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  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

1999 Nissan Frontier - Franger Or Nord?

Posted in Features on January 6, 2015
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What do you do when you want an off-road rig that can travel long distances on the highway, tote a bunch of camping gear, and then allow you to run hardcore trails when you leave the highway? You just might build a truck like the one you see here.

Wanting to return to a full bed, Mike contemplated choices for his needs. He finally settled on fabricating a steel bed structure, then covered the sides with fiberglass bedsides from a Ford Ranger truck. Under the rear of the bed is a Warn 16.5Ti winch to help pull friends forward whenever they can’t keep up with Mike on a trail.

Mike and Norma Marrero purchased this Nissan Frontier new in 1999 for camping and wheeling, and it has been evolving ever since. In 2003, Mike took a torch to the front end and relieved the Nissan of its IFS. Since then he has clocked over 160,000 miles on the truck with the Ford Dana 44 he put in place. To complement the front solid axle, he upgraded the rear to a Dana 60 to turn 35-inch-tall rubber with confidence. The 5.13 gears keep this daily driver moving on the highway and help on the trail when accompanied by the 3.7:1 low range in the modified transfer case.

Mike has wheeled the truck from his home state of Florida to Indiana, and from Virginia to Arizona. To say this rig is well travelled would be an understatement. Over the last few years the Marreros have turned to doing more expedition style trips, so Mike built a custom, narrow bed and wrapped the exterior with factory fiberglass bedsides salvaged from a Ford Ranger bed. Hence the somewhat confusing visual appearance of the half-Nissan, half-Ford body. In any case, this rig has been built with a thoughtful combination of mods with an eye toward reliability and practicality.

The factory IFS left town in 2003. Mike fabricated a custom three-link suspension up front to locate the Ford high-pinion Dana 44 that uses GM knuckles. The axle was regeared with 5.13 gears on an ARB air locker. Further fortification comes from Warn alloy shafts, CTM joints, Solid Axle Industries six-lug hubs with big bearing spindles, and Superwinch locking hubs.

Tech Specs
1999 Nissan Frontier
Engine: Stock 3.3L V6
Transmission: Stock 4-speed automatic
Transfer case: TX10 with AC 3.7:1 crawler gears
Front Axle: Ford Dana 44 high-pinion, 5.13 gears, ARB air locker, Warn shafts, CTM joints
Rear Axle: Rockcrusher Dana 60 high-pinion, 5.13 gears, ARB air locker, 35-spline shafts, disc brakes

Springs & Such: Custom 3-link and 2-inch Fox coilovers (front); homebrew GM 64-inch based leaf packs and Fox 2-inch emulsion shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: LT315/75R16 BF Goodrich KM2 tires mounted on 16x8 aluminum modular wheels
Steering: Stock Nissan box, high-steer crossover
Other Stuff: Interior rollcage, Ranger stepside bedsides on custom fabricated bed, Warn 9.5Ti winch (front), Warn 16.5Ti winch (rear), Addicted Offroad front bumper, rock sliders

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