There aren't a lot of nameplates that reach 70 years. If anything, you can count them with your hands. Some of the few examples include the Chevrolet Suburban, Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Ford F-Series. Now, there's a new member ready to join the club.
That model is the Nissan Patrol, and by September this year, the icon will turn 70. Over the years, it transformed from a bare-bones utilitarian to the luxury SUV we know today.
Nissan rolled out the first Patrol in September 1951. Coincidentally, it was launched the same year as the Toyota Land Cruiser. Like most 4x4s of the era, it looked more like a military jeep than a family vehicle. Of course, there is a reason for that. That's because it was primarily designed for the Japanese military.
The first Patrol is tiny by today's standards, especially when you park it beside the latest model. At 3.65 meters long, there are modern hatchbacks longer than the 4x4. It first used a 3.7-liter inline-six, but we wouldn't call it a high-performance engine. That huge iron block only put out 75 PS.
When Nissan introduced the second-generation in 1959, it retained the jeep-like design of its predecessor. That said, there were more configurations available, and doors became standard on most variants. A more powerful 4.0-liter engine was fitted, and it was the first Nissan off-road vehicle exported out of Japan. The second-generation Patrol served Nissan for over 20 years, staying relatively unchanged from 1959 to 1980.
With over 20 years between generations, the 1980 Patrol was a huge leap ahead of the previous model. A five-door version appeared for the first time, boosting practicality and expanding its appeal. It also gained diesel engines and introduced more creature comforts such as air-conditioning. Automatic transmission became available, and turbodiesel power was added to later models. It was this generation that began the Patrol's upmarket ambitions.
It didn't take 20 years for an all-new Patrol to appear afterward. It only took seven before Nissan decided it was time for a full model change. The fourth-generation Patrol is perhaps one of the most recognizable SUVs of the era, thanks to its distinctive design and its arrival in the Philippines as the Safari.
Patrol fans know this one as the GQ, and the local-spec models came with a high roof body and a 4.2-liter inline-six diesel. By this time, it also established itself as a seriously capable off-roader with more luxurious appointments. Of course, the rugged base models were still around, but we never got them here officially. This generation also became the first to be assembled locally from 1990 to 2000.
While the fourth-generation is an icon in its own right, the fifth Patrol is a living legend. Nissan hasn't stopped building these since 1997, and it seems that they won't stop anytime soon. Not only that, they never stopped giving it enhancements and improvements even though it's well over 20 years old. Over in the Middle East, there are even new variants, showing that there's still a lot of life left in this model.
We got the fifth-generation Patrol here in 2001 with either a gas-fed 4.5-liter inline-six or 3.0-liter turbodiesel. Like its predecessor, it was also assembled in the Philippines. Over the years, there were special models such as the 4xPro and Super Safari editions. Sadly, local production ceased in 2017, but it lives on abroad.
The current generation model is the most powerful and luxurious Patrol yet. With loads of leather, high-tech features, a surround-sound system, and a 400 PS 5.6-liter V8, the Patrol of today is a luxury car you can take to the mountains. It's also the safest one too, boasting Nissan's Intelligent Mobility safety suite that includes a 360-degree camera. At over five meters long, it's a handy feature in this gargantuan SUV.
But what we're waiting for is the updated Patrol. Launched in the Middle East in 2019, the new look has a more chiseled front end, a redesigned tailgate, new wheels, and more tweaks under the chassis. There is no definite time frame for its local launch yet, but we're hoping it's sooner rather than later.
So that's the 70-year legacy of the Nissan Patrol. From a vehicle intended for military use, it has become a 400 PS, luxury SUV with all the tech and convenience features the modern motorist demands. It may be a leather-lined land yacht today, but it still has something in common with the first model: It doesn't mind getting its wheels dunked in axle-deep mud.