Nissan Frontiers Get Ready for Change

Marvin Runyon Pres NNAM II

Later this month, the last Nissan Frontier midsize pickup trucks will roll off the line at the famed Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing plant. Production of the small pickups will move to Canton, Miss. 

According to, the first vehicle to roll off the then brand-new Smyrna production line was an early-model white regular cab Nissan/Datsun pickup in 1983, which eventually was called the Hardbody. The above photo is that first truck (called Job One) along with president and CEO (at the time) of Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp., Marvin Runyon. 

The article goes on to show how important the truck and plant were to the community and the 6,000 employees who worked there. The plant will remain but no longer produce the trucks; instead, it will make the new Inifiniti JX35 as well as the Nissan Rogue and Leaf. 

For those familiar with Nissan lineage, the Hardbody was made and sold for mass production from 1986 to 1997 until the completely redesigned first-gen Frontier debuted in 1998. The second-gen Frontier came out in 2005 and was refreshed in 2009. More changes are likely scheduled in the next few years. 

There have been more than 1 million Frontiers produced at the Smyrna plant, with more than 100,000 units sold in 2000, its best-selling year. Numbers at this year's end are likely to be closer to 70,000 units. 



Bring Back Job One! That's exactly the size truck I want!

TRUE....This is the perfect size and ride. Nissan really got it right.

Nissan makes quality products. Either they hit it on the style or they totally miss it.
The latest Frontier is a good looking truck. The Titan needs help.
If they can get the styling right they could make huge strides in sales because the quality is their.

I have a 2010 fronter like all the thing Nissan has to offer. but i am still looking for diesal in this truck

The problem with the Titan and to some extent the Tundra is they both still look like imports. The people I know who own Titans have nothing but praise for them. Tundra either they love them or they are never going back to them...

I work with a guy that totaled his Titan and went F150 (with the triton V8 and tow package) and he said that the Titan pulled his family camper much more easily than the Nissan did.

Nissan seems to be on the edge of having real truck sales again... they just miss the mark in a couple places and don't invest anything more into their trucks to stay competitive.

yea that is a sweet looking truck thats for sure, I realy do miss them, the fact is I was almost going to buy one of them back in the day, and they were not around for very long around here, it seems they rusted into ablivion ?

My first car was a truck. 1986 Nissan hard body two door short box. Had a E24i engine. Put a Hurst shift handle on the stick shifter. I added mickey thompson baja belted tires with custom gambler rims. Rancho 5,000 shocks. Kenwood pull out with
12" kicker speakers and an amp. Traded it in 111,000 miles.
It was gutless. Couldn't haul much or tow much but it did haul my CR 125 Honda dirt bike.

Like the Japanese used to small pickups the Chinese are doing it now, here is some pictures. One might suit your needs.

I work with a guy that totaled his Titan and went F150 (with the triton V8 and tow package) and he said that the Titan pulled his family camper much more easily than the Nissan did.

@Colin, Did you accidently word that wrong or is that what you meant to say? Sounds like you were meaning to say that the Nissan Titan pulled the camper easier than the F150. I don't see how the Titan could've pulled the camper easier than the Nissan when the Titan is a Nissan. lol

the new frontier is 7 inches wider, alot of that has to do with the mandatory larger crunple zones inorder to pass safety requirements. to prevent bodily harm doors need to be thicker and allow for more area to deform before they hit the driver/passenger. The lengths are unchanged as the cruple zone up fron is the engine bay which provides lots of protection and the rear is the bed. however side and roll over protecction necessitates a larger cab. i would cringe at the thought of a new 1983 compact truck being put through a crash test let alone being in one during a bad accident. if you are looking for somethign smaller, i belive that John Deere and Kabota offer vehicles in that same size range, but they are not street leagle because of crash safety . this i wish they would bring back the iti bity truck complaints is getting realy old. even the micro spart car is only a 3 in narower than the 83 nissan and the ford transit conecct is wider and longer than an 80s nissan
In an age where the governement makes automakers offer standard backup cameras do you really think that sombody is going to make a compact truck that is able to meet the needs while being safe.

My friend had a hardbody with 200K on the 4 cyl./stick and towed his boat through the hills just fine; even at it's max load. Even did short tows with it after buying a much heavier boat and it was a champ. The truck never broke down, didn't burn oil -- nothing. Another friend abused the daylights out of his and had a minimal issue with it as a result -- he broke numerous things on his other vehicles. Since Ford won't bring the new Ranger here, my next truck is likely to be a new Frontier and I have few reservations about it based off of friends experiences.


Call me carzy, but if they can make a Ford Festiva pass a crash test, I'm thinking they shouldn't have much trouble trimming a thoudand pounds from any of the current crop of "midsize" trucks and coming up with something small/light enough to fit in the garage/be easily parked/get decent mileage.

Bigger is not necessarily better.

Jake H is exactly right- there's no reason a truck with a cab-width like the newest B-group cars wouldn't be as safe in side-impact as those cars. The next Frontier was supposed to be co-developed with Mitsu's L200- which has remained a bit smaller than the Nissan, Toyota (hil;ux and Tacoma are almost identical in size), Ford and GM. Not sure if this ever came to fruition.
With the Frontier leaving Smyrna and the Pathfinder now a cross-over, I wonder what will become of the X-Terra.

Carilloskis - does have a valid point. I do not remember having any pickup with doors as thick as the current trucks.

I read an article that Nissan and Mitsubishi are getting together and designing a global pickup similar to the Ford Ranger/BT50 deal.

I also read they probably won't come to the US. What a bummer if this is the case.

Poor @Carilloskis, just can't see the forest for the trees. All you have to do is go out on the street and see that today's trucks are almost twice the size of most street-legal cars in length and height and a third wider in many cases. A lot of people simply don't NEED a vehicle that big and that is proven by the fact that so many people do drive much smaller cars. It's certainly NOT impossible to make a smaller truck that is just as safe as a similarly-sized car.

Some simple proofs:
My Jeep Wrangler Unlimited rides on a 110" wheelbase. Remove the back seat and let the bed hang out a little farther and you'd have a "long bed" J-8 conversion without changing anything else. Why do I bring it up? The width of the Jeep is visibly less than the width of the modern F-150 and I still have at least a foot of shoulder room between me and my front-seat passenger. My 1990 F-150 has almost two feet of empty space between us. The interesting thing is that 110" is just about the same wheelbase as many of the old '80s compact pickups that could carry a surprising load by weight--if not by raw bulk.

So it would be easy to thin down a truck and still let it have a 4-foot usable-width bed. It would be easy to lower the suspension and the roof and still give a very comfortable ride. It would be very easy to shorten the nose and the tail and still give it a 5-foot-long bed while its overall length nearly 5 feet shorter than modern 8' bed truck. So by simply removing 1' from the height, 1' from the width and 3' from the length you come up with a much more driver-, street- and garage-friendly truck that's still useful for the do-it-yourselfer and even for some commercial pick up and delivery purposes where agility is more important than bulk capacity.

You could also see a 30% improvement in gas mileage or more by not requiring such a huge engine to drag it around.

Oh, and as a side note, @Carilloskis, those '80s "mini" trucks were also a lot easier to load and unload than these new ones; you didn't need the "sissy-step" to climb into them.

@Vulpine Like an Australian Ute, easy to load and off load.

I don't see why people want a smaller truck then the current Frontier, if your garage can't fit the current Frontier in it, you need a new garage anyway as the current Frontier is just a few inches longer then a midsize car, and about the same width. Little trucks are unsafe, and its hard to make a small body on frame vehicle as safe as a unit body micro car. Thats why trucks have gotten bigger.

Is Nissan President and CEO Marvin Runyon wearing a Canadian tuxedo? LOL

Talk about a blast from the past!

But seriously, I want to see Toyota, Honda, Nissan - anybody - build a small truck. Scion was rumored to be building one, but Auto News is saying that plan has been put on hold...if that's true, it's a real bummer.

Hey there! Io sono al lavoro navigare intorno al tuo blog dal mio nuovo iPhone! Volevo solo dire che mi piace leggere attraverso il vostro blog e sono ansioso di tutti i tuoi post! Continuate così superbo!

I would have to say that if I were in the market for a new midsize truck I would definitely put the Frontier at the top of my list. Nissan has always made a tough small truck.

@Big Al from Oz-I have to say I do like the Chinese midsize trucks even though some of them are copies of US trucks. I would be skeptical of the Chinese quality.

The Frontier is really a good looking and decent truck. Much better than the outdated Ford Ranger that was mercifully retired recently. Out here in farm country practically everyone has switched from Rangers to Frontiers, Tacomas, and even Colorados for their small truck needs because they got tired of the stale Ranger. I guess Fords priority isn't with small trucks anymore.

@Jeff S
Here is the current Great Wall pickup we get. You guys would probably get one for just over $20k. It comes with leather power everything 4x4 dual cab.

For the price they come with a reasonable diesel, but the power figures are equivelent to our utes from 10 years ago.

Within 5 years I think they will be extremely competitive.

The quality has improved quickly. From a safety perspective they would be comparable to your pickup.

A lot of builders are using them were I used to live.

@Big Al
"From a safety perspective they would be comparable to your pickup."

I feel like you've alluded to this in other posts, but is your general assertion that the midsize utes sold in Australia are substantially safter than the 1/2 ton pickups sold in the US? If so, what are you basing this off of? For comparisions sake, a Holden Colorado dual cab was rated 5 stars by ANCAP, while a similar Chevy Silverado crew cab was rated 4 stars by NCAP, not a substantial difference. Are there fundamental advantages to the ANCAP test procedures?

@Luke in CO Usually going from a 4 star to 5 star means the inclusion of such things as door inserts and side airbags. 2 stars to 5 stars, vehicle needs to be redesigned.

@Luke in CO

@Robert Ryan
In the Silverado's case, it scored 5 stars on side flat barrier impact, and 5 stars on side pole impact, with side curtain and torso airbags. The Silverado wasn't as highly rated as the Colorado on frontal impact. Still two 5 stars and two 4 stars across the four assessments isn't far off an overall 5 star rating.

Maybe I got the wrong impression from Big Al's post.

@Robert Ryan
Yeah, I've already looked at ANCAP's website. The only fundamental difference I can see in their test procedures is that ANCAP uses an offset frontal impact test and includes a pedestrian impact test. US NCAP includes a rollover rating.

@Big Al from Oz -I would have no trouble buying one of their trucks when it has been out in the market for a few years and the bugs worked out. I have a Murray edger that I have had for almost 9 years that was made in China along with some other Chinese lawn equipment (some of it good and some of it bad). The Murray edger has been very reliable and for about $150 I have more than gotten my money's worth. For just over 20k with leather, 4x4, dual cab, and power everything would sell very well in the US. I myself would wait a few years and see what their reliabilty and service record was. If it was good I would definitely buy one.

@Big Al from Oz-I read the link. That is a nice looking truck and I would definitely buy one if I had a dealer near me and as long as I could get service on one. That is even a good value by the US prices.

@Luke in CO
This is the Euro crash test for the global Ranger the new BT50 is the same. The Holden Colorado and VW Amarok are also 5 star rated. The Hilux is 4 stars and I think the Navara (Frontier) has moved up from 3 to 4 stars after some safety inclusions. I read somewhere the Great Wall ute has is going to be 3 stars, up from 2 from improvements.

As I have pointed out in the past your safety and emissions regulation are not necessarily harsher or better but different. There are parallels but overall the US is insular when it come to these issues. Trade barriers is what its all it is about.

The US and Canada have never signed up to an international agreement on the standardisation of motor vehicles like the rest of the OECD. This is why I make the statements that I do. Its not that your regulations don't work but they will inhibit the future of your motor industry, ie small diesels in your 1/2 ton pickups. And when they do come most of the technology will be imported.

That Great Wall truck looks good. I'd be nervous about reliability too. It can't be worse than the ugly Mahindra truck.

@Lou-You are right about the Mahindra. It is more like a Yugo and that was a real piece of junk. I think the Chinese are more likely to make a good pickup than the Mahindra from India. Mahindra redefined the word ugly and even makes the Pontiac Aztec look not so bad. The Honda Element is a thing of beauty compared to the Mahindra. At least the Aztec and Element were mechanically good. But to have bad and ugly rapped up into one, as is the Mahindra is, is the ultimate sin.

Your article about Nissan Frontier is really important . I found many update information which i didn't notice before that. Nissan looks always good. The car has an exciting interior that is very spacious. I have a Nissan maxima and i enjoy driving.

@Big Al from Oz-The more I think about safety and pollution standards and global vehicles the more I am convinced that all NA should adopt the same safety standards as Europe and Australia and most of the rest of the World and that the US just needs to go totally metric. Eventually the standards are going to be the same worldwide and from a cost advantage the more uniformity and consistency in a product the better quality control and the easier it is to contain product development and manufacturing costs. The same product produced over more units with little or no variation will be a better product and more cost effective. It is easy to change a name such as Chevrolet for NA and Holden for Australia but otherwise make them pretty much the same. I guess I am being more pragmatic but with a business background and almost 40 years of accounting experience I do not get as emotional about USA only products. I am more interested in consistent quality at contained costs. I realize I will get criticism from my fellow Americans but that is just my 2 cents worth and everyone is entitled to their own opinions as long as they don't slam other opinions and degrade others choice of brand.

@Big Al
Please understand, I was not and am not, trying to say U.S. safety regulations or test procedures are better than anywhere else. I was just trying to figure out if there are some substantial differences between Euro NCAP/ANCAP and U.S. NCAP. Aside from a couple of tests (rollover and pedestrian impact), I don't see a fundamental difference.

I am fully aware various U.S. regulations make it difficult if not impossible for many vehicles to be sold in the U.S. These are in place for a variety of reasons, none of which I think are legitimate when compared to the benefits of allowing for a truly open auto market.

I drive a 2005 Frontier, its been an awesome truck. My biggest complaint is mpg, followed by turning radius. No other real complaints. When I was looking to buy my truck in 2005 I was looking for a small truck. I had no idea Nissan and Toyota had just enlarged their "small" trucks. While I could get by with a smaller truck, this truck has proven to be a good size.

Its sad to see the Smyrna plant will no longer make Nissan trucks, but I'm glad they're not closing. In 1985 I drove a Nissan ST model truck that I guess was made there too. It was an excellent truck as well. I hope the Canton plant can do as well, especially since its only a few miles from where I live. I'm soon to be in the market for a crew cab and the Frontier is on my short list, especially since its one of the few 2wd crew cabs offered with a standard transmission.

I have Nissan . I bought it in 2006. My Nissan is called n16 pulsar . I think it's titled comes from Australia. Nissan has good combination for space and power. So Nissan is attractive as well as expensive . Although i was able to buy it but i think it would be better if people can buy it with affordable price.

@Luke and Co and Jeff S
The difference between our vehicles sold in Australia and a Euro country is marginal so the manufacturer doesn't really need to expend a lot of resources to make changes for a particular market. This is one of the significant reasons why global pickups reach 180 countries around the world and NA trucks only reach few countries.

This might put a few noses out of joint, especially in a NA pickup forum.

I do think your CAFE regulations are poorly developed. If the US really wants the change the buying habits of people and have them use more economical and less polluting vehicles you guys should think about increasing fuel tax about $1.00 per gallon. Then remove or redesign your CAFE regulations. People then would be forced to change habits and manufacturers would promote and sell more economical vehicles across the board.

This dollar per gallon will help pay off your huge debt to the world.

Even with the sand oils from Canada and the new oil in the Dakotas the US will still need to import 50% of its oil. This is a great expense to your country.

As the BRICS and other developing countries advance your oil prices will keep on rising, even with your flat economy.

I do see a lot of people rightly being proud of the US but not wanting to help your country, complaining and blaming everyone else but themselves. Reducing your reliance on imported oil will help your economy greatly. That means driving vehicles that are more responsible to the world and yourselves. Remember the US doesn't own most resources.

I'm not a greenie either. I lean to the right.

Like I have stated previously when oil rises to over $150 per barrel in the near future your country will feel the pain more so than elsewhere.

@Matthew in MS--I don't think that making the Frontier in Canton will change the quality. If you want a 2wd crewcab I don't think the quality will be an issue. It should be as reliable as your current Frontier.

@Matthew in MS

Here is a review on the Navara we have in Australaia. We used to have the 4.0V6 option but Nissan dropped it because the 2.5 diesel was just to strong in sales. I think the 2.5 diesel is getting about 28mpg. The 2.5 is about 188hp and 330ftlb of torque.

The V6 diesel is supposed to perform quite well but it is only getting about 26mpg. But it is producing 245hp and about 410ftlb of torque.

@Big Al from Oz --I agree I think the fuel tax should be raised but the politicians do not have the fortitude to do that. Al Gore when he was running for President in 2000 proposed something like a $1 a gallon gas tax to encourage people to drive more efficient vehicles. He was labeled as Ozone Al and as a Socialist. We elected "W" (Bush Jr) who promised to lower taxes and lower fuel prices. After 911 Bush promised that when Iraq was liberated from the evil Sadam that the US would be rewarded with plentiful Oil from Iraq and much lower prices. Most Americans would rather be told lies than to face up to hard realities. We would rather drive our big trucks and be promised cheap abundant energy and low taxes and allow ourselves to be diverted by the demands of the religious right who want to outlaw abortions, birth control, gay unions, evolution, and that all science is evil and against God (many educated born again Christians brag that they do not believe in science yet fly in airplanes and get medical treatment). The politicians will cater to these beliefs to get elected and any politician who does otherwise will get targeted for defeat.

America is a great nation that has accomplished great things but cannot move forward as a nation until something drastic happens to motivate us to move forward. It is much easier to blame others for your problems than to take responsibility. I agree with everything that you stated above but to try to have a reasonable discussion about this and other real issues is about like trying to talk to the fanboys on this site who repeat idiotic advertising slogans. Try talking to a lot of Americans is like when Lou is trying to reason with some of the Ram fanboys they just get mad and in the case of my fellow Americans they accuse you of being anti-American and a Socialist. During the Iraq crisis the FBI actually took into custody a man in a gym in California that made remarks questioning the US involvement in Iraq. This man did not threaten the President or say anything against America or threaten America. Someone in his gym had reported him and the FBI took him into custody and later released him. That is the only time in my life that I was afraid to express myself as an American and many others felt the same way.

@Jeff S
I do try and provide interesting material. I also think the "one eyed brand buyers" must be school kids or real F wits who don't contribute anything positive to the discussion.

But, as my threads show I do think economics, government and the auto industry play a significant roll in what goes on.

Believe it or not I have a soft spot for the Datsun/Nissan utes. I have owned 6 different ones, 2 -520 series, 2 - 620 series a D20 and a D22.

My brother had a 720 single white just like the one in the photo. Somehow he destroyed the engine so I dropped my L20 engine from my 620 into it.

It was highly modified. I had a pair of DCOE 45mm side draughts Webbers choked out to 41mm. The ports opened up and valve guide bosses machined back, heads had the combustion chamber machined to create a better swirl etc. 35-65 grind cam with and extra 90 thou of lift on the valves and a suitable exhaust.

I played around with cams I started out with a 44-74 grind, It was just to big for street use and rallying. Idle was about 1 400rpm. The engine was finicky and would change with the humidity, temperature etc. I would sometimes tune it twice a day.

I had a lightened flywheel machined and modified to accept a Holden 253 pressure plate and I had to use a Toyota slave cylinder to actuate the clutch. It was quite fast.

The gearbox was a Datsun Stanza roadway 5 speed.

The brakes were at best marginal and cooling was hard, I ended up using a radiator from a Holden.

@Big Al from Oz-I have a soft spot for Nissan compact trucks and their toughness is legend. I have never owned one but I might one day. I like the Frontier very much. As for politics life goes on and one person can only do so much. I do enjoy an intelligent discussion with you, Robert Ryan, Lou, and some of the others that are not fanboys but want to just talk trucks. Have a good day or for those of us in NA a good evening.

@Jeff S, Big Al - agreed. Some do not see that discussions that may appear to be in the realm of "off topic" are actually reasons that come into play as to why we drive what we drive, or expect things to stay the same. They also are predictors of what we will drive in the future and that will happen whether or not one likes it or sees it coming.
The Hemigods and other blind brand loyal types are too busy tripping over their self professed large gonads trying to best their neighbor by focusing on all the wrong things ie. my house is bigger than yours, my truck is bigger, better, faster than yours, I have more toys than you bla bla bla. That is why too many people were caught completely off guard by the sub prime mess, big bank collapses, car company failures etc.
It is much easier to blame the "Japs", "Ruskies", "Chinks", and "Rag Heads" or whom ever than looking in the mirror.

@Lou-You have expressed exactly how I feel. When I was a teenage boy I was into Olds 442s, Mustangs, Challengers, Chevelle and Monte Carlo SS, and Road Runners. I never had one but like any young male becoming a man that was important to me. Now as a mature man at 60 I don't have to prove I am a man. To me a pickup is a utilitarian vehicle that I use as such. Nothing wrong with having some comfort but I own a truck for a purpose not as a statement. As I have said in the past I would have no problem with any of the brands of trucks except maybe if they sold Mahindras in NA and my better sense would say to stay clear. Even if I am not as crazy about a certain brand of truck I am not going to slam it and usually like everything there are good points with any product. Most of our preferences are subjective and what is right for us might not be right for another. Just because I don't need a Ram or an F-150 does not mean they are bad it just means that I have a preference for something else. I would much rather have a civilized discussion with someone than to be right all the time and have to prove I am right. Also I might actually learn something and yes I might actually change my views based on a logical argument.

A lot of changes in what we drive have already happened in autos but as with anything there is a lot of resistance to change and in my 60 years I will chalk that up to human experience. Pickups will change and people will complain but over many years and a new generation of truck owner will wonder why all the fuss. I myself might be too old to experience all these changes in pickups but I can see the future with all the challenges and see them as opportunities.

@Jeff S and Lou
I know some of the content of my material offends some of the diehard V8 pickup guys, but I feel I'm correct in what I see in the future. I don't have anything against large pickups it just unfortunate the world has finite resources.

I live outside of the NA aquarium looking in and I can see things that some inside don't. Especially the impact of higher fuel prices. When West Texas Crude is $100per barrel, Tapis oil in Singapore is $125-130 per barrel and this effects what we pay at the bowser. This price is with a depressed global economy except in our region the economy of most countries is good. All that is needed is the NA and Euro economies to improve and fuel prices will rise.

We have the same sort of people in Australia in regards to the V8 Ford and Holden utes. I think they know they are talking $hit but can't help themselves.

I would love to have a diesel F-250, even with its average build quality. But I have no real use for it. Yes I do think the build quality of the F-250s I saw could be better.

Even though I like Nissan this Mazda is my 7th pickup and I bought it over a Nissan Navara with the V6 diesel because it represnted better value. I could have bought a 2.5 diesel Navara for less but it didn't offer the creature comforts I wanted.

@Big Al from Oz & Lou--I have not had a V-8 powered vehicle in 10 1/2 years and that is not because I hate them I honestly don't need one. I agree with you totally about the Oil and energy situation I use to work in the oil business in Houston over 30 years ago when $39.99 was the spot market price for West Texas Intermediate Crude (Low Sulfur, Sweet Crude). I don't drive nearly as much as I use to and quite frankly I just as soon not contribute to the energy problem if I don't need or want a bigger vehicle. Those that truly need a full sze and use it I have no problem with, I just don't need one for myself. World economies will improve and oil just like any other commodity will rise in price and become scarcer. The Chinese middle class is larger than the USA total population and India has a large emerging middle class and they will consume what energy the rest of the World doesn't. The USA is no longer the top dog.

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