Nissans have gained a well-deserved reputation for dominating race tracks, whether it’s skillfully maneuvering through bends or unleashing power on straightaways. This recognition extends beyond iconic models like the GT-Rs, Fairladys, and Silvias, reaching even Nissan’s inaugural SUV, the Patrol.
The Patrol boasts an impressive history, earning praise from the Japanese automaker for being the pioneering vehicle to conquer Australia’s formidable Simpson Desert. Equipped with a robust suspension system capable of tackling rugged trails, these rugged trucks also possess an unexpected agility, making them pleasantly spirited on the road.
During its tenure from 1988 to 1998, Nissan’s initial SUV release in the United States received a significant upgrade in the form of the 3-liter RB30 inline-six engines found in the legendary Skyline. This infusion of power bestowed the SUV with immense potential.
With the right modifications, these robust yet audacious machines have gained a reputation for overpowering supercars like the Porsche 918 in exhilarating drag races. Meanwhile, the Datsun 510 boasts an impressive track record, securing numerous accolades such as multiple Trans AM and Australian Rally championships, solidifying its place in automotive history.
With its diverse array of shared components from other Nissan models, the Datsun 510 offers enhanced parts availability, cementing its popularity among tuners. As one of the pioneers in the realm of tuned cars, these vintage Datsuns continue to undergo remarkable transformations into drag-racing powerhouses even today.
Now, the question arises: In a contemporary drag race, which of these enduring nameplates will emerge victorious?
Presenting in the blue corner, we have a heavily modified 1992 fourth-generation Nissan Patrol GQ that defies all expectations. This beastly machine showcases a bespoke 5.2-liter Billet RB30 engine, featuring an enormous Garrett Turbo, reputedly unleashing a staggering 2,000 hp.
The driver proudly asserts that the tuned Patrol GQ could push the boundaries even further by incorporating nitrous, albeit at the expense of struggling with traction. Additional enhancements encompass carbon fiber bumpers, a custom roll cage, coil-over suspension, and the utilization of E85 fuel, completing this formidable package.
To reduce weight, the SUV was equipped with smaller brakes, relying solely on a rear parachute system to compensate for its limited stopping power. While stock fourth-gen Patrols are reportedly valued at around $30,000, this specific build commanded an astounding price tag of $250,000.
If these numbers weren’t awe-inspiring enough, let’s shift our attention to the red corner, where a 1972 Datsun Bluebird 510, affectionately known as the 1600 in Australia, awaits its moment in the spotlight.
Boasting a transformed 4-liter Ford Barra six-cylinder engine, typically found in Australian Ford vehicles like the Falcon sedan and Territory SUV, the Datsun 510 supposedly generates a jaw-dropping 900 to 950 hp, as verified by dyno testing.
This tuner car gem not only shares its suspension system with the fox-body Ford Mustang but also features brakes sourced from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Despite its deceptively modest appearance, the 2,800-lb Datsun 510 carries a weight comparable to the 3,100-lb Patrol GQ, challenging expectations and embodying the essence of a true performance machine.
Just as expectations leaned heavily towards a one-sided outcome, akin to a Patrol outpacing a Ferrari SF90 in a drag race, a twist in the tale unfolded. In the initial race, the Datsun 510 initially held a commanding lead, only to stumble, allowing the Patrol GQ to seize an opportunity and claim victory by a narrow margin.
While the first encounter showcased a close competition, the second race left no room for uncertainty. Astonishingly, the Datsun created a substantial four-car-length gap, leaving the 2,000-hp SUV in its wake. With the monstrous Patrol widely predicted to secure the win, nobody anticipated the Datsun to reach the finish line so swiftly.
The infusion of American muscle into the Datsun 510’s performance worked wonders, considering its original 1.6-liter pushrod engine produced a meager 95 hp. Simply adding an extra zero to its stock horsepower figures propelled the original tuned car to victory.
However, the race was far from decided, as both Nissan legends secured a win each, necessitating a decisive third race. While it came as no surprise that the RB-powered truck triumphed in the final race, the margin of victory, less than a car’s length, was unexpected. The race could have easily swung in either direction, given the closeness of the Datsun to the Patrol GQ at the finish line.
While the use of its secret weapon, nitrous, by the formidable Patrol remains shrouded in uncertainty throughout the races, it didn’t deter the audacious Datsun from pushing its limits.
The timeless charm of these classic JDM treasures was on full display, showcasing the fierce competitiveness that defined the original tuned car and Nissan’s inaugural SUV in their heyday—an attribute that continues to define them even in the present day. Their enduring spirit and performance serve as a testament to their timeless appeal.