In 1987, Nissan set up its Pike Factory, specialising in retro-modern specials. They were never officially sold in the UK but each is worth hunting down. Here are our favourites!

Nissan Pao (1989-91)

Nissan’s Pike Factory was established in 1987 as a special projects division whose primary role was to create new models that would grab the public’s attention and make them talk about the brand. These retro Nissans helped the marque to become one of the pioneers of retro-modern styling.

The Pao was a ‘utility hatchback’, with styling features from a number of classic cars – the external door hinges echoed the Mini, the flap-up windows the Citroen 2CV and the split tailgate the Austin A40 Farina, yet under the skin it was a K10 Micra.

While never officially imported here, quite a few Paos have made their way to the UK and there’s a strong following. They are rare, however, so be prepared to part with a serious lump of cash to secure one.

Nissan Figaro (1991)

The Japan-only Figaro was a pioneer not just in its retro convertible looks, which made it look like a genuine Fifties soft-top, but also in the way it was sold. Instead of through dealers, Figaros were sold through pop-up shops called Cherry Stores in shopping centres, and as the company only planned to make 20,000 to start with your deposit only bought you an entry into a lottery, which would potentially win you a place on the waiting list.

As a result, the Figaro was instantly collectable, with classic car fans across the globe clamouring to buy them from importers and spread them across the world. It’s believed around 1,000 of them found their way to the UK and most still survive.

Once the initial furore died off (celebrity owners including Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Vanessa Feltz and Jonathan Ross), demand paled.

By 2005, you could get your hands on a Figaro for £2000 but today you’re looking at five times that for a really good example. That’s a lot of money for what’s essentially a glorified Micra convertible – but just look at it!

Retro Nissans

Nissan S-Cargo (1989-1992)

The most utilitarian of the Pike Factory models was the comical S-Cargo, which took its name from the French word ‘escargot’, meaning snail. It’s no coincidence that the Citroen 2CV has the same nickname, as Nissan unashamedly admitted that the Deux Chevaux Fourgonette was the inspiration for the retro-modern syling.

Of the 8,000 or so S-Cargos made, about 500 came to the UK via various independent importers and went on to become characterful promotional vehicles for businesses who wanted something a little bit different – from coffee baristas to florists, the S-Cargo was a great way of gathering attention.

Today, the S-Cargo is still ideal for that purpose and there are a good number that continue in commercial use, but its popularity as a classic is starting to catch on.

Very soon, as all the rough examples disappear and become parts cars, the Pike cars’ collectability will only increase further, making all three of these cars worthy of investment if you want something quirky, fun and almost guaranteed to not lose any value.

They’re all based on the K10 Micra though, so while reliability is assured, rust is a genuine concern and something you need to check for very carefully before you spend any cash.