The ‘what was I thinking’ car

1987 Nissan EXA, I say what was I thinking, but the EXA was actually not a bad car at the time or even looking back now. The problem is it falls into a category of cars that I have a bit of hatred for now. The ‘sporty’ car. What the hell does that even mean?

N13_Nissan_EXAThe EXA was based on the chassis of the N13 Nissan Pulsar and was call an NX in the U.S. In 1987 it had a CA16DE engine turning out a respectable for the time 122 hp (91kw) and 137Nm (101lbft) of torque. The car weighed 1,070kg so with such anemic torque progress was just adequate, I doubt it would’ve broken 10sec to 100kph. So what was ‘sporty’ about it? well it was just 2 doors (that seems to be required), pop-up lights (check), alloy wheels and a bit of a wrap around sort of interior layout. On that feature count it probably qualifies.

I bought it because it was a nice looking, modern car with an interior that was a nice place to be. But I was drifting away from my car enthusiast roots, turning into someone who would buy an MX5 (miata) because it was a convertible rather than because it had unequal length double wishbone suspension all round. Blurgh, I want to punch myself!

I think I was going through a phase of trying to deny my car enthusiast leanings. It can be an expensive game, as I am sure anyone reading this will know, to satisfy an addiction for autos. Not to mention the mainstream of society, especially in Australia, try to make you a pariah by casting anyone with an interest in cars a ‘hoon’ and blaming you for all manner of social discord and breakdown. It was quite a few years until I personally was able to accept that being a ‘car guy’ was a pretty legitimate interest and way to spend my time and money.

In the mean time, I still had my EXA (and probably a selection of slightly outside mainstream clothing to go with my slightly outside of mainstream car – I don’t remember). Good points? well it revved hard, redlining at 7500rpm, but there was not really any point because the motor was pretty limp. Handling wise, it turned in pretty well and resisted understeer, until I noticed my tires were wearing out incredibly fast and a wheel alignment confirmed there was a massive amount of toe in at the front; factory settings restored factory handling of uninspiring mild competence followed by plow-on understeer. The best thing I can say for the EXA is it had funky design feature with its body panels. nissan_exa_sportbak_red_rear_1986The rear hatch and roof were modular so in Australia we had a rear section that made the car look like a coupe. In Japan they got a hatch type that made it look like a breadvan style hatchback. Or you could just remove the hatch all together, which probably would work great if it was always sunny and you never left it anywhere or lived on an island with no one else.  The roof panels also came off so it was really a targa top and I did use this feature a bit, but I think I secretly hated myself while doing it.

I kept the EXA for about 8 months I think and since then have been a vocal critic of companies and individuals using the term ‘sporty’ car. It is a made up marketing word to make boring people feel like they are having a life. “Oohh I have a sporty sedan, my VW Jetta with 5 spoke alloys and coloured stitching on the seats and gear knob”. Boo!

Anyway, i think my inner ‘hoon’ must have revolted and made me over compensate for owning the EXA, because I went to the other end of the spectrum and entered the slightly crazy but satisfying world of motorcycles, enter my 1989 FZR 250.

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