I think it’s very interesting to find out how many are left of a certain car and the Nissan Pikes cars always had my attention. I recently found a website that scaped the Dutch license plate registry and aggregate cars. This, in turn, allows me to scrape their site and pull my own statistics out of it. That’s how I recently found out there are 269 Nissan Figaros registered in the Netherlands.
So I thought, why not create a How many are left series where I highlight a certain car or set of cars and try to figure out how many are left? Today I’ll kick off with the Nissan Be-1, which was the first of the Nissan Pikes cars.
Nissan Pikes “Factory”
For those unaware, the Nissan Pikes “Factory” was a special division within Nissan where experimental models were designed, shown to the public and if well-liked also released. This gave us the Be-1, Pao, S-Cargo and the Figaro cars. I’m leaving out the Rasheen out of convenience as that was another non-March-related special by Pikes. I put Factory between quotes as Pikes wasn’t a real factory. In reality, most of their cars were assembled by Takata (the very same as the airbag manufacturer) and some of their own factories. After Pikes closed its doors, the Nissan Autech division took over this role. Autech didn’t go as far as Pikes in modifications, but they still created some retro variants of the Nissan March in the form of the Tango, Bolero, Rumba and Polka quartet! Anyway, I digress…
The first pikes car: the Be-1
The Nissan Be-1 was the first creation by the Pikes “Factory”. Designer Naoki Sakai was hired as a freelancer to give the design teams some fresh ideas. He continued on the March B1 concept and designed the first Japanese retro-styled car and called it the Be-1. When unveiled, the Be-1 outsold the limited run of 10,000 cars and the cars had to be assigned to customers via a lottery system. This kickstarted Nissan’s Pikes cars and the Pao, S-Cargo, Figaro and Rasheen followed. If you are interested in the full story behind the Pikes “Factory”, you can read more in this excellent article by Road & Track.
Even though the Be-1 was a retro-inspired car, compared to the Pao, S-Cargo and Figaro it looks incredibly modern. Stylingwise I would say the Be-1 looks very similar to the Volkswagen Lupo or Polo mk4. But that’s the cart before the horse because the Be-1 was built between 1987 and 1988 and the Lupo only arrived 10 years later. The Be-1 harks back to the 1960s and could be considered a modern interpretation of the Autobianchi A112.
Nissan Be-1s registered in the Netherlands
As Nissan never sold the Be-1 abroad, it will be harder to find them here in the Netherlands. Also, the Pao and Figaro are much more loved than the Be-1. This means prospective buyers will favour the Pao and Figaro over the Be-1. This means only true collectors will get a Be-1. So how many Nissan Be-1s made it to the Netherlands?
The first one has been imported into the Netherlands in 2000. When searching for its license plate I find the owner to be the Nissan collector Jan Manenschijn. It changed ownership in 2018, but that could be an internal transfer from his personal account to the museum. What also makes this more likely is that its APK (MOT) expired in 2011.
The second one has been imported into the Netherlands in 2017. I’m not able to find out who owns it, but I was able to see it switched hands in June 2020. The new owner doesn’t drive it as its MOT expired in September of the same year. This means it’s likely part of someone’s collection.
I had a lot of fun trying to find out more about the Nissan Be-1. Firstly, because I had to know more about how it came to be and what it is based upon. The story of Sakai surprised me a bit. Secondly, I had to try to find out how many are actually in my home country the Netherlands. This proved to be much simpler than I thought with the help of the voertuig-zoeker (vehicle-search) website. And thirdly, I had to try to find out who currently owns them. I found the one owned by Jan Manenschijn, but the other one is a complete mystery. If you happen to know who owns it, please let me know in the comments!