The different generations of Nissan’s Skyline GT-R are considered to be some of the greatest sports cars ever created. Today, all the generations of the Skyline GT-R are considered to be serious collectors items, but there is one other Nissan GT-R that is often forgotten.
The Nissan Pulsar GTI-R (also known as the Sunny GTI-R in Europe) was significantly more affordable than the Skyline GT-Rs from the period, but it still offered oodles of performance while being somewhat practical. In this guide we are going to look at everything you need to know about buying one of these rare, Japanese hot hatches.
How to use this Nissan Pulsar GTI-R Buyer’s Guide
To start off, we are going to be covering the history and the specifications of the Pulsar GTI-R. Following those two sections we will get into the buyer’s guide portion of the article and then we will cover more general car purchasing advice (how to get yourself the best deal, etc.). At the end of this guide, we have some general information on how to import a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R from Japan.
Note: Thanks to Southern Specialist Cars in Christchurch New Zealand for letting us come and take some photos of their excellent 1994 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R. You can check out their website here.
The History of the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
In the eighties and nineties, a number of car manufacturers produced homologation variants of their vehicles to meet entry requirements for motorsport championships such as the WRC. While rallying was dominated by European and American manufacturers such as Lancia, Peugeot, Ford and Audi, Japanese manufacturers wanted a piece of the action as well.
They became more involved in the rally (and motorsports scene in general) in eighties and by the end of the decade there was a big push to show that they were the best. Nissan’s R32 GT-R had already seen great success in the world of Group A circuit racing, but the company wanted something that could compete on demanding rally stages.
The company had already entered the WRC with varying levels of success, but at the end of the eighties, they really wanted a car that could take it to the Lancia Delta Integrale, the Toyota Celica GT-Four, and other top performers in the WRC.
Nissan decided to base the new rally car off the N14 Pulsar (Sunny in Europe and Sentra in New Zealand). This new N14 Pulsar was rounder than the previous generation and came in 3 and 5-door hatchback variants, along with a 4-door sedan.
The Pulsar GTI-R
The Pulsar GTI-R was introduced the same year as the standard N14 models. Like the normal cars, the GTI-R was branded as a Pulsar for the Japanese market and as a Sunny for the European market, however, it competed in the WRC under the European name. The road going versions were also given two different chassis codes, E-RNN14 for the Japanese model and EGNN14 for the European bound one.
To create the GTI-R, Nissan’s engineers squeezed a turbocharged 2.0-litre SR20DET engine into the three-door hatchback version of the Pulsar. Power was as much as 227 hp (169 kW) and 280 Nm (210 lb-ft) of torque, making the GTI-R one of the most powerful hot hatches around.
The ATTESA all-wheel drive system that was first introduced on the 1987 Bluebird also made an appearance on the GTI-R. This system was one of the most advanced all-wheel drive systems at the time and the combination of it, the immense power and the lightweight body meant that the Pulsar could hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in roughly 5 and a half seconds and go on to a respectable 232 km/h (144 mph).
While the body remained largely the same as the standard three-door car, it featured a new large rear wing, a bonnet scoop and a subtle bodykit that gave the vehicle a much more aggressive appearance.
Variants of the GTI-R
During the car’s production lifecycle, Nissan created a number of different variants with different model codes.
GTI-RA – EBYNRVFN14TXXXXXXX
The GTI-RA was the standard version of the car and came with air conditioning, power windows and mirrors and ABS. Around August 1992, Nissan introduced a raft of cosmetic changes to the interior of the RA. The biggest change was to replace the trim that was largely unique to the GTI-R with trim from other N14 models.
In total, Nissan replaced around 10 items, enough to be somewhat noticeable. These revised GTI-Rs were given chassis numbers starting from RNN14-10000 and are known as Series 2. There were some very minor changes in each series, but the main alterations came between Series 1 and 2 (or Early & Late / Zenki & Kouki).
The main reason for the simplification of the RA’s interior was due to the lead up to the planned conclusion of the N14 platform’s production.
GTI-RB – EBYNRRFN14TXXXXXXX
This was essentially the stripped down homologation model that had items such as the air conditioning, power windows, and ABS removed in the name of weight saving. In addition to these removed components, Nissan also gave the car a simpler interior, which all combined meant that the RB weighed in at around 1,190 kg (2,624 lbs), 30 kg (66 lbs) less than the RA. On the outside the only visual difference between the two cars was the non-colour-coded side mirrors on the RB.
A close-ratio gearbox was also came as an option (77% fitted) and some RA items such as the air conditioning and rear wipers could be added. For those who wanted more performance, Nissan’s motorsport division Nismo offered some upgraded components such as new suspension and even a mechanical limited slip differential. These Nismo parts were installed by Autech, a Japanese company focused on tuning and converting Nissan vehicles.
Below we have listed a rundown of the changes to the RB GTI-R:
- No air condition but could be added as an option
- No power windows but available as an option
- 30 kg lighter (66 lbs)
- Close ratio gearbox (77% of cars fitted with it)
- No umbrella holder (vent in its place)
- Larger rear fins on the rear diff housing
- Steel wheels
- Most bits from base Pulsar
- No ABS
- Nismo mechanical front Limited Slip Differential (80% fitted)
- Non-colour coded side mirrors
- Standard paint colours was Ivory white, but other colours were available
Sunny GTI-R – EBYNLXN14XXXXXXX
As we mentioned earlier in this article, the Sunny badge was used for European bound N14 models, including the GTI-R. European cars featured the chassis number of EGNN14 and the same engine and mechanicals as the Japanese model. However, power and torque was slightly less for the Sunny at 217 hp (162 kW) and 267 Nm (197 lb-ft) of torque. This reduction in power was due to the ECU having slightly different fuel and ignition maps than the Pulsar as the fuel available in Europe at the time was slightly lower octane.
Nissan only offered RA versions of the car, however, they were available in both left-hard drive and right-hand drive configurations. Apart from the badge, the only obvious visual change was the rear number plate surround that was altered to accommodate the wider European plates. There were also some slight changes to the interior with some of the basic trim from the RB making its way into the Sunny and the dials were scaled differently.
Nismo Pulsar GTI-R
Along with offering some optional upgrades, Nismo also produced a total of 21 “complete cars” which were given features such as uprated suspension, limited slip differentials, a roll cage, added strengthening plates around the strut towers and even Nismo specific footrests. Each of these vehicles was given a numbered Nismo VIN plate that is located on the firewall.
The Autech GTI-Rs are essentially base models that were originally ordered with options that required a factory install. There was no pre-defined package and the options varied (expect for the Nismo above).
Some of these cars were specified at the pre-production stage and were recorded as “Autech Vehicles”. Those that were ordered after production have no such records.
Autech did not carry out any special tuning on these cars and there were no unique badges or plaques apart from a small “Autech Japan” sticker on the boot/trunk.
How Many Pulsar GTI-Rs were Produced?
In total, Nissan produced 14,613 GTI-Rs. The RA made up the majority of these cars with 13,131 of them being produced, while 701 RBs and 771 Sunny GTI-Rs made up the rest. Production started in Japan in August 1990 and continued until November 1994. The first year saw the biggest production numbers as Nissan needed to meet the FIA Group A regulations which required a total of 5,000 models produced with 500 of them being homologation versions (RB GTI-R).
Nissan manufactured the first load of Series 1 cars (known as Phase A) at their Tochigi plant. These cars were given the plant code “M”, while the rest of production was carried out by Fuji Heavy Industries at their Yajima plant.
How Did the GTI-R Perform in Rallying?
Unfortunately, the GTI-R didn’t perform nearly well as hoped during its two years of service in 1991 and 1992. Nissan entered the GTI-R under Group A rules in the FIA WRC. The car raced under the Nissan Motorsports Europe (NME) factory team and it was decided that the car would only compete in rallies that they believed would have the highest potential for a good result.
Those results didn’t materialise in 1991 and after only nine rallies the next year the project was abandoned. Nissan halted factory support and development, and the GTI-R never won a WRC Group A rally.
Part of the reason for the car’s poor results was the combination of subpar Dunlop tyres and the inefficiency of the top-mounted intercooler when power was increased to meet the standards of Group A rallying (especially so in hotter climates).
Following the GTI-R’s lacklustre performance in Group A rallying, Nissan decided to turn their attention the world of endurance racing and even had a go in the F2 category of the WRC with their front-wheel drive Sunny GTI.
Nissan Pulsar GTI-R Specifications
|Model||Nissan Pulsar/Sunny GTI-R|
|Year of production||1990 – 1994|
|Layout||Transverse front-engine, all-wheel drive|
|Engine/Engines||2.0-litre SR20DET turbo I4|
|Power||227 hp (169 kW) – Japan|
217 hp (162 kW) – Europe
|Torque||280 Nm (210 lb-ft) at 4,800 rpm – Japan|
267 Nm (197 lb-ft) at 4,800 rpm – Europe
|Gearbox||5-speed manual (close ratio transmission on RB models)|
|Suspension Front||Independent, McPherson, anti-roll bar|
|Suspension Rear||Multilink, anti-roll bar|
|Tyres||195/55 R 14|
|Weight||GTI-RA – 1220 kg (2690.1 lbs)|
GTI-RB – 1,190 kg (2,624 lbs)
|Top speed||232 km/h (144 mph).|
|0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)||5.4 – 5.9 seconds (depending on tester)|
Nissan Pulsar/Sunny GTI-R Buying Guide
With the history and specifications of the GTI-R covered, let’s take a look at what you need to know about purchasing one of these early nineties hot hatches. These cars are starting to get on a bit and many of them have been owned by people who have not looked after them properly. The Pulsar/Sunny GTI-R was a fairly rare car, so finding a really good example may take a bit of time.
Arranging an Inspection of a Pulsar GTI-R
Setting up an inspection is a crucial step in the used car purchasing process. Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up an inspection of a GTI-R:
- View the Pulsar or Sunny in person or get a reliable third party to do so for you – Buying a used car sight unseen is always risky, so make sure you look yourself or get a reliable third party to do the inspection for you. If you are looking at importing a GTI-R, try to find a trusted importer who can get the car checked out for you.
- Inspect the GTI-R at the seller’s house or place of business if possible – This is a good idea as it will let you get a rough idea of how and where the Pulsar GTI-R you are interested in has been stored. In addition to this, you can get a bit of an idea of what sort of roads it is regularly driven on. If they are particularly rough the suspension components may have taken a bit of a beating.
- Go look at the car in the morning – This will largely depend on you and the seller’s schedule, but if possible, try to inspect the car in the morning. Viewing a used car in the morning will give the seller less time to clean up any issues (such as a big oil leak) and they will be less likely to have pre-warmed the vehicle.
- Bring along a helper – Whether you have some knowledge about cars or not, it is always a good idea to bring a helper along with you to a used car inspection. They can not only give you their thoughts on the Nissan GTI-R you are interested in, but they may also be able to spot something you missed.
- Try not to inspect a Pulsar GTI-R in the rain – This goes for any car really as water can hide numerous issues with the bodywork and it can make the paint look better than it really is. If you do look at a Pulsar or Sunny GTI-R in the rain, try to go back for a second viewing before purchasing the vehicle.
- Watch out for cars that have been freshly washed – this is largely for the same reason as above, but also watch out for sellers who have washed the engine bay and underside of the vehicle as it may be a sign that there is a problem (oil leaks, etc.).
How Much is a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R Worth?
This is a bit of a tricky question as it really depends on the condition of a particular GTI-R, where its being sold, its specifications and more. For instance, a Nismo version with low mileage and in great condition is going to be worth a lot more than an RA that looks like it has just been through all stages of the Acropolis Rally.
As this is the case, expect prices to range anywhere from around US$10,000 to upwards of $35,000 for a really good example. There are some outliers (some higher and some lower), but most cars should fall in this range.
To find out how much you should spend on a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, check your local auction/classifieds or dealer/importers websites for any cars for sale. Additionally, have a look at any Nissan owners clubs in your area to see if there are any GTI-Rs for sale. You can then use the prices from these places to work out roughly what you need to spend on a Pulsar or Sunny GTI-R. Remember, it is a good idea to keep at least a few thousand dollars back for any unforeseen costs.
Is the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R Expensive to Maintain
While servicing can be done at any competent Nissan specialist or mechanic, parts are becoming very hard to find for these cars. This makes owning a Pulsar GTI-R quite expensive, especially if you are located somewhere like the United States, where there are very few of them. Sourcing parts can also take a while, so keep that in mind.
Where is a Good Place to Buy a Nissan Pulsar or Sunny GTI-R?
The best places to find a Nissan GTI-R for sale is usually owners clubs such as GTI-R Motorsport Club, GTI-ROZ (Australia/NZ), Canada GTiR or some other sort of Nissan club. Owners in these clubs tend to be more enthusiastic about their cars and will usually look after them better.
Another great place to look is on specialist car auctions sites such as bringatrailer.com where they vet the prior to listing it. Alternatively, if you are struggling to find a suitable car in your location, enlisting the help of a trusted importer is a great option (more on that later).
Following this, regular auction/classified websites and dealers are a good option. However, remember that buying through a dealer will almost certainly be more expensive than through a private sale.
Should I Get a Mechanic to Inspect a GTI-R Prior to Purchase?
Even if you are experienced with cars it may be a good idea to get a trusted Nissan specialist or mechanic to look at the car you are interested in. You don’t have to do this for every GTI-R you go and inspect, but it can be a good idea for any car you are seriously interested in buying.
This is especially a good idea as the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R is an appreciating classic and more than a few of them have been looked after incredibly poorly. Spending a bit of money here, may save you a lot of money down the track.
Inspecting the VIN/Chassis Number
The VIN or chassis number is a series of characters and numbers that manufacturers such as Nissan assign to their vehicles at the factory. This combination of numbers and characters can tell you quite a lot of information about the car you are inspecting.
You can find the VIN/chassis number on the VIN plate on the firewall at the back of the engine bay. Remember to check the chassis number and have a look at the model code as well (underneath the chassis number).
- Series 1 cars should have a chassis code below RNN14 – 100000 and will have been produced from 08/1990 to 07/1992
- Series 2 cars should have a chassis code above RNN14 – 100000 and will have been produced from 08/1992 to 11/1994
The model number should be as follows:
- GTI-RA – EBYNRVFN14TXXXXXXX
- GTI-RB – EBYNRRFN14TXXXXXXX
- Sunny GTI-R – EBYNLXN14XXXXXXX
Note: the Xs at the end represent a series of characters/numbers specific to that particular car.
As we mentioned in the history section of this article, the 21 Nismo models came with a unique individually numbered Nismo plate on the firewall in addition to the standard VIN plate.
You can enter the VIN/chassic number into a checkup website such as CarFax to see what comes up. Some of these VIN checkup websites will be able to tell you if the car has been written off at any point or had some other sort of issue. These websites are usually region limited, so keep that in mind.
If the VIN plate appears to be missing or numbers have been scratched off the vehicle may have been stolen at some point. Additionally, if the VIN doesn’t match the specs of the car it may have been in an accident or the owner may be falsely advertising the vehicle. Alternatively, it may be a simple mistake, but remember to ask the owner about it.
The Pulsar GTI-R was designed to be thrashed so don’t be surprised to find that many of the ones you go to look at have engines in less than satisfactory condition. This problem is only compounded by the fact that GTI-Rs were fairly cheap at one point, but the parts were expensive to source, so a massive percentage have not been maintained properly. The SR20DET fitted to the car was the strongest and most capable produced, but there is only so much it can take, so watch out!
To start your inspection of the engine, move around to the front of the car and lift up the bonnet/hood. If you have problems opening the bonnet or it doesn’t seem straight, the vehicle may have been in an accident or it may have some other sort of issue (more on that in the exterior and bodywork section).
Once you open the bonnet/hood, take a good look at the engine bay and watch out for any glaring issues such as a big oil leak or any broken parts. If the engine bay is completely spotless it is probably a sign of a good owner, however, it may also be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up (like a big oil leak).
Take a mental note of any modifications and even write them down so you can check to make sure they are suitable for the car. While we would usually always recommend finding a really good example, the Pulsar GTI-R is an incredibly rare car so you may have to weigh up doing some repairs to get one (keep in mind that may be expensive). However, avoid any car that needs a lot of work done to it.
Inspecting the Fluid Levels and Conditions
Once you have taken a good general look at the engine bay, move onto checking the fluids. Incorrect fluid levels or fluids in poor condition with foreign particles in them are a big problem and are a sign of poor maintenance. If there is froth on the dipstick it may be an indication of a failed or leaking head gasket. Another thing to check for are any metallic particles or grit, if you see any, walk away.
It is a good idea to check with the owner/seller to see what oil they use in their car. Most owners tend to use something like a 10W-40 or 10W-50 weight oil. Lower winter viscosity oils will provide better protection during cold starts, so some owners like to use something like a 0W-40 or 5W-40 in the winter. Owners who track their GTI-R regularly may even use something as high as 10W-60, however, we would probably avoid any Pulsar GTI-R that has seen regularly track use.
It is incredibly important that you check that the oil and oil filter have been replaced at around the 8,000 km (5,000 mile mark). Some owners like to change the oil even earlier at around 5,000 km (3,000 miles), but this probably isn’t necessary with modern synthetics. However, if they do replace the oil this regularly it probably shows that they care about their GTI-R.
When it comes to the oil filter, make sure an OEM oil filter with the part number 15208-53J00 (15208-53J0A / 15208-31U0B) has been fitted. Aftermarket oil filters are available from the likes of K&N and Mobil 1. These are perfectly fine but be very cautious if the car is fitted with a poor quality one from the likes of Fram.
If the Pulsar GTI-R you are looking at has not been driven regularly, the oil and oil filter should have been replaced every 6 to 12 months. This is because old oil can breakdown and became contaminated/diluted.
Keep an Eye Out for any Oil Leaks
Nissan cars from this period tended to suffer from leaky crank seals (a leak from the front can be quite common), leaks around the oil pan gasket and around the oil filter. Minor leaks around the valve cover are usually fine, however, they can be a sign of a more serious, expensive issue.
If you do notice any oil leaks during your inspection of a Pulsar GTI-R, try to get a rough idea of where they are coming from and the severity of the issue. Make sure you check for oil leaks both before and after a test drive as you may find that a spotless engine bay isn’t so spotless after a but of a drive. If you notice any large puddles of oil underneath the car, walk away.
Does the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R Have a Timing Belt or Chain?
Thankfully, the GTI-R’s SR20DET engine uses a timing chain instead of a belt, so you don’t have to worry about replacing it at a specified interval. While the timing chain should last the lifetime of the engine, the reality is quite different and it may need to be replaced at some point. If the chain is making a rattling noise it should be replaced as soon as possible. Alternatively, try use a different weight of oil first to see if it fixes the problem. Check the service history to see if the timing chain has ever been replaced at any point.
Another possible reason for a rattling sound from the timing chain area is a bad chain tensioner. The tensioner and chain guides can wear overtime and will need to eventually be replaced. If the chain was replaced at any point, make sure that these parts were replaced as well, along with the water pump and thermostat.
The best way to keep the timing chain and other timing components healthy and happy is to make sure the engine is regularly topped of with a fresh supply of clean oil. If the engine oil hasn’t been replaced regularly, problems are more likely to occur with the timing components.
Issues with the cooling system can lead to total engine failure, so take your time inspecting as many of the cooling components as possible. Have a really good look around the coolant hoses, expansion tank and other parts. If you see any leaks or signs of past leaks (crusty coolant), be very cautious of the vehicle. Below we have put together a quick list of the main components that make up a Pulsar GTI-R’s cooling system:
- Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
- Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
- Intercooler– decreases the temperature of the compressed air and increases the density of it so that an engine can breathe in the maximum amount of air.
- Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine
- Overflow or Expansion bottle – removes air from the system and provides a filling point
- Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system
Just like with oil leaks, make sure you check the cooling system both before and after a test drive to make sure there are no issues. The coolant height should be roughly the same level before and after a drive, but a very slight change is perfectly fine.
Check with the owner to see what coolant they use in their car. It is recommended that something like Genuine Nissan Engine Coolant or Prestone Asian Vehicle Coolant be used, however, some owners like to use Toyota Red Coolant. Additionally, make sure the coolant has been replaced every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) if Nissan Long Life Coolant has been used (check the coolant manufacturers recommend service interval if something else has been used).
If the coolant is brown or muddy in colour it is a sign that it has not been replaced in a long time and indicates that the Pulsar GTI-R you are looking at has not been maintained correctly.
Lots of owners fit aftermarket intercoolers to their GTI-Rs, so keep this in mind (note down the brand/manufacturer and check any reviews.
What Are the Signs of Cooling Issues & Head Gasket Failure?
In the section below we have listed some things that may indicate the Pulsar GTI-R you are looking at is suffering from cooling problems or a blown head gasket.
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- Oil that is white and milky
- Fouled spark plugs (if you can get to see them)
- Low cooling system integrity
- Engine oil that smells of coolant
- Sweet exhaust smell
- Leaking coolant
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
- High temperatures
Some of the issues above are more serious than others, but if you notice multiple of them we would pass on the GTI-R.
If the Pulsar GTI-R you are looking at has been rebuilt due to overheating or a head gasket failure, try to find out who did the work. While a rebuilt/repaired engine is perfectly fine, overheating issues can be difficult to fix. To be on the safer side, we recommend that you don’t purchase a GTI-R that has only got a few thousand kilometres on a rebuilt engine as it is less of a known (however, if the work was carried out by a highly regarded specialist it is probably fine).
Taking a Look at the Exhaust
Remember to check over as much of the exhaust system as you can get a look at. Use a torch/flashlight and a mirror to get a look at hard-to-see areas. Exhaust problems can be expensive to fix, especially if the whole system needs to be replaced or any major components need to come out. Below we have listed some things to watch out for:
- Rust/Corrosion – This is going to be more of an issue with the original exhaust or cars that have been fitted with cheap mild steel aftermarket exhausts. A good quality stainless steel exhaust system really shouldn’t rust (although it can happen with time). Rust issues are more likely to be a problem in countries with harsh winters and those that salt their roads (UK for example). Rust can also occur from the inside out, so don’t assume it is not there if you can’t see it.
- Black sooty stains – This problem usually indicates that there is a leak. A simple reweld may be all that is required, however, if it is really bad a whole new exhaust may be needed.
- Cracks or accident damage – Have a good look for any large cracks, dents or scrapes as they can be a problem. If there is lots of damage it suggests that the GTI-R has been owned by a careless owner.
- Bad repairs – Repairs that have been done on the cheap are a ticking time bomb and are a sign that the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R you are looking at has not been maintained correctly.
- Mounting hardware – Along with the exhaust system itself, have a look at the mounting hardware. If it looks like it has seen better days it may lead to rattles or some other sort of issue.
A Word on Aftermarket Exhausts
There are simply too many aftermarket and custom exhausts out there to really go into detail. If you are looking at a GTI-R with a custom/aftermarket exhaust, try to find out the manufacturer and check their reviews. A good brand or maker stainless steel exhaust will only be a plus unless you are looking for 100% originality. Lots of owners have fitted aftermarket exhausts because not only are they looking for a better noise and/or performance, but the original exhaust system can be hard to source.
Check When the Spark Plugs Were Last Replaced
The spark plugs should have been replaced every 96,000 km (60,000 miles) if iridium or platinum plugs have been used. Some owners like to use copper plugs, but these should be changed much more frequently. This isn’t a major issue as there are only four plugs and they are easy to get to.
Rubber Hose from the Wastegate Actuator
Check that the rubber hose from the wastegate actuator to the tee piece and then to the boost solenoid and plenum are present and connected. If this is missing the car will be running unlimited boost and the engine will blow in the very near future.
Starting Up a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R for the First Time
It is always a good idea to get the seller to start the vehicle for you for the first time. We recommend this for the following couple of reasons:
- So you can get a look at what is coming out of the back
- To see if the owner revs the GTI-R hard when it is cold. If they do this, move onto another car.
At a later point, we recommend that you start the vehicle yourself and check for any warning lights on the dashboard. You should notice some (for example, “ABS” if the GTI-R you are looking at has it -RB models do not have ABS). If no warning lights come on the dash during start-up, it may be a sign that the owner has disconnected them to hide an issue. Have a look at the start-up sequence below to get a rough idea what you should see.
What Should the Idle Speed Be on a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R?
Once the car settles, expect the idle speed to be in the 800 – 900 rpm range. However, lots of owners seem to experience higher idle with some seeing around 1,000 rpm (+/-50). Incorrect/bad idle can be caused by a whole load of different things. Here is a quick rundown of some of the causes of bad idle and some of the components that can have an effect on the idle.
- IAS Idle Air Screw – used for setting he base idle
- AAC Auxiliary Air Control valve – main solenoid that the ECU uses to regulate the idle speed
- Worn throttle butterflies or throttle housing – air could be leaking past the butterflies or through the spindles
- IAR Idle Air Regulator – Switches on when the car is started. It should gradually close as the vehicle heats up (will take around 3 minutes
- FICD Fast Idle Control Device – Designed to raise the idle speed whenever the engine comes under heavy load
- Throttle balance screws – if these are adjusted too far out it can lead to high idle. One screw on each intake
- Ignition too far advanced at idle
- Vacuum ports – There should be one port on each intake that is used with the vacuum gauge for balancing the throttle bodies
- Incorrectly adjusted throttle butterfly stops – Prevents the butterflies from closing properly
- Poorly adjusted throttle pedal/cable
- Fault with the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) – Tells the ECU the wrong information
- Leaking blow off valve
- Plenum gasket or inlet manifold gasket leak
- Leak in the intake pipes – Pipes are rubber so they will eventually go bad
- Lambda sensor that has developed a fault – Can lead to an incorrect fuel/air mixture and resultant bad idle
- Aftermarket fuel controller that is set incorrectly
As you can see, the list of things that have an effect on the idle is quite high, so you will probably have trouble pinpointing the exact cause. If it was a really simple fix, the owner probably would have got the problem sorted. Alternatively, they may have simply not noticed or they may not mind the high idle.
Remember to Check the Oil Pressure Gauge
The oil pressure should be >1kg/cm² (>14psi / >98kPa) at idle, and 3.5-4.5kg/cm² (49-64psi / 343-441kPa) at 3,200 rpm. If the oil pressure is slow to build up it may be a sign that the crank is worn, even if it is not rattling yet.
Rattling Top End
Have a listen to the top of the engine, if it sounds like it is rattling it may be a sign that the cams need to be re-shimmed. If this is the case expect a fairly large bill as the shims plus labour is quite expensive.
GTI-R Won’t Rev Beyond 3,000 rpm
If you notice that the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R you are test driving doesn’t want to go above around 3,000 rpm it suggests that there is a problem with the engine management system or a sensor issue. Walks away from the vehicle if this is the case.
Check What Comes Out the Back
As we mentioned earlier, get the owner to start the GTI-R for you so you can see what comes out the back. Hold up a white piece of paper or cloth to see how much soot gets on it. Large amounts could be a sign of an issue.
Don’t worry about a small amount of vapour on engine start-up as this is perfectly normal and is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust (this is usually more noticeably on a cold day). If you see lots of vapour or smoke and it doesn’t go away, move onto another Nissan GTI-R as the one you are looking at isn’t worth your time. Here are what the different colours of smoke indicate:
White smoke – If you notice lots of white smoke from the Nissan Pulsar you are looking at, it may be a sign that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant.
Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things from worn piston rings, valve seals or a bad turbocharger. If you see this colour smoke on startup it may be a sign of a bit of an oil burning issue or that the vehicle has been thrashed. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the GTI-R. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.
Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.
Checking the Turbo on a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
The turbocharger will eventually fail, but its life can be greatly extended with regular maintenance and oil changes with good quality oil. Some owners upgrade/change the turbocharger with an aftermarket one if they are looking to squeeze more power out of there cars. While this is okay, it is important to find out who did the work and find out the full list of components that were changed. If the turbocharger is in a bad way, move onto another Nissan GTI-R.
What are the Signs of a Failing Turbocharger
Listen out for any weird whistling, rumbling or high-pitched metallic sounds when the turbo is at full boost. If the turbo is making these sort of sounds it is well past its prime. However, the turbocharger will probably completely fail before making these sort of sounds. Here are some signs of a failing turbo:
- Distinctive blue/grey smoke – This usually indicates that the seals are worn, however, it can also be a sign of a cracked turbo housing (pretty unlikely).
- Burning lots of oil – It is hard to get an accurate picture of this during a test drive, but try to glean some information from the owner.
- Slow acceleration– If the car feels slow it is a good indication that the turbo has failed or is failing. This is why we recommend that you test drive a few different Pulsar or Sunny GTI-Rs to get an idea of how fast they are. However, remember that modified cars with more power will be faster than stock models.
- If the boost pressure comes on late– Boost pressure that comes at higher than normal rpms could indicate either a worn or unbalanced turbocharger.
- Check Engine Warning Light– The check engine light (CEL) can be displayed for a number of reasons, from major to minor. One of these reasons may be due to a failing/failed turbocharger. If the light is on and you notice some of the other symptoms we have listed above, then it is a good sign that the turbo has failed.
Note: Some of the issues above can be the result of problems with the pipes going to the turbocharger.
Buying a GTI-R with a Rebuilt or Replaced Engine
There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R with a rebuilt or replaced engine, just make sure the work was carried out by a competent specialist or mechanic who knows about the GTI-R/SR20. Be extremely cautious of any home rebuild or engine swap as most home mechanics have more ambition than skill.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, try to avoid any GTI-R that has limited miles on a rebuild or replacement. A GTI-R with 8,000 km (5,000 miles) on a rebuild or replacement is going to be a much safer purchase.
Do I Need to Get a Leak Down or Compression Test Done Before Purchase?
Not necessarily, but if you are going to take the Pulsar or Sunny to a mechanic for a final inspection before purchase, get them to do a test. A leak down or compression test can give you a bit more information about the health of the SR20DET engine inside the GTI-R you are interested in.
Some owners will get a compression or leak down test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. If they have done that, find out who did the test and check any reviews to see if they are trustworthy.
There are way too many modifications available for the GTI-R’s engine to talk about, so we have just put together some general information. If you are looking at a modified GTI-R (a massive percentage of these cars have been modified), try to find out who did the work and see if they have good feedback. Additionally, find out what was replaced/upgraded and check that the new components are suitable and from a good brand (note them down for later reference).
Common stage one modifications include things like a new exhaust, air filter, remap of the ECU and a lighter flywheel. Be cautious of any GTI-R that is running serious amounts of power (280 bhp is believed to be about the maximum for continued reliability).
The transmission is probably where you are going to see the bulk of the issues. Many owners have reported issues with both the gearbox and clutch, so take your time going through all the gears at both low and high engine speeds.
Synchro wear is a common issue, especially on Pulsar GTI-Rs that have been thrashed, so watch out for any crunching or graunching during shifts. This problem is usually most apparent at high engine speeds. If the transmission is in a really bad way, it will need to be rebuilt or replaced (very expensive).
Remember to check how the gearbox feels when the car is stationary and don’t be concerned if the shifts feel a bit stiff when the vehicle is cold (they should loosen up once warm).
The transmission fluid should have been replaced every 40,000 km (25,000 miles) or every 2 – 3 years. If it has not it is a sign of poor maintenance. Something like Redline MTL/MT-90 is recommended for the gearbox in a Pulsar GTI-R. Check with the owner to see what is used in their Nissan.
It is a good idea to check if there has been any major work done to the gearbox as if there has it is a sign that the vehicle may have been thrashed.
These cars can chew through clutches, especially if they are driven hard. Clutch issues are more likely to be found on cars running uprated boost. If the GTI-R you are inspecting is running more power, make sure it has been fitted with a better clutch.
Clutch Engagement – The first thing we recommend that you do is to see how the clutch engages. If it engages high up in the pedal travel there could be a problem. Alternatively, if the clutch feels soft or stays on the floor there is an issue that needs to be addressed (could be a clutch master/slave cylinder issue).
Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going (fifth is a good gear to choose as it pits the most load on the clutch). You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.
Clutch Drag – Find a nice flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor with the car in first. Keep your foot of the brake and rev the car. If the car moves it suggests that the clutch is not disengaging when you shift, leading to premature wear.
Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated. Not a major problem, but it will probably set you back at least a couple of hundred dollars.
Steering and Suspension
The suspension and steering components on many of these cars has seen better days, so don’t be surprised to find issues here (most components will last around 160,000 km/100,000 miles). Many owners have fitted aftermarket suspension to improve performance, however, in some cases this can make the ride especially harsh during road use.
Watch out for a floating/nervous feeling, especially at higher speeds as this indicates there is a problem. If you have any doubts about the suspension and steering components on the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R you are inspecting, don’t purchase the car until you can get it properly checked out.
If you notice excessive vibration through the steering wheel it could be something like an out of balance wheel or a damaged tyre.
Below we have put together a general list of things that indicate that the suspension and/or steering components on the Pulsar GTI-R you are inspecting are in a bad way.
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
- Tipping during cornering
- High speed instability
- Delayed or longer stopping distances
- Uneven tyre wear
- Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Sagging or uneven suspension
- Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive (this may be caused by something else, but bad suspension and steering componentry is a common issue)
- Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
- Clicking sounds – could be caused by a damaged axle boot or a bad wheel bearing
Make sure you visually inspect as many of the steering and suspension components as possible. Watch out for any leaks, damaged or worn parts. If you notice that one side is different to the other it may be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident. A torch/flashlight and a mirror will come in handy here.
Make Sure the Wheel Alignment is Good
Don’t forget to check the wheel alignment. Take the car down a flat, straight section of road to check for this. If the car doesn’t drive straight it suggests that the wheel alignment is out. Incorrect wheel alignment will lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear and will make the driving experience less enjoyable and possibly even less safe.
Wheels & Tyres
Have a good look at the wheels and make sure they are in good condition. Lots of curb damage here suggests that the GTI-R has been owned by a careless owner and getting the damage repaired could be expensive.
While most of these cars seem to be fitted with aftermarket wheels now, we recommend that you ask the owner if they have the originals. Most sellers probably won’t have them, but if they do try to get them included as they will only add value to the GTI-R. If they don’t, ask for a cheeky discount.
While you are inspecting the rims take a good look at the tyres and check for the following:
- Amount of tread– Check how much tread is left on the tyres as if they need to be replaced soon you should try to get a discount on the Pulsar GTI-R
- Uneven wear– Wear should be even between the right and left tyres. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself (check the inside and outside edge)
- Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
- Same tyre – in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.
Many owners find the stock brakes underpowered, so don’t be surprised to find an uprated set. If the Nissan GTI-R you are looking at does have non-stock brakes, ask the seller if they have the originals.
Apart from that, check that the pads and rotors are in good condition and ask for a discount if they are not. The brake fluid should have been changed every couple of years, so check with the owner and in the service history to make sure this has been done.
When test driving a Pulsar GTI-R, check the brakes under both light and hard braking conditions. Do repeated high to low speed braking runs and if they feel particularly weak or spongy there is a problem.
If you find that the Pulsar GTI-R you are test driving pulls to one side during braking or brakes erratically, it may be a sign that the vehicle has a sticking/seized caliper. This issue usually happens if the car has been left to sit for a while unused. A loud thud when you pull away for the first time can also be a sign of this problem.
Shuddering or shaking when the brakes are applied are a sign of warped rotors/discs. This issue is more likely to become first apparent under high-speed braking.
Body & Exterior
Bodywork issues can be a real nightmare to put right, so make sure you are happy with the condition of the body before purchase. A problem here could be seriously expensive to fix, so take your time.
Is Rust an Issue on the Nissan Pulsar/Sunny GTI-R?
Unfortunately, rust can be a bit of an issue on Nissan’s from this period and it can be very expensive to fix (in some cases it may not be fixable at all). Rust is more likely to occur around the rear arches and the door sills, but check the entire car for the problem as it can happen anywhere. It is also important to check for rust/corrosion inside the car as well as any water ingress could lead to the issue forming.
Rust is almost always a bigger problem than it first appears, so be very cautious if you see any. Do not purchase any Pulsar GTI-R with serious rust issues as it is probably unsalvageable.
What Can Make Rust More Likely to Occur?
- Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads
- Car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
- Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
- If the Nissan GTI-R has always been kept outside (never garaged)
- Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
Looking for Rust Repairs
It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).
Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.
Looking for Accident Damage
The Nissan Pulsar GTI-R was designed to be thrashed and as a result, many of them have been in contact with things they shouldn’t have been in contact with. What makes this worse is that many of them have been repaired poorly for a quick sale. Always assume the worst when it comes to accident damage and hope for the best!
Here are some things to watch out for that may indicate that the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R you are looking at has been in an accident:
- Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Inspect the doors, tailgate and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage. If the panels are uneven it could suggest an accident has occurred.
- Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Nissan Pulsar or Sunny you are inspecting may have been in an accident or may have some sort of other problem.
- Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – This is a good indication of crash damage or rust repair.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This is usually a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and that the owner is careless. This problem can be fixed but is a pain to get right.
- Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the vehicle and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
- Rust in strange locations – indicates that the GTI-R you are inspecting has been in an accident or has some other problem.
- Paint runs or overspray – This could be a factory issue or a sign of a poor repair.
- Missing badges or trim – can be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
- Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights – This is very difficult to fix if the car has been in an accident, so watch out for this.
While accident damage shouldn’t be an instant dismissal, walk away if the repair job is to a poor standard or the accident caused very serious damage. Light to moderate damage that has been repaired correctly by a skilled panel beater/body shop is perfectly fine.
Watch out for owners/sellers who try to cover up or lie about the accident as it suggests that the incident was worse than it first appears or that the repair job was poor. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.
Check That All GTI-R Body Parts are Present
If the car is missing the GTI-R specific body parts (wing, etc.) it will be expensive to source them. If you still want to purchase the car, make sure you get a very hefty discount.
Replacing any GTI-R specific interior parts (mainly on RA models) will be expensive as they are hard to source. Parts that are shared with the regular N14 Pulsar or Sunny are still fairly easy to find. Finding an original undamaged dashboard will be extremely difficult and expensive, so make sure the one in the GTI-R you are looking at is in good condition (remember to use a sunshade at all times if you purchase one of these cars). If the dash has been replaced, make sure it has been done properly.
Take a good look at the seats, paying particular attention to the bolsters. Watch out for any rips, stains or scuffs and if they are in a bad way make sure you ask for a discount as reupholstering all of them will be expensive. If the seats move during acceleration and/or braking it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure.
Feel around the interior for any dampness as this suggests a leak is present. Lift up the floor mats and if there is water residue on the bottom it is a sign that there is or was a leak. If you do find any leaks be cautious as rust may have formed. A brake master-cylinder seal failure can lead to brake fluid leaking onto the driver’s footwell carpet. Make sure you also check that the spare wheel is in the back and that there are no leaks or rust around this area.
Wind noise can be a bit of a problem as the roof can become detached from the roof frame. Additionally, the door-seals can perish, which will lead to excessive wind noise.
If you notice excessive amounts of wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage it may be an indicative of a car that has had a hard life, or, alternatively, the odometer may have been wound back.
Remember to have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the GTI-R you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.
Electronics, Windows, Locks, Etc.
Make sure all of the electronics, windows, locks, lights, dials, gauges, etc. work as intended. Erratic electric windows is quite a common issue and is usually down to a faulty connector. Fixing a problem here can often be quite expensive as parts are difficult to source.
The last thing to check is that the air conditioning works for Pulsar GTI-Rs with it fitted. Don’t let the owner tell you it just needs a re-gas if it doesn’t work as it is probably the compressor. Replacing the compressor will be quite expensive so keep this in mind.
General Car Buying Advice the For a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
How to Get the Best Deal on One of these Cars
This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.
- Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a Nissan Pulsar or Sunny GTI-R, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage RB GTI-R or are you happy with a car that has travelled far? Are modifications okay or do you want a stock model (stock models in good condition are extremely rare).
- Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. As these cars age, there are less and less of them around, but you should still be able to find some for sale.
- Go look at and test drive multiple Nissan GTI-Rs – Unfortunately, this can be a difficult thing to do as the Pulsar GTI-R is an extremely rare car.
- Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for one of these cars and only go for promising looking cars unless you are looking for a project GTI-R.
- Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
- Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
- Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple cars, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
- Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.
Mileage vs Condition
Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.
Service History and Other Documentation
It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Nissan specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). If the owner has done work themselves, try to get a gauge on how competent they are.
The service history will give you a good idea of how the Nissan Sunny or Pulsar you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.
If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.
Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.
Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner
- How often do you drive the car?
- When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
- How much oil does it use?
- What oil do you use in the car?
- What parts have been replaced?
- When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
- What’s the compression like?
- What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
- Has the vehicle overheated at any point?
- Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
- Is there any money owing on the car?
- Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
- Is the car tracked regularly or at all?
- When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
- Where do you store/park the car usually?
There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.
Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a GTI-R
Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.
- Overheating problems
- Significant Crash Damage
- Money owing on the car
- Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
- Excessive amounts of power
- Bad compression
- Bad resprays
- Significant rust problems
- Engine swaps with non-standard engines
- Significant track use
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
Notes on the Owner
The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Pulsar GTI-R (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.
- How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
- Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
- Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
- What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
- How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
- Do they know anything about the GTI-R and the model they are selling? (For example, do they know whether it is a RA or RB model?)
- What can they tell you about previous owners?
- Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
- What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
- What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
- How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
- How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?
If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another GTI-R
Importing a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R from Japan
The section below is more of a general guide on how to import a Nissan GTI-R from Japan to give you a rough idea of the process and what is involved. The vast majority of GTI-Rs were sold new in Japan and while there is a diminishing number of them in the country, there are some still available.
How to Import a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R From Japan?
While importing a GTI-R from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually quite easy. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search “import Nissan Pulsar GTI-R”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, condition, price and more.
Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.
Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:
JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.
Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.
Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.
Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!
Use a Private Importer
While the websites above are handy to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a Pulsar GTI-R, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find the perfect GTI-R for you and import it, saving you the hassle. A private importer is also better when it comes to rare vehicles such as one of these Nissans. While a private importer may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle.
You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.
How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work?
The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles
They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.
Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.
While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.
Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.
Use the grade to reduce the number of Pulsar GTI-Rs you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).
The Auction Check Sheet
Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R and where any problems are located.
Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.
What Does the Number Grade Mean?
- Grade 7 to 9 or S– New car with delivery miles.
- Grade 6– Same as above but with a few more miles.
- Grade 5– Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
- Grade 4.5– Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
- Grade 4– Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
- Grade 3.5– Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
- Grade 3– Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
- Grade 2– Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
- Grade 1– Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
- Grade 0, A, R, RA– Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade
As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.
The Car Map
The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.
Our Guidelines for Importing a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R from Japan
- Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
- If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
- Try to go through a private importer
- Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
- Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
- Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
- Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
- Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
- Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
- Avoid cars with unknown mileages
- Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
- Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws
Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example, some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.