After the Nissan Prairie a fortnight back, and the Citroen Dyane last week, we’re still in Utility Mode here at The Carchive. We’re looking at Datsun / Nissan’s entry to the SUV fray – in the early days of that phrase having traction, so to speak.
It’s fair to say that the Datsun Patrol rather lived in the shadow of the Toyota Landcruiser – the latter was famous as the darling of the Australian Outback, even though the Patrol was no stranger to equally dusty climes and certainly substantially more dependable than, oh I don’t know, a Land Rover or something.
“Datsun Patrols are go anywhere, all-purpose 4-wheel drive vehicles with a high standard of comfort and equipment – and the Datsun reputation for reliability”
The early 1980s were a time when there really wasn’t such a thing as a ‘luxury SUV’. Utility was king, and even the Range Rover had some of the ‘hose clean’ attributes that would soon be lost from such vehicles forever. The Patrol even had bare painted metal surfaces inside. It was clearly a car designed with purpose in mind, and was pretty much bereft of any interior or exterior tinsel. Although certain local enforcement agencies must have enjoyed the cost saving that “PATROL” being pre-printed on the rocker panels brought.
Datsun still considered the Patrol to be an upmarket product, though, as ‘luxury equipment levels including tinted glass and push-button radio’ implies.
“The Patrol Hardtop is a 2-door, 5-seater short-wheelbase vehicle with easy to clean vinyl covered seats and flooring. The Patrol Estate is a 4-door, 7-seater long wheelbase version with the added luxury of cloth seats and floor carpets”
Now you’re talking! You also got a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob, integral head restraints, a lockable glovebox and centre console oddments box, along with a smattering of lights to tell you when four-wheel drive was engaged, and keep an eye on the handbrake and charging system.
What really, mattered, though, was to be found beneath the surface.
You got a choice of two six-cylinder engines, a 2.8-litre petrol and a 3.3-litre diesel, of 120 and 95bhp respectively. Nothing high tech, but unburstable, reliable slugging power, just the kind of thing you wanted when clambering over rocky obstacles such as rocks and other obstacles. Rear-wheel drive was the default, with the front wheels called forth when the terrain got lumpy, and there were high and low ratios to choose from.
The chassis could barely be more straightforward, with Land Rover-style live axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs and telescopic shock absorbers. Nice and simple, to allow for field-expedient fixes if the going got too tough.
As the Patrol’s life went on, it got rather more luxurious – as the market dictated. It never really got a great deal more sophisticated, though, and didn’t really see much of an update after the fifth-generation model came out in 1998. It exists in production mainly for African states, to whose roads the Patrol is ideally suited.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Datsun, who now offer the namby-pamby Qashqai and X-Trail in Europe, both of whose options lists conspicuously lack a hose-clean interior choice)