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Happy birthday, Patrol!





24 October 2011


 

4×4 Celebration                                                                                           60 YEARS OF NISSAN PATROL

Nissan’s hardcore 4×4 turns 60 this year. And to celebrate the event, the Nissan 4×4 Club recently arranged a get-together of Patrol fans at Three Provinces 4×4 Adventures near Volksrust. We jumped into the Leisure Wheels Patrol and joined the party

Text and photography: GG van Rooyen

We’ve always been fans of the Nissan Patrol. Why? Because it is an amazing all-round off-road vehicle. Not only is it spacious enough to tackle any lengthy overland expedition, but it is great at traversing 4×4 obstacles. It might be big, but it is not unwieldy. If you know how to handle it, it can manage even the narrowest, most winding trails. And it is supremely comfortable.

With some other hardcore 4x4s, you are forced to compromise. Sure, there are a couple of off-road vehicles that are great at crawling over rocks – arguably even better than the Patrol – but they have their limitations.

Some of them are noisy and uncomfortable, while others just don’t offer enough luggage space. The Patrol, on the other hand, offers a great mix of comfort, space and performance. And it is this great all-round ability that has garnered the Patrol a legion of die-hard fans across the globe.

For some reason, though, the Patrol has never sold in the same numbers locally as it has overseas. In places such as Australia and the Middle East, for example, Nissan’s 4×4 is one of the most popular SUVs on the market. In South Africa it remains underrated. Nevertheless, the Patrol has its fair share of local supporters. In fact, it has a considerable fan base – something we realised when we recently met up with Patrol enthusiasts at Three Provinces 4×4 Adventures near Volksrust.

The Patrol, you see, turns 60 this year, and some members of the Nissan 4×4 Club decided to commemorate the event.

“A few of us were standing around at the LA Sport Products in Action Show in May,” says the Nissan 4×4 Club’s Nico Pienaar. “We were discussing the Patrol’s milestone, and wondered how we could celebrate it. We didn’t necessarily want to do something big — just commemorate it as a club. We hoped to get about 15 Patrols together.”

After some consideration, it was decided that Three Provinces 4×4 Adventures was an ideal spot. As its name suggests, it is situated where three provinces – Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State – meet. This made it a perfect venue, since it would attract Patrol fans from a large number of regions.

“I phoned Three Provinces and asked when they would be able to accommodate us,” says Nico. “They told me that the weekend of 23-25 September was open, and I booked it. The Patrol’s 60th birthday party was official!”

As soon as word of the event got out, Patrol owners from all over the country said they would attend.

“We couldn’t believe the response we received. The number of vehicles just kept growing. Fifteen vehicles became 30, 30 became 40, and 40 eventually became 60,” says Nico.

“I phoned Three Provinces to find out how many vehicles they could accommodate, and they told me that 60 was roughly the maximum, so we were forced to limit the number of entries. I’m sure we could have had a hundred vehicles if we’d wanted to!”

The response was so overwhelming that a second event in the Cape was arranged for the same weekend.

On hearing about the excellent response, Nissan South Africa got involved and announced that it would help to sponsor the event. Patrol owners from all over South Africa were ready to party!

As readers know, Leisure Wheels has been in possession of a long-term Patrol for a while. The vehicle was kitted out by LA Sport, and it has since been handed over to a couple of Leisure Wheels 4×4 Safari members to use on overland expeditions. Since it was standing in our parking lot during the weekend of 23-25 September with nothing much to do, we decided to drive to Volksrust and join the fun.

Our plan was to take part in the big event that was scheduled for Saturday, 24 September – a traversal of Three Provinces’ day-long 4×4 trail by all the attending Patrols.

As luck would have it, the weather was not ideal. Even though it was already late in September, it was very chilly. But Patrol owners (and their families) are nothing if not hardy. There was no way that a little cold weather was going to spoil their fun.

Around 08h00, all the vehicles lined up and the convoy started moving up Three Provinces’ mountain trail. To make things easier, the convoy was split into four groups. We were in the first group.

The trail has a number of grade-four obstacles, but we were feeling confident. We’ve taken the Patrol on several off-road trips, including a memorable journey through the Namib where we sent it flying over a dune, and it has always done impeccably well.

With its 4,8-litre engine, it has more than enough oomph to tackle a steep hill. The powerplant generates 190 kW of power and 425 Nm of torque, which means you’ll never run out of steam.

The automatic gearbox is also great. In fact, it might be a little too good. Combined with the Patrol’s powerful engine and four-wheel-drive system, it takes away a lot of the challenge of driving off road. All you need to do is lock the Tiptronic gearbox into second gear low range, lightly work the accelerator and allow the SUV to idle up an obstacle. You hardly need to pay attention. Going down, the auto shifter doesn’t quite offer enough engine compression, but all that’s required is some gentle braking.

The Three Provinces trail consisted of muddy patches, some (large) rocks, steep inclines, water and even an axle twister or two. The Patrol, however, never hesitated.

And it wasn’t alone. All the vehicles – even the oldest models and those without lockers – performed well.

The day was a testament to the capabilities of the Patrol and a reminder of why Nissan’s SUV is a legend in its own time. Perhaps more importantly, however, the day was also a lot of fun. Patrol owners are a passionate bunch. They love being outdoors and they love their vehicles. And with a little help from Nissan South Africa and Three Provinces 4×4 Adventures, they gave one of the best off-road vehicles around the 60th birthday celebration it deserves.

THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES

The Patrol has come a long way. When the first model, the 4W60, was introduced in 1951, it looked, well, a little different.

After the Second World War, Japan’s infrastructure was in a terrible state. So what the government needed was a nimble 4×4 that emergency services could use to traverse the country’s damaged roads.

Three companies competed for the contract. In the end, Nissan didn’t win, but to the benefit of 4×4 fans everywhere, decided to build the little off-roader anyway, and market it as the Patrol. The rest, as they say, is history.

The vehicle had a wheelbase of 2200mm and weighed 1500kg. It sported a 3670cc engine that generated 60 kW of power and 206 Nm of torque. Top speed was 100 km/h. The Patrol has certainly come a long way since then!

NISSAN PATROL: CELEBRATION EDITION

Nissan South Africa has unveiled an “Adventurer 60” model of the Patrol to commemorate the vehicle’s 60th birthday.

Essentially, this is a standard Patrol – but with a few off-road accessories added to the mix. The Adventurer 60 sports a replacement bull bar, snorkel, spotlights and seat covers. It also comes equipped with BFGoodrich tyres, a Garmin Nuvi 500 GPS unit and a recovery kit. Of course, all the accessories are approved by Nissan, which means that the addition of items such as the snorkel and bull bar won’t affect the vehicle’s warranty. Expect to pay about R32 000 more for the Adventurer 60 compared to standard models.