Nissan Pao

1989 Nissan Pao

Offered by Mecum | Los Angeles, California | February 17-18, 2017

Photo – Mecum

I just asked someone in the room when they thought this car was built and their answer was “1969.” Something funky was going on in Japan in the 1980s (and let’s face it, every year before and after that, too). Mazda and Toyota were building strange things, but Nissan was taking the cake.

Their “Pike” series of cars was a line of four small cars with far-out designs. The Pao was the second “Pike” car introduced and it was only sold during the 1989 through 1991 model years. It is powered by a 1.0-liter straight-four making 51 horsepower that could regularly get over 50 mpg.

These cars were only ever sold in Japan and could be had with a cloth sunroof. Their retro styling was, strangely, ahead of its time. In just 1.5 years of production, Nissan moved 51,657 cars – which they managed to sell all of in just three months. This 65,000 mile example is a rare bird in the U.S. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $12,500.

10 Modern Rarities

There are cars that are rare, obviously. Sometimes it is intentional – Lamborghini and Ferrari want to sell a lot of cars and make a lot of money, but they have to balance that with exclusivity. If everyone drove a Ferrari, they wouldn’t be as special (but we’d be a lot happier, I would guess). Anyway, we are going to celebrate 10 cars (or trucks or SUVs) produced since the year 2000 by major manufacturers that just didn’t sell. Some were flops. Others were doomed from the start.

A few cars just missed the cut. Apologies to the final generation Saab 9-5, Lincoln Mark LT pickup, those two new Scions (the 2016-only iA and iM), Pontiac G5, PT Cruiser Convertible, and (at some point in the future) the Chevrolet SS. Here we go:


10. 2005-2009 Mitsubishi Raider

Mitsubishi_Raider_crew_cab

A number of Mitsubishi’s could’ve made this list. A few years ago they sold 50,000 cars in the U.S. and Ford sold half a million F-150s in the same time span. But the Dodge Dakota-based Raider is pretty rare on our roads. Over six years, they sold only 28,334 of these.


9. 2004-2005 Saab 9-2x

Saab_9-2X

The Saab 9-2x was a badge-engineered version of the Subaru Impreza hatchback. The “Saabaru” was only sold for two years and only 10,346 were built. While the Subaru version is pretty common, you almost never see the Saab. Or maybe you do – they are identical other than the grille area. It’s the fancy-man’s Impreza.


8. 2002 Lincoln Blackwood

2002_Lincoln_Blackwood_2

Have you ever actually seen one of these? I haven’t seen one in years. This was Ford’s fancy F-150 Crew Cab and it only lasted in the U.S. for one model year (Mexico got a second year). In total, only 3,356 were built. I guess people weren’t ready for a $52,000 pickup truck from a “soft” brand. My favorite Blackwood story is that, at the end of the 2002 model year, there was a dealership somewhere that had a deal: buy a Lincoln Blackwood, get a brand new Mercury Cougar… free. Talk about saddling dealers with some dead weight.


7. 2005-2008 Isuzu i-Series

Isuzu_i-Series

This was basically just a copy of the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon that was already on sale in the U.S. The picture above shows a four-door version, even rarer than the heavily-discounted two-door base model (I once saw a brand new one on a dealer lot for about $8,000 back in its day). It was a slow-seller… in the first year there were only 1,377 takers. Isuzu left the U.S. shortly after.


6. 2010-2013 Acura ZDX

1280px-2011_Acura_ZDX_--_NHTSA

Uh, what is this? The shaving razor grille of Acura is on some sort of… SUV? Crossover? Tall car? Does it have four doors or two? I’ve only ever actually seen one of these… and they are relatively recent. Only 7,191 were built and sold (they sold 18,000+ NSXs). So you’re twice as likely to see an NSX than a ZDX. Think about that.


5. 2008-2012 Suzuki Equator

2009_Suzuki_Equator_extended_cab_Premium

The pickup market is a tough nut to crack. The Equator was a Nissan Frontier-based pickup offered by Suzuki. It’s actually a decent-looking truck – better than the Nissan anyway. Canadian sales ceased in 2010 but U.S. sales soldiered on until 2012 (and Suzuki left the U.S. market not long after). Since 2009, they sold only 5,808 of these. Pretty rare.


4. 2002-2005 Lexus IS300 SportCross

Toyota_Altezza_Gita_002

Yes, I know the photo above is of the Japanese Toyota variant, but Lexus sold it as the IS300 SportCross between 2002 and 2005. While the IS300 is one of the best (the best?) car Lexus has ever built, the SportCross was a dud. Only 3,078 were built. Bentley Continental GTs are more common on our roads.


3. 2009-2010 Hummer H3T

Hummer_H3T_NY

The Hummer H3 was an SUV built between 2006 and 2010 by Hummer. The H3T was a pickup variant only available for two of those years. It was a popular concept a few years before it ever went on sale – but by the time it did the market didn’t care. Only 5,680 were made and I have never seen a single one.


2. 2011-2014 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

2011_Nissan_Murano_CrossCabriolet_--_10-28-2011

I think this easily qualifies as the most bizarre vehicle on this list. It’s probably the most bizarre vehicle produced by a major automobile manufacturer in quite some time. I’m not sure how many of these were built but I’ve only ever seen two: both driven by women in their mid-50s.


1. 2011 Saab 9-4x

1280px-Saab_9-4X_--_04-08-2011

Here’s the unicorn. Before General Motors kicked Saab to its knees and shot it point blank in the head, they introduced the 9-4x. It’s basically a Cadillac SRX that was produced in Mexico for its Swedish cousin. It went on sale literally right before the brand was shuttered. Only about 500 of these were made. I’ve actually seen one in my tiny hometown. But it’s easily the rarest car on here, and thus why it is #1.

Nissan 300ZX

1992 Nissan 300ZX Coupe

Offered by Auctions America | Hilton Head, South Carolina | October 31, 2015

Photo - Auctions America

Photo – Auctions America

The Toyota Supra. Mazda RX-7. Mitsubishi 3000GT. And the Nissan 300ZX. These were the sportiest Japanese cars you could buy in the 1990s. But by the mid-to-late 90s, they were all gone. As the prices came down on used ones, high schoolers took over, modifying them beyond repair. This car is a glimmer of hope.

This generation of Nissan’s Z-car was built between 1989 and 2000 (although they ceased arriving on American shores after 1996). The engine is a 3.0-liter V6 making 222 horsepower. An even-sportier twin turbo model was also offered. This car does have the glass T-tops.

Because so many of these have been driven into the ground by young people desperate to get their hands on something fast, not many remain – especially this clean and in this condition. In fact, Supras and RX-7s are climbing in price and are hardly ever seen. This is the most common of the three but you never see one that really looks like its got its stuff together. It’s a low-mileage, one-owner car estimated to bring $25,000-$30,000. Hopefully it goes to a good home. Click here for more info and here for the rest of Auctions America’s lineup.

Update: Sold $12,100.

Nissan R87E

1987 Nissan R87E

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | June 27, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Nissan built some pretty awesome Group C racing prototypes in the late-80s and early-90s even if they didn’t have much on-track success. The R87E was their 1987 car and their third attempt at breaking into the Group C world. It used a chassis supplied by March Engineering of the U.K. and an in-house designed-and-built engine.

The powerplant is a 3.0-liter twin turbo V-8 making in excess of 750 horsepower. This was a step up from their previous car’s 700hp V-6. 1987 was a disastrous year for Nissan’s program, running only two events and failing to finish both. So for 1988, this car was upgraded to R88C specification and it ran at Le Mans again in 1988. Here is it’s 1988 competition history:

  • 1988 Fuji 500km – DNF (with Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Kenji Takahashi)
  • 1988 Suzuka 500km – 6th (with Hoshino and Takahashi)
  • 1988 Fuji 1000km (May) – 7th (with Win Percy, Hoshino and Takahashi)
  • 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans – 29th, DNF (with Aguri Suzuki, Takao Wada and Hoshino)
  • 1988 Fuji 500 miles – 5th (with Hoshino and Takahashi)
  • 1988 Suzuka 1000km – DNF (with Toshio Suzuki, Hoshino and Takahashi)
  • 1988 Fuji 1000km (October) – 9th (with Allan Grice, Hoshino and Takahashi)

This car was sold and restored to R87E specification with 1988 Calsonic livery and a 3.3-liter development version of the 3.0-liter Nissan V-8 – making 780 horsepower. Bonhams says the engine has been run for less than an hour since rebuild. Only three of these were built and this one should bring between $710,000-$810,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams.

Update: Not sold.

Ex-Colin McRae Nissan 240RS Rally Car

1984 Nissan 240RS Group B

Offered by Silverstone Auctions | Stoneleigh, U.K. | February 22-23, 2014

1984 Nissan 240RS Group B

The Nissan Silvia began life in 1964 as the Datsun Coupe 1500. The third generation (code name: S110) was introduced in 1979. In the U.S. it was called the Datsun 200SX. It was sporty looking with only two doors but lacked any real performance cred.

When the FIA introduced Group B regulations in 1982, Nissan found the Silvia’s calling for performance. Group B had homologation rules – so Nissan had to build some for the road too. Those are rare. This is the Group B race version.

It is powered by a 2.4-liter straight-four making 237 horsepower. The car you see here was owned by the late rally legend Colin McRae. It was the only Group B car he ever raced during the Group B era – even though he used it in 1987 and Group B was dismantled after 1986.

This car has been extensively rebuilt and prepped for events and is used occasionally (like at Goodwood). Only about 200 of these cars were built between 1983 and 1985 and only about 30 of those were competition models, making this very rare. And having one of rally’s legends as a former owner and driver just makes it even better. It should sell for between $83,000-$100,000. Click here for a more detailed history of this car and here for more from this Silverstone sale.

Update: Failed to sell.

Autech Zagato Stelvio

1991 Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1

Offered by Coys | Ascot, U.K. | October 13, 2012

I would hate to call a car that has been designed by one of the world’s foremost automotive design houses “bizarre” so I won’t. I’ll call it “Japanese,” as they are known for their love of quirky, boxy cars. Milanese design house Zagato created the aluminium body – which even has the signature Zagato “double bubble” roof, if only so slightly – while Autech, a Nissan-owned performance tuning subsidiary, was behind the rest of the car.

The car is based on a Nissan Leopard (a car America received as the Infiniti M30) and has an Autech-tuned 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 under hood making 320 horsepower. They also tuned the suspension and the frame. The entire car was built by hand and a production run of 200 was scheduled, although only 104 made it out the door.

They were very expensive when first released in 1989, but the price has subsided a little bit, with Coys expecting this to fetch between $38,000-$48,000. This is a very rare car – tell me if you’ve ever seen one let alone even heard of it. You can read more about it here, and check out the rest of Coys auction lineup here.