Watch: World's biggest Nissan Pulsar GTI-R collection discovered in New Zealand
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As far as 1990s performance cars go, there are some that rock and rule: Subaru’s WRX and Legacy, Mitsubishi’s Galant VR4 and Lancer, Toyota’s Celica GT-Four, even rare-in-NZ specials like the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort and Sierra Cosworths. Mazda’s 323 GTX-GT-R, driven by kiwi Rod Millen - all cars that defined the Group A era of rallying and fast four-cylinder road cars.
And then came Nissan’s Pulsar GTI-R. Driven by the likes of the original Stig, Stig Blomqvist, and Tommi Makinen in its debut production and WRC year of 1990, as a LHD Sunny GTI-R. Long story short, it wasn’t that successful in Group A competition, and following its best finish of third at the Swedish WRC event 28 year ago this weekend, despite winning and finishing 1-2 in the 1992 Group N/Production car championship, the plug was pulled a few years later so Nissan could funnel its funds into sports car racing.
The GTI-R was, however, a much better road car than a winning rally car, and dubbed by Wheels Australia magazine as baby Godzilla, a nod to its bigger, six-cylinder sibling, the R32 Skyline GT-R.
But thanks to the homologation rules requiring 5000 road-going examples to be built, Nissan built around 15,000 examples of the GTI-R through 1990-1994. Sold for around NZ$45,000 when new, NZ became the second home for used GTI-Rs and in the 1990s and early 2000s, the market was flooded – relatively - with GTI-Rs that were quickly and effectively turned into pocket rockets: its 169kW SR20DET may have shared an engine code with the ‘normal’ SR20s in Pulsars and SIlvias/200SXs, but its quad-throttle bodies, slightly larger turbo and top-mounted intercooler gave it a point of difference and added potential. Despite gearboxes proving to be weak point on boosted and tuned GTI-Rs, the Pulsar established itself as a super street car.
And of course, there’s the special appeal of the umbrella, semi-hidden in the driver’s door jam via a trap-door, that alone, currently commands $300+ on TradeMe/eBay sales sites around the world. Other in-demand parts in 2020 include uncut front bumpers, Series 1 steering wheels, original 14-inch road wheels and complete gearboxes.
But now, in its 30th anniversary year, finding a GTI-R, much less an unmolested one, is proving extremely difficult with values – once as low as $5-6k - now rising to $15-$20k+ for an original low-miler.
In fact Driven’s own editor, Dean Evans, has exactly that, a red, all original 67,000km RA (first gen) sunroof/umbrella model that’s his own personal collection and keeper. And no, he says, it’s not for sale.
But even his eyes and jealousy were triggered at a video that emerged last week of a shed in the Waikato that’s housing no less than 17 (18, including what looks to be an incomplete shell) Pulsar GTI-Rs. With the owner’s YouTube channel only established the same week, and this being the only video currently on it, there’s not a lot more info publicly available, beyond what we can see: four red models (one of the rarest colours, behind the Winter Green), four white, and the remaining in the more popular black and grey, the latter NZ road registered with a roll cage and sump guard, and just the one sunroof model.
Working off an average price around $10k, that’s at least $180k worth of Pulsar GTI-Rs sitting safe and secure, and more than likely close to a quarter-of-a-million – this makes it arguably the largest single collection of Pulsar GTI-Rs in the world and the private, adopted mecca for the car.
When does collecting become hoarding? Possibly here, but with a car with as much unique and chequered rally and road history as the Pulsar GTI-R, we’re behind this 100 per cent as an awesome assembly.