One Year Wonder: 1991 Nissan Figaro

The Nissan Figaro was a fixed-profile, right-hand-drive small convertible that was built for the home market for a single season, 1991. Exterior colors were limited to one for each of the four climate seasons: Topaz Mist (Autumn), Emerald Green (Spring), Pale Aqua (Summer) and Lapis Grey (Winter). The seller’s version is something of a world traveler – originating in Japan, shipped to New Zealand and finally residing in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Located in Tacoma, Washington, it’s available here on craigslist for $13,600. Thanks to our Pat L. finding yet another interesting car to explore!

This one-year wonder was inspired by other fixed-profile drop-tops such as the Vespa 400, Citroën 2CV, Nash Rambler Convertible “Landau” Coupe, and the Fiat 500. The upper side elements of the Figaro’s bodywork remain fixed, while its fabric soft top retracts along with a solid panel with a defroster-equipped glass rear window. The Figaro was manufactured by Aichi Machine Industry, a special projects group they used for several ventures. It was based on the Nissan March platform and, as such, used a front-engine/front-wheel drive layout. Just over 20,000 of the little cars were built early in the 1990s.

The seller’s Emerald Green edition is one of about 5,000 made in that color. We are told he ordered it from Japan (new?) and had it shipped to him in Aotearpoa, New Zealand. After running around over there for some time, he brought it to the States and settled in Seattle. We understand these cars were so hard to come by new that you had to enter in a lottery to have your name drawn to buy one. It came with a 1.0-liter turbocharged engine that put out 75 in the horsepower department and 106 lb.-ft in torque, all with an automatic tranny. These little rockets were capable of breaking 100 mph, although I would consider that risky riding on 12-inch wheels and tires.

All these cars had the steering on the ride side. This one has 86,000 mikes on it (reads 113k km on the odometer). Recent enhancement or repairs include a new convertible top and a fairly new battery. The power steering has a small leak that will need tracking down and the emergency brake is “sticky” to apply. The dash has some wear and tear, and the seller knows a source that can fix it (in England!). Besides having goodies like power windows and leather seating, it also has air conditioning, but the seller says it has never been used. The retro-ish AM/FM radio must be tuned to U.S. frequencies if you want to listen to some tunes.

Despite not being an officially U.S. released car, Hagerty has tracked resale values and places top dollar at $30,000. One in Good to Excellent, which likely describes this car, which narrows the field to maybe $16,000. If you missed your chance in the lottery in 1991 to buy one, here is your chance!

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I like the retro design before retro was a thing. Especially the interior.

    Like 9
  2. Rick

    Cool little cars. The wife and I were looking at them a couple years ago as a toy.. never did pull the trigger mostly due to lack of storage space. But, got to drive one that a local importer had. Surprisingly spacious for their size and nimble enough. At 6′ and 220, I had no issues fitting in the driver’ seat. Rear window channels, roof and trunk lid were major rust areas, so a PPI is always encouraged. Big resources for parts in the UK still. This one, IMHO is priced at the high end for the mileage.

    Like 2
  3. Sam61

    Duncan has a couple dozen of these for sale. Looks like a fun 3 season car.

    Like 3
  4. Derek

    I always liked these, along with the other Pike cars. The mechanicals are all Micra, so fairly uncomplicated. I always sing to them if I see one on the road…

    (Le Nozze di Figaro)

    Like 1
  5. local_sheriff

    Gutbrod Superior in modern wrapping

    • Gerard Frederick

      Now there´s a name I haven´t heard in decades. The Gutbrod Superior was inded a fine little car, victim of strange underhanded shenanigans in which I think VW was involved. Gutbrod produced an excellent 500cc motorcycle in the 1930´s and is, I think still in business producing machinery of various kinds.

  6. SebastianX1/9

    My whole life I thought these were the first retro Fiat 500. Nissan? I didn’t even know they were rhd. I do like them whatever they are.

    Like 1
  7. Steve Clinton

    A real attention getter…but do you really want that kind of attention?

  8. chrlsful

    this is just 1 of several of the ones the Japanese corps made abt the same time w/’personal flair’, retro, or “stylin clues’. 10, 20 yrs of national depression was not the only reason. All the co.s constantly try something. This & the same era escargot (‘snail”) stand out as the worse and best of the offerings. I believe miaita came out of the same sensibilities (’60s Brit/Italian knock off).
    I like a 🎵 Figaro, figaro, figaro 🎶 if LHD~
    My body’n mind adapt to the RHD fairly quickly but the road conditions, buildings, cities and society does not.

    Like 1
  9. Peter R

    by my calculation 113,000 km is 70k miles not 86k miles (multiply by .62)

  10. Chris Londish Member

    These were sold in Australia to, about the same time and were popular with the trendy set, but now have become a bit of a collector car as becoming extremely rare

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