How the car was born

The Figaro was introduced at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show under the slogan “Back to the Future”. It was built by a Nissan special projects group called Pike Factory, who also produced other niche automobiles such as the Be-1, Pao and S-Cargo. The car was equipped with leather seats, air conditioning, CD player and a open roof. It was designed by Shoji Takahashi & Naoki Sakai who won a design competition with the car. Only 8,000 were originally available with an additional 12,000 added to production numbers to meet demand. The engine is a Nissan’s MA10ET, a turbocharged 1.0 L (987 cc) I4.

The design
The only visible Nissan badge is in the shape of a fleur de lys on the bonnet and the car itself appears to date from the late 1950s or early 1960s – it’s all curves and chrome (the lighting units, the grille, the bumpers, hinges, handles) and is finished off with elliptical white wing mirrors (rather like the ones later used in the design of the ‘new’ Mini Cooper). The Figaro is a convertible, with a sliding soft-top that folds neatly into the trunk so as not to spoil the natural lines of the vehicle. Even the hubcaps are distinctive – white and chrome and reminiscent of Polo mints. The interior is finished in cream with off-white leather seats, and the electric windows are controlled by seashell shaped chrome switches. The custom-made CD player/radio is fashioned from Bakelite-effect plastic (these units are notoriously temperamental; the CD player tends to ‘bounce’ and the radio has difficulty in detecting, less still holding, any station at all. Still – there are companies that restore them to full working order and the casing is so beautiful in itself that it would probably be a mistake to replace it). The dashboard is awash with chunky chrome switches to control the air conditioning and the white steering wheel surrounds a substantial mother-of-pearl horn. There is even a rear seat of sorts.