dear Nissan. The real range-topper, in terms of luxury, would be the SSS Limited, I believe. But no matter, this will do us fine.

Being a later car of the U12 breed (1987-91), this SSS also boasts the famous 140hp SR20 two-litre DOHC 4-cyl.; the turbocharged version of this engine took over from the 1.8 litre CA18 as the model’s top performance engine in late 1989 on the Attesa Limited, where it produced a very respectable 205hp — just as much as the SSS-R rally car that NISMO offered at almost ¥3m a pop, but with more creature comforts.

Hence why the SSS-R’s popularity went downhill very fast in the U12’s later years: the standard SSS was about as fast and much better value. Still, if there’s one U12 Nissan that could be termed as a genuine collectible, it’s this one here.

Besides, the SSS-R was only available with the saloon body, as opposed to the much racier-looking hardtop we have here. And this is a genuine 4-door hardtop, none of those “pillared hardtop” shenanigans that Toyota and Honda were playing at the time. The rear windows might not go all the way down, I grant you. But who else was making 4-door hardtops in the early ‘90s?

Inside, it wasn’t all fun and games, though. Black plastic dash and grey pinstriped seats and door cards – all quite business-like. Maybe a bit too business-like, in my opinion, but that’s not the case with all U12 Bluebirds. When I covered this model back in 2020, the one I found then had a very sexy combo of a brown dash and red velour upholstery. So they did have colour back then.

Obviously, not everyone is keen on earth tones for their car interior. I can understand that. But this one feels rather cold. Well-appointed, very well put together and airy, but a touch impersonal. Very much of its time, I guess.

Hard to believe that this is a JDM Stanza, platform-wise. Stanzas were pretty much the bottom-feeders of Nissan’s North American range, the thing they tried to fob off to clients who felt the Maxima was a little too rich for their bank balance. In Japan, the Bluebird could be both your bog-standard family grocery-getter or a swanky turbocharged AWD hardtop.

Not that this can save any car from the pits of banger-dom, which is where this one is headed fast. It’s obviously sleeping outside and has had more than a few scrapes. It looks as old as it is, in other words. Not a bad thing by any means, but in this country, appearances matter a lot. It probably is still being driven by the person who ordered it 30-plus years ago, and said person is also likely to be kinda rusty by now. Once that moderately careful owner finally gives up their license (or kicks the bucket), this Bluebird’s probably done for. It’s too old to be exportable and too shabby to be worth anything in Japan, so the future looks bleak. I took these pictures in early 2021, so there’s a fair chance it’s already gone to the boneyard.

A damn shame, I’m sure you’ll agree. There’s a slim chance someone will have recognized it for the AWD pillarless wunder-Bird it actually is and is giving it the TLC it needs to keep gracing the roads with its presence. Perhaps, if it’s still alive, a well-heeled foreigner (so, not me) might be better placed to undertake this altruistic work of auto-avian preservation. If the locals won’t, then maybe, say, a Norwegian would?


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CC Capsule: 1990 Nissan Bluebird (U12) Hardtop – JDM Extrava-Stanza, by T87

CC Capsule: 1989-1992 Nissan Stanza (Bluebird U12): The Shrinking Violet, by PN

Curbside Classic: 1989-92 Ford Corsair/Nissan Pintara – A Lame Duck Bluebird, by William Stopford