For the second week in a row, The Petrolhead Corner is staying away from the paved roads and aims to kick up dust and gravel instead. And we do this by checking out a very cool, yet unexpected car. Based on the upcoming road-going Nissan Juke Hybrid, not the sort of thing we usually get excited about, Nissan has just presented what could very well be the coolest Juke ever. Commemorating the legendary Nissan 240Z rally car, Nissan takes the Juke far beyond where it’s ever been before.
I’m sorry to possibly burst anyone’s bubble, but the Nissan Juke isn’t exactly what you call a super-exciting car, or handsome for that matter. When it was first presented, back in 2010 it raised more than a few eyebrows. This car, built by the ones that helped the SUV segment blow up big time, was quite different. And not necessarily different in a good way.
Sure it was a very capable car and it offered something more than most of the bland SUVs we got to see before it, but it just looked off from most angles. The weird headlight set-up at the front and the squatted rear section of the body aren’t exactly what I’d call drop-dead gorgeous. Sure, they’ve sold close to 1.2 million of them by now and the second-gen version presented in 2019 corrected a bit of its awkwardness. But, it’s still an SUV which is generally considered not to be amongst the coolest cars on the road. Sometimes it is even referred to as the Nissan Joke or Nissan Puke, which tells you a lot.
Not the first bonkers Juke
Nissan is known for some of the best Japanese performance cars ever made, which contrasts with cars such as the Juke. The Z-cars and of course the Skyline are legends and a far cry from the Juke. But does that mean the Juke is never able to be the “cool dude” in the Nissan Family Tree? Not necessarily, as Nissan has built Nismo performance versions of the Juke, with 200 to 215 horsepower on tap, and more aggressive Nismo styling. With a top speed of 215km/h and a zero to 100kph of just under 8 seconds, it wasn’t exactly a barn-storming animal but in fairness, it was no slouch!
But things for the Juke didn’t end there. And to be honest, I wonder what the people at Nissan were on when they green-lit the most bonkers Juke you can possible imagine, the Juke R. The Juke R isn’t just a beefed-up version of the standard Juke, but basically a Nissan GT-R, in drag. It is a genuine Frankenstein, with a 3.8-litre V6 engine producing close to 600bhp. The result? You’d hit 100kph in under 4 seconds and the Juke R won’t stop until it reaches the 260kph top speed. Now that will get you excited, I’m sure!
The Nissan 240Z
But before we get to the latest, and possibly greatest Juke yet, let’s talk Z-cars first. And the Nissan S30, Nissan Fairlady Z or Datsun 240Z in particular. Three names, all basically referring to the very same car depending on the specific domestic market. Fairlady Z in Japan, Datsun 240Z everywhere else. The name Datsun was used for every car Nissan exported outside of Japan from 1958 to 1986 when it phased it out.
The 240Z, for ease of story-telling, was produced between 1969 and 1973 before it evolved into the 260Z and later the 280Z. The numbers in its designation refer to the size of the straight-6 engine (2.4 litres, 2.6 litres and eventually 2.8 litres) but in Japan, it was also sold with a 2.0-litre 6-cylinder engine. It was positioned as a direct competitor to European sports coupes of the same era and garnered quite a reputation for being an excellent car in general, with sleek, modern styling. For the time, it was quite a quick car with a 200kph top speed and a zero-to-100kph of 8 seconds. Hagerty’s James Cammisa explains the importance of the Datsun/Nissan 240Z in this video:
The Datsun 240Z was also used in racing, with quite a bit of success to its name when it retired. It was a formidable competitor in sports car racing, specifically in the US. Raced by legends like Bob Sharp and Paul Newman, the racing success helped boost sales of the car nationwide. And it wasn’t just a capable car on closed circuits, but could hold its own in rallying as well, which is the connection between the Datson 240Z and the Juke Hybrid Rally Tribute.
Nissan Juke Hybrid Rally Tribute
So how did this special one-off Juke come about? There are multiple answers to that very question. First, and just to get it out of the way early, it’s to mark the launch of the regular Nissan Juke Hybrid. Nissan also claims it “combines the brand’s pioneering crossover and electrified expertise”. All fine and dandy, but that still doesn’t explain why this thing looks like an absolute riot to thrash around in?
The second biggest reason for this car’s existence is to commemorate the Nissan 240Z’s victories in the East Africa Safari Rally. This gruelling off-roading adventure is an annual event held in Kenya from 1953 until today, with only a handful of skipped years in between. It has been part of the World Rally Championship calendar from 1973 up to 2002, and then again since last year, and is regarded as one of the toughest stages of this type of rallying.
The East Africa Safari Rally is very dear to Nissan for the simple fact it has won it multiple times over with various cars. Arguably the one’s in the Nissan/Datsun 240Z are the most memorable (1971, 1973), but the Datsun 1600SS (1970) before it, and the Datsun 160J and Nissan Violet GT (1979-1983) after it were victorious as well.
So how does one capture the spirit of a 1970s rallying coupe in a present-day compact SUV? You start with the exterior of course, which is finished in the same red and black as the Datsun 240Z that won the rally in 1971. Next to that has received upgrades such as rally lights, straight exhaust pipes, spare offroad tires and a roof rack (sort of). It also comes with the same sponsoring and decals as its predecessor, so a true homage to the 1971 original despite being a completely different car.
Technically the car has been overhauled as well, as the images pretty much indicate. It has bigger wheel arches, a beefed-up suspension system, an intercom system and a racing interior. Perhaps the coolest feature is the hydraulic handbrake you can yank on and get the Juke sideways, despite the front-wheel drive. Using the hybrid drivetrain of the soon-to-launch road-going Juke Hybrid, it packs a not so impressive 141 horsepower.
Yep, that’s all it has got to offer. But, and this is quite important to note, that means you can take it to its limits safely. You don’t have to be scared some 800+ horsepower fire breathing monster will run away with you and scare you senseless. So, is this the coolest Juke ever? Quite possibly, yes!
For more information, please visit Nissan.com