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1990 Nissan Pulsar GTi-R: Fast Car History Lesson

By Louis Cordony, 06 Oct 2019 Features

1990 Nissan Pulsar GTi-R Fast Car History Lesson feature

A little ’Zilla with hopes of World Rally glory

The Nissan Pulsar GTi-R represented a time when rally cars would have been proud of their road versions.

Born in 1990 at the height of Group A regulations that required the racecars to share core engineering with road cars, Nissan pinned its hopes of WRC glory on the N14 Pulsar.

Its creators gave it a turbocharged engine and Nissan’s ATTESA all-wheel drive system to fight off Ford Sierra Cosworths and Lancia Delta Integrales, its 2.0-litre SR20DET engine shared with the Silvia and 180SX, but rotated 90 degrees to drive all four wheels.

Not to be confused with the R32 Skyline GT-R’s ATTESA E-TS oily bits that electronically controlled a multi-plate centre clutch, the GTi-R split grunt front to rear through a viscous centre limited-slip diff. But it was effective.

Its Garrett turbocharger helped it produce 162kW and 280Nm, channelled through a five-speed manual gearbox that allowed the GTi-R to hit 232km/h in top gear. Japanese outlet Best Motoring ran a stock 0-400m in 13.55 seconds.

Sweet Dream: Reimagining a 2017 Pulsar GTi-R

All this was, of course, crammed into a matchbox-sized body (its wheelbase was only 2430mm) that sat on strut front and parallel four-link rear suspension. It seemed like a great rally recipe, but limited success prompted Nissan to pull the plug on its World Rally Championship campaign after just two seasons. Boo.

Nissan continued to build the GTi-R until 1994 and even sold a version in Europe with a Sunny badge. It also offered a ready-to-race version that was delivered with steel wheels, no air-con or ABS, and offered a front LSD and close-ratio gearbox as options. Sadly, none made their way to Australian shores, officially anyway. Some came in private import form, with their desirability proven by their rarity.

Of all GTi-Rs, the ‘rally car for the road’ Nismo variant stands as the unicorn. Only 21 were built and one lives in Nismo boss Takao Katagiri’s garage.

Bringing you up to speed on Fast Car History Lesson

1990 NISSAN PULSAR GTi-R SPECS
Engine: 1998cc inline-4, 16v, turbo
Power: 163kW @ 6400rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 4800rpm
0-100km/h: 5.4sec (est.)
Price: $25,000 (current value estimate)