Developed with an eye for the World Rally Championship, this 1991 Pulsar GTI-R shrinks the GT-R mentality into a squat, compact super-hatchback…with emphasis on the “super.” Though never officially sold on American shores, this Pulsar resides on Craigslist in British Columbia, Canada, and it punches hard in terms of performance for price.
The key to that performance resides under the outrageously air-scooped hood—the 2.0-liter SR20DET engine, more commonly seen in the Nissan Silvia coupes. The turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out 230 horsepower and 210 lb.-ft. of torque, which it applies to terra firma through a five-speed manual gearbox and—yes!—the ATTESA all-wheel-drive system from the contemporary Skyline GT-R.
Zero to 60 mph takes under 5.4 seconds and traction is ensured thanks to a trio of differentials, of which the center and rear feature viscous limited-slip units. Given that much of the go-fast components live under the car’s nose, the Pulsar GTI-Rs are said to naturally understeer, but that’s correctable by reacquainting the gas pedal with carpet.
As far as rally racing goes, the Pulsar GTI-R wasn’t the superstar that Nissan had hoped for. Nissan Motorsports Europe abandoned its Group A racing program after just two seasons with the Pulsar, however the car proved much more capable in production-spec Group N racing, and went on to tally a handful of wins.
This car isn’t one of those official rally racers, though it has been built-up to eke out more performance on the tarmac. Whereas the standard Nissan Pulsar GTI-R featured an open front differential, this car packs a Torsen limited-slip unit in the front, along with a coilover suspension, sway bars, Wilwood brakes, ARC intercooler, boost controller, and a number of other racy upgrades.
Will it ever be as fast as its ATTESA all-wheel drive sibling, the Nissan GT-R? Well, no. But with less than 15,000 ever produced between 1990 and 1994, it’s arguably the much rarer car.