Guest Post: Mr. K’s New Truck

Last week, in preparation for my impending return to the United States, I bought a pickup truck. Because there is a photo of it above, there isn’t much point in being coy. It is a 1991 Nissan Hardbody and, while these may have been common back in the day, examples this nice are pretty thin on the ground these days. Trust me, I know.


I am not, and have never been, a “truck guy.” Still, in the last few years I have come to realize the utility that they offer and so I have finally taken the plunge. But I am neither a farmer nor a construction worker and I will not be required to work out of the back of my vehicle. I own no race cars, no boats, no travel trailers nor anything else that will require towing, and the hauling I will do will most likely be limited to the occasional bicycle, a few bags of dirt or peat moss, and items like gasoline cans that are better kept outside of my vehicles’ interiors. Regardless of these facts, I decided to have some fun and considered several different options before pulling the trigger.

The internet is a pretty amazing thing and, despite the fact that I’m not due to rotate until sometime in July, I have been obsessively researching different vehicles and browsing the online classifieds for months. At first, I considered the new mid-sized Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon but, while they seem to be nice vehicles, I was utterly shocked at their sticker prices. From there, my attention shifted to used trucks and I briefly fantasized about owning a mid-‘80s Chevrolet C10 shortbed and then, although it makes no logical sense and does not fit any of the above criteria, a K5 Blazer. Of course, nice examples of either of those options are usually north of $15K these days and, reluctantly, I decided to keep looking. Finally, I considered mini-trucks.

Right off the bat, I found that most of the Ford Rangers and the Chevy S-10s out there haven’t aged well and are in deplorable shape. With those out of the game, that left me with a couple of options – well four options if you count the also-ran Isuzus and Mitsubishis, but I had little interest in either of those. I first considered the venerable Toyota pickup but after thinking it over for a while I decided that I liked the style of the Nissans better. Narrowing it further, I decided I’d prefer an extra-cab for the additional interior space it would provide, Solely because I liked the way they sat, I added four-wheel-drive to my list as well. Additional wants, but not necessarily must-haves, were V6 power and a manual transmission. More than anything, it needed to be the “right truck,” I decided, and I was convinced that I would know it when I saw it.

Long-time readers of my work will know that this isn’t the first time I have purchased a vehicle sight unseen. As before, I crawled all over the internet looking at vehicles all across the United States and although I called on several different trucks, all of which appeared to be in good shape, nothing panned out. Some were sold before I could get to them, others didn’t pass my personal sniff test and one kid, in my own home town no less, seemed so scammy that my brother pulled the plug on the deal before getting to the test drive. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought and I was starting to get worried when I finally found the truck I eventually purchased less than an hour from home.

Craigslist sellers should take note of the following. What made this truck stand out from the others was a slew of good, clear photos of all the exterior, interior and underneath and a seller who was able to give real answers when I called. He was easy to work with over the phone and willing to meet my brother-in-law, who served as my agent for the transaction, right away. All of this inspired confidence and, when the test drive went off without a hitch, we were able to strike a deal and put down a deposit. A couple of days later, after I transferred the funds to my sister who turned them into a cashier’s check, we brought it home.

Overall, I feel like I came pretty close to getting exactly what it is I wanted. The truck is in great shape, with just one previous owner, and has about 135K miles on the odometer. As far as available options are concerned, it looks to be fully loaded SE V6. The engine, which my research indicates is a 3 liter VG30E, is reputed to be solid and long-lived but the roughly 150 horses it makes is routed to the wheels via an automatic transmission rather than my preferred manual. You won’t hear me bellyaching though, when a truck this old checks so many of the right boxes you simply cannot complain.

I’d like to be able to report on how it drives, what sort of work it needs and how I am setting it right, but those articles are still in the future. For now, I have to be content with studying the photos and trying to plan what I will do. A couple of things are certain. First, I intend on keeping it as close to stock as possible. I’ll be looking to replace the missing center caps for the front wheels and, at some point, that canopy will come off – fortunately, I also got the tailgate.

What else is there? Well, that’s where you come in, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

21 Replies to “Guest Post: Mr. K’s New Truck”

    • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

      I was undecided on those wheels at first and was thinking about changing them up. But, after looking at them for a while, have decided that they are totally appropriate for the truck. I will, however, switch to raised white letters when it is time for tires.

      Reply
  1. Felis Concolor

    I was never a fan of the “butched up” Nissan trucks which replaced the well loved 620/720 line, although by that time Nissan had finally figured out it was a good idea to install steering column locks and other passive security features. One of my favorite little tricks on friends with earlier Nissan trucks was to let them know I needed to run an errand and then borrow their trucks, using a handy little cluster of color coded 12/10 ga wires to hook up the electrical system from the exposed plug on the back of the ignition cylinder.

    It looks like you’ve found an excellent example; at 135K, it’s barely broken in!

    Another nostalgia quibble: what is it with Japanese autos from the 80s-90s and placing the nicely slim cupholder tray either directly above or below the climate controls, thus ensuring difficult operation of the buttons and sliders when a cup or can is in use?

    Reply
    • silentsod

      Oh man, the cupholder placement makes me annoyed every time I have something in it and need to fiddle with the HVAC controls.

      Reply
    • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

      I was thinking that a 620 would make a great hot rod or rally cross truck. Lower it a bit, pump up the engine and give it an awesome paint job and it would be cool as hell.

      As for the cup holders, I noticed that the JDM ’86 Supra I used to own and many of the ’80s and ’90s cars I rode in when I first came to Japan had no cup holders at all. I’m not sure if it was a legality thing – you could buy add-on cup holders at the Autobacs, for example – but the cars just didn’t have them. That makes me think the cup holders we got in the States were afterthoughts and, you’re right, they are in the worst possible positions.

      Reply
  2. BN

    Very nice truck … I also think that those ’90s Nissans were one of the best-designed small trucks of their time. I’ve seen a friend’s 2WD Hardbody survive more than a decade of overwork and under-maintenance. A well-cared-for example like this will last as long as you want it to.

    It looks like the previous owner added manual hub locks, which is a nice upgrade, in my opinion (why spin all those driveline components year-round, when they’re only needed occasionally?)

    Reply
    • Felis Concolor

      My father replaced the auto-locking hubs with aftermarket units on his ’76 Chevy short bed and ended up with hybrid levels of fuel economy savings. From 8 mpg to a whopping 10, yippee; they paid for themselves in 3 months of use.

      Reply
  3. Robert

    Congratulations on the sweet ride! It looks to be in great shape for the age. I’d say that is peak D21 right there, although I would prefer the manual transmission as well. The V6 doesn’t look like much on paper, but I drove one with the 6 and it was a serious upgrade from the 4. These trucks are very light; be careful the rear end will go sideways in the wet or the snow with very little provocation.

    I had three of these over the course of about 15 years, except all of mine had the KA24E 4 cylinder engine. They are generally very solid and reliable mechanically. Fit and finish items were another story… They all had numerous squeaks and rattles that I could never entirely eliminate. The AC vents will break if you look at them the wrong way. My odometer went out and had to be replaced before 100k on one of them. AC quit around the 5 year mark. In my experience the Toyotas of the era had far fewer of these kind of irritations. However, I kept buying Nissans because they were much more fun to drive.

    After 3 trucks, a Pathfinder, and a Quest, here is how I sum up Nissan ownership: You will be tired of it long before it is tired of you.

    Looking forward to the updates!

    Reply
  4. -Nate

    Looks nice and sounds like you got a good deal on it .

    No photos showing the cap replacing the tailgate, I’d have have not known unless you mentioned it .

    Welcome home Thomas .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

      Even though I’m not really excited about having it on there forever, that canopy was one of the reasons I purchased the truck. It’s a really nice one that has a full back and mounts a sideways opening door. That, to me, is the kind of thing an older guy buys, which was a very positive sign.

      Also, although you can’t see it in these photos, there was a WA “Purple Heart” plate and a “Retired US Marine” frame on the truck as well. Again, good signs.

      I will say, even though the guy I spoke to was easy to deal with and well informed about the truck, that he was actually flipping it. He told me that he had purchased it from a family friend after years of begging but then decided he needed something bigger as he had some big trailers he wanted to tow. That said, I was watching Craigslist pretty closely at the time and saw this same truck – I could tell because of the canopy – pop up and then disappear really quickly. That makes me think this guy was in the truck for a quick flip. The way the truck was detailed, like the plastic on the floor, supports that as well.

      I’m not unhappy about that, though. I might have saved a few bucks if I had got to it first but I really didn’t pay anything over market price for it, Plus, the better photos and the better advertisement are what made me call in the first place.

      Reply
      • -Nate

        Cool ;

        I like these trucks although I prefer an older SB, stepper style 1/2 ton rig for my own very light duty needs .

        A buddy was giving one of these Nissan’s a while back, it ran so poorly it was amazing, I sorted it out and he liked it but he’s a big fella and so gave it away to a *very* grateful old man who’ll prolly wax it monthly until he dies in it =8-) .

        BTW : I miss TTAC, I still like reading the articles but they’re being seriously chickenshit about my using one bad word they didn’t even notice and wasn’t caught in their filters .

        I miss not being able to ask questions, the people there as well as here (you included) are younger and differently experienced than I and I used TTAC as a teaching tool daily .

        C’est La Vie, Non ? .

        -Nate

        Reply
  5. silentsod

    Beautiful truck – in much better condition body wise (and probably mechanically) than the ’91 Toyota Pickup I put in a guard rail last week. As mentioned by Robert above me, the back end is very, very light and it’s not a great choice for icy conditions. Load the bed with sandbags and run good rubber. (I’ll get it fixed, even though the repairs are going to cost as much, due to labor, as the truck is worth).

    I hope the V6 of that era was better than the 3.slow 3VZ-E in the Toyota of the time, and also easier to perform routine maintenance on.

    Reply
  6. Patrick King

    Love it!

    My friend Tom McNeil had one new, charcoal grey, six-cylinder extended cab with a stick. Great looking and lots of fun to drive.

    The funky wheels were an integral part of the then-revolutionary, vaguely miltaristic “Hard Body” motif. Without them the truck lost a certain edgy attitude. Embrace them Thomas!

    Congats on your purchase!

    Reply
    • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

      Thanks! I never really thought of these as “militaristic” but now that you mention it I definitely get it. It would probably look really good in olive green, too.

      I’m not planning on switching up the wheels anymore. I’ve seen enough of them with aftermarket wheels on line to know that what I was thinking – the old centerline racing wheel look – isn’t what I want. Plus, I figure that if I keep it stock I can take it to retro 80s/90s car shows.

      Reply
  7. Sean

    Welcome back!
    You bought THAT truck? I’m jealous. I’ve wanted a clean Hardbody for decades. The closest I got was an Xterra with the VG33/5 speed.

    Reply
    • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

      Thanks! I’ve known a few people with the Exterra and hear that they are really capable little rigs. If I had it to do over I would have bought one of those new in 2002 instead of that damn Golf TDI. If I had, I’d probably still be driving it.

      Reply
  8. rpn453

    Beauty truck! I had a black ’98 Pathfinder I was quite fond of. This is like an older cousin to her.

    I don’t think those wheels look any uglier without the caps. I’d probably just remove them. The caps, that is. The wheels suit the truck. They’re growing on me. But I’ve never liked fake nuts/bolts. Still, it would nice to have a full set of caps for those retro car shows.

    Reply
  9. Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

    I went through a stage a few months ago where I wanted an older Pathfinder – one of the two door versions with the triangular window. I thought it might come in handy when I needed to take the kids places. Then, of course, I realized that it didn’t offer the practicality I was looking for in a truck and I decided that if I was really looking for an SUV I should just pop for the full size Blazer.

    I’ve seen these wheels both with and without the center caps and I think they look fine either way but the issue is that they all need to be the same. The way it is now looks pretty half-assed to me. The crappy part is that I am sure the original owner has them on a shelf in the garage and that I could have had them for the asking but, of course, I didn’t notice they were missing until later. I already have the part number and it looks like they can be ordered without much problem but part of me wants to have the fun of hitting the local junkyards and finding them myself.

    Reply
    • -Nate

      I get quite a lot of P.T. walking junkyards, I occasionally find gems and jewels I buy too .

      I dated a nice Lady in 1996 who bought a red 2WD pathfinder 2dr, it was an O.K. little trucklet, I’ll never figure out why a 50 year old Woman in the city would ever buy such a rig .

      -Nate

      Reply
      • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer Post author

        I haven’t been to a real pull it yourself yard in a decade but I spent a good deal of time in them when I was in high school. Is going out and looking around in a junk yard even allowed these days?

        As for the Pathinder, she bought it because it was the closest thing you could get to a small wagon. Plus it allowed her to sit up nice and tall.

        Reply
  10. -Nate

    I’m pretty sure that’s why she bought hers (new, Dealer) but she was a CFO for a major corporation and had to wear skirts to work so getting in and out was fun for me to watch (nice legs !) but irritated her to no end .

    Look up LKQ, they’ve been buying up self service junkyard all across America, and of course, raised all the prices but for $2 you can still walk as much as you want……

    Lots and lots of fairly late model impounds, many have no damage .

    Their site will tell you the closest yard to you and you go from there .

    -Nate

    Reply

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