In August 2014 I made a major life change – packing up my life in Virginia and moving to Guatemala. The move to Guatemala was unexpected and abrupt. Originally, I had come out on a short-term assignment to support a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). During the first week of my assignment, my supervisor resigned and this quickly opened the door for me to seamlessly slide into a more permanent role.
This change meant leaving my FJ Cruiser back in Virginia and finding the perfect adventure rig in my new Central American home.
Zimbo’s Toyota FJ – back home in the States
The search was on. When I began my local market research for a 4×4 vehicle, I initially honed in on the Landcruiser 70 series or Toyota pick-up. I wanted a vehicle that was dependable, capable, and had spare parts available throughout the country; and Toyota offered this. But after speaking more and more with my colleagues, friends, car enthusiasts, and observing news trends on the 4×4 Guatemala web sites, I came to quickly discover that not only is Toyota the #1 choice for 4×4 vehicles in Guatemala, it’s also the #1 stolen brand throughout the country.
This bit of news played a huge role in my decision-making, especially considering the investments I planned to make on the vehicle. As a result, I simply felt the risks were too high with Toyota, and I quickly turned my attention to a vehicle that is less commonly available in Guatemala, but equally, if not more capable than the 70 series, and that was the Nissan Patrol.
I decided to focus my search on the Nissan Patrol, a legendary capable vehicle that we never got in the United States, but is known the rest of the world over as a rock-solid, capable platform. I began the search by working my new local network. I had a work colleague tell his soccer friends that I was looking for a Nissan Patrol and to keep their eyes open. Through the friend network, a 1990 (4th Gen) Patrol SWB “GQ” with a 4.2L diesel motor surfaced.
Produced from 1987-1997, the fourth-gen Nissan Patrol came in both a 3-door short-wheelbase (SWB) and 5-door long-wheelbase (LWB) variants. These trucks featured solid axles at both ends (3-link in the front and 5-link in the rear) and were powered over the course of their production run by a couple of diesel power plants.
4th Generation Nissan Patrol
At first I was a little hesitant to purchase this particular Patrol. The engine looked like it needed some serious TLC, the tires were completely worn down, and the interior was a mess. The one thing this old Patrol had going for it though was the price – it was 50,000 Guatemalan Quetzales (equivalent to $6,500) cheaper than the models I had been looking at in/around Guatemala’s capital. Knowing the amount of work it might need I pulled the trigger anyway, figuring with some luck I could use the difference in price to build the GQ exactly how I wanted it.
Here’s the specs of the Patrol as-purchased:
- Make/Model: Nissan Patrol GQ 4WD
- Year: 1990
- Color: Black
- Engine: 4.2 Diesel
- Tires: Firestone A/T, 31/10.5/R15 (worn out!)
Patrol Build Philosophy
Before I began modifying the Patrol I sat down to do my research. I wanted to develop a plan and stick to it. But first, I decided a build philosophy was needed, one that was simple and achievable. After a couple of weeks of pontification, my build philosophy was complete: to create a dependable and capable overland vehicle used for weekend getaways, accessing remote trails for trail running, and 2-3 week-long expeditions that involve highway and backcountry access. After coming up with this vision statement I broke the build stages into three phases.
- Phase 1 – TLC
- Phase 2 – Outfit for performance, capability and utility
- Phase 3 – Recovery, Rejoice and Enjoy!
Keep a lookout over the next few weeks as I cover the phases in a 3-post series!