Going back to the future with the Nissan Pike Cars

Photography Courtesy Nissan

Perhaps what was once retro is retro yet again. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Nissan released a string of classically styled small cars for the home market: the Figaro, Pao, S-Cargo, Pao and Be-1. Because they came from Nissan’s Pike Factory, together they’re often called Pike cars.

Nissan never offered the Pike cars stateside, but now is your chance: Since they have all celebrated their 25th birthdays, they can be legally imported to the U.S.

Several are already on our shores. Duncan Imports & Classic Cars of Christiansburg, Virginia, specializes in such Japanese-spec cars, and last time we checked they had more than 100 Figaros in stock. The Lane Motor Museum of Nashville, Tennessee, also has these models in their collection. “They are both quirky yet modern Japanese interpretations of older cars like the Mini,” says David Yando, manager of the Lane Motor Museum. “All the creature comforts–air con, CD player, auto trans–with the shell of an older-looking car around you.”

Speed is not their strong suit, however, Yando explains. A governor starts beeping around 55 mph–a feature that’s easily defeated, he adds. “They are cars meant to garner attention in a slow-moving, highly aware, urban society like Tokyo,” he continues. “Here, driven in Nashville, they scarcely get a second glance, except by the few who know what they are.”

1987-’88 Nissan Be-1


The front-drive chassis may have been contemporary, but the styling was a throwback, featuring round headlights, three-door shape and bright colors: Pumpkin Yellow, Tomato Red, Hydrangea Blue and Onion White. Nissan offered the Be-1 with either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission.

1989-’91 Nissan Pao


The Pao’s external door hinges and distinctive profile recall the original Mini and, likewise, it was an immediate hit. The 51,657-car production run sold out in three months. Like the Be-1, the Pao was powered by a 1.0-liter engine mated to a three-speed automatic or five-speed transmission.

1989-’92 Nissan S-Cargo


Can something be both cute and ugly at the same time? Perhaps the S-Cargo is proof. This little three-door delivery van looks like a cartoon character come to life. Nissan only offered the S-Cargo with a 1.5-liter engine backed by a three-speed automatic transmission, but a giant canvas sunroof could be added.

1991 Nissan Figaro


The Figaro looks like something right out of the ’50s, from the bright face to the giant, fold-back top. Each one came with a turbocharged 1.0-liter engine and automatic gearbox. More than 20,000 units were delivered, and the four available colors represented the seasons: Lapis Grey (winter), Emerald Green (spring), Pale Aqua (summer) and Topaz Mist (autumn).

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Nissan articles.
View comments on the CMS forums
Our Preferred Partners