Car Lust--Nissan Pulsar NX
Yes, it's time to celebrate the weird and wonderful Nissan Pulsar--available in the United States in two different generations, both of which were strange enough to be completely endearing. Strange--and somehow reminiscent of Lego creations.
The first-gen American Pulsar was a pretty conventional and slow coupe, remarkable mostly for its weird, blocky styling. That's the version in the first photo here (courtesy of Flickr user aperture_lag). It had Nissan's economy car hardware, so its speed didn't live up to whatever strange promises its unorthodox styling promised, but at least it looked interesting. I have an aunt who owned a Dodge Daytona Turbo Z and, later, one of these Pulsars; needless to say, she has great automotive tastes.
But the next Pulsar is where things really got weird. The next-generation car looked a little more conventional, with a more normal roofline and a Toyota Corolla GT-S-like wedgy front end and hidden headlights. There were still a few quirks, though; for example, the oddly striped taillight covers, which presaged an unfortunate aftermarket trend and looked as if a teenager had constructed them in a garage with a router and a sheet of fiberglass.
The Pulsar's real claim to fame, though, was its modular body, which was an incredibly cool idea that somehow failed to translate.
This is what I loved about the 1980s--you could buy a Nissan economy car with wedgy performance car styling, uniquely 1980s striped taillights, and ... removable, modular rear body sections! Now, with about an hour of backbreaking work, you could convert your Pulsar from a conventional coupe to a "Sportbak" quasi-wagon. Was the car actually more useful as a result? Umm ... we'll have to get back to you on that, and the additional modular rear ends came only in gray, adding to the Lego effect. I can't imagine they sealed particularly well, either.
Most Car Lusts tempt me as used cars; I hear their siren calls from the used-car listings, and I have to fight hard to resist the urge. Not so Pulsars--I like them, I appreciate them, but more as a historical artifact than as a car I'd like to drive.
The commercial below isn't one of the greats, but there are two things I like about it--the contemplative piano music, and the dramatic unfurling of the hidden headlights. Dramatically opening the hidden headlights was one of the great artistic flourishes of the 1980s.