(Editor’s note: During the month of February, the ClassicCars.com Journal presents a series of stories exploring car clubs and what they offer to the collector car community. If you have a car club story to share, see the note at the end of this article.)
My son Paul is a quirky guy, a fine artist and a high school photography teacher who likes things that are just a little bit offbeat. Naturally, his car of choice is about as offbeat as you could get: a 2013 Nissan Cube.
Paul revels in his Cube’s oddness, that it’s shaped like a box on wheels and has that funky asymmetrical treatment of its back half, among its many stylistic eccentricities. Besides that, it suits his lifestyle of toting around all kinds of stuff, including his wife and 5-year-old daughter, who, naturally, sees the Cube as kind of an overgrown toy car.
“We all know that the Cube is not a cool car or an aggressive car or a fast car,” says Paul, an authentic millennial at 33. “It’s a niche car. It has an appeal to it almost like a (Volkswagen) microbus does.
“It’s not really a joy to drive, per se. But it has a lot of room, it’s very comfortable and the looks are just edgy enough to be interesting. It has sort of an art vibe to it.”
Paul’s had his Cube for a little over a year and still remembers how he sought out other owners and fans of his newfound automotive obsession. Of course, being the pandemic year, his quest for fellow Cube enthusiasts was limited to virtual association. But still, he’s been able to join Cube clubs.
“I was so enamored with the Cube when I first got it, I would look online and find any Facebook groups with Cube stuff,” he said. “At first, I wanted to see about maintenance and things like that.
He quickly found out that even with car clubs based on the same brand or model, they can take different approaches and have varying types of content. The international club, with most members located in England and southeast Asian countries, is sort of a social group, while the US club is more hands-on.
“I prefer the international club to the US one because the US club is more about maintenance,” he said. “If I have a weird maintenance question, I just post it up there and generally someone will answer it.
“The international one, I would say is a celebration of all things Cube. They seem to enjoy the Cube so much. Not necessarily about tuning the Cube or making it faster or making it jazzier looking. It’s more about having fun. The international one is a little more cheeky than the American one.
“People make art based on Cube stuff, people post stuff where they see the Cube, out in the real world, on TV or print media. It’s just kind of fun. People swap stories about having the Cube. They just really enjoy the Cube.
“So the clubs are both for maintenance answers and just saying how much I enjoy my Cube.”
Paul is now an official club member of both the US and the world clubs, from which he gets all his Cube needs fulfilled. That is, other than physically socializing with other club members which, presumably, will take place once coronavirus is tamed.
Will there someday be a world conference of Cube owners? Time will tell.
A quick look at the Cube Life club, the American group, reveals that there are an astonishing 12,500-plus members and more than 45,000 posts, which seems like quite a substantial and active club for such a niche vehicle.
Sure enough, the cover page is dominated by care and maintenance questions from owners, asking about such things as transmission oil changes, determining the cause of hard starting and why cold air is blowing out from under the driver’s seat. Other members provide their answers.
One member asks what other owners have named their Cubes, and there’s a thread with words of praise for the circular shag-rug topper, a Nissan accessory that fits into an indentation on the dashboard.
The Nissan Cubes that came to the United States were third-generation models and sold from 2009 through 2014, but they never really hit very big sales numbers. Key competitors were fellow boxes Honda Element and Scion xB from Toyota, although the Cube is quirkier. In Japan, Cubes were available through 2019.
The international Cube Owners Club website does seem more entertaining than the US site, with the cover page dominated by fun stories and observations. Apparently based in the UK – where they have essentially similar right-hand-drive Cubes as the Japanese home market – the site is loaded with self-deprecating British humor, which recognizes that Cube enthusiasm could be just a bit odd.
“Obviously being shaped like a brick they’re not very fast – I actually opted for a slower car because of a heavy right foot,” notes the introductory article on the home page. “The Cube hasn’t disappointed on that front.”
That article also spells out some positive reasons for owning a Cube.
“It’s great to drive something which is really rather rare and unique yet under the bonnet is a common car with parts that are readily available – you won’t need a specialist garage to maintain one,” the writer says.
“I’ve often heard the term smiles per gallon used when talking about the car’s fuel economy and yes, they are slow, a bit underpowered and fuel economy can’t rival its modern counterparts. But they do offer a certain amount of charm and individuality to which a modern daily can’t compare.”
Paul knows that his Cube is basically weird, with the same sort of reverse snobbery attached to it that you might experience driving around in an AMC Pacer. He even describes it with a French term that focuses on undefinable coolness, something that is perhaps appreciated only by those who get it.
“I can’t tell you what’s so cool about it because basically nothing is,” he said. “But it has that je ne sais quoi. Those who know, you know?”
Do you have a car club story you’d like to share? Just go to this link, fill in the information and submit your story to be considered for publication in our Car Club Series.