1992 Nissan Hardbody Mini Truck - Back To Scratch
A Reversed Take On Forward Movement
“I was out of the scene for a little while,” says Mark Doran, “but when I decided to get back into the game, I was lucky enough to find the exact truck I wanted to build almost instantly.” The truck in question just so happens to be the 1992 Nissan Hardbody seen here. Well, kind of. It had been blown apart for years, and a timeframe for reassembly was nowhere in sight. “The truck belonged to a friend of mine, Cliff Brown, and he just wasn’t into it anymore, although he was hesitant to sell it to me at first. He didn’t want to see someone junking it or tossing it aside. After much convincing that I would see the project through, I loaded up my new truck and immediately started working on it. From what I hear, he wasn’t disappointed with the outcome.”
And so the process of building/rebuilding began. The previous hydraulic setup was scrapped for a finely tuned air system, but the job didn’t necessarily come with ease. The rear ’bag setup was changed four times—first as a cantilever mockup, then finally a ’bags-on-bars design that has proven to keep both truck and owner happy. “It’s always easier to start from scratch. Sometimes it’s hard to work around what someone else has already started, and it sucks to have to cut apart good work just because it’s not what you want.” As soon as the suspension shaped up, the rest of the intricacies began falling in line. “The bed and cab were mounted and aligned, and everything else was done to get the truck running and driving. After that, the truck was torn down one last time to start prepping it all for final assembly.”
"Mark knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it."
Mark wasn’t alone during the one-year build period. He had the support of a core group of friends to help make the transformation from piles of parts into a roadworthy feature Nissan Hardbody truck. “My friend Chuck Healy helped rewire the entire truck—there isn’t a stock wire in this thing. Oh, and I almost killed another friend, Jimmy. We had some ’bag mounts tacked in on the bridge. We were testing something and the tack broke, and it shot straight through the back glass. If he had moved from where he was at 30 seconds later, he probably would’ve been a goner.”
Luckily, no lives or limbs were lost throughout the 12 months of what seemed to be constant planning and adapting to plans gone wrong. Mark wasn’t about to set sail on a multi-year, never-ending build. He knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it. If you were to ask him if all the stresses, headaches, and sacrifices were worth it, he’d probably tell you the same thing he told us: “I enjoyed every minute of it. Hearing the turbo spool up for the first time was a reward in itself, but driving it makes all the difference. I love every time I take it out, and I get a sense of accomplishment when people ask me how I scored a right-hand-drive truck, or ask how hard it is to drive on the ‘wrong’ side, or even if driving it this way is illegal. Everything about building this truck has been an awesome experience.”
The rear suspension setup looks incredibly intricate—and it is—but it’s also basic in design. The airbags are attached to the lower four-link bars, which push up on the ’bag mounts welded to the tubing attached to the inside of the framerails, while the adjustable triangulated bars center the axle.
No, we didn’t print the interior photo backward. Mark’s Hardbody was given the right-hand-drive treatment with a complete rewiring, smoothed dash, and trick center console.
A Samsung tablet mounted to the dash keeps tabs on engine vitals and speed and even serves as a tachometer.
|Inside the Build|
|Year/Make/Model:||1992 Nissan Hardbody|
|Owner and City/State:||Mark Doran • Pasadena, Maryland|
|Type:||Stock KA24E with GT35R turbo|
|Exhaust:||Custom T3-flanged manifold|
|Built By:||Owner Matt Reynolds, John Hartsell, Chuck Healy, Jimmy Whisner|
|Brakes:||Discs all around|
|Front Suspension:||Slam Specialties RE6 ’bags, Cando control arms, dual Viair 380 compressors|
|Rear Suspension:||Slam Specialties RE6 ’bags, custom four-link, AccuAir e-Level|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||20x8.5 Centerline Archer|
|Tires:||245/35R20 Nitto NT450|