The Nissan Xterra was introduced back in 2000 and has proven itself to be a fun and capable SUV. With a wheelbase a few inches north of 100, it's short enough to fit in some tight spaces, yet long enough for good stability and some rear cargo space.
Dee Schauer owns an '02 V-6-powered model and has been desert wheeling it for a good number of years. She uses it for day trips rockcrawling and trail running, as well as for longer camping trips in remote areas. It'd been upgraded over the years with a 3.92:1 transfer case and lockers, but she and husband Andy decided to take her rig up a notch in capability, and a solid-axle swap (SAS) was in the cards.
What was to happen was a homebrew axle and suspension swap, and we'll take you down that road here. The couple planned and gathered the parts over the course of a few months. What they found was that there are some good used parts floating around on the market, and patience can yield some good deals to help keep the mod costs a little more in check. Some parts were purchased from local wheelers, and the balance of the swap components consist of a combination of OEM and aftermarket pieces.
The IFS has a lot of parts that make up its suspension. They all came off the Xterra and w
The Dana 44 axle with driver-side pumpkin was purchased as a used assembly, and already held chromoly axleshafts, high-steer arms, and some other upgraded parts. It measured 60.5 inches from flange to flange, a good match to the stock rear axle, which is about 62 inches wide. Follow along as we show how Andy and a group of dedicated helpers did the Xterra transformation.
Basic Shopping List
Complete front axle (hub to hub)
Tie rod and drag link
Front leaf-spring packs
Spring shackles and frame tubes
Spring front crossmember
U-bolts, axle plates, and perches
Misc. steel plate scraps
1. The stock transmission crossmember was replaced with a tubular version from Calmini. Wh
2. With all the stock suspension parts stripped off the Nissan, it was time to fire up the
3. The shackle tubes were going to be mounted through the framerails, so they were held in
4. These are Calmini shackle mount parts. The 0.250-inch-wall tube will be inserted into t
5. Here you can see the sheetmetal pattern held in place. The tube locations are positione
6. With the frame holes cut through both walls of each framerail, the shackle tubes were s
7. A Calmini Nissan shackle kit was used along with poly bushings and steel sleeves. Depen
8. One could use a variety of leaf packs for a conversion such as this based on the ride h
9. After the shackle tube locations were rechecked, they were welded to the framerails. He
10. The stock Xterra steering box and frame mount is a pretty decent setup and a good cand
11. A set of U-bolt plates with bump landing pads and some polyurethane bumpstops were sou
12. The Dana 44 axle was fitted with weld-on perches, inverted U-bolts, and the Calmini pl