CHICAGO — Last fall, Nissan finally launched its all-new ʼ22 Frontier midsize pickup. The previous model had been on the market for 17 years.
But the designers wasted no time in creating three modified concept pickup trucks based on the new Frontier crew-cab version.
Called Project 72X, Project Hardbody and Project Adventure, the trio debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. They will then do a sort of road trip, with stops at auto shows across the country.
Nissan Design America in San Diego created them, but “it was our marketing people who requested the customizations,” Wade Willatt, Nissan’s senior truck project planner, told Wards on the auto show floor. .
The idea is not only to show what Nissan designers can do (largely using available aftermarket parts and accessories), but also what customers can do (or at least have done) by customizing their Frontiers.
“There’s no one right way to make a truck,” said the project’s lead designer, Hiren Patel, during a media event showcasing the concept trucks at Radius Chicago, which is usually a concert hall.
“(A truck) is like a canvas,” he adds. “When you buy it, you own it. These three represent ‘maybe’.
Patel adds: “The truck culture is now very broad – hardcore off-roaders, surfers and kayakers, environmentalists, outdoor fishing and hunting enthusiasts and more. We offer three styles to show how they could modify their own new Frontier.
All three concepts, as well as the production Frontier itself, are designed in several ways to appeal to outdoor enthusiasts.
“People want to get out of the house, have adventures, and do it in style, so the timing of the adventure-ready 2022 Frontier couldn’t have been better,” said Michael Colleran, senior vice president of marketing and of Nissan sales in the United States. “These three new projects show the possibilities.”
The Project 72X is a modern version of one of Nissan’s most popular trucks, the Datsun 720, introduced in 1979. Four years later, it became the first US-assembled Nissan vehicle in Smyrna, TN. (One of the first built is on display in the factory hall.)
For the modern interpretation, the design team used gray exterior tones and graphics to create what Nissan calls a “cool modern attitude,” a look reinforced by the white-painted steel wheels.
Other modifications include a 2.5 inch. (64mm) lift kit with adjustable front upper suspension arms and a sports bar behind the cabin.
Hardbody Project (picture above) pays homage to what the automaker calls “one of the most iconic Nissan trucks of all time”, the Nissan D21 “Hardbody”. It was Nissan Design America’s first truck.
The Hardbody name comes from its double-walled bed and aggressive stance.
Concept features include a 3-in. Lift Kit (76mm) w/Adjustable Upper Control Arms, Current PRO-4X Model Fenders, Classic Hardbody Block Style Wheels w/ 33in. tires, sport bar with rectangular LED lights and blacked out door and front graphics with 80s style shadow surround.
Adventure Project (picture below) has a 5 inch. (128 mm) lift kit, 34 in. mud terrain tires, Yakima bed carrier system and Yakima LoadWarrior roof basket, sky tent and Bluetooth bed audio system by KICKER. NDA has designed a special carbon fiber snorkel.
A standout feature of the Project Adventure concept truck is a custom body wrap depicting an atlas of the United States (this may or may not help if you get lost.)
In four decades, Nissan has sold more than 4 million Frontiers in the United States. “With the arrival of the all-new Frontier, the next chapter is being written,” says Colleran.
The nearly 20-year gap between new and outgoing Frontier models is almost an eternity for the US auto industry where 5-year product cycles are common.
Willatt acknowledges that it took time. “But the previous generation was doing well.”
He adds, “Going forward, we’re targeting younger buyers, with features that appeal to them.”
Steve Finlay is a retired editor of Wards. He can be reached at [email protected].