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Classic Nissan Rally Car Returns to the Sand

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30 years on: Nissan’s iconic 1987 Paris-Dakar rally car rides again

Nissan’s iconic 1987 Paris-Dakar rally car

The Dakar Rally is a notoriously difficult race. Before 2008, the race was called the Paris-Dakar Rally, and it ran from Europe through Africa, staying mainly in the desert of Northern Africa but occasionally running as far south as Cape Town, South Africa. The instability of northern Africa drove Dakar to South America in the past decade, but the themes of tough terrain to be conquered by off-road vehicles remains.


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In 1987, Nissan blew away spectators with its diesel-powered rally car, the first one of its kind to break into the top 10 with ninth place when it conquered the diesel category. The car was so revered that it was sold to a Spanish museum, but it had been left to rust and decay. In February 2014, when a team at Nissan’s European Technical Center (NTCE) in Barcelona, Spain realized that the 30th anniversary of Nissan’s Dakar rally ride was fast approaching, Nissan Dakar car 211 was recovered and restored to its racing glory.

According to the NTCE team, the engine was a corroded mess that wouldn’t even turn on. Besides the other rusted bits, the car had been helped in its decay by a team of rats gnawing away at its wiring. Luckily for the NTCE team, they had access to Nissan’s original documents for the vehicle about its maintenance and care, and had the support of Nissan’s network of European dealerships to look in their storerooms for old parts they could use.


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Every member of the eight-man team that restored the Dakar rally car used their own time on the weekends and in the evenings to work on the passion project.  Once it was complete, it was transported from Spain to the deserts of its triumph. Take a look at it in the video from Nissan below and relive Nissan’s glory days of the Dakar Rally.