While the B12 Sunny had many variations in its lineup, the most coveted model was the RZ-1 Nismo. It was a 2-door coupe which – to some may have been a little bizarre – used an NA 1.6L engine instead of the E15ET turbo offered in the RZ-1 Turbo Type A and B.
While there is some debate whether there is any meaning behind the various alphanumeric designations Nissan gives it’s cars, the Sunny’s RZ-1 designation does in fact have a meaning. The R stands for ‘Runabout’, the Z stands for ‘Zentih’ and the number stands for ‘Number 1 in it’s class’. The Nismo tag was justified too… well actually the Nismo additions were limited to special Nismo black paint, Nismo striping, white dials, a Nismo leather bound steering wheel and much firmer suspension which made a world of difference compared to the standard RZ-1. The RZ-1’s styling was textbook 80’s, with blister fenders and wrap around rear glass emphasising the boxy wedged shape. It was styled along the same lines as its bigger cousin, the R30 Skyline coupe, which with the two-tone red/black paintwork and front fender canards does a good impression of the famous Machine RS-2 Skyline (see pic).
First released in February 1986 with the SOHC 1.5L E15S (NA) and E15ET (turbo) engines, the turbo version of the Sunny RZ-1 was an instant success owing to it’s relatively cheap price and decent performance compared to others in its class such as the Honda Ballade CR-X. The 1.5L powerplants were to be joined just 6 months later by the brand new and more powerful CA16DE, with 20ps more power and only 2kg/m less torque than the turbocharged E15. The CA16DE really was a huge step ahead for Nissan in the hotly contested 1.6L class, and the equal of the acclaimed ZC 1600cc engine from Honda and 4A-GEU from Toyota. The E15 engines were dropped altogether in September 1987 in favour of the GS15S.
By 1988, the RZ-1 was looking rather dated, as new cars such as Nissans S13 ‘Art Force’ Silvia were ushering in new rounded and sleek styling for the 1990’s. Sunny RZ-1 production stopped in December 1989 to be replaced in January 1990 by the B13 NX Coupe. The 1986-89 Sunny RZ-1 sold for 1,250,000 – 1,818,000 yen.
Model: Sunny RZ-1 Nismo
Total Length/Width/Height (mm): 4230/1665/1335
Weight: 1040kg (MT)
Max power: 120ps
Max torque: 14.0kg/m
Transmission: 5-speed manual/4 speed auto
Front suspension: Strut
Rear suspesion: Parallel link strut
Text: Justin Karow
Photos: Nissan Motor Co., Oyaji no Kuruma, Gazoo