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Nissan is teasing a new Hardbody pickup truck is coming, which it will reveal next week. Or could it be a smaller pickup along the lines of the fast-selling Ford Maverick? Either way, it points to a probable off-road theme version of its current midsize Frontier pickup. The last Hardbody was available in 1997, having been in production for 12 years. 

With the new D41 Frontier debuting in 2021 as a 2022 model, we’re guessing Nissan figures it’s time to roll out some specials. Maybe along the lines of the retro Bronco Heritage model. To that end, it already gave us a glimpse of what a new Hardbody might look like with its Frontier “Project Hardbody” concept from last year. It was a retro theme featuring alloy versions of the original’s wheel covers, a roll bar, and other bits, including badges and such. 

When did the original Nissan Hardbody debut?

Nissan Frontier concepts in off-road setting
Nissan Frontier off-road concepts | Nissan

It wasn’t much of a stretch as concepts go. That’s why it seems like it was more of a friendly reminder to warm up enthusiasts for a Hardbody revival. Sort of as a way to gauge the public’s interest in such a beast.

Debuting in 1986, the Nissan Hardbody pickup was an American-made truck built in Smyrna, Georgia. It has always held the moniker as a stout, almost indestructible midsize at a reasonable price. The Hardbody was essentially a simple, inexpensive mini truck, even in a 4×4 guise. Nissan had a certain rep for building basic trucks going back to 1959. That’s when the Datsun 1000 premiered at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

How long was the Nissan Hardbody built?

1986 Nissan Hardbody advertising
1986 Nissan Hardbody advertising | Nissan

In 1986, Nissan began supplanting the Datsun name. The Hardbody name came mainly from its double-wall bed and off-road chops. Both four-cylinder and V6 engines were available, along with five-speed manual and automatic transmissions. 

Either a six- or seven-foot bed and single cab or King Cab body options gave buyers a wide variety of combinations. While there were a few minor styling tweaks over its lifetime, the Nissan Hardbody kept its basic body and overall looks throughout its 12-year run. 

What are some of the expected features?

Nissan Frontier Hardbody concept detail
Nissan Frontier Hardbody concept | Nissan

With the Hardbody concept, we can speculate on what some of the production version features will be. It will start with the Frontier 4×4 configuration. A three-inch lift comes via Calmini, which also features adjustable upper control arms. 

Black fender extensions come from Pro4X that help to cover 33-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires wrapping the retro-Hardbody alloy wheels. Other features include a bed-mount spare tire, sport bar, front skid plate, black grille, and retro-like decals. It also utilizes some options from the Frontier Pro-4X. 

Power comes from the Frontier’s 3.8-liter V6, which unto itself is a throwback by being naturally aspirated, devoid of turbos or superchargers. It’s so Hardbody, don’t you think?


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