The Nissan Pulsar was a pretty uninspiring car - filling the bill as very much just another small and affordable front wheel drive. The manual offered respectable performance, but those fitted with the automatic soon realised just how wheezy the engine was.
But there was one particular Pulsar that was far from being forgettable. Right from the get-out, the EXA received a positive reception and went a long way to establishing the credentials of compact turbocharged performance cars that we all take for granted today.
At the heart of the matter was the brilliant E15ET turbocharged 4. While it shared the same bore and stroke as the naturally aspirated 1.5 liter iteration, there were some concessions made to strengthen the engine to better handle the stresses of having a turbo fitted.
The strengthened con-rods were shortened by 3mm, thereby reducing compression from 9.0:1 to a turbo-friendly 7.4:1, piston rigidity was increased, the top piston rings were chromium plated (for improved wear resistance), and the gudgeon pins were strengthened.
Heat was always the enemy of the turbo, and the Nissan engineers had its measure. They fitted a heat exchanger to help reduce oil temperature, and an additional electric radiator fan was used to assist with direct cooling of the turbo unit and exhaust manifold. The Nissan/Garret T02 turbo featured an internal wastegate and was one of the first of a new breed of tiny turbos designed for low-lag application on small four cylinder engines. It used a peak boost pressure of 7 psi, and as with other Nissan turbo engines of the time, no intercooler was fitted.
So popular was the EXA that growing demand for a more practical derivative would see Nissan develop their own home-grown
Pulsar ET Turbo.
Pulsar ET Turbo, which incidentally was the very first Aussie built turbo hatchback, shared the same motor as the EXA. It offered exhilerating
performance from its 1.5 liter engine, combined with upmarket fittings and plenty of standard kit, such as four-wheel disc brakes (the original EXA having rear drums).
Nissan included its then sophisticated Electronic Fuel Injection (EGI) and computerised Electronic Concentrated Engine Control System (ECCS) on the locally built Pulsar ET's. This provided a power output rated at 77 kW @ 5600 rpm and a punchy 157 Nm of torque @ 3200 rpm.
The hatchback's sporting style was complemented with front and rear spoilers, subtle pinstriping and Australian designed cast alloy wheels. High levels of roadholding and adhesion were achieved thanks to the ET Turbo being shod with low profile 65 aspect tires and a performance tuned suspension.
Luxury features included Nissan's then unique winged bucket seats finished in Australian wool blend fabric, with a distinctive Woolmark imprint, and cloth headlining. A quality AM/FM radio cassette system was borrowed from the Nissan Bluebird LX and TRX models., and featured a digital read-out along with an omni-directional four speaker system adjusted via a "joystick".
The dash and instrument layout further highlighted the Pulsar's sporting image, it incorporating a tachometer and a turbo boost gauge. Suspension and steering were tuned to meet the demands of enthusiast driving with spring rates developed for Australian roads. Gas shock-absorbers and strengthened anti-sway bars gavbe the ET secure road manners. It always stood in the shadow of the EXA, which is a shame as the ET was (almost) its equal.
Unfortunately the advent of unleaded petrol did not help the performance Nissan's. To compensate for the lower octane, the engineers raised the compression ratio from 7.4 to 8.0:1, but that was not enough to stop 2kW being lopped off. But it was not all bad news, the Nissan/Garret T02 Turbo being significantly revised, the previous air-cooled design being replaced with a water-cooled version.