When Was The Last Time You Saw a Nissan Frontier on The Trail?

    The Final Frontier

    Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

    Wheeling rigs fall into one of two categories: popular vehicles with a lot of aftermarket support (think Wranglers and Tacomas), or more obscure vehicles like the Nissan Frontier shown here. There is an undeniable appeal to having something different on the trail, but in order to do so you either need to have deep pockets to pay a shop to build one-off components, or you need to be handy with a chop saw and a welder. David Kowalski falls into the latter group. Rather than trade in his pride and joy on a more common Tacoma, he has built a Nissan that can hang with the Toyotas.

    Rather than sell the Nissan for something more common, David put his Frontier into service as a wheeling rig. He started by replacing the IFS with a high-pinion Dana 44 front axle. Leaf springs, shackles, and hangers from Bonney Motorsports were used to locate the front axle and create enough room for 38-inch Super Swampers.

    “I got 4.88 gears to match the factory 4.90 gears in the rear diff, but the crawl ratio wasn’t nearly low enough on the trail,” Kowalski confesses.

    The next major upgrade was 3.7:1 transfer case gears from Automotive Customizers that nearly doubled the crawl ratio available from the paltry factory low range ratio of 2.02:1. Once the Frontier had locker differentials, big tires, and low gearing it was capable of going anywhere more common vehicles go, and turn heads while doing so.

    Tech Specs

    2001 Nissan Frontier
    Drivetrain
    Engine: 3.3L VG33E V6
    Transmission: Factory five speed manual
    Transfer Case: TX-10 with Automotive Customizers 3.77:1 gears
    Front Axle: Dana 44 with 4.88 gears and Eaton E-Locker
    Rear Axle: Nissan H233B with 4.90 gears and welded differential
    Suspension
    Springs & Such: Bonney Motorsports leaf springs, Rancho RS5000 shocks (front and rear)
    Tires & Wheels: 38x12.5/15LT Super Swamper TSLs on 15x8 US Wheel 78 Series rims with Total Metal Innovations DIY beadlocks
    Steering: Factory steering box, 2-inch drop pitman arm, custom tie rod and drag link with Moog tie rod ends
    Other Stuff: Custom flatbed, 12,000-pound Badlands winch, 20-inch LED light bar, custom front bumper, custom rock sliders