Rare Rides: The 1986 Nissan Stanza Is a Van and Wagon for the Prairie

Nissan and Datsun brought quirky, interesting, innovative vehicles to North American shores in the years prior to roughly 1994. Commenters — okay, I — brought up our subject Stanza in a post the other day about AMC Eagle creator Roy Lunn. Mr. Lunn used American Motors’ rather slim budget to create what was arguably the very first crossover vehicle from an assemblage of existing parts.

Let’s see what Nissan did with its early proto-crossover vehicle idea.

First, let’s settle some naming confusion. Though the Stanza carried the Prairie name (which I prefer) abroad, and the Multi name in Canada, the American market knew it simply as Wagon.

Debuting in 1981 for Japanese customers, it made the journey to North America in 1982. You could choose from a couple of four-cylinder engines, and either a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual transmission. In true crossover fashion, the Stanza Wagon was front-drive based, with an optional four-wheel drive system.

Five seats was the standard arrangement, but room for up to seven occupants was an option in this compact MPV. Sliding rear doors on either side beat minivan offerings to the dual-door punch by about a decade.

Structural integrity be damned, the Stanza Wagon skipped over a B-pillar. This allowed for an impressive aperture when both side doors were opened, and easy access for loading and unloading of people and cargo.

The rear seats also folded down, creating a small double bed when combined with the reclining front seats.

The first-generation Stanza Wagon continued through 1988 until its replacement by the Axxess for 1990. An Axxess would also qualify as a Rare Ride; it was sold in the United States for only the 1990 model year. The little Axxess fared better in the frozen land of Canada, where it remained on Nissan lots through 1995. If you find a clean one listed for sale in the US, let me know on Twitter or something.

Our example today looks rust-free and is located out in California with the rest of the rust-free Japanese 1980s vehicles. There’s some UV damage present, but the seller (who indicates just 50,000 miles on the odometer) is selling this derpy box for $2,700 reasonable dollars.

It’s high noon in the Prairie.

[Images via seller]


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