Featured: My First Encounter With A Nissan Pao

My First Encounter With A Nissan Pao

By Ted Gushue
January 24, 2017

Photography by Ted Gushue

It’s true what they say: Out of sight, out of mind.

I’d never seen a Nissan Pao in person before. I’d heard of them, sure – friends of friends had mentioned the existence of these mythological Kei cars for years, but to see one in person? That just wasn’t a thing. Mercifully, thanks to the 25 year rule, more and more of these little guys are popping up on American roads.

One such example is owned by Petrolicious reader Godis Sanchez, who just so happens to live not far from Petrolicious HQ. He dropped an email seeing if we’d be interested in checking out his new toy, and the answer was obvious.

Ted Gushue: Tell me a bit about how the Pao started with a Nissan because it’s a story I think not many people really know.

Godis Sanchez: This car was built by Nissan in the Pike Factory from 1989 to 1991. It was a limited production vehicle only sold in Japan and never came to the states. It sold out within three hours.

TG: How many were going to be made in the run?

GS: The whole run lasted about 52,000 cars in total.

TG: 52,000 people living in Japan ordered one of these within three hours?

GS: Yes, but that’s including the different varieties that they had. They had one that was called the Be-1. Then, there was the Nissan Figaro. There was a Nissan Pao and the last one was the Nissan S-Cargo.

TG: These cars aren’t very fast, are they?

GS: No. It has a full 52-horsepower, 0 to 60 depending on the dinner you have last night. That’s about it.

TG: When did you first become aware of them?

GS: I’d been searching for one for a while and I was looking for the perfect one. I wanted the specific color. I wanted with a canvas top because they also came with a tin top, but I wanted canvas top, and I was specifically also looking for automatic, three-speed automatic.

TG: Where’s the market at on them? What do these trade for?

GS: Many people ask about the value. To me, the value is driving around, having fun, seeing the people that smile when you show up and everybody comes around you and ask you, “What is that?” That’s the value that the car brings to me. Money-wise, it’s just not important.

TG: For sure. I meant more in the … just because it’s something that I could never compare to anything else.

GS: Yeah. It’s different. It’s unique. Most of the people say that it looks kind of like a Mini and a Fiat, and different little features on it, but I love the fact that it’s just different.

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Hajime Kishi
Hajime Kishi(@hajime_kishi)
1 year ago

This isn’t a K car BTW.

Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith(@fb_1043682525)
3 years ago

So, it’s a Japanese Mini.

Ben Matthews
Ben Matthews(@ben_matthews)
4 years ago

You need to correct this article – the Pao is by no means a Kei car, it was based off a 1.0 litre Nissan March (JDM name for the Micra) and is probably a little bigger than the Kei body size limits (especially as they used to be smaller than now) also. Kei cars have a 660cc engine limit.

4 years ago

Wow that’s a really extensive interview!

Ted Gushue
Ted Gushue(@tedgushue)
4 years ago
Reply to  James

Godis was a man of few words!

Nigel McHugh
Nigel McHugh
4 years ago

Figaro’s probably the most common of the Japanese “Resto” style grey imports.
Dozens of them running around here in Ireland. Have a look at this Sales page, especially the one with the Mk2 Jag. nose!

4 years ago

1) It’s not a Kei car, as it’s based on Nissan March of the time, with 1 litre engine, makes it class above Kei. 2) It was sold out in 3 months, not 3 hours. 3) 52,000 units do not include other Pike cars, Be-1, Figaro, and S-Cargo. Indeed, Pao was the best selling of Pike cars. 4) S-Cargo is not mechanically related to Be-1, Figaro, Pao, or March, actually, so it’s an oddball of the Pike cars. 5) Sorry to disappoint, the Pao (and Be-1 and Figaro) drive just like March (Micra) of the time, meaning, dynamically, they drive like crap. 6) But they make you really happy driving them, they sure made me very very happy.

4 years ago

The wheels on this car are incredibly unique!
I’d have to say my favorite feature by far has got to be the grill. Very handsome little car.