Known locally as the Capsula, the shortwheelbase Patrol is the favoured off-road king. Image Credit: Supplied picture

There’s an honest, utilitarian charm about a used SUV styled to resemble a shoebox. Whenever we see a driver behind the wheel of a Mercedes G-Class without any AMG badges, or a pre-1998 Toyota Land Cruiser, or any Land Rover Defender, we think, “There goes a man of the people.”

That doesn’t come to mind when a Y60-generation Nissan Patrol blasts us off the last lane with its 4.8-litre VTC engine with a stroker kit and turbo the size of a barrel drum screeching like a banshee and slithering down the road on nylon sand tyres. That’s when we think, “There goes a man who is also mental.”

The venerable ‘hero of all-terrain’ is much loved in the Middle East, especially in its fourth-generation Y60 and suitably boxy form. Sure, most of them have been gutted to form bases for 1,000bhp dune-climbing and fire-belching monsters, but that only makes a clean and usable Nissan Patrol more rare, and therefore more desirable.

Perhaps you wouldn’t talk of these cars as classics elsewhere, but in the Middle East they’re elevated to an ever higher status, of legends. And perhaps it might be near impossible to find original Patrols, but a quick look on online car classified websites reveals that there are in fact plenty to be had, especially in Abu Dhabi and the smaller Emirates.

Prices for this utterly usable family vehicle that can do the school run as much as it can conquer Liwa, start from below Dh20,000 for tired, ultra-high mileage examples. It’s not uncommon to see odos reading way past 300,000km.

But the ultra cool Capsula (two-door) is even better, and a low-mileage manual transmission car can set you back up to Dh50,000 for an example that’s been cherished throughout its less-than-100,000km long life. That means you’re getting a legend for less than the price of a new Suzuki Jimny. You can either own the road in charismatic style, VTC popping, or go out and buy a Renault Duster.

The Y60 job was built between 1987-1997, although production carried on after that for military applications. In order to compete with the esteemed 75 Series Land Cruiser, Nissan pretty much based its own Patrol on the same formula sticking a steel box on top of a sturdy ladder frame and fitting a bullet-proof straight-six engine.

While other markets settled for 3.0-litre petrol and turbodiesel lumps, you should be able to find a Patrol with anything from a 4.2 to 4.8-litre engine, five-speed manual ‘box, and manual all-wheel drive with high and low range (later models get electronic selection).

Then it’s just a matter of regular servicing. Or not. The Patrol doesn’t really mind if you skip an oil-change or two. It drives surprisingly well on the road (if you don’t mind horrendous fuel economy), but you can bet that your second-hand interest has led a lengthy life in the desert.

This is fine, as these tough vehicles were built for heavy-duty use. Just avoid heavy modifications to the engine, make sure you fit approved road or all-terrain tyres, and be on your way to a trouble-free half a million klicks.