It seems that the Sentra has always been with us, but in fact the very first Sentras didn’t show up in North America until the 1982 model year. This gas-sipping econobox became an immediate sales smash hit over here, and the Japanese-built 1982-1986 cars elbowed aside many a Civic and Corolla in the battle for American sales. Sentras began rolling out of Nissan’s new Tennessee factory in 1985, just before the debut of the second-gen version, and so today’s Junkyard Gem in Denver is one of the very last of the Kanagawa-built Sentras sold in the United States.

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

I’ve documented a few first-gen Sentras in this series, but this one beats all of them for low mileage and best overall condition. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any early Sentra as nice as this one. Just 77,391 original miles on the clock!

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

It doesn’t have the luxurious automatic transmission, sure, but can you imagine air conditioning on a cheap imported econo-commuter in 1986?

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

Not many buyers of low-price two-door sedans cared about having a rear defroster, so this is another seldom-seen option.

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

Sealed-beam headlights were just beginning to be phased out in 1986, so information stickers had to be included on cars with replaceable bulbs.

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

The interior could use a good scrubbing, but I don’t see any of the rips and gouges you get in most 34-year-old junkyard cars. The Colorado climate is especially rough on car interiors, so either this one came from elsewhere or it lived in a garage for most of its life.

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

I’m puzzled by the high-power, RV-grade power inverter screwed to the floor under the dash. Perhaps the original owner used an early laptop computer in this car.

Junkyard Gem: 1986 Nissan Sentra two-door sedan

With 69 horsepower from this 1.6-liter straight-four, the ’86 Sentra didn’t win many drag races. Fuel economy was excellent, though, and these cars proved to be quite reliable.

America’s best-selling import, complete with lots of futuristic technology.

Nissan was working on hydrogen- and electricity-powered cars way back in 1984.





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