The ‘Pike’ cars from Nissan around the end of the 1980s, were great – there can’t be much doubt if their continuing desirability is any indication. Indeed, the Figaro, S-Cargo and Be-1 were smash hits, and the Figaro in particular has become an inevitable sight on the ‘classic car’ circuit – it offered something approximating vintage style yet its Nissan Micra-based oily bits were far less likely to leak or spontaneously combust than a genuine ’50s collectable.
They’re a bit ignoble, though, and the sight of an immaculately turned-out Pike is increasingly less noteworthy. There’s a healthy industry built on keeping these Japanese imports in A1 condition, and no shortage of agents who specialize in dragging fresh examples over from the land of the rising sun to a nation where said golden orb is permanently obscured by clouds.
It’s far, far rarer to find a Pike that’s lived a hard life. So I was genuinely excited to find this disheveled Nissan Pike on the streets of Brighton.
My first reason for enthusiasm is that it’s a Pao, my favourite of the Pike cars by quite a long way. It was just as Nissan Micra based as the other models in the series, and was just as style-conscious but in a far less obvious way. It went all-out for a utilitarian look, complete with flat, ribbed body panels that hinted towards the Citroen ‘H’ van and earliest 2CV, with more than a suggestion of Renault 4 in the flat glass and canvas roof (both of which the 2 CV could boast, too).
It’s also a real car, rather than an obvious summer plaything (the Figaro), a van (the S-Cargo) or a cutesy shopping hatch (the Be-1).
This one looks like it’s been subjected to a real life, too. It bears the scars and dings that come part and parcel with survival in the city, and wears every one of its twenty-seven years with pride. You know, like a real car.
All those wonderful Pao hallmarks are on display, as you’d expect, including those Mini-inspired external door hinges, a trope repeated on the tailgate and the gloriously clunky hinged side windows.
There are blebs of cosmetic rust scattered about, the steel wheels have acquired a little patina, and the canvas roof isn’t quite as closed as it ought to be for a vague hope of coping with the winter storms – its owner might want to keep an eye on that.
Everything else, though, including the fact that it hasn’t had a wash in a while, is absolutely fine. It’s a car. It’s winter. It’ll be filthy again five minutes after you’ve put the chamois away. While some Pike enthusiasts would decry this as being neglect, I say the opposite is true. Here is a rare car, one that was clearly the product of impassioned design, being put to real-life use.
Like a favourite paint-chipped Hotwheels or Matchbox, I’d call it playworn.
Happy new year.