From rusting to rallying: Nissan restores 1987 Paris-Dakar Patrol racer

Rusting and forgotten, Nissan’s class-winning 1987 Patrol Fanta Limon Paris-Dakar rally vehicle sat in a Spanish museum until 2014. After images of the historic racer cropped up online, however, Nissan motorsport engineers hatched a plan to rescue it.

This tenacious team convinced Nissan to purchase the aging vehicle with the plan of restoring it before its 30th anniversary. Helping their case was the fact that this particular Patrol was the first diesel car to finish in the Dakar rally’s top 10 spots. It also won the diesel category in 1987.

Once the vehicle was salvaged from the museum, engineers went straight to work at Nissan’s European Technical Center (NCTE). This was no easy fix, however. “The engine was in terrible condition,” noted Juan Villegas, one of the technicians. “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.”

Finding spare parts required the engineers to search all over Europe and use every resource Nissan had available. Most of the time spent restoring the truck was after hours on nights and weekends. “We wanted the car to be accurate in every way and were lucky to get the very old drawings and service manuals from NTCE,” Villegas said. “We followed all the fine adjustments to get the exact Paris-Dakar race setup.”

It took two and a half years but in November, the project was finally completed. Eager to prove their work, the engineers took the restored racer to the Sahara desert, where it tore up the dunes with the same force as in 1987. “Our brains, hearts, and souls have gone into this project and it has not been easy,” remarked Pedro Diaz Illan, the only NTCE technician that was around for the Patrol’s original Dakar race. “But to see the car in the desert again was just fantastic.”

How’s that for a holiday heartwarmer?

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