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Custom 1996 Nissan Hardbody - Hard Knock Life

One man, one Nissan, and a ridiculous number of hurdles.

Kevin Whipps
Mar 1, 2008
Photographers: Galen Armenta
Photo 2/12   |   1996 Nissan Hardbody front Drivers Side View
Robert Brown is one of those guys who lives for the sport, no matter what obstacle is thrown in his way. Nothing short of totaling his ride will keep him from getting it done, and that was certainly the case with this build. Poor fabricators, two girlfriends, an ex-wife, and things falling apart at inopportune times all came up during the five years that Robert was working on this truck. But, he just kept pressing on to deliver the stunning results printed on these pages.
It all started when Robert decided he just had to get rid of the junker car that he had been driving. He had always loved the look of the Nissan Hardbody, so he picked one up at the dealer and started tearing into it. A few fabricators and two botched hydraulic installs later, Robert had a problem. His truck was in shambles, and he needed to bring it back up to the high standards he holds in a build. That's when he decided to redo it all.
Photo 3/12   |   1996 Nissan Hardbody passenger Side View
The truck was deconstructed and everything from the firewall back was thrown in the trash. In place of its stock framerails, the crew at Hellbent Customs welded in 2x3-inch, 1/4-inch-wall steel tubing to give the truck a 3-inch stock-floor body drop. While they were building the frame, the guys made sure the back half was welded airtight, and they plumbed it to function as a backup air tank. A scuba tank runs the daily duties for the Slam Specialties airbag setup, while a Firestone compressor fills up the backup tank. Six Hellbent 1/2-inch air valves push the air from corner to corner, and silencers were plumbed in after the valves to keep things on the hush. The new stance pushed the 2.4L four-cylinder engine out past the hood, so they dropped the motor 1-1/2 inches, which kept the hood stock looking. The result was a truck that laid down beautifully over the 18- and 20-inch Enkei wheels.
Photo 4/12   |   1996 Nissan Hardbody head Unit
With the truck laid out and looking sick, it was time to move on to the interior and stereo. Robert wanted something different, and there's no bolder choice than gray tweed and yellow vinyl. Everything in the truck that could be unbolted was either wrapped or painted to match the theme. His air-ride switches were mounted in the front of the stock Nissan console, and the headrests were shaved for that custom hot-rod look. In the cab, Robert installed a cornucopia of stereo products from MA Audio, MB Quart, and Rockford Fosgate. Four 10-inch subs flex the windows hard and let everyone know when Robert is coming.
Outside, Robert kept it simple: no crazy body mods, no shaved tails or suicide doors-just clean and simple. A 35x40-inch sliding ragtop was put into the roof, and a pair of billet grilles were bolted onto the front end but nothing crazy-just a clean paintjob with PPG Avocado Green and a gold pearl over the top.
This truck was an uphill battle the whole way through, but Robert kept on keeping on and got it done. The whole time his parents supported him and his hobby, which seems to be a rarity in the sport. In the past two years, both of Robert's parents, Donald and Christine Brown, passed away, and Robert would like to dedicate the build of this truck to their memory.
THE 411

Robert Brown / Fayetteville, North Carolina
'96 Nissan Hardbody
Photo 11/12   |   1996 Nissan Hardbody engine Bay
2.4L four-cylinder / Summit 12-inch round air cleaner / polished valve cover / motor dropped 1-1/2 inches to clear the hood / custom-made header / custom cat-back exhaust / custom-built slip-yoke driveline / '95 Pathfinder gas tank / Optima battery
BY: Hellbent Customs, Concord, North Carolina / Augustine Polishing, Fayetteville
FRONT: 18x8 Enkei LM1 with 42mm offset
REAR: 20x8.5 Enkei LM1 with 42mm offset
FRONT: 215/35ZR18 Nankang
REAR: 225/30ZR20 Nankang
FRONT: Slam Specialties RS6 airbags / DJM lower control arms / stock spindles / Toxic shocks
REAR: Slam Specialties RS6 airbags / Pete & Jake's four-link / Toxic shocks / six 1/2-inch Hellbent custom valves / Slowdown fittings in valves / 1/2-inch DOT air line / Scuba tank / Firestone compressor (backup) / 2x3-inch, 1/4-inch wall frame from firewall back / 3-inch stock-floor body drop / rear frame acts as air tank
BY: Hellbent Customs
Phantom billet grilles / APC euro taillights / spikes in hood and front bumper / 35x40-inch canvas sliding ragtop
BY: Robert Brown / Jason Hale, Fayetteville
PPG Avocado Green with gold pearl
BY: Larry, Raeford, North Carolina
Shaved headrests / graphite-gray tweed / sunshine-yellow vinyl / tweed-wrapped dash and door panels with painted inserts / stock Nissan console with switches mounted in front / canary-yellow ACC carpet kit / chrome grenade shifter / BAD billet steering wheel / yellow-tinted windows
BY: Lil Rob of Auto Specialties, Fayetteville
Photo 12/12   |   1996 Nissan Hardbody custom Audio System
Pioneer CD/MP3 player / MB Quart 5-1/4-inch coaxial speakers in doors / MB Quart 6-1/2-inch coaxial speakers on amp board / MA Audio 489i four-channel amp / four 10-inch Rockford Fosgate Stage 3 subs / MA Audio 689i 400X1 amp / Stinger wiring and fuses / Audiobahn stiffening cap
BY: Robert Brown / Jason Hale
Twisted Koncepts, NC Chapter
His mom and dad, Jesus, Swoop for the wheels, Rob and Rodney for the body drop, Jason Hale for the ragtop and stereo help, all of Robert's Twisted Koncepts clubmates, all those who motivated him to build this truck, and a special thanks to his twins and future draggers, Amir and Aidan Brown.



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