V.I.S.I.T: A 1990 Nissan Pao

The ‘Pike’ cars from Nissan around the end of the 1980s, were great – there can’t be much doubt if their continuing desirability is any indication. Indeed, the Figaro, S-Cargo and Be-1 were smash hits, and the Figaro in particular has become an inevitable sight on the ‘classic car’ circuit – it offered something approximating vintage style yet its Nissan Micra-based oily bits were far less likely to leak or spontaneously combust than a genuine ’50s collectable.
They’re a bit ignoble, though, and the sight of an immaculately turned-out Pike is increasingly less noteworthy. There’s a healthy industry built on keeping these Japanese imports in A1 condition, and no shortage of agents who specialize in dragging fresh examples over from the land of the rising sun to a nation where said golden orb is permanently obscured by clouds.
It’s far, far rarer to find a Pike that’s lived a hard life.  So I was genuinely excited to find this disheveled Nissan Pike on the streets of Brighton.

My first reason for enthusiasm is that it’s a Pao,  my favourite of the Pike cars by quite a long way. It was just as Nissan Micra based as the other models in the series, and was just as style-conscious but in a far less obvious way. It went all-out for a utilitarian look, complete with flat, ribbed body panels that hinted towards the Citroen ‘H’ van and earliest 2CV, with more than a suggestion of Renault 4 in the flat glass and canvas roof (both of which the 2 CV could boast, too).
It’s also a real car, rather than an obvious summer plaything (the Figaro), a van (the S-Cargo) or a cutesy shopping hatch (the Be-1).

This one looks like it’s been subjected to a real life, too. It bears the scars and dings that come part and parcel with survival in the city, and wears every one of its twenty-seven years with pride. You know, like a real car.

All those wonderful Pao hallmarks are on display, as you’d expect, including those Mini-inspired external door hinges, a trope repeated on the tailgate and the gloriously clunky hinged side windows.

There are blebs of cosmetic rust scattered about, the steel wheels have acquired a little patina, and the canvas roof isn’t quite as closed as it ought to be for a vague hope of coping with the winter storms – its owner might want to keep an eye on that.
Everything else, though, including the fact that it hasn’t had a wash in a while, is absolutely fine. It’s a car. It’s winter. It’ll be filthy again five minutes after you’ve put the chamois away. While some Pike enthusiasts would decry this as being neglect, I say the opposite is true. Here is a rare car, one that was clearly the product of impassioned design, being put to real-life use.
Like a favourite paint-chipped Hotwheels or Matchbox, I’d call it playworn.
Happy new year.

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12 responses to “V.I.S.I.T: A 1990 Nissan Pao”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    “…agents who specialize in dragging fresh examples over from the land of the rising sun to a nation where said golden orb is permanently obscured by clouds.”
    You mean to Seattle? I wouldn’t call Seattle a nation but otherwise this sounds like Seattle.


  2. Guest Avatar

    I bought a 1977 Honda XL75 from a guy in Edmonton who had one of these, along with a 2CV.

    The bike was a bust (I pieced together enough of the electrics to get spark, only to find out it had no compression), but I learned about the Pike cars, so it wasn’t a total loss…

  3. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    The Pao is on my short list of cars to purchase in the next few years, while they’re still common enough in Japan.
    And on another note.
    Happy New Year to the Hooniverse and all the hooniverseriat.. May 2018 be a good year for us all. 🙂

  4. LeaksOil Avatar

    Jason Torchinsky from Jalopnik, just bought one. Kind of weird how I’ve never seen an article about them on either site before ,…now all the sudden ,…

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Ha! Suddenly Pao are a thing!

    2. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      It’s because of the parts availabilty. They’re based on the Nissan March, parts available at any Nissan dealer.
      Outside the USA.

      1. LeaksOil Avatar

        I mean,…as long as their innoroduction, there’s always the Internet for ordering them.
        (Insert fast & furious meme shout overnighting parts from Japan)

    3. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      Yes, I was going to comment on the interesting timing of this right on the heels of Jalopnik. BTW Torchinsky’s supplier Duncan Imports in Virginia still lists 8 Paos in stock, although I’m far more interested in the Kei truck fire engines they have for sale

      1. LeaksOil Avatar

        I used to work in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ive been to Duncan many times. At Duncan Hokie Honda- they keep a variety of Kei cars on display for sale & it’s also where they service them. I’ve been in the service bay & seen a couple of Kei vans being serviced,… being detailed, etc. Seen much of their inventory for sale in person ,…well their inventory as of ~7 months ago before I moved to a different state. I was managing a tire shop in Blacksburg & sold tires to them regurlarly.

        1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

          Thanks for the in person review. I was in Blacksburg once, interviewing for a job at a tool rental place, but ended up in Joplin Mo. instead. We have quite a few Kei trucks and dealers in Oregon, although my most interesting find was a lefthand drive Daihatsu HiJet with Army Corps. of Engineers markings that had been originally imported as an off road only vehicle and used at one of the Columbia River dams.

          1. marmer Avatar

            I used to see Daihatsus used as landscaping and campus runabouts all the time. Probably back when there still were a handful of dealers in the US selling Charades and Rockys.

  5. Boo Avatar

    Brilliant spot! The Pao’s always been my favourite of the Nissan weirdoes, but a scruffy one is even better!
    I’ve slightly warmed to Figaros since I’ve seen a few with dents and rust.