Iconic Nissan

returns to Sahara

dunes

Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon 1987, Dakar rally, action
Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon 1987, Dakar rally, side, action
Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon 1987, Dakar rally, front
Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon 1987, Dakar rally, side
Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon 1987, Dakar rally, front, static
Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon 1987, Dakar rally, rear, static

FOUND as a rusting wreck in a Spanish museum, a 30-year-old former winner of the Dakar Rally has once again taken to the sand dunes of the Sahara desert.

The 1987 Nissan Patrol Fanta Limon Paris-Dakar rally car has been fully restored to its former glory by Nissan engineers in Barcelona.

The car's legendary status is second to none, writing its very own chapter in Dakar history.

It took victory in the diesel category, and was the first oil-burner to ever finish in the race's overall top 10, taking ninth spot. Today, all the top cars are diesels.

It took more than two years for dedicated Nissan staff at the company's European Technical Centre to restore the rally car, working after normal hours and at weekends, turning it from a wreck to a highly capable off-road racer.

Pedro Diaz Illan is manager of the electrical and electronics engineering team at NTCE, and the only member of the original 1987 team still working there.

He said: "It was a proud moment. Our brains, hearts and souls have gone into this project and it has not been easy. But to see the car in the desert again was just fantastic."

The story of the car's success in the 1987 Paris-Dakar rally started the year before, when Nissan Motorsport devised a plan to take part in high-profile off-road endurance rallies. The base vehicle was to be the Patrol - Nissan's popular 4x4 vehicle - with the team at NTCE in Spain leading the project.

But the main target of the Nissan Fanta Limon team was the Paris-Dakar. It began on January 1, 1987, with 312 vehicles lining up at the start of the gruelling 13,000 km race through Europe, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal.

Things didn't 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, the one which has been restored, battled on to the end. It was the first diesel to finish, in ninth place overall.

The idea for recovering the car came in 2014, when NTCE technicians spotted images of it on an internet forum. Realising the 30th anniversary was less than three years away, they contacted the museum to ask for it back.

Juan Villegas, an NTCE 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."

"We wanted the car to be accurate in every way, and were lucky to get the very old drawings and service manuals from NTCE. We followed all the fine adjustments to get the exact Paris-Dakar race set-up."

Last month the Patrol was complete and made a return to its spiritual home - the sand dunes of the Sahara - an amazing moment for the team.

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