This curiosity was never meant to stray beyond the shores of Japan. The small, two-door Figaro convertible with its retro styling was a one-year wonder, being built only in 1991. It was styled by Shoji Takahashi and first shown at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show, after which Nissan’s special projects Pike Factory group brought it to market. The brief was to produce something looking like a 1960s classic but with all the performance and comfort of a modern car. The quirky Figaro definitely delivered.
Indeed, would-be Japanese buyers liked the concept so much that the original production run of 8,000 cars had to be more than doubled and still there weren’t enough to go around, so a ballot was held. The Figaro was based on the Nissan Micra platform and had a 1 litre engine boosted by a turbocharger that provided plenty of zip, though in truth the Figaro was a triumph of style over performance. The engine was loud, the three-speed automatic gearbox laborious, steering skittish and wind noise intrusive. But who cared about any of that?
The Figaro came in four colours — topaz mist, emerald green, pale aqua and lapis grey — each representing a season of the year. The foldaway soft top in off-white was easy to erect and collapse, whilst there was a retractable glass rear screen.
Capacious front seats were trimmed in white leather and the CD radio that took pride of place on the dashboard had a satisfying Bakelite look to it, complemented by various chrome switches and knobs. Air-con, electric windows and power steering came as standard.
This was one of the most unusual cars to appear in the 1990s, and those attention-seekers who drive a Figaro today just love watching heads turning everywhere as this special little car buzzes by.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
987 cc Straight Four Turbo
Top speed of 100 mph (161 km/h);0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The fact that both the Japanese and Brits drive on the left encouraged a brisk trade in grey imports from Japan to the UK, and the Figaro became a popular choice with British buyers (especially celebrities) who wanted to be seen driving something rather eccentric.