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The hot hatch, which spawned a spectacular one-make series

Isn’t it great when a manufacturer turns a mundane model into a fast sleeper? Well, Nissan did do this in the 1980s by strapping a turbo to its Nissan Pulsar hatchback and spawned not only a model range leading to the GTiR variant of the next decade, but a one-make series to support the Australian Touring Car Championship.

The 1980s turned turbo technology into the mainstream as the Japanese and Europeans continued to improve the breed, although the infamous lag proved a constant.

Nissan was set to introduce turbo technology to its EXA two-door targa top, but it was the Pulsar ET Turbo engineered in Australia providing the complete package.

Back in the 1980s, Australia’s car manufacturing industry was still riding relatively high as Ford, Holden, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan were the major marques to not only have plants, but also local engineering was thriving.

Nissan Australia’s product planning manager Howard Marsden was the man behind the Pulsar ET Turbo as it combined the best of Japan with smart, local engineering methods to suit the unique conditions down under.

Connected to the EXA through the use of its mechanicals and the Pulsar being manufactured in Australia ensured Marsden was able to deliver something unique to the local market.

Going on the market in 1984 at $12,500, the Pulsar ET Turbo was significantly improved compared to the EXA. Using the same basic 1457cc engine as the common Pulsars, but featuring beefed up connecting rods 3mm shorter to reduce the compression ratio making it more suitable to turbocharging, heavy duty big bearings and tougher pistons with chrome top rings. An oi cooler and additional colling fan were also installed.

Enter Repco-PBR, as it developed a bespoke braking system for the Pulsar ET Turbo containing a rare four-disc set-up. This system was mated to new alloy rims and Bridgestone HR14 tyres as the suspension remained basically the same bar a change in front coils, a thinner anti-roll bar and twin-tube gas dampers fitted to the rear.

To complete the package was a front air dam and rear spoiler.

For 1985 as Nissan Australia awaited the homologation of the DR30 Skyline for Group A competition it built up a number of Pulsar ET Turbos to contest a one-make series paying the leading touring car and some guests to race as support to the main show.

To keep the competition even drivers picked the Pulsar ET Turbo and starting positions from a hat at each round. Wild driving was the story of the season as rough tactics and desperate manoeuvres ensured plenty of action. One round in Adelaide it was estimated Nissan spent $50,000 on repairs.

It was Jim Richards in the end making up for a slow start by winning the $25,000 and a brand new Skyline.

Nissan’s experiment with a turbocharged hot hatch didn’t end as the aforementioned Pulsar GTiR proved a potent package at the turn of the next decade.