This car had probably been sitting in a garage for the best part of the previous decade. The body work and interior is in good condition with minimal rust, however I don't think it was ever professionally serviced for at least that long, if not for its entire life. In that sense it was neglected. Here is what was wrong when I got the car at 150,000 km:
The exhaust manifold gasket was cracked and had to be replaced.
Rear brake cylinders were leaking and needed replacing.
Handbrake was virtually not working, and had to be adjusted.
The rear tailgate struts were not working. When I opened the boot, I had to see if it would stay up, which it would intermittently, but would then fall on my head. I decided to have them replaced.
All the ball joints were worn. I'm a girl, and I had to be a weightlifter to steer the thing. It made me break a sweat trying to park it.
Think there is something wrong with the gearbox synchro, as getting into reverse can be difficult. There have been some trying moments where it has not co-operated. You have to yank the gearstick around to get it to comply. You can't be gentle with the beast. Everything about it is rough.
Furthermore, since the car was not looked after under the hood properly before I got it, I had to get other normal maintenance things replaced and done. The engine was out of tune and full of dirty oil. The oil, air and fuel filters were dirty and needed replacing. Well the engine bay probably wasn't cleaned its entire life, so what do you expect? All the spark plugs were failing and it needed new ones. It had eleven year old tyres on it too, so I had to get four new ones. To cap it all off, the front wiper blades were worn out.
This all cost me more than the car was worth, but I decided to persist with it because it has been a reliable, uncomplaining car, despite the neglect. It is pretty important to me as it allowed me to escape two very nasty domestic situations. It has never broken down on me so far, and the engine sounds like it still has a lot of life in it. When I got it back from the repair shop after two full days of work, it was like a completely different car, and I had to learn how to drive it again! It now sounds like it is more comfortable being alive for sure.
The hazard lights were not working. I popped out the hazard light button with a small screwdriver and looked at the connections. They were covered in copper corrosion. I cleaned this off and put it back together. Worked as good as new. :-) I did crack the plastic a bit though. You have to be gentle, but hey, it's 24 year old plastic. What do you expect? If it completely falls to bits, I'll just use blu tac.
The fuel gauge does not work properly. It can only determine the difference between about 13 litres of petrol. If it consumes this much, it says it's empty. I'm trying to get a fuel sender unit to fix the issue. I don't know why my Great Uncle and Aunt did not get this issue fixed, considering that they kept the car for 20 odd years. In the glovebox there are notebooks full of lists of kilometres, as they have been calculating when to refuel. It seems that the fuel sender unit packed in at about 17,000 km.
The front passenger window regulator is worn. This means that I can't wind the window down without it falling inwards and out of alignment. You have to wrestle to get it back up. I think the glass has now popped off the regulator and is pressing against the wires, causing the lock to be difficult to operate. At some stage I will fix this issue.
One of the ring pulls for the latch that locks the rear seats in the upright position is broken, so you need to wrestle with a pair of pliers to pull the lever up to unlock the seat and get it to lie down forwards. Oh well, that's a pretty minor problem.
The rear demisters don't really work properly. I'm not surprised, but I'm trying to figure out a solution to it. The front demisters aren't the best things in the world either. It's usually nothing winding down the window can't fix though. Maybe it was newish technology back in the mid 80's. It can cause a visibility issue in rainy weather, where all the windows fog up.
The thrust bearing has come loose in the gearbox, causing the car to squeal loudly whenever it feels like it. However I won't be able to get this fixed until I get the clutch replaced...
There are some upcoming repairs on this car that will probably cost me a fortune again.
The clutch is slipping and will need replacement soon.
The rear water pump pipe is corroding, and I'm going to spring a leak some day.
Engine mounts are starting to get cracks.
Radiator is holding pressure, but I've been told it's about to go soon.
All the shock absorbers are leaking apparently, and they will need replacement in the future.
There are some spots of surface rust on the bonnet, in the inside of the driver's door frame and some other areas. However they are quite minimal for a car of this age. I plan to fix it soon.
Presently, I will persist with this car, because it has been very responsive to repairs, and has given me no problems in terms of reliability. I'll keep you posted.
This car was given to me by my Father, who bought it off an Uncle, who inherited it from my Great Uncle and Aunt. Henceforth, I am the third generation of the family to own it. My Great Uncle and Aunt bought it off a family friend when the car was 6 months old. They always kept it garaged, so the bright red paint is hardly faded and the interior is virtually undamaged. There are no cracks in the dashboard and the upholstery is in perfect condition. The rubber sealings are all intact, so there is no problems with leaks or anything. It was only used to go the shops and back, so it had low mileage. For all intents and purposes, I think that this is a fairly good example of an N12 Pulsar. It's an old car, so you've got to expect some repairs.
There are a lot of things about this car that I know people would say are flaws, and I will go through them, so that you have a complete picture of this car. (They are getting rare these days, and I think it is important to record this stuff.) However, owning a car like this is a lot about accepting the nature of the beast. This is a very spartan creature, designed for cheap A to B transportation. After all it is a Datsun. They weren't made to compete with Ferrari.
I think most people (particularly those who are fans of more modern cars) would find this car hard to drive. When I first sat in it, I had not driven a manual transmission car before. However, I took to it like it was an old friend. It is a very noisy critter, and it tells you what it needs.
This car has very little, if any, modern conveniences. It has no ABS brakes and no power steering. The brakes, steering, clutch and accelerator are all hard. As I mentioned before, the gearbox can be a little sticky, so you've got to be a little rough with that too. You will lose weight driving this car!
You've got to simulate the effect of ABS brakes with a pumping motion of the foot. Friction point on the clutch is very far out, but very broad. I find it quite forgiving. The accelerator seems to get harder the faster you go. When you get up to 100 km/hr, you have to kind of stamp on the pedal to keep it there, but it's really no problem. Getting into 5th gear is a bit of an art. There is this little notch when you push the stick as far right as you go, then you can't push it upwards. You have to know where that notch begins, so you don't get trapped there when you try to push the stick up into 5th. That caused me a few hairy moments!
Despite the lack of power steering, I find the steering lighter than a N13 pulsar without this feature. You've also got to be aware of how the steering wheel communicates with the tyres. There is a delay between what you do with the steering wheel and how the tyres respond. I believe this is because the rack is worn and there is a bit if free play. I've done some crazy cornering jobs with this car! However, the vehicle has a low centre of gravity and it hugs the road fairly well. As long as you get your momentum up, the steering becomes less of a problem. It is fairly nimble at speed. You just have to know the car and understand how much elbow grease it needs. Reverse parking and parallel parking can be daunting though. I usually avoid putting myself in those situations on busy roads. In my experience, the steering tends to seize up and go stiff if the car has been sitting for a long time. Do take the thing for a run now and again...
I was pretty surprised with the performance of my beast after I got it repaired. Don't be deceived. This is a little monster disguised as Grandma's car. I'd be scared to think what the turbo variants of this model are like, because my non-turbo GL has some serious zip in it. Lower end torque is surprisingly good. You can take off in first fairly quickly without trying, much better than a base model 1991 Toyota Corolla. It's quite easy to get up to 60 km/hr. It's not a challenge to keep up with the traffic or get ahead of many of those obese things you call modern cars. It performs very well at highway speed as well. It does not struggle at 100 km/hr, and it could probably manage to go a bit faster if required. There is well balanced power in all the gears. It's like its been infected with some Skyline genes.
The fuel economy is pretty good. For city driving, it consumes about 8.9 litres/100 km, and on the highway it will use about 6-7 litres/100 km. I have to know this well because I have no fuel gauge! :-) As far as I am aware, this is fairly similar to a 1991 Toyota Corolla.
The car is very reliable. It has inherited that from its Datsun ancestors I think. Despite the numerous problems that I got with it, it has never broken down or given me a problem. It has always started first kick. Just pump the accelerator twice (no fuel injection), turn the key and it roars to life. If you flood the carby, just put the pedal to the metal and turn the key, no problems.
For its age and size in my opinion, this is a comfortable ride. The seats are a woollen/polyester blend. They are surprisingly soft. They are softer than other small cars that I have been in, particularly more modern ones. If you were a taller person you wouldn't be crowing the virtues of this though. I'm 161 cm tall, but if you were over 180 cm you would probably struggle with your knees butting up against the steering wheel. You'd have to drive in the fetal position I reckon. I think that other people would complain of the lack of lumber support. The rear seats are more roomy than the N13 Pulsar because the front seats are not as fat, but again, if you are too tall, you probably wouldn't be that happy.
The boot is pretty roomy for a hatchback. You can fit a lot of stuff there. I still have the original boot canopy so I can conceal things. However, the trade off of this space means that the rear windscreen has a large slope to it. This makes visibility not as great, and it does collect a lot of dust compared to a car with a squared off backside. This means you are cleaning the rear windscreen a lot. Also, the slope of the front and rear windscreens in particular means that it makes the car behave a bit like a greenhouse. Get reflective shades for the windscreens and do get yourself a steering wheel cover, lest you want to fry your hands on the vinyl in the 40 degree Celsius heat. During summer the cabin really swelters, which can be an issue because I have no air conditioning! I'm always driving around with all the windows down at this time of year (have to fix that window regulator!). DO NOT leave any living thing inside this car with all the windows up unattended in full sunlight. I assure you everything will be dead by the time you come back. Driving this car makes you a religious Datsun-style shade seeker.
Visibility is reasonable, it is definitely better than the N13 Pulsar by virtue of the rear pillar. In the N12 Pulsar they are less broad, so you don't have this great big blind spot where you can't see people starting to overtaking you. Overall visibility must not be great though, because I find myself doing a lot more comprehensive headchecks and rely on my mirrors less when driving this car. I recommend getting blind spot mirrors. They will make your life a lot less scary.
The gauges and dials are pretty good for the sort of car this is. They are all bright orange which makes them highly visible. I have an analog clock. :-D The controls are not hard to reach, not that I reach out for them much as I don't have an air conditioner and it rarely gets cold enough where I am living to use the heater. I only have an AM radio, and yes it does work well, but I rarely use it. I prefer to listen to the symphony of the engine.
Now I will mention things that I believe other people would complain about this car, but as I mentioned before, it's just the nature of the beast.
There is a lot of engine noise. Yes, others will say that everything about this car is crude and unrefined. However, I think it is a good thing. When I was learning how to drive it, the engine noise allowed the car to communicate its needs to me. For starters, the engine has a throaty roar to it. Some people might like a bit of hearty growl, but others don't. It also rattles the entire car. When you are sitting at the lights, the dashboard quivers, the gear stick jiggles, the entire steering column rattles and jumps up and down. Often the rear view mirror vibrates all over the place. You see that is when the car is HAPPY. When you displease it by putting it in the wrong gear, or not give it enough revs, then try to take off, the engine starts to jump up and down coughing at me. The dashboard dances violently and all the mirrors shudder so badly that I can't see a thing. It quickly teaches you what to do! (My Uncle basically gave me four days of lessons on how to drive it, and then I had to manage on my own... doing handbrake starts with a handbrake that barely worked and stalling at roundabouts etc.)
Also, when you are cruising around at slow speed, you have to put your clutch in or it's going to jerk all over the place when you give it some gas. It tells you when it likes your gear changes with a loud solid thunking noise. It seems to want to be revved rougher than you'd expect, until it really roars before it wants to shift.
The body work also creates a lot of noise in the cabin. It does change depending on what speed you are at. You definitely feel all the bumps in the road. The sort of tyres you have do help to cushion this. Run over the bumps and you hear all the windows rattle, as well as various things squeaking. When you get up to 100 km/hr something starts to whistle. I'm not sure what, probably the antennae. I think the drivers door window regulator is coming loose. It rattles about a lot, making me think I haven't closed the door properly. This does make you more conscious of potholes, and makes you want to avoid them more urgently, thereby saving your suspension.
Furthermore, the fan is pretty noisy when you crank it up. I prefer to wind down the windows to cool down for this reason.
A lot of people would probably hate this car because it has no power steering, ABS brakes, air conditioning, fuel injection, no power windows, and only has an AM radio, but in my opinion, they are less things to break and draw away fuel economy. I know that if something goes wrong in this car, it is going to be easy to trace and fix, as it is an uncomplicated beast.
Summing up, I think that this car is fun to drive. It has a lot of character, and you have to know it well to drive it properly. It's kind of like communicating with an animal, perhaps like riding a horse. It feels somewhat satisfying to have a car that no-one wants to drive (especially when I get grown men asking me how I drive it after stalling it many times with the car bucking about like a wild brumby). I know that few people would want to steal it. Ha ha!