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Nissan Pays Homage to the Classic Hardbody With a New Frontier Truck

You might have noticed that 80’s and 90’s nostalgia is at an all-time high recently. Shows like Stranger Things and books like Ready Player One are gaining in popularity. Iconic trucks like the Nissan Hardbody and Toyota’s four-wheel drive 1985 SR5 Xtra Cab that was featured in Back to the Future remain hot items for those lucky individuals who can get their hands on them. It’s no surprise, therefore, that brands like Nissan are making new vehicles that nod to the classics. The 2024 Nissan Frontier is no exception.

A Look Back at the Nissan Hardbody

The Nissan Hardbody was introduced to the market in model year 1986.5 (the model year was split between this truck and the outgoing 720 model). Although the Hardbody originated in Japan, it quickly became a staple in America for its durability and can-do capability. This was one of the “It” trucks in the 80s and 90s—a mini-truck that was small but mighty. Everyone’s older brother’s friend seemed to have one, and we all wanted to be that cool. Most people seem to have a tale to tell about the Hardbody, renowned for its indestructibility. Many crazy teenagers took these trucks on wild rides in the days before cell phones and early curfews.

Unlike now, where most new trucks don’t seem to fit into parking spaces at the grocery store, these trucks were a symbol of coolness without all the pomp and size. Instead, they were small-but-mighty, and there wasn’t the slightest stigma. Mini-trucks like the GMC Sonoma, Chevy S-10, and Dodge D-50 fit alongside the Nissan Hardbody in style and substance and could be seen en masse on streets across America.

Power and Performance

The Hardbody came as either a two-wheel drive truck or a 4×4 version that was optimal for the outdoors and rough terrain. The Hardbody was produced in model years 1986.5 through 1997 and had four-cylinder and V6 options for engines. Folks who opted for the four-cylinder in the 80s got 106 hp and a 2.4L Z24i throttle-body injected engine. In the 90s, this changed to a 134 hp 2.4-liter KA24E multi-point fuel-injected four-cylinder engine.

The V6 option in the ’80s was class-leading for power, creating 140 hp with a 3.0-liter VG30i throttle-body injected V6. In the 90s, this was followed by the 154 hp 3.0-liter VG30E multi-point fuel-injected V6. All engines on the Hardbody were backed by a five-speed manual or a three or four-speed automatic transmission.

A red 2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition is shown parked facing left.

Design of the Hardbody

Back in the day, you could get a Nissan Hardbody as a regular or as an extended King Cab trim. Nissan offered bed options that ranged from six to seven feet in length, with seven feet being notably large for its class and making this mini-truck a powerhouse for hauling.

Three trim levels were offered—Base, XE, and SE. The XE trim was a value package, while the SE trim level showcased some of Nissan’s best luxury features, including a sunroof, power amenities, and special alloy wheels. Today, we take power amenities for granted, but at the time, these were the height of technological advancements. Nissan also released a limited-run trim called the Desert Runner edition. It was introduced to celebrate a Baja 500 victory and is still loved by car enthusiasts today.

The Hardbody silhouette is hard to miss. The exterior design was smooth with flush body surfaces, while the inside of the cabin felt spacious because of its large windows, despite actually being quite compact. The distinct angled windshield helped with aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, but we mostly think it looked super cool!

As you might imagine, Nissan added exterior and other design updates over the years. These included a new grille and interior enhancements, though overall, it still maintained its distinctive Hardbody design. In 1996, Nissan added a driver-side airbag and on-board diagnostic capability. These modern enhancements set it apart during this time.

It’s hard to forget the importance of the interior dash when driving down memory lane. Features like the Hardbody’s simple analog instrument dials, cassette deck, and intuitive HVAC controls were elegantly engineered.

Why Was It Called the Hardbody?

Interestingly, the Hardbody is named literally because it has a “hard body” exterior. These trucks featured a double-walled bed, firm paneling, and aggressive styling that kept them structurally sound through years of adventures and hard usage. Much like the early Nokia cell phones that seemingly could get run over without so much as a scratch, these mini-trucks were just built differently from their competitors. You couldn’t do anything to seriously damage them without putting a lot of effort into it.

The 2024 Nissan Frontier Pays Tribute to the Classic Nissan Hardbody

The Nissan Hardbody was sold in the United States until the model year 1997. At that time, it was replaced by the now much-loved Nissan Frontier. And this year, maybe because of the general public’s outpourings of 80s and 90s nostalgia, Nissan has made a special nod to the Hardbody by adding a limited Nissan Frontier Hardbody edition to their lineup.

According to Nissan’s project lead designer, Hiren Patel, “We took some of those design elements and modernized them. Even if you don’t recognize or remember the original Hardbody, you’re still going to say, ‘That’s a cool truck.” We definitely agree—this is a super cool truck.

A white 2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition is shown from the rear.

What’s Special About the 2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition?

This special edition of the 2024 Nissan Frontier truck is available in the Frontier SV Crew Cab 4×4 trim. Overall, the look and feel of this edition will have even Gen-Z drivers feeling the 80’s influence take over. Notable features on this edition include retro-inspired decals, heritage-styled 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, a sport bar in the back, and cool black exterior trim like the original Hardbody. An aluminum skid plate and mud flaps make the all-around look of the Frontier retro-rugged. If you get the chance to check out a 2024 Nissan Frontier up close, you’ll find many other pieces of design flair that nod to the 80s.

Retro-design, Modern Technology

Although the 2024 Nissan Frontier is all about a retro vibe, Nissan doesn’t forego many of the modern amenities we have come to love. Drivers and passengers alike will stay informed, connected, and entertained with an array of convenient technology and connectivity options. A seven-inch Drive-Assist Display and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen are the cornerstones for this connectivity. Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ are both included standard, and wireless Apple CarPlay® can be added on the PRO-grade trims of the Nissan Frontier this year. To keep everything hands (and cords) free, Nissan has included a wireless charging pad in the front on PRO-grade trims so drivers don’t need to mess around with cords while driving.

Just The Right Amount of Nostalgia

We have come to expect exceptional, rugged, and stylish trucks out of Nissan. The 2024 Nissan Frontier delivers everything we could want from a modern truck, but this year, it’s also making us nostalgic for simpler times. We can’t wait to see this throwback vehicle in action and are sure that 80s-lovers and Nissan truck lovers alike will find it a joy to drive.

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