When I visit my brother in Hong Kong, he and I always find incredible Japanese cars often sitting abandoned on the side of the road. But last week, we spotted something different in front of a junkyard. It was a rare Nissan Pao that someone, for whatever reason, hacked up and turned into a pickup truck. Just look at this absurdity.
My brother, who runs the Instagram page carsofhongkong, has etched into his mind a detailed map of the most beautiful and rare JDM machines hidden in the Special Administrative Region of China. So every time I visit, he and I hop on some rented bicycles and ogle at vehicles that send my jaw crashing against the pavement.
We found some seriously cool stuff this year (not just in Hong Kong, but also in Vietnam) so get ready for goodness, starting with the quirkiest find of them all, a truck-ified Nissan Pao sitting in Hong Kong’s Kam Tin area:
The Pao was one of four vehicles built as part of Nissan’s “Pike Factory,” which yielded cars (the others were the Be-1, S-Cargo, and Figaro) whose primary focus was on styling and which have consequently become cult classics.
To better understand why this red Pao pickup is so odd in the grand scheme of car culture, I’ve enlisted the words of my coworker Jason Torchinsky, who actually owns a Pao. Take it away Jason:
It’s funny, but as someone who daily drives a Pao, I find myself holding two contradictory ideas about this car: on the coldly rational side, of course it’s absolutely insane. Not only is the tiny, sub-1-liter-engine-powered Pao an absurd choice for a pickup, but the rarity of the body panels and trim parts, especially in America, make the idea of cutting one up to be a junkyard runabout feel like hacksawing a Fabérge egg in half so you have something to drink Yoo-Hoo out of. It’s just nuts.
But then again, as a Pao daily driver, I know, deep down that, yeah, a Pao could actually make a fantastic little pickup! I’ve hauled a lawnmower in mine, and it even has a pickup-style tailgate. Really, why wouldn’t you want a tiny, charming, and useful little truck like this? Maybe with a slightly bigger bed.
Really, though, I can’t ignore the rarity. The Pao was one of the limited-run Pike factory cars, and while it was the most-produced of them, it’s not like they cranked out millions of these little jewels. Nissan says they made over 30,000, which isn’t a tiny number, but for mainstream cars, it’s not a lot, either.
You know what, though? I’m still happy this thing exists. And maybe I want more to exist, too.
This Pao, a little front-wheel drive, four-cylinder, sub-1.0-liter former hatchback that makes around 50 horsepower, is missing quite a bit of its structure. For reference, here’s Jason’s Pao, showing how the Pao’s back end is supposed to look:
Yep, this little economy car was originally a hatchback with a pop-up rear glass and a tailgate. Whoever built the homemade pickup, which I’m going to assume—based on its presence out front of a scrapyard—is being used to haul parts around, cut off the D-Pillar and sheared the roof off just aft of the B-posts.
It honestly looks pretty good and, though I have my concerns about the unibody economy car’s overall rigidity, I, like Jason, could see this thing working reasonably well as a parts hauler (so long as it isn’t lugging around multiple engine blocks at a time).
The fact that the Nissan Pao came with a tailgate to begin with really helps keep the contraption looking stylish, though the cab back—which appears to be made of some plastic that’s been grafted onto the B-pillars and roof with some screws and fiberglass—looks a bit janky:
The back seats have been removed, and the entire rear of the car that was once part of the interior has been lined with diamond plating. There’s a rectangular panel cut out of the front of the bed floor; I initially thought this might be an access panel for the fuel pump, but the Pao is carbureted, so its pump is actually mechanical and engine-mounted.
Perhaps it could allow access for something else? Maybe the sending unit for the fuel gauge? Though is it really worth cutting a panel just to know how much fuel you’ve got? I mean, a bad sending unit isn’t the end of the world. I’m just not sure, here.
Even the top of the “cab” is made of diamond plating, which is almost certainly there to cover what was once a giant cloth sunroof spanning almost the entire length of the Pao’s roof:
I can’t really say for certain that this thing is being used as a junkyard hauler, since the body looks pretty clean, devoid of big dings or scratches that you might expect on a vehicle being used to carry heavy metal parts. Plus the interior doesn’t look too bad:
I also think the BBS wheels wrapped in low-profile tires hardly scream “rugged parts hauler,” but hey, this cute little Japanese econobox was sitting in front of a scrapyard, so I’m just going to assume it’s being put to work. Because the very idea of this tiny, rare, Pike Factory car hauling heavy scrap is just too amazing to me, and just so far from the machine’s intended purpose.
Finding a Nissan Pao in the first place is a rare treat. To find one that’s been turned into a pickup is just unheard of, and I bet this is the only such example on earth.