Back in the mid1980s Shoji Takahashi, a Japanese designer, set about creating a retro-styled car that would have all the charisma of a Sixties classic but with all the benefits of modern standards in safety, comfort and performance. The result is the Nissan Figaro, which remains one of the most unusual cars of the late 20th century.
Revealed at the 1989 Tokyo motor show, the Nissan Figaro was an instant hit and it soon became apparent that the manufacturer’s original intention to produce just 8,000 units would fall well short of the potential demand. The car’s brief production run was soon increased to 20,000 units but even this was not enough and potential buyers had to enter a lottery to win the right to make a purchase.
Furthermore, despite Nissan’s intention to sell the Figaro exclusively in Japan, it was only a matter of time before the first grey imports appeared on British roads. But buyers beware, the mileometer records only in kilometres.
Powered by a 1 litre petrol engine, the Figaro was, in essence, a reskinned Nissan Micra. A turbocharger boosted its power to 75bhp and, thanks to a kerb weight of just under 1,800lb, the car offered plenty of zip for the city while still returning good fuel economy.
But few buyers were concerned with the Figaro’s technical specifications, it was the model’s looks that set it apart. With styling more reminiscent of the late 1950s and early 1960s the Figaro was offered in just four body colours – topaz mist, emerald green, pale aqua and lapis grey – with each of the nonmetallic, matt finishes designed to represent a different season of the year.
Over time some cars have been subject to a repaint in myriad nonstandard colours – including vivid pinks – but the original cars are still viewed as the most desirable.
The car’s retro-styling extends to virtually every element of the bodywork with colour-coded centre caps on the wheels, copious chrome strips and a large mesh grille that would look equally at ho...