After exactly 30 years in the shadows, Nissan brought one of its most iconic sports machines back to life. The awesome rally car Nissan Patrol Fanta Lemon who participated in the Paris-Dakar 1987 has seen its original glory restored and returned to its spiritual home in the sand dunes of the Sahara desert.
This vehicle wrote its own chapter in the mythology of the Dakar. It achieved victory in the diesel category and was the first car with this type of engine to finish in the top ten of the general race., in ninth position. It is worth remembering that currently the best cars in the competition are diesel.
The Fanta Limón model was given a new life thanks to a dedicated team of engineers from the Nissan European Technical Center (NTCE) in Barcelona, Spain. For over two years they worked on restoring the car after work and on weekends, transforming a pile of junk from a Spanish museum into a very capable off-road racing car.
The success story of the car in the 1987 Paris-Dakar rally began the year before, when Nissan motorsport designed a plan to participate in high profile off-road endurance rallies. The base vehicle was the Patrol - Nissan's popular 4 × 4 - and the NTCE team in Spain led the project.
Fanta Limón's sponsorship came through connections with Nissan Spain and the Coca-Cola brand, which wanted to exploit the global publicity generated by the Paris-Dakar. Success came shortly thereafter, thanks to victories in the diesel category from three tests held in 1986 (see results table below).
But the main objective was the Paris-Dakar. It started on January 1, 1987 with 312 vehicles lined up at the start of the grueling 13.000 km race between Europe, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Mauritania y Senegal. The Nissan Fanta Limón team entered two vehicles; car 211 with Miguel Prieto y Ramon Termens as pilot and co-pilot, respectively, and car 212, piloted by the brothers Jorge and Hansi Babler.
Things were not easy. The team's support truck broke down on stage two, leaving the two pairs without spare parts for the remainder of the race. Car 212 was forced to retreat after rolling down a dune, but car 211 fought to the end and was the first diesel to finish a Dakar.
After fulfilling their mission, the cars were withdrawn from the competition. The whereabouts of the Nissan 212 are still completely unknown today, but the 211 was donated to the Salvador Claret, a private car collection and automobile museum located south of Girona, Spain. And there it remained for almost three decades.
The idea of recovering the car came in February 2014 when NTCE technicians saw images of the car on an Internet forum. When they realized that their 30th anniversary was less than three years away, they contacted the museum to get it back.
The car was transported to Nissan's technical center in Barcelona in May 2014, where the work of the eight-member restoration team began, who invested their own time in the afternoons and on weekends. They searched all over Europe for parts and asked Nissan dealers to search their warehouses for more vintage items. Some components were bought second hand and were also restored.
In November 2016 the Patrol ended and he returned to his spiritual home; the sand dunes of the Sahara. The cost of the restoration was covered by Nissan within the framework of its Innovation in Performance fund that is dedicated each year to projects that realize the promise of the brand “Innovation that Excites”.