The problem with classics is that, well, they're old. Some of the coolest cars are from the years before extended service intervals, decent handling, modern safety equipment, and functional air conditioning. Our autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week this week helps bridge the gap between classic cool and modern reliability. It's a 1989 Nissan Pao, one of the company's ultra-cool turn of the 1990s retro models.
The Pao was the second in what Nissan called its Pike series of cars featuring retro classic microcar styling. Starting with the angular Be-1, then the Pao, followed by the 1991 version of a 1955 Thunderbird Figaro and ending with the "yes it's named for a snail because it looks like one" S-Cargo small van.
The cars were the work of designer Naoki Sakai. Who started out designing T-shirts, and moved on to Nissans and then industrial design. Nissan called the project Pike Factory, but they were actually built by a subcontractor that now builds engines for the company. The first one, the Be-1 had such high demand that Nissan had to hold a lottery for the opportunity to buy one. Which guaranteed the company would build the rest. Like the Pao. Which we think is better looking.
MORE RELATED ARTICLES
Underpinning the Pao was the bones of the first-generation Nissan March, or, as it was known here, the K10 Micra that you may remember seeing on Canadian roads in the mid-1980s.
The three-door Pao is tiny by Canadian standards, but this isn't a Kei car, it's actually a size class up from that. And since I can confirm that the Micra will fit a six-foot four driver, the Pao should be big enough for most drivers.
This was supposed to be a fun car, so it's loaded with cool details like Mini-inspired external door hinges and flap rear windows, borrowed from the Citroen 2CV. The tailgate is split between glass and steel, opening in a way unlike any other contemporary compact hatch. Nissan says the Pao name comes from a Chinese word for a "Mongolian portable dwelling." In this case it is referring to the 2CV-like canvas folding top. That's right, the Pao is a convertible.
Since the Pao isn't a Kei car, it's not limited to the tiny engine restrictions of those cars. Instead, it has a relative monster of an engine. A 987cc inline four that puts out 52 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque. Ok, not exactly a speed demon, but this is a vehicle that only weighs in around 780 kg, so there isn't much of it to drag around. The only gearbox was a three-speed automatic.
What makes the Pao so cool is that it offers 1960s simplicity with 1990s technology like fuel injection, rack and pinion steering, and modern reliability. It's a best of both worlds scenario that makes it a very intriguing proposition.
This one is for sale in Binbrook, ON just south of Hamilton. The seller says it was imported from Japan two years ago. Since then it's covered just 2,500 km, which leaves around 168,000 km on the odometer. The seller says that it's been recently serviced, getting a tune up 400 km ago.
If you want classic looks and a modern driving experience, or at least a newer driving experience, then this Nissan Pao could be exactly what you're looking for.