History: From Tokyo stunner to Brit celebrity favourite
A month before was released in the cinemas, Nissan used the film’s title as the slogan for a debutante with a difference at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show, but the Figaro wasn’t the first of the manufacturer’s retro offerings.
The Figaro was developed by the Pike Factory, a special projects division of Nissan which had already created the S-Cargo van and the Be-1 and Pao threedoor hatchbacks. The coupé profile and 1950s detailing were masterminded by two designers: Shoji Takahashi, who had previously designed the Pao, and Naoki Sakai, the pen behind the Be-1 and who was later involved in the Rasheen off-roader project in the early 1990s.
The Figaro was an immediate hit with a Japanese market that had a hankering for Western nostalgia. Nissan only envisaged making 8000, but upped the production run to 20,000 to cope with demand. Nissan ran a lottery to allocate each car to a customer, with more than 250,000 would-be buyers taking part.
Back to the Future Part II
Production took place at the manufacturer’s Oppama plant in Yokosuka throughout 1991, using – like its Pike Factory predecessors – the underpinnings of the K10generation Micra as the mechanical basis for the car. Only four colours were available, each one representing a different season of the year: Emerald Green, Pale Aqua, Lapis Grey and Topaz Mist (beige), the last of which proved the least popular hue with buyers. As a result, fewer than 2000 Figaros were made in Topaz Mist, which has resulted in them fetching a premium today.
While the Figaro was only ever available new in Japan, the growth of specialist importers meant that increasing numbers of them ended up being shipped to the UK, which prompted the establishment of a thriving owners’ club in 2009. The car’s celebrity owners over here have also raised its profile – Andrew Marr, Jonathan Ross and Vanesa Feltz are among the UK’s Figaro devotees, and one of them appeared in the Doctor Who children’s spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures.