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1987 Paris-Dakar winning Nissan Patrol brought back to life

In 1987, the Nissan Patrol won the diesel-class of the Paris-Dakar… with the win under its belt the Patrol was retired and forgotten about for almost 30 years.

LANGUISHING IN A museum in Spain for almost 30 years, Nissan technicians saw images of the 1987 Paris-Dakar-winning Patrol on an internet forum. That was in 2014. Negotiations began immediately to recover the car, but it wasn’t easy.

Juan Villegas, a Nissan technician and part of the restoration team, said: “The engine was in terrible condition. It was impossible to start and many parts were heavily corroded. The front axle was quite damaged, but the worst thing was the electrics, which had been badly attacked by rats.”

The wreck was transported back to Nissan’s technical centre in Barcelona in May 2014 and the eight-strong restoration team began work, using their own time at evenings and weekends. “Some components were bought used and also restored,” Nissan said.

Juan added: “We wanted the car to be accurate in every way, and were lucky to get the very old drawings and service manuals from NTCE (Nissan European Technical Centre). We followed all the fine adjustments to get the exact Paris-Dakar race set-up.”

With work on the Patrol finished, it was taken to the Sahara Desert for a shake-down run.

Juan said: “The spirit of innovation that was at the heart of Nissan’s entry into the 1987 Paris-Dakar has been all around us as we have completed this project. We felt inspired by the memory of that team, which decided to participate in the most challenging race in the world and achieved such success.”

Nissan Motorsport, in 1986, decided it wanted to put the Patrol into some “high-profile off-road endurance rallies” and thus the Paris-Dakar program was created – it was led by the team at NTCE. The vehicle was built up and run in events in 1986, where it finished first in the diesel calls of three events.

Then in 1987 it entered the Paris-Dakar and won the diesel class, becoming the first diesel in the event’s history to finish inside the Top 10 (it finished ninth overall). “The sponsorship with Fanta Limon came through links between Nissan Spain and drinks brand Coca-Cola, which was looking to exploit the global publicity generated by the Paris-Dakar race,” Nissan said.

The Nissan Fanta Limon team entered two vehicles; car 211 with Miguel Prieto and Ramon Termens as driver and co-driver respectively, and car 212, crewed by brothers Jorge and Hansi Babler.

“Things did not run smoothly. The team’s support truck broke down on the second stage, leaving the pair without spares for the rest of the race. Car 212 was eventually forced to withdraw after rolling down a dune, but 211 battled on to the end. It was the first diesel to finish, in ninth place overall,” Nissan said.

Car 212 has been lost, but 211, the car that Nissan restored, was sold to the Salvador Claret, a private car collection and automotive museum south of Girona, Spain. There it remained for almost three decades, rusting away and being eaten by rats.


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober