Back to the Future of Phones

Sometimes the universe throws things your way that can be attributed only to remarkable serendipity. As I had just exchanged of comments with another Xangan about how technology has rapidly changed in the past few decades (in this case, in the context of how to meet people – you remember when people placed personal ads in a newspaper and would receive responses to their post office box?), I came across this funny smartphone accessory:

Broconi Retro iPhone Handset

The Broconi Retro iPhone Handset. Using a form that will be familiar to anyone over the age of about 30 (or who has watched Mad Men), the handset plugs into the audio jack or 30-pin connector on your smart phone. Sure, it is wildly impractical, but with all the concern over smart phone radiation frying your brain each time you make a call, maybe it’s a forward-thinking idea to keep your phone away from your ear. I can’t think of a more stylish way to accomplish that.


Winner of the United Retro Jet Contest

This year marks the 85th anniversary of United Airlines.  In a post last November, I mentioned that they were holding a contest for employees to vote for their favorite previous livery.  The winning livery would then be painted onto a “retro jet” to commemorate the anniversary.  Five previous color schemes were presented, voted on, and I recently saw that the Airbus A320 painted in the winning colors recently took to the sky:

Retro A320


I’m quite excited because of the five liveries, this was my favorite.  It is the one I associate with my early childhood in the 1970s.  I remember drawing airplanes when I must have been in my early elementary years and this was the color scheme I could recreate from memory.

The other four liveries that represent the different eras of United Airlines.

While I’ve had my rough patches with United over the years, it is the company that my father, my husband, and I (not to mention countless friends) all worked for at various points in our lives.  Happy 85th anniversary to the Friendly Skies.  May the merger with Continental make the skies friendly once again!


Nissan Figaro Catches Tawn’s Eye

As our Nissan Cefiro passes eleven years old, Tawn and I keep thinking about a replacement car.  In his mind, the perfect car would be something unique and stylish, maybe a classic instead of a new model.  A few Sundays back, he announced that he wanted to visit a used car dealer on Vibhawadi Road near the old Don Meuang Airport as he had spotted a cute car there and wanted to know what it was.  Turns out, it was a Nissan Figaro.


The Figaro was a limited-edition retro car released by Nissan in 1989 only in Japan.  Some 20,000 were made.  It was built by Nissan’s special projects group known as the Pike Factory.  The car is a popular one for collectors, especially in the UK.


The used car dealer had a half-dozen units in stock.  They specialize in importing classic cars and refurbishing them for resale.  They choose only low mileage (about 55,000 km on average, about 35,000 miles) cars that have never been in accidents.


The cars are then completely gutted and rebuilt.  Engines, air conditioning, and all other systems are thoroughly overhauled and the interior is reupholstered.  They are very thorough and invited us to walk through their garage so we could see the work in progress.


The result is spectacular, lovingly restored.  Before I went back and did some research, I didn’t understand that the car was actually 21 years old and thought it was a more recent model intentionally made extremely retro. 

Datsun Fairlady 1960

It turns out that the design of the Figaro echoes the Datsun Fairlady from the early 1960s.  Beautiful car in the sporty color scheme, isn’t it?  (Picture from Wikipedia)


Ventilation system (including air conditioning) is appropriately retro and refreshingly manual.  Nice to have actual levers rather than buttons.


The stereo system (notice the cracked laminate on the dials) features a CD player, something that was quite cutting edge in 1989.  And a cassette player for you cats who aren’t up to date with the latest technology!  Sorry, no MP3 input.


The Figaro was also an open roof style convertible.  Completely and utterly impractical in Thailand but really cute and the best way for me to sit up straight in the driver’s seat.


The car was originally offered in just four colors – Topaz Mist, Emerald Green, Pale Aqua, and Lapis Grey – but the restorers offer a few additional colors including the pink you see here. 

My assessment of the car?  Well, totally and utterly impractical but very, very cute.  If we wanted a second car to drive for weekend getaways at the beach, this would be it.  Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be any room for a suitcase or overnight bag, but we could drive to the beach and then drive back the next day wearing the same clothes.

So how much for this beauty of a rebuild?  900,000 baht (US$30,000) for a 21-year old car.  Now, cars in Thailand are more expensive than in the US, but to give you a bit of a comparison, I could buy a top of the line Nissan March, a contemporary (and larger) version of this car, for less than 570,000 baht.  And I think the March is a cute car, too.

So I guess we’ll put this on the “Sunday afternoon daydream” list!


The dealer is also restoring a Nissan S-Cargo, another 1989 release from Nissan’s Pike Factory. Inspired by the French Citroën 2CV camionette (small truck), the name was a double entendre meaning both “small cargo” and “escargot”.  Clever, huh? 


The dealer also has one more product from the Pike Factory: the Nissan Pao.  Released at the same time as the Figaro and S-Cargo, the Pao was also retro-inspired and had amazing fuel economy: 51 mpg (5.5 L/100 km) in the city and 79 mpg (3.4 L/100 km).  Prius-like mileage almost two decades before the Prius.