My Nissan Be-1 Continues To Scoot Along At A Snail’s Pace

It’s been roughly two months since I plucked this 1987 Nissan Be-1 off Cars & Bids. And thankfully, the little yellow gumdrop has been far more pleasant and usable than I thought it would, even with its annoyances. Where to begin?

Well, how about we wipe out the nitty-gritty bits of ownership first?

My 1987 Nissan Be-1 has been mostly the same since the day I bought it. No modification, no restoration, nothing. It hasn’t even had its first oil change under my care, although that will come once I get around to ordering the parts my dad and I need.

Yes, nearly every part has to be imported from far reaches of the globe, and it can be a bit of a pain searching for a car that’s only one of ten thousand. It’s of great pleasure to know, however, that the Japanese are exceptionally talented at platform sharing, and the existence of the far more common Micra and the more popular Pao have enlarged my parts bin. As such, parts come in far sooner than anticipated, and a handful of Pike car specialists carry most of what I need for nearly any service imaginable (thank you, Figaro Spares). 

Motul Eighties oil? Check. Leftover gasket kit from the previous owner? Check. Carb cleaner, oil filter, and air filter? Check, check, and check. In due time, I’ll source a cam seal and timing belt to complete our little DIY service kit, and that should hopefully edge the car closer to being a real Cars N’ Coffee showstopper, not that it doesn’t turn heads already.

If there’s one thing that’s stayed true to this Be-1 since its arrival, it has to be its telekinetic ability to draw attention. I figured this weird blend of Fiat and Mini cues would garner a couple of looks here and there, but I never expected to draw as much attention as a Pagani Huayra or 488 Pista at local gatherings. Blooming photographers navigate through crowds and cars to snap their suite of pics. Onlookers point and smile, enthused that something has arrived to diversify the usual theme of supercars and tuners. I guess even the simplest, most sedately-styled Pike car still commands the attention of passersby, whether they’re hardcore enthusiasts or not.

My favorite so far was a teenage girl in her Acura MDX, head swiveled over, jaw dropped, and mouthing, “What the hell,” as I whizzed by. Depending on who’s the beholder, it often incites joy or confusion, but never anger.

After two months, my socially-awkward self still hasn’t decided if I’m entirely comfortable with the added attention. But it’s definitely a neat tool for meeting new faces. The car essentially greets people for me, so I don’t have to.

Aside from the minor, still-unidentified leak and impending maintenance that I’m most definitely not looking forward to, regardless of how simple this one-liter lawnmower engine is, the Be-1 remains friendly and willing. It has ferried me to nearby restaurants and continuously achieves its purpose as my RADWood grocery-getter.

The addition of fresh, quality fuel and a half-dose of Sea Foam cured its tendency to stall once warmed up, enabling me to zip farther and farther. The interior is roomy enough for my six-and-a-half-foot behemoth of a friend to ride shotgun without snapping his neck or bulging the canvas roof, which is a gift from the Gods on cool days. Even my dad claimed to have enjoyed taking it on joyrides with his own friends while I was away for annual National Guard training. 

Please, pardon my French, but this car has been quite bitching. Really bitching, in fact. This Nissan fucks. It goes hard in the paint, and it can’t even do 80 miles per hour. As a late-eighties econobox with non-functioning A/C, body roll to make sailors nauseous, and less power than most kei cars, I should hate it. But I don’t. Far from it.

At this point, I’m deciding that the Be-1 probably won’t stick around for too long, and I’d eventually like to graduate to another example of JDM obscurity, but this little Pike Car That Could has me smitten for the time being. It still has work to be done in the meantime, but for now, it has proven to be a charming, usable runabout that will continue to happily scoot along, even if it’s at a snail’s pace.

Published in Car Stories

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David Olsen-Fabian
1 year ago

This is the type of car stuff I love to hear. You picked up something that shouldn’t be interesting or fun and yet it’s both in spades. Great reading, Jeric. Thanks for sharing this treasure with us. Can’t wait for the tails of tune-up follies! Gonna be FUN!

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