1986 Nissan Stanza 4X4 5-Speed

In the 80s, Japanese automakers were devoted to bringing customers the most practical, useful and efficient automobiles possible. One particularly interesting result was the Prairie, otherwise known as the Stanza Wagon in the US.

The Prairie/Stanza debuted in 1982 as a 'tall wagon', a clever body style that merged the body of a compact sedan with the interior headroom, sliding doors and rear hatchback of a full-size van. This was a great idea, and was perfect for someone who wanted the space and versatility of a van but the driving characteristics of a small car.

Nissan certainly doesn't make anything like this anymore, and nobody else really does either. It's a shame, because it's a really great idea, especially for frugal families or transportation companies. Why didn't New York adopt something similar as their cabbie instead of the lumbering and aging Crown Victoria fleet? They're having a crisis now choosing a replacement when an answer was given to them decades ago.

The styling is perhaps the nadir of Rising Sun functionalism. I love it. If you prefer your machines to look like a machine, then you just get this. All hard angles, clean lines and funky details like the 'SPORT' decal stripe on the sides. Beige is a fitting color, too. Clearly they were influenced by Giugiaro's Lancia Megagamma from 1978, itself building on Giugiaro's 1976 Alfa Romeo Brivido taxi concept.

Inside is swathed in plastic and cloth earth tones. A door slides open for extremely easy access into the rear. These were usually used hard, so it's remarkable to see one in this kind of condition. Visibility and ergonomics are superb.

The engines ranged from 1.5 to 2.0-liter 4-cylinders. This is probably the later 1.8. What makes this a complete and rather special little package is that it has a 5-speed and four-wheel drive. It's not a fast car, but the stick shift and all-wheel power will make it amusing and stable in foul weather to say the least.

The seller says it's in fantastic condition and has a tow package and new tires. This is a nice survivor of an innovative automobile, the solution which it provided we still need today.

Available here on craigslist for $1,700.

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