Nissan rally truck returns to the desert after serving as rat food for 30 years

A team of highly dedicated Nissan employees has finished the restoration of a 1987 Patrol that left its mark on the history of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Almost 30 years ago, the SUV became the first diesel-powered rally car to finish the grueling, 8,000-mile race in the top ten spots.

Nissan explains the Patrol was little more than a wreck rusting away in a Spanish museum when eight of its engineers joined forces to give it a new lease on life. However, bringing it back to its former glory was easier said than done.

“The engine was in terrible condition. It was impossible to start and many parts were heavily corroded,” explained Juan Villegas, one of the technicians who participated in the restoration. “The front axle was quite damaged, but the worst thing was the electrical system, which had been badly attacked by rats,”

Working exclusively in their spare time, the employees began the restoration process by separating the body and the frame. Patrol parts are getting difficult to find these days, so the team made phone calls to Nissan dealers all over Europe in a bid to use as many original components as possible.  Parts that couldn’t be sourced new were purchased used and restored in-house. This shows the employees’ dedication, and it also reveals that the Dakar-going Patrol shared quite a few bits and pieces with the regular-production model it was based on.

The 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine was rebuilt from the ground up, and the frame was given a fresh new coat of paint. It looks like the body was largely left as-is because it still bears battle scars from its time in the Sahara desert. “We wanted the car to be accurate in every way, and were lucky to get the very old drawings and service manuals,” affirmed Villegas.

At the end of the restoration process, the finished Patrol was shipped back to the Sahara desert for a test run. It’s set to join Nissan’s collection, where it will be better taken care of than in the last three decades.

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