The first Vancouver machine that caught my eye, in an alley in the West End, was this little Japanese import:
It had right-hand-drive, and a certain lustrous quality of fit and finish: Japanese cars sold into their home market seem to exceed the (pretty high) standards of fit and finish typical of the cars Nissan, Toyota, Honda, et al sell in North America. This is a Figaro, and it's a Nissan, though the Nissan nameplate is nowhere to be seen. Nissan built and sold 20,000 Figareaux in the early Nineties. They were originally intended exclusively for the home market, but a bunch went to the U.K.. And imported Japanese specialty cars are quite a hot item on the Canadian West Coast, apparently. Learn about importing Figaros and other Japanese vehicles here.
The Figaro radiates a certain Hello Kitty-esque cuteness, perhaps annoying; and I suppose a lot of car men would see it as the classic girl-car: teeny and twee. But I distrust gendering of vehicles, find it kind of boring; anyway girl-cars are generally more appealing to me than the ersatz masculinity which North American manufacturers ladle onto vehicles aimed at the man-market, especially those monstrous huge pickup trucks, which seem toylike and babyish really: enormous bruto-Tonkas.
I've spent a lot of time on the British Columbia coast this book-tour season, and have noticed that imported Japanese 4WD vans are extraordinarily popular out here, right-hand drive and all. I've seen a lot of Mitsubishi Delica "Space Gear" vans (gotta love Japanese vehicle nomenclature; and these compact, rugged-looking little vans do seem to have a lot of space for gear, though they seem rugged too, and nimble--anything but "delicate"). In the U.S., almost everything has to be huge, or at least getting bigger every year. In the rest of the world, small is tough.
The vans seem to be popular with tree-planters and hippies out here in British Columbia, and surfers, and people who spend a lot of time on bad roads through rain forest or the mountains.
I first noticed them abaord ferries to Vancouver Island and Denman Island last month. My most recent sightings were on the sedate streets of Vancouver's West End. Learn more about importing them here.