Nissan MQ 160 Series Patrol
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
Over the years Nissan did very little to a design it got right to begin with. Occasionally a headlight or indicator were moved, and an extra instrument added to the dash, but that was about all. Back then, you really had to know Nissans to pick a 1968 model from a 1979
example. But that all changed in June 1980
, when Nissan
announced their new Patrol.
The new model was officially called the Datsun Patrol, in deference to Nissan's normal product tag. However, Nissan was realistic enough to appreciate that with the history behind the 'Nissan Patrol' name. Most obvious of the changes to the Patrol was the all new body. Gone was the Mack-truck like look of the old model, to be replaced by very square lines, with sharp styling and big windows, making it look much closer to a passenger car than ever before.
As was traditional, several body styles were offered, though for the first time only one medium-length wheelbase. Gone were the old short and long wheelbase variants of everything. The bodies started with the basic cab/chassis, then there was the pickup and several hardtop models. With the all-new bodies come an equally new interior. Nissan was making much of its new design by saying: "no longer will 4WD owners have to endure Spartan interiors, cramped, uncomfortable seating or truck-like steering
The dash was moulded in plastic and was designed, like the Range Rover
, to use common 'pods' for ease of left and right hand drive conversion. These swappable pods contained instruments, glove-box/grab handle and the radio. In the MQ model Nissan introduced a new hard wearing, washable plastic. And new controls, instruments and equipment, the bucket seats were new, as was the centre console and where fitted, the rear seat and fibreglass hardtop (complete with all glass tailgate).
One of the criticisms of the previous 60 series Patrol was the fact that it was fitted with a three speed manual gearbox. There had been rumours that Nissan were about to introduce a 4 speed, but it would take the release of hte MQ for this to become a reality. Changed in a conventional 'H' pattern, reverse was to the right and toward the driver. Slightly to the right and forward of the floor mounted gearshift was the drive-selector. In the MQ it was at its simplest yet, the selection movement being straight back toward the driver, much like that of an automatic. A three-speed automatic was optional on long wheelbase vehicles fitted with the L28 engine.
The MQ also saw the choice of two engines - for the first time in Australia. The 60 series was only available with the petrol engine, though several companies were installing the diesel engine available to buyers in other markets. But with the MQ Nissan made both petrol and diesel models available. The 3.9 litre petrol engine was revised for the MQ, getting larger intake and exhaust
ports and a new dry paper air cleaner for improved efficiency and economy. The diesel was straight from the Japanese commercial vehicle range. Nissan also introduced power assisted front wheel disc brakes. Range Rover had been using them for some time, but most other 4WDs stuck with all-wheel drums. Nissan had, after much development (for all-terrain travel places special requirements on discs), joined Range-Rover, though naturally drums were retained at the back.
The steering remained via the traditional recirculating ball system, but its gearing was enlarged for less effort and a relay lever added to the steering linkage to reduce kickback. A smaller steering wheel with a soft rim was also available on some models. The new body sat atop an equally new frame of the ladder type, constructed of extruded steel. Off this hung the familiar suspension, positioning live axles at both ends. The suspension used tapered semi-elliptic (front) and elliptic (rear) springs for greater wheel travel, while the double acting tele-shockers are mounted vertically for the first time, again to increase suspension movement. The rear anti-roll bar
has now been deleted. Much attention was also paid to reworking the noise and element (dust, water) insulation packages to provide better and more extensive coverage.
When first launched, the cheapest in the range was the three-seat (bench) Hardtop model at $10,386. Next was the basic four seat (two front buckets, rear bench) Hardtop at $10,536. Completing the range were the cab/chassis at $10,565 and the pickup at $11,048. Two options packs were offered, as was power steering, automatic transmission (with the petrol engined models only), cloth trim and stereo cassette player. These two packs could be ordered for either the hardtop (a) or the cab chassis (b). Pack A contained air-conditioning, two tone paint and/or side stripes, clock, tripmeter (in the speedo), soft feel steering wheel and free wheel hubs. It cost $930. Pack B simply had air-conditioning and free wheel hubs (already fitted to initial cab/chassis examples) and cost $830. While these prices were more expensive that the previous 60 series models, they compared favourably with Toyota's Landcruiser which retailed in 1980 for $8928 in its basic (SWB hardtop) form, while the Land Rover retailed at $8995. And then there was the Range Rover, with a 1980 sticker price of $18,550.
Behind the Wheel
Ahead of the driver was a nicely styled, soft feel steering wheel, through which the instrument pod was clearly seen. The pod contained a large speedo (with trip), an equally big analogue clock and smaller instruments for fuel level, water temp, oil pressure and amps. Below the instrument area, but still in the pod were warning lights for 4WD engagement, brake fluid level (on the left hand side) park brake and the glow plug for diesel models (right hand side). Steering column stalks looked after the wipers (including intermittent)/washers on the left, and headlights/high beam/indicators on the right. Below the dash on the right of the steering column was the hand throttle, and the usual bonnet release. The central dash area is topped by the radio/coin bin, under which in the dash proper sat the cigarette lighter, the ventilation outlets, the hazard warning light switch and the heater/air-conditioning controls. Going left again there was a shallow glove-box and above that, a large grab handle.
Jutting out of the heavy duty vinyl covered floor were the two gear-leavers on the transmission tunnel, and behind them the centre console bin cum armrest. To the right of that was the handbrake lever. Stored under the front passenger seat was the jack and tools, although the spare was mounted on a rack below the rear floor and is accessible only from underneath. Both front bucket seats had fore-aft and reclining movements, and moved forward easily for passenger access to the back seat. Back in 1980 diesel engines were pretty agricultural, and the unit fitted to the Patrol was no exception. Coming from the Nissan commercial line, it came as no surprise to many that it sounded like a truck. It had diesel clatter, and a continuous drone out on the highway that reminded you that it was there with overbearing monotony.
But while the MQ Patrol may have sounded like a truck, it certainly didn’t feel like one. The 60 series Patrol was a big vehicle, it drove the way it looked, heavy, tough and cumbersome. But the MQ was streets ahead, and some road testers even described it as great to drive. Certainly in comparison to what was expected from a four wheel drive when on the bitumen, Range Rover
excluded, the MQ was light, agile and responsive. The diesel engine used the familiar Glow Plug pre-heating system. You had to turn the key and the Glow-Plug light would shine, and you then had to wait until it flickered off - which took a couple of seconds and up to five or six when it was really cold. Like any engine, it would then take a couple of miles of running before fully warm. By its inherent nature, the diesel was exactly a smooth engine. It idled roughly, shuddered on the over-run and was generally less smooth under acceleration than a petrol equivalent. Add to that its noise qualities - continual drone on a constant throttle and plenty of ordinary engine roar - despite the good insulation job Nissan had obviously done, and as a whole the engine was better suited to those intending their Patrol to spend most of its life off-road.
The diesel engine had a characteristically slow response to the throttle and required a plan-well-ahead driving style to keep it moving briskly in traffic. On hills the engine would quickly require a lower cog, though to its credit it just kept chugging away. Never would it simply run out of power, like a petrol engine could. High revs were not its forte though. On the economy side, the diesel was excellent, ranging from 14.5 litres/100 km when driven hard, to 11.8 litres/100 km when treated with a little more respect. These figures were well ahead of the petrol engined Patrol. The diesel's performance was nothing to write home about, with a top speed of around 135 km/h. A zero to 100 km/h time of 30.6 seconds and the standing 400 metres in 24.4 seconds were underwhelming. The four speed manual was a real step forward for the Patrol. It gave it just that little more flexibility, particularly off road. The change itself was simple and had a pleasant action, though the synchro on second was slow and meant the driver would 'crunch' the first to second change if they did it too quickly. Like the main cog-swapper, the drive-selector was light and very simple to use. You simply pulled it back towards you to engage 2WD, 4WD, N, 4WDL with each cog clearly defined by a notch.
A dashboard light accompanied selection of four wheel drive so there could be no mistake, and better still 4WD could be selected on the move. The clutch was a strong, positive unit with a progressive pedal. It did however suffer from shudder when the lower gears were used, and particularly when cold. Otherwise, it worked well. Steering was predictably vague, although a lot lighter than it was on the 60 series. The steering wheel was no longer akin to the type used on a bus, both in size and position. Its small, soft rim allowed a good view of the instruments and gave you a rough idea of what the front tyres
were doing. The turning circle, at 5.5. metres, was acceptable. Like all the controls on the Datsun Patrol, the brakes
had a nice light feel. The discs did a fantastic job of pulling up the huge mass, the pedal having only a short travel and application was very progressive. The suspension
was very tough and very basic, able to tackle anything successfully. Naturally however, on road ride and handling
wasn't anywhere near normal sedan levels. The ride was very jolty, you bounced around over every bump and the rear axle thumped over the bigger ones. There was lots of tyre
and road noise too, though far less than the older 60 series model.
In the handling stakes the MQ Patrol held onto bitumen surprisingly well, except that its sheer bulk often dictated how it handled. But as you would expect, off road the Patrol was in its element. Even with its standard narrow tyres, it was capable of climbing sandy hills and tackling muddy tracks. Even before you engaged 4 wheel drive, road testers found the Patrol's traction to be amazing . The diesel engine too was ideally suited to off-road use, though its noise emission was always your companion. On hills the engine would chug merrily away to the top, and you only needed to select the correct gear. You never needed to use much throttle unless you were in danger of getting bogged. Vision in the MQ Patrol was superb. The whole of the rear hatch (gas-strut supported) was glass too, and with the high seating position, it was great in traffic.
It was also very comfortable. Though the radio was drowned out by the diesel on occasion, it worked well, as did the heating and ventilation system. The front bucket seats - covered in long wearing, washable vinyl - were too flat and lacked shape for proper support. And they didn't have enough padding for thin-bummed people, particularly when used off road. Being mounted right over the back axle, the rear seat offered occupants a rough ride in which most bumps were felt. Over smoother city roads, where the seat was likely to be in use more often, things weren’t so bad. To many, the introduction of the MQ ushered in an era where the affordable 4 wheel drive could, at a pinch, fill a dual purpose role, and where one of these roles was to be as the primary vehicle. It came no where near the levels of comfort and handling of the current crop of SUV’s, but it was much better than the preceding models. The MQ broke as much new ground - for 4WDs - as the original did back in 1968