Group B: A Nippon sunrise

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There’s something about rallying those around the sport treasure, a heady mix of petrol, rubber and a coarse mix of carbon fibre evokes the memory. It’s just something you have to experience.  These aren’t mere objects, they’re more than the sum of their parts they’re, living breathing beasts.

As I gathered in a circuit nestled deep in the countryside, it would be one particular Nissan that would catch my eye. This really is a rare beast  I could count on but three fingers the times I’ve seen one in action.

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In a sea of Quattro’s, Metro’s and MK2?s it would be this ultra rare Nissan 240 that would fixate my gaze. I’ve a great affinity with Japanese rally cars, a sense of nostalgia of all things Nippon. They may not be the fastest, the most successful or the most beautiful but each of these machines has a special place in history. And it’s this Nissan 240 that shortens the gap between it’s origin in Japan and the work of homegrown engineers.

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This particular Nissan cites James Prochowski as it’s most famous owner, James was a professional rally driver during the latter stages of the Group B period seeking a new challenge he would meet the challenge of rallying head on. Approaching the music group UB40 (one of the biggest selling commercially successful reggae acts of all time no less) , James would start a journey with this special machine.

By all accounts the band were into motorsport, and they would come to sponsor James throughout his rallying career. And it would be this most famous of war paints that adorns the Nissan after a faithful restoration.

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James competed in the Nissan 240 both in the UK and abroad but the bell would finally toll for Group B in 1986. This car would compete on the final European rally the 1986 R.A.C . In 1987 James would switch to a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth the Nissan like so many others now banned from WRC competition.

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As we delve into the Nissan’s story things get altogether more interesting.

The Nissan 240 would be purchased from Bill Blydenstein Racing originally, BBR would come to import the majority of Nissan 240?s for European competition. The team having run the Dealer Team Vauxhall previously.

To avoid the complicated Type Approval the cars would be imported via Ireland, and it would be BBR that would carry out the majority of European development.

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Cars would be shipped from Japan and registered as standard road cars in Ireland, from there BBR would produce the cars to customers specifications with a range of both clubmen and international specifications. This would see Nissan’s regularly compete on British and Irish events throughout the period.

As Group B flourished Nissan’s involvement wouldn’t be of the same level as their European counterparts, whilst the 240RS lacked the four wheel drive and monster power of it’s rivals it’s rigidity and reliability would see the car run with success on tougher events.

Steve Benton would rally the Nissan on club events before the Nissan would eventually come to gather dust. Sadly in 2006 James would pass away but current owner Paul Hunter is keeping the memory of this fantastic machine and it’s past alive.

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Sit behind the wheel and your transported back to the final days of Group B. The Nissan has changed very little since it’s final rally in 1986, the car restored by Manchester based specialists Hansport to it’s most famous scheme. Such was the condition of the car, and no doubt testament to the skill of James that very little work was required.

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The Nissan is a little more rudimentary than it’s European rivals, the interior retains most of the appearance of the production model. The controls are simple with the steering column retaining some stock switch gear. You won’t find a push button start here,

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The codrivers seat is dominated by a Terratrip from the period, the Terratrip was favored by nearly all of the top teams at the time.

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The inside is relatively comfortable with a pair of motordrive Pro Comp seats dominating the cockpit. It’s decidedly spacious behind the wheel of the Nissan with everything in easy each.

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Under the bonnet nestles something very special, the FJ24 engine. The FJ24 was developed specifically for Group B and only 200 engines would be produced as part of the homologation process. The 2.4l engine was loosely based on the FJ20, shunning the fuel injection of the FJ family the FJ24 features twin Webber carburetors.

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James would make a few changes to the Nissan, opting for Mikuni carburetors which replace the standard Solex items, a revised crank and modifications to the head. This would see the output exceed that of the similar Nismo tuned units in Japan. The car currently runs between 270/280hp through a Nismo transmission

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The Nissan is in beautiful condition and with this brace of Hella lights you can be sure it’ll run well at night. Cars of this Era have a real aura, they capture a moment in time and are very much of an era. The Nissan on the face of it is an underdog but the car excelled on the fearsome plains of Africa. Ultimately the rear wheel drive N/A setup would be the cars saving grace, giving the car a stay of execution.

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Despite appearing on the national scene the Nissan 240RS was never officially sold in the UK. In the heat of competition this would eventually spell the demise of most of the 240?s. Bodyparts in particular are scarce and many cars were broken for parts, the FJ24 engines would find their way into all manner of cars.

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This would be Paul’s first run in the car , Paul has rallied a Triumph TR7 V8 before but the rear wheel driver Nissan 240 looked a handful. The car in gravel spec would slew progressively sideways, Paul controlling the slide hanging the tail out ever further and further still on each lap.

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It’s not the scarcity of this Nissan 24oRS, it’s trick engine or even it’s famous sponsor. This 240RS embodies and evokes a special period in rallying, a personality and a talent in James Prochowski. Rally cars are often passed between owners but it’s fantastic to see such a historic car be enjoyed for the purpose they were intended.

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