Thanks to The Internet, a little piece of Dakar rally history has been saved from a slow and ignominious death. This is the 1987 Paris-Dakar rally Nissan Patrol ‘Fanta Limon’, fresh from a two-year restoration and ready to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its 13,000km race.
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Nissan has restored its ground-breaking 1987 Paris-Dakar racer
First diesel ever to finish in Dakar’s top ten gets a new lease of life
Engineers from Nissan’s European Tech Centre in Barcelona came across the badly dilapidated wreck of the Dakar Patrol languishing in a Spanish museum via an internet forum. They acquired the rusty, rat-eaten hulk and spent two years’ worth of weekends and evenings bringing it back to full fitness. The results, as you can see, are delightfully Eighties.
So, why bother lavishing potentially marriage-wrecking time on an old Patrol? Well, you’re looking at the first diesel car ever to finish inside the top ten overall Dakar finishers, as well as the 1987 diesel class winner for the Saharan event. These days, the event is dominated by oil-burners, so this Patrol is as much a piece of motorsport history as the first TDI Audi Le Mans racer.
And it wasn’t as if number 211 here had an easy time of it. Its sister car, Patrol no. 212, took a barrel roll down a dune and retired, and the team’s spares truck broke down in only the race’s second stage, leaving the Patrols with precisely no support in the event of a mechanical failure or crash. That 211 finished at all was against the odds. To usurp a petrol car from the top 10 was a miracle.
The car’s specs are fairly modest: the 2.8-litre four-pot turbodiesel is good for just 145bhp, and gives the 1,600kg Patrol a top speed of around 93mph. But it’s tough. Tough enough to survive a Dakar, then years of neglect, and now at last, a happy retirement.