1983 Nissan 720 - One Piece At A Time

A Decade-Long Build Made This Datsun A True Standout

Mike Finnegan
Jun 1, 2009
Photographers: Kevin Aguilar
Photo 2/9   |   1983 Nissan 720 front Right View
Jesse Brown * Fort Worth, Texas
'83 Nissan 720

Johnny Cash wrote a song about working on the assembly line of a GM plant where Cadillacs were built. The gist of it was that during his days on the line, he stole every part needed to build himself a Caddy over the course of two decades. He couldn't afford to buy the car so he took the long and illegal route to get himself one. In fact, the job took so long that he had inadvertently stolen the rear fenders from cars built in two different decades-one with a tail fin and one without the fin. When he finally finished putting the car together, it was truly a unique vehicle that he appreciated more than his neighbors did.
There's no earth-shattering moral to that story to impart here, but Jesse Brown's story is similar, although he didn't rip anyone off to get into the pages of this magazine. He did take 11 years to build a clean little Datsun 720 though. During that time, he'd take a few steps forward, stare at the truck a few months, then take a few steps back and redo the mod he just performed. For example, Jesse and his friend David 'bagged the truck, and then sent it to Ekstensive Metalworks for a body drop. Once the truck was back in Jesse's garage, he and David re-did much of the 'bag job they had already performed. It was a pursuit of perfection that lasted for more than a decade.
Photo 3/9   |   1983 Nissan 720 interior
By taking his time and doing one mod at a time, Jesse was able to stretch out the build long enough that he never had to sink a ton of money into the project all at once. This also gave him time to ponder every mod and make changes that he deemed necessary. And because the 720 is a love-it-or-hate-it body style, the result of his efforts is a truck that not everyone is in love with, but that we all can appreciate for its simple style and clean execution. Details like the reverse-swinging clutch pedal are touches that stand out. One look at the smooth firewall and you'll be saying how much cleaner it is without a clutch slave cylinder poking out of it.
Jesse originally purchased the truck from an old man who maintained it meticulously. Jesse used the truck, working out of the bed of the truck as a landscaper for two years and it was his daily driver until 2001. Then it was parked and worked on, first with a light shave job. The standard stuff like door handles, key holes, emblems and antenna were shaved first. The air suspension and body drop came next, and then a quick paintjob. The project gained momentum with some interior mods like new seats, carpet, and door panels, but then Jesse let the truck sit in his garage for over a year while he stared at it.
Photo 4/9   |   1983 Nissan 720 left Side View
Once he'd made up his mind what direction he wanted to go in next, the body mods got a bit more serious. The bed was treated to smooth innards, and the front bumper was sectioned 8 inches. A new rollpan and 10-inch LED strip soon followed, along with new rims and tires. The interior was also finally finished off with a fresh headliner. Jesse wanted to build some inner fenderwells up front, but decided to do the job right, pulling the engine and trans and shaving the firewall at the same time. That's when the clutch pedal idea came about, and when he tapped Nick D'Anna to build new tubular control arms for the front suspension. Smaller detail work came next, while Jesse spit shined the suspension and chassis, with ceramic-coated and chrome-plated components.
The years rolled on with smoke, sparks, and sweat emanating from Jesse's garage. The truck was molded, shaped, and stroked into a ride he finally was satisfied with. The late nights and time spent with his friends is what Jesse digs the most about the experience, and he's quick to point out that taking your time really makes the financial aspect of any project less painful. We'd have to agree that doing it one piece at a time works wonders.
Photo 5/9   |   1983 Nissan 720 engine
The 411
2.4L four-cylinder / factory five-speed manual tranny / clutch pedal modified to swing backwards to provide clearance for front tire / Flowmaster muffler / 10-gallon Summit Racing aluminum fuel cell / stainless steel-braided fuel lines
By: Owner, Nick D'Anna, and David Yount, Fort Worth, Texas
Front & Rear: 17x7 Intro Twisted Vista
Front & Rear: 215/45R17 Yokohama
Front: 1-1/4 x.500 wall custom control arms with spherical bearing pivot points / Slam Specialties RE-6 airbags
Rear: Slam Specialties RE-7 airbags mounted over the axle / Toxic shocks
Accessories: Asco 3/8-inch valves and copper air line / Firestone air compressors / Ceramic-coated parts by Specialized Performance Coating
CHASSIS: C-notched rear framerails
BY:Owner, David Yount, and Nick Danna
Body Mods:
Shaved front corner lights / antenna, emblems, mirrors, door handles, key holes, fuel door, tailgate, body seam, cargo hooks, taillights and cowl holes / 2-1/2 inch body drop / LED taillights / custom front inner fenderwells / custom rear wheel tubs and sheetmetal bed floor / spray-in bedliner
By: Owner
Custom Paint:
PPG 1998 Audi Cactus Green
BY: Bill Seeton, Peaster, Texas
Photo 9/9   |   1983 Nissan 720 custom Seats
Honda CRX bucket seats with dropped mounts / Grant GT steering wheel / custom center console
BY: Owner / Cal's Top Shop, Fort Worth, Texas
Pioneer CD head unit / Sony 3.5-inch and 6x9-inch speakers
By: Owner
Special Thanks:
Thanks to my wife and kids, Heather, Austin, and Trinity. To Ekstensive Metalworks for the body drop, Nick D'Anna for the control arms, Bill Seeton for painting the truck multiple times and my bodymen, David Yount, Mike Manges, Mario Gutteriuz, Anthony Reyna, Galand, and Scott.



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