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Patrol Legend series: Doug Sprigg
70 years after the Patrol’s debut, Nissan celebrates the people behind the 4x4 legend
6 Apr 2022
By MATT BROGAN
NISSAN Australia has paid homage to outback legend Doug Sprigg as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Japanese marque’s famed Patrol four-wheel drive.
Mr Sprigg’s connection to the Nissan Patrol dates to 1962 when, alongside his sister Marg, mother Griselda, and father Reg – a skilled geologist in search of Australia’s hidden oil and gas reserves – the then seven-year-old Doug made the first motorised crossing of the vast Simpson Desert in a G60-series Patrol.
Leaving from Andado Station in the Northern Territory, the Sprigg family emerged from the Simpson Desert’s seemingly endless sand dunes in Birdsville, Queensland just under two weeks later. It was a monumental feat for the time, and one made even more impressive by the fact the family hadn’t set out to etch their names in the record books.
The crossing not only made history, but for Doug Sprigg, helped to cement a deep connection between the Australian outback and the Patrol, which continues to this day.
“In 1962, my dad took my sister, mum and I across the Simpson Desert, and that would become the first motorised crossing of the desert. I have such fond memories of that G60 – it was such robust and reliable vehicle,” said Mr Sprigg.
“There were other vehicles out there at that time, too, taking different routes, like the French Line. But the Nissan was the only one that made it across to the other side without any issues.
“And the modern (Patrols) are just brilliant. They’re just as robust, but a whole lot more comfortable. We have an in-house mechanic here at Arkaroola, and we often joke he’d starve if there were only Nissans to work on, because nothing ever goes wrong.”
That cross-desert adventure ignited a love of country that still burns in Mr Sprigg today.
In 1967, the Sprigg family acquired the formal pastoral lease to form what is now known as the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary from the South Australian government.
The 61km² historic reserve, a dusty eight-hour trek from Adelaide, is home to not only myriad species of insects, birds, animals – including the rare yellow-footed rock wallaby, wedge-tail eagle, and Stimson's python – and plants, but also a unique landscape that led to the formation of the Arkaroola Education and Research Foundation.
The Foundation aims to foster the study of an area once labelled as “one great outdoor museum” by geologist and Antarctic explorer Professor Sir Douglas Mawson, who studied the remote Arkaroola in the 1920s and, with support from tourism to the site, assists students in pursuing careers in botany, geology, and paleontology.
“There is nowhere quite like this. Arkaroola is a 144,000-acre property, and it has an amazing diversity of geology, animals and plants in these arid lands,” said Mr Sprigg.
Arkaroola welcomes tourists from across the globe who come to explore the stunning Flinders and Gammon Ranges – and beyond – either on foot, by 4WD, or by one of the sanctuary’s planes, often piloted by Mr Sprigg himself.
The area will forever remain untouched thanks to the efforts of the Sprigg family and, in particular, Doug Sprigg’s ongoing dedication to the land.
Arkaroola and the Nissan Patrol are now intrinsically linked. The Japanese marque understands the engineering required to operate safely in remote areas better than most and, has since its beginnings worked in and with remote communities to develop new and improved technologies to better its off-road credentials.
The Patrol traces its origins to 1951 when the 4W60 series was introduced as a rival to the Toyota LandCruiser – a rivalry that continues to this day. The G60-series (Datsun) Patrol followed in 1959 and was produced through to 1980 (!) when it was replaced by the G160-series, and then the G260-series, in 1987.
That year, the now-prized Y60-series Patrol was launched with short- and long-wheelbase versions offered, as well as the option of Nissan’s bullet-proof 4.2-litre six-cylinder engine. The Y60-series Patrol was superseded in 1997 by the Y61, a model which continued to be offered in Australia until 2016, despite the introduction of the still-current Y62-series Patrol some six years earlier.
The Nissan Y62-series Patrol, which was recently updated for 2022, remains one of the best-selling vehicles in its class. The V8 petrol-powered four-wheel drive is priced from $82,160 (plus on-road costs).
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