This is retro done right.
The Nissan Pao never made it to America. It was never intended to do so. Only something this quirky could find success in Japan. Japanese car buyers have long appreciated small and well-packaged city cars, called Kei cars, but the Pao isn't one of them. Nor was it intended to be relatively plain basic transportation like today's Nissan Sentra. It's a retro hatchback that was sold beginning in 1989 and lasted only until 1991.
During its short lifetime, Nissan managed to produce at least 30,000 examples. What's interesting is that the Pao wasn't originally marketed as a Nissan but that still didn't stop a wave of hopeful buyers. Demand was so high that Nissan was forced to accept orders on a first-come, first-served basis. Just over 51,000 orders were received in total. Not everyone went home happy.
Along with the Nissan Figaro, Be-1, and the S-Cargo, the Pao was also affectionally known as a "Pike car" because it was built at the automaker's Pike Factory that was dedicated to special projects. The Pao's design inspiration very clearly came from famed European cars like the Austin Mini, Austin Countryman, and even the Citroen 2CV. Notice those side strakes? Those were inspired by American woodies from the 1930s and 1940s.
Only one engine was offered: a tiny but effective 1.0-liter inline-four rated at only 51 horsepower and 40 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed to the front wheels only through either a five-speed manual or an optional three-speed automatic transmission. Total curb weight came to no more than 1,675 pounds. The Pao was well-engineered with things like rack and pinion steering, an independent suspension, and a cool clamshell tailgate design. Nissan made color choices extremely simple with only four available: Olive Gray, Aqua Gray, Ivory, and Terracotta.
Some standard features included power steering, an AM/FM radio, and an electromagnetic glass hatch release. To this day, the Pao remains a highly desirable collectors' car and some owners have modified them, such as this 85,300-mile 1989 example up for auction on Cars And Bids.
Now finished in black with a cool aqua blue and gray interior, it's also received a few new interior panels, 13-inch aftermarket wheels, custom fender flares, wheel spacers, VW Polo coilovers, halo headlights, a new exhaust, upgraded sound system, and a custom dash cover and door lock buttons. The front bumper has been removed but it's included in the sale. The listing notes there several areas that require some cosmetic and maintenance attention but nothing too extreme. As of this writing, the highest bid reached $6,500. The auction is scheduled to end on January 25.