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A New Fun Tier: Will’s Solid-Axle 2002 Nissan Frontier

Posted in Features on June 28, 2018
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When it comes to midsized pickups on the trail, Toyota seems to rule the market. However, that doesn’t mean there are not some formidable contenders. The challenge for many usually isn’t the want to build other midsized pickups, but rather the lack of aftermarket support that is holding them back. However, Will Saric’s ’02 Nissan Frontier is a prime example of just how far you can take a mini-truck by searching out the right parts.

Having owned the truck for 10 years, Will, an FAA A&P mechanic has steadily transformed the Nissan from a high school daily driver to the trail machine it is today. Starting off with a base-model extended cab SE version of the truck, he understood that for the truck to handle his projected tire and adventure goals, the original independent front suspension would need to go. Having the know-how but needing a little help with the execution, Will worked with RPN Offroad in Goode, Virginia, to convert over from IFS to a solid front axle.

We caught up with Will on some trails in North Carolina. Watching the Frontier work off-road was just as impressive as the level of build quality that runs throughout the truck. While most of the modifications have been done to help the off-road performance of the truck, Will states a cage is one of the next things on the to-do list to increase safety. Though it may be unconventional, we enjoy seeing high-quality builds such as this one mixing up the off-road landscape.

The 3.3L Nissan V-6 gets some airflow help thanks to Doug Thorley headers paired with a custom exhaust using MagnaFlow mufflers. Helping to keep things running cool on the trail is a Flex-a-Lite 412 dual puller fan setup, while an Optima YellowTop battery gives the lighting accessories plenty of juice to pull from.
Backing the V-6 is the stock automatic transmission and TX-10A transfer case. Currently, the truck is equipped with a modified 1310 double-cardan front driveshaft from JE Reel Driveline. Will plans on swapping this driveline out for a larger 1350 series soon along with adding a limit strap set to the front axle.
Out back, you’ll find the stock Nissan axle fit with a H233B third member fit with 5.57:1 gears and an ARB Air Locker. Securing the semi-float axle in place is a set of custom Alcan Spring 6-inch-lift leaf packs. Moderating the trail are 10-inch-travel, 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks from King.
Gone is the original IFS, and in its place is a custom axlehousing sourced from Rugged Rocks Off Road. The fabricated Diamond Axles housing uses Reid Racing Dana 60 steering knuckles, which receive their orders from a Redneck Ram modified steering gear and hydro-assist cylinder. Just like the rear axle, the front is served with a 5.57:1 gearset and ARB Air Locker.
The solid-axle conversion comes from Rugged Rocks. It’s a three-link with track bar setup, for which Will is using a link kit with Currie Johnny Joint rod ends sourced from Barnes 4WD. The coilover conversion secures 14-inch-travel Sway-A-Way coilovers, which provide plenty of articulation for the trail.
Getting the traction to the ground are 37x12.50R17 Cooper STT Pro tires. These have been paired with 17x9.5 Raceline Monster beadlock wheels. Will says the 3.5 inches of backspacing is ideal for his Frontier, and the beadlocks allow him to run a mere 6 psi without issue on the trail.
Adding clearance and protection to the front of the truck is an RLC Welding & Fabrication front bumper. It houses PIAA 510 and 520 series lights and an ENGO 10,000-pound winch. Other notable features include the Factor 55 ProLink and 20-inch Offroad Gorilla–sourced lightbar.
In the truck’s bed, you’ll find a Kobalt toolbox that keeps his recovery gear and ARB air compressor out of the elements. A fullsize spare also resides in the bed, while a rear bumper from RPN Offroad keeps the back of the truck protected. Along with boxed crossmembers and a reinforced transmission support, Will added some additional frame-mounted armor via ShrockWorks rock sliders.

At a Glance

Vehicle: ’02 Nissan Frontier
Owner: Will Saric
Stomping grounds: Greensboro, North Carolina
Build time: 10 years

Engine: 3.3L Nissan V-6
Transmission: Jatco RE4R01A
Transfer case: TX-10A
Low range ratio: 2.02:1
Crawl ratio: 31.39:1
Front axle/differential: Diamond Axles housing, Yukon Gear & Axle hubs, solid spindles, Reid Racing knuckles, ARP studs, H233B third member, 5.57:1 gears/ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: Nissan with H233B third member, 5.57:1 gears/ARB Air Locker

Front: Rugged Rocks Off Road SAS kit, Barnes 4WD three-link, Currie Johnny Joint rod ends, 2.5-in 14-in-travel Sway-A-Way coilovers
Rear: Custom Alcan Spring 6-in-lift springs, King 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks
Steering: PSC Motorsports pump and fluid reservoir, Redneck Ram steering gear and cylinder

Tires: 37x12.50R17 Cooper STT Pro
Wheels: 17x9.5 Raceline Monster beadlock

Armor: RLC Welding & Fabrication front bumper, ShrockWorks sliders, RPN Offroad rear bumper
Cool stuff: Wilwood front D52 front calipers, R1 Concepts front rotors, JE Reel Driveline front driveshaft, Flex-a-Lite fans, Optima YellowTop Battery, Cobra 29 LX radio, ARB onboard air and recovery gear, 48-in Hi-Lift Jack, Factor 55 ProLink

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