Nissan has been selling the Altima in the United States since the Stanza Altima first hit showrooms as a 1993 model. The Altima is now in its sixth generation, and therefore every car graveyard in the country has a bonanza of 10-to-20-year-old examples available right now. The first-generation Altima, sold here for the 1993 through 1997 model years, has been very difficult to find during my junkyard travels. Here’s one in a yard near Denver.
The Altima replaced the U12 Bluebird-based Nissan Stanza, and it was built on the U13 Bluebird platform. Prior to the Stanza name being used on U.S.-market Bluebirds, it went on Nissan Violet-based cars here for the 1982 through 1989 model years.
The Stanza never sold especially well in North America, but the name was familiar enough that Nissan decided to paste it onto the first-year Altima. So, the 1993 Altima was officially known as the Stanza Altima, with decklid badges to prove it. After that, the Stanza name disappeared from external car badging, but remained on the covers of Altima owner’s manuals through the 1996 model year.
This car still had all its original factory-issue manuals in the glovebox when I found it in its final parking space.
This car was built at Nissan’s assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
It nearly reached 200,000 miles during its life. The highest odometer reading I’ve ever found on a Nissan product was inside a 1994 Maxima that made it to 364,238 miles.
This car’s owner or owners took good care of it through the decades, as we can see from the non-thrashed interior and reasonably straight sheetmetal.
That’s somewhat unexpected, because the Altima has been a staple of fleet sales for many years and therefore there has been a glut of cheap, abused ex-rental Altimas flooding the used car market for as long as most of us can remember. Many older Altimas don’t get the sort of maintenance and care they deserve as a result.
The Altima has generally offered plenty of power for the money, too, which adds to the popular perception that hooptie Altimas are fast, erratically-driven cars to be feared by other drivers. This one came with a 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder rated at 150 horsepower and 154 pound-feet. That’s a very slightly detuned version of the engine in the legendary S14 240SX, and 150 horses is plenty of power (by mid-1990s compact standards) for a car that weights just a bit over 2,900 pounds.
As a result, Altima jokes abound online. It’s not fair to the cars, because being cheap and fast shouldn’t be cause for derision.
Altimas were available with manual transmissions from the beginning through the 2012 model year, though this one has the optional automatic.
This one is a GXE, the second-lowest trim level for 1995. The MSRP was $16,629 with the automatic transmission, or about $33,821 in 2023 dollars.
Blows away the Mercedes-Benz C 220 and the Lexus GS 300 at the dragstrip … and it’s zero down!
Fundamentally superior to Lexus and Acura … and just $750 down!
300,000 Altimas sold as of September 1994 … and $2,200 in no-charge features!
Holds its value better than the Lexus LS 400, BMW 7 Series and any Mercedes-Benz sedan built … and starting at $15,700!
The luxury sedan that says you’ve arrived, and that you can still afford to go places.