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How Nissan and Premcar revived Australian manufacturing: What makes the 2024 Nissan Patrol Warrior capable of taking on the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series GR Sport 

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The partnership between Nissan and Premcar started in 2018 birthing the first Navara N-Trek Warrior by October the next year. This project was followed up by a new Navara Warrior, based on the facelifted Pro-4X, which blossomed into the three-strong Warrior range available today.

Far from Ford’s in-house Ranger Raptor program and Toyota’s Australian-focused – but not executed – HiLux GR Sport, Premcar’s take on tough off-roaders is keeping Australian manufacturing alive.

We’ve been invited down to Premcar’s Epping manufacturing facility where Navaras and Patrols are stripped back and turned into Warrior products to see how this – now rare – Australian remanufacturing plant operates.

So far, the partnership has produced a little more than 10,000 vehicles – 1500 N-Trek Warriors, 2000 Patrols and a combined 6500 Navara Pro-4X and SL Warriors. This is ongoing with 15-16 more examples rolling out of the doors each day.

“It's been a very successful program for us, for Nissan, for the customers, for the dealer,” says Engineering Director and Premcar partner Bernie Quinn.  

“It’s not often you get win-win-win-win, so that has been really good and [Nissan is] a really good company to work with.

Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior
Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior

“One of the objectives of the program was to lift [Navara] from being regarded as a challenger into more of a genuine competitor for the likes of Ranger and HiLux that are very well regarded in the market,” he said. 

A similar treatment has been carried out for the Patrol to make it a rival for the LandCruiser 300 Series GR Sport though it’s not as simple as ripping OEM parts off, binning them and buying new. There is careful planning to minimise excess spend and waste.

The first step in the transformation of the Patrol starts in the cabin. Mottled wood-look trim pieces, the factory multimedia system and leather accents are all removed.

Nissan Warrior production line
Nissan Warrior production line

The trims are refinished in gloss black, the accents swapped for ‘Warrior’ embossed Alcantara pieces and it gets the MY24 multimedia touchscreen. These tweaked parts are installed at the end of the production line.

Next it’s wheels and tyres are swapped out for Premcar’s alloys and knobbly all-terrain rubber. The Navara SL’s standard steelies become dealer spare parts, the Pro-4X’s alloys are offered as dealer upgrades on regular SLs and the Patrol’s alloys go to the Middle East as spares. 

The suspension is where Premcar works most of its magic. The Patrol’s springs are sent to be recycle and replaced by heavy-duty front and triple-rate rear items increasing GVM by 120kg and improving road holding. Navaras get new dampers but Patrols keep their factory items. 

Nissan Warrior production line
Nissan Warrior production line

What does change is the Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC). The fluid is dropped, newly-machined parts are attached to the head of the shocks and the reserved oil is then used to top the re-engineered system back off. 

To oblige the 21mm wheel/tyre lift, Premcar needs different arch liners. Again, instead of buying fresh items the originals are cut up, reshaped and put back to use to minimise waste and cost. 

Improving capability further is a modified front bumper – one of the key reasons the Warrior is based on the lower spec Ti – that improves approach angle to 40º. A signature red 'WARRIOR' insignia bashplate and two recovery points completes the package.

Nissan Patrol Warrior
Nissan Patrol Warrior

The patrol Warrior’s pièce de résistance is the bi-modal exhaust with side-exit tips. 

The guts of the exhaust remain the same with the OEM system simply having a new valved pipe added locally. A made-in-Australia exhaust controller is fitted at the same time.

It passes stringent drive-by noise tests, naturally, and while there's no button to force the flap open it will always give full noise in the seven-speed automatic's tiptronic mode. Sadly, there's no extra power yet – perhaps one day, says Premcar.

This level of compliance, re-use of materials and factory five-year warranty is what makes the Warrior unique. These modifications could be fitted in the aftermarket but if you’re paying for labour the costs will be much higher. Additionally, a non-compliant aftermarket exhaust can land you in hot water with the constabulary.

Nissan Warrior production line
Nissan Warrior production line

Within the production facility the quality control standards are equivalent to that of an OEM line with spot inspections and torque checks on fasteners. Of the 10,000 Warriors on the road, only two have had warranty claims according to Bernie, both for leaky dampers. 

The thing is, the Navara and Patrol are entering the end of their sales lives. The Warrior project has elevated Nissan’s standing in the ute and 4x4 segments yet replacements are on the way and negotiations will need to happen. 

Regardless of the next steps, Bernie and Nissan are excited by their achievements. “As soon as we started getting mentioned in headlines ‘Nissan’s Raptor competitor’, or ‘Nissan’s Rugged X competitor’ we’d ticked that box.

“That was part of that objective; get it in the mind of those customers.”

With the next generation Patrol and Navara, Nismo versions have already been confirmed by Nissan’s Vice president, Product Strategy & Planning Ivan Espinoza. He told CarsGuide that "Patrol Nismo is something we will keep building on. It was really well received," noting that the nameplate is likely to go beyond the Middle East this time around. 

Nissan’s newly appointed Managing Director of Oceania Andrew Humberstone was quick to say a Nismo would not be the end of Nissan AU’s relationship with Premcar.

Nissan Warrior production line
Nissan Warrior production line

“The relationship we have is a solid one. When it comes to future product, it is not something we talk about openly, with full transparency [to media], but we are in discussions with Bernie and the team about what we can do with future products,” says Mr Humberstone. 

“Nismo? I wouldn’t say [it poses a threat]. We’re looking at the Australian component and I think of the relationship we have with Bernie and Premcar, it’s the ‘made in Australia’ component that’s more important to us,” he added. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by Bernie. When asked if he thinks Premcar will be involved in next-gen product development, he said: “I not only hope so, I expect so. Because this has worked for everyone.

Nissan Warrior production line
Nissan Warrior production line

“The counter to that is, if we get it wrong, then the whole thing can fall apart. So we’re doing everything within our control to make it as successful as possible so that we keep on doing it,” he said. 

The new gen Y63 Patrol and Navara were included in a teaser video announcing a 30 new models by the 2026 Japanese fiscal year, with the new Patrol and Navara expected sooner, by 2025. 

We will have to wait and see if Premcar and Nissan’s partnership continues in the new models but on the face of it, things look positive for more Warriors.

John Law
Deputy News Editor
Born in Sydney’s Inner West, John wasn’t treated to the usual suite of Aussie-built family cars growing up, with his parents choosing quirky (often chevroned) French motors that shaped his love of cars. The call of motoring journalism was too strong to deny and in 2019 John kickstarted his career at Chasing Cars. A move to WhichCar and Wheels magazine exposed him to a different side of the industry and the glossy pages of physical magazines. John is back on the digital side of things at CarsGuide, where he’s taken up a role as Deputy News Editor spinning yarns about the latest happenings in the automotive industry. When he isn’t working, John can be found tooling around in either his 2002 Renault Clio Sport 172 or 1983 Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf.  
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