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Here Are All the Weird Quirks of the Nissan S-Cargo

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2016

As you learned a couple of weeks ago, I recently bought a Nissan S-Cargo: a 25-year-old Japanese cargo van that a) is only slightly longer than a smart fortwo, b) uses a 75-horsepower carbureted engine and c) highly resembles a snail. It will not surprise you to learn that this car has a lot of unusual quirks.

Since many of you asked for a closer look at this unusual snail-car, I've decided to provide it here today by telling you all of its crazy quirks. I'm going to write down a bunch of the quirks, and then, as I do, I'm going to shake my head in amazement that anyone actually produced this vehicle.

I'll start with the most annoying quirk: the chime. Or, for anyone who has ever driven a Japanese car from this era, the Chime. It must be capitalized because it's so upsetting, sort of like the Kraken, the Recession or Long Island.

Here's the situation with the Chime. Back in the 1980s, the highest speed limit in Japan was 100 kilometers per hour, which is roughly 60 miles per hour. Apparently, the Japanese took this speed limit very seriously -- so seriously, in fact, that the government mandated all automakers must install a chime to alert the driver when a vehicle has exceeded 60 mph. So, you're cruising along on the highway doing 59 mph, and then you cross over to 60, and... DING ding. DING ding. DING ding. DING ding. And it keeps going, until you get back below 60. Let me repeat that: It never turns off.

The Chime.

The Chime isn't the S-Cargo's only annoying feature. There are also the mirrors, which -- while very cute -- are also approximately as malleable as Play-Doh. As you drive down the highway, the mirrors slowly get pushed down by the wind. So you roll down the window and push the mirrors back up. Then, 5 minutes later, they get pushed down again. It's all very exciting, drivin' the S-Cargo, listenin' to the Chime, pushin' up the mirrors.

Not that you can really listen to much besides the Chime. When you put the radio on FM, you can scroll between 76 and 90. Let me explain that a little clearer: You can't listen to "103.1 THE FAN!" or "104.7 CLASSIC HITS!," because the radio only goes as high as 90. But you can listen to whatever static is playing on, for example, 83.7.

So you're sitting there, listening to the Chime, rolling down the windows to prop up the mirrors -- and oh, by the way, you have to be careful when you roll down the windows. That's because the windows, the windows on top of the windows (check the photo) and the windshield are all out of production and tremendously unique, so they're not really replaceable. The main thing I'm thinking when I drive down the highway is, "Please no rock chips! Please no rock chips! Please no rock chips!"

Actually, what I'm really thinking is, "Will I even make it?" The S-Cargo has a 75-hp engine, a 3-speed automatic transmission and a 7-gallon gas tank. The result is that the engine is working incredibly hard just to move you along at 60 mph -- although who knows exactly how hard, because there's no tachometer -- so you have to stop constantly for fuel. Last weekend, I filled it up with gas and drove it roughly 70 miles to Cars and Coffee. Then, I had to fill it up with gas again before I came home.

Of course, the truth is that none of this really matters, because no sane person would ever drive this thing on the highway -- largely due to another quirk: its size. The S-Cargo is taller than it is wide, and it rides on skinny 13-inch wheels -- an upgrade from the factory 12-inchers -- so you constantly feel like you're going to get blown over by a passing vehicle. And there are many passing vehicles.

Naturally, the S-Cargo's quirks aren't all annoying. Some are actually quite brilliant. For instance, although there are manual locks, windows and mirrors, there's an automatic release for the rear hatch, so you don't have to turn off the S-Cargo to use the key in the hatch if you're making a quick delivery. There's also the removable ashtray, which is easy to empty.

And then there's the S-Cargo's final neat trick: Despite being only slightly longer than a smart fortwo, it has a backseat. Unfortunately, this back seat doesn't lock into place, it doesn't have any seat belts, and it doesn't have any legroom. But it's there, for a theoretical rear-seat passenger. Not that you'll ever find anyone who wants to ride with you, now that they know about the Chime.

DING ding. DING ding. DING ding. DING ding.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here Are All the Weird Quirks of the Nissan S-Cargo - Autotrader