Watch: Inside the world's biggest Nissan Pulsar GTI-R collection
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Murphy’s law was on song. My original 67,000km, red 1991 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R only comes out a handful of times a year, but today it was the perfect excuse to give it a run over to visit the owner of our recent ‘barn find’, the man behind the world’s biggest collection of Pulsar GTI-Rs. And today, for the first time in a long, hot Summer, it rains…
Last month we reported on the owner, whom we’ll just call David (a nod to early Nissan Motorsport WRC driver, David Llewellin), posted a rather eye-opening video of his collection, totaling 18 Nissan Pulsar GTI-Rs – 19 in fact including one parts shell off-site - in various states and conditions, from complete and road registered daily drivers to a ravaged shell used only for spares.
We located and visited ‘Dave’, in what we’ll only describe as the Waikato, to protect his privacy and security.
The other misnomer is that this is a ‘barn’, because David has built a large 300sqm, protective and modern concrete slabbed shed on his property, with walls to floors to keep out vermin and other unwanted guests.
So the big question is why? And that answer goes back to the year 2000. “I owned a Mitsubishi Starion EX,” recalls David. “Then I bought a Pulsar GTI… which was good fun. But then I saw a black Pulsar GTI-R… I bought that for $12,000 back in 2000 and just loved it.” And that purchase still sits in the shed, still loved, today.
That started the attraction, addiction and mild obsession, collecting GTI-Rs, buying them from TradeMe, Turners, private sales and even one from Blenheim, that his dad picked up and drove back, resisting the urge from a street racer provoking him just minutes after the sale and handover.
Over the next 14 years, along with the collection of RA and RB Pulsar GTI-Rs, some standard, some modified, some red, black, ivory and grey and one sunroof model, he also scooped up as many parts as he could to add to the collection, knowing that it’ll all come together one day.
Collector, keeper and caretaker with a sprinkling or hoarder, the intentions of David are quite noble. “I’ve sold two of them over that time,” he remembers. “And both new owners wrote them off within a few weeks. So the way I see it, I’m keeping them alive and preserved for the future – kind of a custodian and protector of the model.”
He has a point, as the plan is definitely long term. A mechanic in his 30s, David’s already talking about his retirement plans, and with a decent chunk of change spent on his shed to caretake this collection, phase two includes expanding the shed to include a workshop and hoist off one end, where he can tinker and play with and rebuild each car, in his own time… as car guys who are not into fishing or drinking tend to do for relaxation.
With the car collection stalled at 18, while the GTI-R car collection may have stopped five years ago, the hunt for parts never stops. And that’s partly the problem with owning a car that celebrates its
30th anniversary this year: some parts, particularly the bespoke and exclusively produced parts for this model, are getting hard to find - and with just 15,000 GTI-Rs produced between 1990-1994, some key parts are already on the endangered list, like original wheels, air filter airboxes, gearboxes and parts, and to some, the holy grail: the umbrella.
The umbrella is an odd inclusion for the Pulsar GTI-R (and GTI) as it was fitted in the B-pillar door jamb, pushes in and out, and is silver with a Nissan logo on the end of the handle. Nothing particularly special about it, but because of its rarity, it now commands increasingly high prices: $400 seems to be the going rate in 2020, though mint-in-box, it all depends how much someone is willing to pay at the time.
Impressively, David has a collection of umbrellas both fitted in cars and in boxes, brand new, that he intends to use to ‘complete’ his GTI-Rs. “I’ve got a lot of the parts all ready to go,” he says. “Half a dozen gearboxes, umbrellas, airboxes, but the wheels ‘are’ getting hard to find.”
Another part is the dashboard top, which are notorious for cracking, though there are many donors given it’s a standard N14 Pulsar part. An innocuous silver 1.5L Pulsar sits as a very cheap purchase, its pristine dashboard sitting there like an organ donor.
So to the collection of daily drivers, the to-be-rebuilts, turn-into-rally cars or racecars, need-a-lot-of work and used-for-parts-only GTI-Rs. Within that group are four red, nine black, two white (including a one sunroof model) and two ivory models. Within that are two rare RB models, in ivory and grey, the lightweight race/rally version that came with thinner glass, steel wheels, wind-up windows, no air-con and the deleted (though also optional) rear wiper. The grey RB also features the original seats, which look lower spec than a base Pulsar: the seats being a classic case of rare/interesting, rather than rare/valuable.
There are a few special and sentimental models, including the first black GTI-R Dave bought in 2000, a special white one that was bought in 2004, and imported and first registered in NZ in 1995 that’s immaculate, despite its still-low 114,000km on the odo.
“Yeh, I supposed you could look at it like a KiwiSaver/superannuation fund, and it’ll be a hobby to work through and sell off a handful of cars, earmarked as the six black models parked against the back wall (one being a parts shell),” says David.
So that’s the plan: rebuild and sell five, keep 13 and rebuild the others as road, rally or race cars. And for that, we put our faith into David, a savior and messiah of the Pulsar GTI-R, one who will look after them on our behalf.
Got any further questions for David and his collection? Ask away on our Facebook post.