Collector Classics: Nissan Figaro

1991 throwback came a decade before Beetle and Mini made old styling new again

When Shoji Takahashi’s retro-styled Nissan Figaro was launched at the 1989 Tokyo Auto Show, it was launched under the slogan “back to the future.”

For a change, the Japanese had beaten other rival manufacturers – the retro Volkswagen Beetle and Mini Cooper did not reappear until a decade later.

The Figaro was built at the Nissan Special Projects facility, known as the Pike Factory, which was also the home of the Be-1, Pao and S-Cargo. The latter two models and the Figaro can occasionally be seen on the streets of Vancouver.

This despite the fact the curiosity of the Figaro and other Japanese micro cars was never meant to stray beyond the shores of Japan. However, large numbers of right-hand-drive domestic Japanese vehicles of all types arrived in Canada when Transport Canada lowered the age criteria for importing foreign vehicles into Canada from 25 years to 15 years.

This 1960s-styled classic, which combined all of the comforts and performance of a modern car, was embraced immediately by Japanese buyers. The Figaro was built on a K10 Nissan Micra platform. To add some performance to the 1.0-litre engine, a turbocharger was added. Even with the help of the turbo, the zero-to-100-kilometres-an-hour time was a lethargic 13.5 seconds.

The original run of just 8,000 had to be doubled and even that was not enough to meet the demand. To solve this problem, Nissan introduced a lottery system, and only the lucky lottery winners would take delivery of a Figaro.

By the end of the one-year-only production run in 1991, 20,000 Figaros were built. It was only available in four colour schemes — topaz mist, emerald green, pale aqua and lapis grey. These were said to represent the four seasons.

Only 2,000 examples were painted in topaz mist. They are the most sought-after today. If you are an attention-seeker, you will certainly turn heads everywhere you go with one of these little gems.

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