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The Nissan Pao Was a Cool, Retro 1990s Hatchback

Although the retro car trend really took off in North America in the early to mid-2000s, thanks to such cars as the Chrysler PT Cruiser, the 2002 Ford Thunderbird, the 2005 Ford GT, the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet HHR and others, Nissan was way ahead of the curve — because Nissan went retro way back in 1989 with the Pao.

The Pao was a small Nissan hatchback that wasn’t sold in North America, and it was built in the so-called Pike Factory along with a few other weird late 1980s Nissan models, specifically the S-Cargo, the Be-1 and the Figaro. The Figaro has gotten a lot of press recently for its retro styling and convertible top, and used Figaroes are starting to gain value. I owned and loved an S-Cargo. But the Pao was very cool and very notable.

The Pao was a hatchback that really looked like a car from the 1950s or 1960s, with retro design lines down the side and circular headlights and taillights. It even had folding rear side windows, like a Citroen 2CV, and the design really had the look of an original Mini mixed with a 2CV mixed with an old Beetle and modernized for the early 1990s. The sole engine was a 1.0-liter 4-cylinder with just 50 horsepower — not strong enough for North America but perfect for its home — and sole — market.

The Pao was a hot seller. Wikipedia notes that Nissan sold 51,000 Paos in three years of production — and these days, the Pao is old enough that it’s legal to import it to North America. As a result, you might see a few around. Even though the Figaro gets all the glory, the Pao is special, too. Find a Nissan for sale

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  1. Saw one of these at a Houston area C&C event.  It was all decked out as a surfmobile, complete with roof mounted board and all the appropriate stickers.   It was cool looking, but way to small for my fat American ass.

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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