Pick of the Day: They called it ‘Hardbody’ for a reason

1991 Nissan Hardbody 4x4 pickup truck is ready to work, and to show

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1991 Nissan Hardbody 4x4
A 1991 Nissan Hardbody 4x4 pickup truck is Pick of the Day

Back in the day, well, at least for those of high school age in the 1980s and early ’90s, it was likely that your first new car wasn’t a car at all but a pickup truck that was compact in size and in price. The Pick of the Day is such a truck, a 1991 Nissan Hardbody 4×4 advertised on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in Concord, North Carolina.

“This is the rugged and robust 4×4 from that ideal era when the smaller import trucks were nearly indestructible,” the dealer notes in the advertisement. “That’s how Nissan’s trucks earned the Hardbody name. So it’s great to find this 1991 Nissan Hardbody 4×4 so well presented, just like you always remembered them.”

Datsun started building trucks in Japan in the mid-1930s. The compact 620 model was exported to the North American market in the early 1970s. By the early 1980s, the updated 720 version was being assembled in the US in Tennessee and a few years later the generation known internally as D21 was being designed in San Diego.

The “Hardbody” designation came from the double-wall construction of the pickup bed. Standard and King cab versions were available, with 6-foot or 7-foot pickup beds, and soon a 4-door Crew Cab with a short bed joined the lineup, as did a V6 engine.

The truck on offer “looks both tough and stylish,” the dealer points out. “It’s got a mean-looking flat face, and there was already plenty of flare in the fender even before Nissan’s upgraded plastic pieces that help accommodate the larger wheels on this lifted 4×4. 

“But there’s also something attractive about the details, like the full-length pleat in the sheetmetal that remains straight on this well-respected example. And a respray of the correct Burgundy Metallic really gets this one radiating in the sunshine. 

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“But as good as this looks, it was built to be a functional pickup. You see it everywhere in useful features, from the fog lights up front to the plastic liner protecting the truck bed.

“There’s more red waiting for you inside, and it all looks as well-presented as the exterior. The carpeting, door panels, headliner, dash, and seat all have a nice color and a well-resected presentation. The overall condition is a great representation of why these earned a tough-as-nails reputation. 

“You will find useful features, like provisions for air conditioning (will need serving to blow cold again) and an AM/FM/CD stereo. And the great-looking red steering wheel has low spokes to give you a clear view to the full gauges — including a large speedo and tach.”

The Hardbody is powered by a 2.4-liter fuel-injected 4-cylinder engine.

“The way this one fires up reaffirms the everlasting nature of a well-maintained Nissan truck, and the five-speed manual transmission gives you full control. The motor’s level of originality will make this a true stunner as the market continues to grow nostalgic for these tough Nissans. 

“But more than just collectable, this pickup has a lot of work and play left in it, too. The two-speed 4×4 transfer case and Falken Wildpeak A/T tires get you deep into nature. Plus, power steering and front disc brakes make it easy to run around town or the trail.”

The dealer is offering this combination of “nostalgia and ability” for $14,995. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

9 COMMENTS

  1. F.Y.I., I was there, Nissan’s trucks didn’t “earn” the Hardbody name as stated in this article. They we’re named that from the factory, right from the get-go. Hardbodys later “earned” the name rust body.

  2. I recall these being bashed for their ugliness, impotent motor, poor off road performance and on road “it handles like a cheap French car.”

  3. I remember Nissan sold this generation of pickup for quite a few years as they proved to be very popular. I think I drove a couple of them over the years that belonged to other friends/relatives. They were a nice riding truck. I had Ford Rangers at the time and was partial to my Fords but the little Hardbody did ok for itself.

  4. I had one. It did rust. It handled amazingly off road. The truck never got stuck in the desert, mountains, or in sand dunes where many others trucks (Blazers and Toyota’s) did.

  5. Owned one for years, tough and dependable but the rust, you could see right through both walls of the bed…and that’s in California and not on the coast. Poor mpg and not much power compared to any v6 of the last decade but they sure did last.

  6. I have had my 1996 Nissan extended cab, 2 wheel drive, 5 speed, hardbody truck almost 20 years. It has never failed me, no rust whatsoever. Just put in new headliner, sun visor covers, & seats upholstered. Haven’t yet had new carpet kit installed, but will soon. Just trying to keep my dependable, reliable, not for sale truck looking good.

  7. This was my first truck. I have had about 30 of them or more now. I have about 12 of them right now. Definitely my all time favorite truck. Not for use with heavy trailers or anything but my all time favorite. I use a Titan for my heavy stuff.

  8. I had an 86 1/2 6 cylinder 4 speed 4×4 SE king cab. The dealership told me this was the first year of double wall construction because earlier versions were known to be rust buckets. The 6 cylinder engine was very good. I’ve also had the 73 240Z, the 87 6 cylinder SE Pathfinder and the 88 200 SX SE with the same 6 cylinder engine. If you have early 6 cylinder engine I would recomend a new radiator at about 130,000 miles. The starters went at about 150,000. The only serious grievance I had was with the pickup because the tires went bald at 10,000 miles and the dealership balked at replacing them until the recall.

  9. 15k for this is an absolute joke. With the amount of these produced you’d need your head examined to spend any more than 5k for a perfect specimen.

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