Home » Here’s A Be-1, The Start Of The Pike Movement: Cold Start

Here’s A Be-1, The Start Of The Pike Movement: Cold Start

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As you may know, our very own Adrian Clarke went to a huge car show in his native Britain, something called like The King’s Royal Autoscramble Jumblepuppy of Motors or something like that. I think Paddington the bear and Harry Potter were there, possibly as a couple. Anyway, he got lots of great pictures, including this fantastic yellow Nissan Be-1, the car that started the whole Pike Factory experiment for Bubble-Era Nissan, which, in case you weren’t aware, is likely the best Nissan.

Cs Be1 4The Pike Factory wasn’t a literal factory, it was the name given to a group of Nissan designers, led by industrial designer Naoki Sakai. Sakai was a designer of things like cameras and electronics and artful teapots, not a car designer. But that’s what Nissan wanted; the goal was to take a page from the world of cutting-edge consumer electronics design and apply it to cars. The basis of pretty much all the Pike Cars was the humble but reliable Nissan Micra. What was underneath didn’t matter as much as the whole design of the package.

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In 1985, at the Tokyo Motor Show, Sakai’s team showed the world the first Pike product, the Be-1.

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As you can see in that picture, in proportion and overall shape the Be-1 clearly looked at cars like the famous Mini (or the Mini’s fancy sibling, the Riley Elf next to it in Adrian’s picture there) but the design vocabulary was completely modern and cutting-edge. Bright and friendly, the Be-1’s design was free of chrome or traditional ornamenting, instead having ribbed black rubber and clever use of rhythmic stamped shapes, like the flow-through air vents in the C-pillar or the stacked oblongs of the taillights.

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The Pike Factory used the idea of “Nostalgic Modern” as a guiding principle, mining the past for forms and ideas that held positive feelings and nostalgia, but translating them to a modern design vocabulary. It’s funny, the Be-1 came in four colors – Pumpkin Yellow, Tomato Red, Hydrangea Blue and Onion White – but I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen it in yellow.

When the Be-1 was released in 1987, it was a hit, with Nissan needing a lottery to dole out the 10,000 cars built. It was enough of a hit to set up the Pike Factory to go on to build more cars, the Pao, S-Cargo, and Figaro.

Man, I miss that Nissan.

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CRX89
CRX89
9 months ago

Jeremy Clarkson’s mother created the first Paddington Bear toy.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
9 months ago

We need cars like this that try to make us happy again. Not angry.

Ron888
Ron888
9 months ago

True,but one of the later ones went in the opposite direction.Look at a Figaro and tell me you dont see deep sadness.It would be perfect in a Lunig comic

Thomas The Tank Engine
Thomas The Tank Engine
9 months ago

And then Fiat copied the rear lights on the 1995 Brava

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_Bravo_and_Brava

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru
9 months ago

I imported one a few years ago, it was painted black, but due to the respray not being the best quality I could tell it had originally been red. I sold it to a former co-worker who I don’t have contact with anymore, so there may still be a tomato red Be-1 hiding under black paint somewhere in southeast Michigan.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
9 months ago

Cool cars here. Too bad NISSAN lost their way, back in the day.
Is the trunk large enough to carry a chainsaw though?
Asking for a friend.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
9 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

and the “firewood”.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago

Since I’m guessing high-level design is a fairly small world, was the Pike project the genesis of the contempo-retro styling movement we’d see state-side in the ’90s with the New Beetle, SN95 Mustang, etc.?

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
9 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Not really, there was a very specific set of circumstances that led to the creation of the Pike cars, and they were extremely limited production, and even though the Pao and the Figaro were explicitly retro, they didn’t reference any previous vehicles. The later retro craze was a direct result of two related things: Boomers getting into creative positions of influence and fear of the coming of the year 2000.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Thanks Adrian and fascinating. Interesting how as both of those things fade, we seem to be seeing forward-looking design again…

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

Which model do you think epitomizes Pike’s peak?

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
9 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Maybe the Chevy Avalanche, or perhaps the Mercury Mountaineer?

I’ll show myself out.

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
9 months ago

When I was on the hunt for a Pao, I passed on a Be-1 that was only an hour away. No rust anywhere, 38k kilometers, 5 speed, in red. But I wanted a Pao. And now, i regret that choice.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
9 months ago

The Be-1 is such a pure design. The Pao is much easier to appreciate it, but the Be-1 grows on you. Don’t worry, there’ll be another.

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
9 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Maybe- But i am looking at a beater Honda S800 roadster my uncles have, pending price. Or perhaps a TR7. My state starting to ban Kei cars has me.nervous of buying an import.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
9 months ago

I am with you. I am planning to set up an LLC in Montana with my end of year bonus, might be useful for freelancing as well.

Parsko
Parsko
9 months ago

I agree, this is good Nissan. This is Never Never Nissan.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
9 months ago

I’ve always wondered why, during the height of the throwback design period, GM never tried a design based on probably their most iconic design, the ’57 Chevy. I wonder if The Bishop would like to take a stab at that one?

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
9 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

When it came out the Vega was cast as referring back to the ’55.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
9 months ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

Really?!? Well, I don’t see it…

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
9 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Motor Trend ’71 Buyers Guide said…. “Vega styling is quite reminiscent of 1955 Chevrolets from the front with the vertical checkerboard grill and high-mounted single headlamps in each fender.”

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
9 months ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

Huh?!? The Vega has always been a mini 2nd gen Camaro to me.

Maymar
Maymar
9 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

They did do a Bel Air concept in 2002 (using a 315hp turbo I5 borrowed from the Colorado!), but it hasn’t aged great, and they never followed through on it.

https://www.netcarshow.com/Chevrolet-Bel_Air_Concept-2002-infographic.jpg

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
9 months ago
Reply to  Maymar

Woof.

Goof
Goof
9 months ago

Probably the hardest Pike car to find in the states as well. A yellow, “tin top” Be-1 is the one I’d always want if I had the place to put one.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
9 months ago
Reply to  Goof

There can’t be many in the UK. This is the only one I’ve seen. Figaros are everywhere though.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
9 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I really like it. It still looks modern now. Only not, you know, hideous.

Goof
Goof
9 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

When I had some room years, I was talking to the owner of Japanese Classics years ago, who had the only one I could find, but wasn’t actually for sale. Oddly, he said the demand wasn’t there, and moreover people tended to keep them, so not many ended up going overseas at all.

When he did eventually put the Be-1 tintop up, you could’ve bought 3 Paos or Figaros for the price of the Be-1. Granted, the Be-1 was literally in his personal collection (not intended to be sold) for many years, so it also was in amazing condition.

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