His­tory: From Tokyo stunner to Brit celebrity favourite

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driven -

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.

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