Rare Rides: A Nissan Pao Is Old School and Also From 1990

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a nissan pao is old school and also from 1990

The Rare Rides series has explored once before what happens when a Japanese manufacturer designs a modern car with retro appeal, when we covered the little-known Toyota Origin. Today we take a look at something else in the new-but-retro category. It’s a Nissan Pao, from 1990.

In the late 1980s, Nissan planned a special project for four new cars. All the cars would be small and visually interesting, with unique designs that packed as much style as possible onto a small platform. The platform chosen to underpin these new cars was from Nissan’s successful March (aka Micra). All four cars were produced at a plant in Oppama, Japan known as the Pike Factory, which donated its name to the series of “Pike cars.” Other cars produced by the Pike Factory included the Figaro you’ve probably heard of before, and the less well-known Be-1 and S-Cargo.

The Pao was introduced in 1987 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The public immediately became fans of the design, and in 1989 the Pao went on sale in earnest. Keen to have the Pao seen as a standalone car, the company ensured it didn’t wear typical Nissan badges, nor was the Nissan name used in any advertising.

Similarly secretive, the Pao was purchased via reservation only, and never set a tire on a dealer lot. The reservation period was just short of three months in length, and the full run of 51,657 Paos sold out. Deliveries occurred between 1989 and 1991, so some customers awaited their Pao for quite some time.

The hatchback was bold and retro in its design, and took cues from various European cars of the 1960s. Unlike most cars its size, the Pao’s rear hatch utilized a two-piece clamshell setup. Under hood was the 1.0-liter Micra engine. Mated to a three-speed automatic or five-speed manual, a total of 51 horsepower was routed through the front wheels.

Interior design on the Pao took the car’s retro theme very seriously. Every switch, lever, and dial look like they’re from the Sixties, and everything’s about as minimal as possible. The color pallet keeps things cool — no modern 1980s colors here.

The Pao and its Pike siblings are starting to show up in the United States these days, as they’re all old enough to qualify under 25-year importation rules. This light green example in Virginia has the automatic transmission, and with 66,000 miles on the odometer asks $9,990.

[Images: seller]

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  • Arthur Dailey This car is also in my all time favourite colour combination for 1970s' Town Cars. The black exterior with the deep red (burgundy) interior. Even took my driving test in one. The minute that the driving examiner saw the car I knew that I had passed. He got in and let out a long sigh and started asking about the car. My Old Man always had a Town Car in that black/burgundy colour combination for 'business meetings' that required the use of a back seat for passengers. No way that his full sized associates could fit in the back of a Mark IV or V. So I also have quite a bit of driving time behind the wheel of Town Cars. Just add in the 450 cid engine and the 'optional' continetal hump and I would love to have one of these in my driveway.
  • Art Vandelay 15k for some old rusty 80s junk that is slower to 60 than the Exxon Valdez? Pass. Plus no TikTok on the old Mercedes
  • JMII I know people behind me get POed when I refuse to turn (right or left) depending on traffic. Even my wife will scream "just go already" but I tend err on the side of waiting for a gap that gives me some cushion. It's the better safe then sorry approach which can be annoying for those behind. Oh well.
  • Bobbysirhan Next thing you know, EV drivers will be missing the freedom to travel on their own schedules instead of their cars'.
  • Cprescott I'm not surprised by this behavior - it is consistent with how owners of Honduhs, Toyoduhs, or Mazduhs drive. Without fail, these are the consistently obtuse drivers on the road.