Under $2k: 1986 Nissan 200SX XE

I'm sure these are everywhere in California, but I can't even remember the last time I saw one in New England.

Japanese cars from the 80s and 90s are among the hottest up and coming collector cars. Sure, they made a lot of them and they were inexpensive when new, but that just means they got trashed and thrashed more so finding survivors suddenly becomes difficult. And in New England, they succumbed to our foolishly over-salted roads and wet winters in general.

At first glance I was sure this was another FWD car, as the "200SX" from 1994-1998 was. But no, this is a Nissan code "S12", which retains a rear-wheel drive layout as most Japanese cars did from the 50s, 60s, and 70s before the Big Switch over to FWD in the early 80s. Rear-wheel drive being the preferred layout for enthusiasts (or really anyone who likes a balanced chassis and good handling) makes this Nissan a little treat.

The S12 was produced from 1984-1988 and was badged as a 200SX in North America. Engines ranged from 1.8 -2.0 liter four cylinders to a 3.0-liter 6 cylinder. This seems to have the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4 cyl. It is mated to an automatic transmission.

Cosmetically, the styling is what is now considered to be classic 1980s Japanese design. This includes an overall compact shape, large greenhouse, hidden headlights, gridded taillights, plenty of black plastic, and a large hatchback. There is something simple and undiluted about it. No other automaker, with perhaps the exception of Volkswagen, could produce something like this so well.

Inside, we have an interior swathed in blue plastics and cloths. Note the digital speedometer.

The seller of this example states the mileage as 147,100, low for a 1986. Mechanically, they mention it runs strong and drives well and has "no malfunction lights on the dash." Well, that's a relief.

On the outside I do see what appear to be a couple of rust spots, especially one on the driver's side door.

This baby could be a nice basis for a restoration to new, a custom hack job, or just a daily bomber to tool around in (and learn to drift?).

Someone, please open a museum that documents these lost Japanese compact cars.

Available here on ebay in Mahwah, New Jersey for just $1,495.

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