18 Years With a Z’s Cousin
I’ve had my ’87 200SX SE V6 for nearly eighteen years. If I had a kid born on the day I drove it over the curb, I’d be paying for her college tuition today and she’d probably be pulling up to her dorm in a 21-year-old, black SX.
I picked it up in ’90 with 14, 000 miles on it; and it now has 220, 000.The A/C still works fine. The power windows never give me a problem. The engine does not weep odd fluids or emit smells, ticks or shudders. Water circulates just fine, pumps well and never gets hot. The current clutch has been in the car for 8 years. I last changed the brakes in ’05. The lights pop up when I need them. The sunroof doesn’t leak.
It drives rides and corners the way it’s supposed to, and it’s dependable as hell. I am constantly shaking my head in wonder that this car could have lasted so long with me. It has not lived an easy life, either. For the first ten years I had it, I drove it all over the country, hammering it unmercifully up and down mountains and introducing it into horrible urban conditions, like New York or DC. I tried to wring as much of the Z out of it that I could (. . .I still do that today, just not so often. . . ). It should NOT have survived that, but there you go. . .
The only major surgery came at about 160, 000, when the transmission failed. A Z tranny from the same era fit, so that is what I shift these days. Another expensive fix came when I had the A/C retrofitted to accept R32 gas. Otherwise, absolutely nothing major in 18 years!
Almost everything on the car is what came from the factory. I have replaced only what eventually wears out–a water pump, a steering rack, an alternator, shocks, rotors, etc. The body is faded and pitted. It’s painted black, so every one of the stones and toxic bugs that the front end of the car has met since ’87 have left their little white mark. The hood looks like a star map of the Northern Hemisphere and the “Nissan” badge fell off the grille sometime in the Last Century.But the body is totally straight with only a few minor dings overall. There is one spot of rust, at the base of the antenna. Five hundred would make the car look sharp again, a thousand would pimp it.
The interior is sun-faded but clean and complete. Despite a heavy tint on the windows, the black cloth upholstery has faded to a puke purple in places, and some of the fabric is drying out and shredding. Someday soon I’ll have to deal with that. I’m thinking of trying to fit some black leather seats from a junkyard Z. Don’t know what I’ll do with the back seat. Everything on the dash works well. It’s not cracked or otherwise disfigured, and, except for the A/C vents (the plastic has begun its slow descent into powder and the flaps are breaking and falling out) it is all very clean. Since I no longer use cassette tapes, it needs a new sound system.
The carpets have always been covered with mats and the whole floor looks good, even the hatchback carpets–except for where I tipped the battery over, back in ’96.On a wild hair, in ’02 I had the vinyl parts of the door panels recovered in black leather. They had gotten sundried and were cracking and flaking. The leather looks great and it still puts a Jaguar-like smell into the cockpit on humid days.
The hatch has so much room when you drop the rear seatbacks that I refer to the car as a “secret station wagon”. I have moved myself twice, lugging everything but mattresses and stoves in the SX. It’s amazing what I can get into the back of my car–big screen TVs, lumber, bags of leaves, several kegs, hundreds of palm fronds, window air conditioners. . .
On my trips, I have slept soundly in the hatch. I pull over at truck stops, drop the back seats and wrap myself in a sleeping bag, the hatch propped open slightly. I’m 6’2″, but I never felt cramped. For two weeks in New York City, I LIVED in the car while doing some work at a Federal installation, Ft Hamilton. I had a hatchback for an address and was watched over at night by Federal officers. I was given a per-diem by my company of $150/day for hotels, and I left New York with an extra $1800 in my pocket.
And the mechanics are fine as well. The car is still quick, still a handler, still a lot of fun to pump through the gears. It’s all very dependable, and has been for a generation. I JUST brought it back from an 800-mile Thanksgiving trip. Every time I took the SX to a dealer to use as a trade-in, I would be offered an insulting figure for the car, so the idea to hang on and use it as a Spare started about ten years ago. It was a sort of a trophy in my divorce.Since then, it’s shared garage space with a ’90 Jeep Wrangler, a ’92 Supra, an ’89 300 ZX, a Y2K Maxima SE, and an ’03 350Z . They all came and went; the SX abided.
Currently, it’s berthed next to an ’05 Infiniti G Coupe. It’ll probably outlast that car as well. I never thought that I would EVER own a car for this long. . .
For a long time now it has served as the Spare Car. It’s my Almost-Z, a close Cousin to the real thing, and I’ll probably keep it until they snatch my license for being too feeble to ever drive again. Then I’ll give it to my grandson. . .
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