THE GQ PATROL
UNTIL the launch of the GQ Patrol (Y60) in late 1987, Nissan always played second fiddle to Toyota, which had its hugely popular Land Cruiser spearheading its four-wheel drive line-up. But Nissan got the hop on Toyota when the all-coil-spring GQ Patrol landed locally, and it sold like hotcakes compared to the now-outdated leaf-spring 60 Series Land Cruiser. Nissan held on to this technical (and therefore sales) advantage until 1990, when Toyota finally rushed the 80 Series to market.
There were some carry-over body parts from the MQ, but the new GQ Patrol was light years ahead of its predecessor (and competition) in terms of styling, ride quality and refinement. Its long-travel, coil-spring suspension offered a blend of on-road comfort and off-road performance that couldn’t be matched – at least without taking out a second mortgage and buying a Range Rover.
Up front, the GQ Patrol sported a three-link, live-axle, coil-spring arrangement, while the rear was a five-link design (the cab-chassis variant was initially offered with only a leaf-spring rear-end). Sway bars were fitted at both ends and some models featured rear sway bar disconnects for increased wheel travel in off-road situations.
Initially there were two engine options in the GQ Patrol line-up: the 4.2-litre OHV TB42 petrol six (125kw/325nm), and the 4.2-litre OHV TD42 diesel six (85kw/264nm). Both engines were mated to a heavy-duty, fivespeed manual or a four-speed auto transmission, and power was directed through a two-speed transfer case and part-time 4WD system. A limited-slip rear diff was standard, or a rear diff lock could be selected as an optional extra on some models. All wagons featured four-wheel disc brakes, while the cab-chassis retained drums at the rear.
There were a variety of trim levels on offer, starting with the base-spec DX, which had vinyl trim, manually operated windows and mirrors, manual free-wheeling hubs and optional air conditioning. The ST added cloth trim, power windows and mirrors, central locking, standard air conditioning and auto hubs (with manual override). A high-roof Ti model was added in 1989, which scored velour trim, carpet, rear air conditioning, upgraded sound system and alloy wheels. The high-roof (called the Safari Roof) was flicked in 1991, although the Ti model was retained in the line-up, albeit with standard roof height.
Nissan added a third engine to the Patrol wagon line-up in 1990: the 3.0-litre RB30 petrol six (100kw/224nm). This was the same engine used in the Nissan Skyline and Holden VL Commodore and, while not ideally suited for use in a big, heavy 4WD like the Patrol, it proved popular thanks to keen pricing. This engine was only offered with a five-speed manual transmission in seven-seat
ST spec, which was later renamed ST3. The Patrol was updated in 1992, when the GQ Series II was launched. Among other refinements, the 4.2-litre petrol engine gained the benefit of electronic fuel injection (EFI), which improved refinement but did little for the engine’s thirsty nature. Other updates included the addition of side-intrusion beams in the doors, tweaks to suspension and transmission, bigger brakes and changes to the standard equipment list. From 1989 to 1994, Ford Australia sold a rebadged version of the GQ Patrol called the Ford Maverick, in both long- and shortwheelbase models. Ford offered both the TB42 petrol-six (manual or auto) and the TD42 diesel-six (manual only). In 1994, a coil cab version of the GQ Patrol was added to the Nissan line-up, which was sold alongside the pre-existing cabchassis and pick-up models that sported the leaf-spring rear-end. The coil cab offered vastly superior ride to the leaf-spring cab-chassis variants, especially when unladen or with only a light load on board. And surprisingly, the five-link, coil-spring suspension arrangement added less than $1500 to the price of the cabchassis Patrol, proving popular with recreational four-wheel drivers who didn’t need a wagon. However, the leaf-spring version was still a favourite among rural/business buyers; old-school thinking dictated that only leaf springs were suitable for hauling heavy loads.
The GQ Patrol underwent another update in 1995, at which point the RD28T 2.8-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder engine was added to the line-up, in both DX and ST trim levels. The boosted engine produced the same peak power as the TD42 (85kw), albeit at slightly higher revs (4400rpm as opposed to 4000rpm), but couldn’t match the bigger, naturally aspirated engine for torque output, making just 235Nm at 2400rpm as opposed to 264Nm at 2000rpm. Nevertheless, on-road performance was similar thanks to significantly shorter gearing; the trade-off being less relaxed highway touring. Only available with a fivespeed manual transmission, the RD28T’S gearbox was a lighter unit than the one mated to the TD42, and it also missed out on the latter’s excellent transmission-mounted drum parking brake.
Despite its shortcomings, the RD28T version of the Patrol proved popular thanks to keen pricing – it offered a saving at the time of around $4K compared to a similarly equipped TD42 Patrol. Nevertheless, the TD42 Patrol was the favourite among outback tourers who loved this engine’s relative simplicity, decent performance and legendary reliability. For those who wanted extra performance, a number of Nissan dealers offered the superbly engineered Safari turbo and intercooler kits as a dealer-fit option.
Despite the big choice of engine/transmission/spec-level options offered by Nissan, towards the end of the GQ’S lifespan the Patrol was no longer a match for Toyota’s 80 Series Land Cruiser, which was now available with a 1FZ-FE 4.5-litre petrol engine, a 1HZ 4.2-litre naturally aspirated diesel engine, and a 1HD-T direct-injection 4.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. Nissan fans had high hopes when a rumoured replacement for the GQ Patrol was set to land in Australia in 1997 but, initially at least, many would be disappointed.
GU Patrol offered a peerless (for the time) balance of on-road comfort and off-road ability.