If a machine could be the manifestation of a good mood, this car would be it. You cannot look at it without smiling. It has the appeal of a puppy! This is a Nissan Figaro, built in 1991, based on the Micra, and powered by a 1.0-liter turbocharged engine. Only 20,000 units built, one year only—solely for the Japanese market.
The Figaro, with its classic good looks, has modern conveniences like power steering, power brakes, power windows, automatic transmission, and air-conditioning. And of course, it also has that fixed-profile rag-top!
Despite the small production numbers and being available only in Japan, the car’s popularity spans the world. There are Figaro clubs everywhere; these models were imported from Japan, used. This particular car belongs to John Resureccion of Las Piñas. His father bought the car in 2008 and drove it around for a couple of years until it started to break down. Since the car was never sold here by the official Nissan distributor, there’s some difficulty in sourcing parts for it. Thus, the car sat in John’s garage accumulating dust and languishing for the next five years. With his father’s permission, John decided to resurrect the car and fix it last year.
He sent the Figaro to his friend with a restoration garage in San Pablo City. After spending quite a bit of money and effort importing parts from Japan, he was able to get it to look good and run. John now uses it as a daily driver. John has a Toyota 86, too.
“The Figaro is the direct opposite of the 86,” he says. “The Toyota is road rage waiting to happen, but the Nissan is more like therapy for road rage. It elicits smiles and fascination instead of envy. I have much better probability of people giving way to me at intersections.”
In some instances, people almost hit John because they are gawking and smiling and kind of forget they are veering toward the Figaro already. John also explains that he can drive it fast if he wants to, but he feels much happier driving it at low speeds. “This is not the sort of car you drive when you are in a hurry,” he adds.
Tackling curves is quite interesting because it has these tiny and narrow 12-inch wheels, but it’s still very fun. Imagine your tires squealing at 60kph. It takes normal front-wheel-drive cars to do the same at about 80kph to 90kph. Crazy!
John shares that since his car is already 25 years old and its restoration is not yet fully completed because some small parts have yet to arrive from Japan, it makes a lot of funny noises, so daily trips feel like an adventure.
We haven’t seen it said before but we believe that the Figaro was meant to be a modern interpretation of the Autobianchi Bianchina that was made in Italy from 1957 to 1970. Look up the car and you will see the undeniable resemblance.
Kudos to Nissan for bringing back a classic design in contemporary times! And Kudos to John for sharing his fascinating car with us!