It’s an exciting time to be buying a pickup. Capabilities have never been so impressive, and trucks just seem to be getting better and better. While full-size and heavy-duty pickups tend to get a lot of the press attention, the value of a good midsize pickup should not go without notice. Today I’d like to throw two popular midsize pickups in the ring: the 2022 Ford Ranger vs 2022 Nissan Frontier. While you can compare two vehicles based on their specs and capabilities, we’re going to take a little bit of a different approach today and compare the history of these two vehicles. The history of these companies and their trucking experience is important in understanding how we arrive at excellent midsize pickups like the current Ranger and Frontier. So, let’s see how the past ties into the present when it comes to these trucks.
The Origins – Ford
Where did these two brands begin? Well, you’ll often hear that Ford began in 1903. This is true insofar as this was the year that the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, but Ford truly began in the year 1896 when Henry Ford built the Quadricycle. This cruiser boasted a whopping four horsepower, and it looked just as its name makes it sound: like a four-wheeled bike. But, remember, this was 1896, so Henry Ford was still well ahead of the game. Even Chevy wouldn’t arrive for another 15 years.
After a short stint with the Detroit Automobile Company, Henry Ford founded the modern Ford Motor Company with just $28,000 of capital. Today, the Ford Bronco Sport has a starting MSRP of $28,265, so how’s that for inflation? With a handful of cash from 12 investors and the original 1903 Model A as its product, Ford Motor Company hit the road to success. In 1908, Ford introduced the iconic Model T, which became an instant best-seller and a permanent icon of automotive history. This was only 1908, and most other big-name vehicle brands had not even been founded yet, yet Ford already had a best-seller on its hands; the brand has always been a true leader in the industry.
This leadership, as you will see, is an ongoing trend with Ford. Now we begin to see the more direct origins of the Ford Ranger; in 1917, the company introduced its first truck––the Model TT. This vehicle, which looked more like a wagon than anything we would call a truck today, was revolutionary at the time. The automobile itself was only a few years old at this point, and already Ford was producing trucks. After purchasing the Lincoln Motor company in 1922, Ford continued to grow and lead the automotive industry.
For the 1928 model year, Ford began selling the Model A, hearkening back to the company’s very first vehicle. This idea of keeping models in the family continues to this day with Ford. After all, the Ranger went off the market for a time, but Ford brought it back with its exciting re-release for the 2019 model year. Ford knows when a good vehicle is worth keeping around; sometimes, they just bring it home for a bit to give it a makeover before setting it free again. Ford has been effectively building upon its previous vehicles since the very beginning, and the 1928 Model A is a prime example of this. But the Model A was not the only thing being cooked up in 1928.
The Origins – Nissan
In 1928, Yoshisuke Aikawa became the president of Nihon Sangyo. What is that, you ask? Well, Nihon Sangyo was a Japanese company whose name translated directly to “Japanese Industry,” which dealt heavily with automotive parts. Under Aikawa’s leadership, the company made its first appearance on the Tokyo stock exchange under the ticker name NISSAN in 1933, and the company soon took on its ticker name as its official business name. Just four years later, in 1937, Nissan debuted the Datsun Type 15. This was the first Japanese vehicle to be mass-produced, and it certainly would not be the last. Nissan’s beginnings, however, moved at quite a slow pace, and it would be some time before Nissan came to the U.S.
By some time, I mean about twenty years. But, around that twenty-year mark is when we begin to see the more direct origins of the Frontier becoming apparent. In 1959, Nissan released a compact truck titled the Datsun 220. Its trendy appearance and capable engineering allowed it to grasp the attention of the American market at the 1959 Los Angeles Auto Show. This combination of trendiness and capability is still ingrained in Nissan trucks to this day, and the 2022 Frontier bridges the gap between luxury vehicles and performance-oriented trucks.
Nissan is known for its premier features, but this has never once stopped the brand from delivering in the performance sector, especially in terms of its trucks. Having extended its roots to California, Nissan took the next seven years to produce its first United States-produced vehicle at Nissan Mexicana (the company’s U.S. headquarters). But Nissan still had a journey ahead with its trucks and more of a journey before it would produce its first American-built truck.
The Middle Trucking Years
Now that both brands had been firmly established, it was time for them to get down to the nitty-gritty of production. Having reached quick success, Ford Motor Company rode the wave into 1928, which saw the production of the Model AA to replace the Model TT. The Model AA’s day lasted only about 5 years because, in 1933, Ford dropped the Model BB, which increased capability, making it fit for industrial work. Just two short years after that, the Model 50 pickup truck made its big debut in 1935. This was a significant leap forward as it was powered by the Ford Flathead V8 engine––and as we well know, V8 engines continue to tear up the roads today. So already in 1935, Ford had produced four trucks when Nissan’s first truck wasn’t coming for another 25 years.
While the companies’ middle years don’t line up chronologically, Nissan’s still had plenty of activity. In 1965, Nissan improved upon the previously-mentioned Datsun truck with the Datsun 320 truck in 1965. A slight increase in capability made this a more exciting drive. Nissan was reaching tremendous success, especially through the 1970s. In 1977, the Datsun King Cab took the pickup game to a new level, both for Nissan drivers and for the company, with 1,100 pounds of maximum payload capacity. But as exciting as the 1970s were for the company, things are even more exciting today, seeing as the 2022 Frontier, which is a midsize pickup, destroys that 1,100 pounds of payload with a whopping 1,710 pounds of payload capacity. Improvements just keep on coming. The 1980s are where we see those improvements really take shape.
In 1980, Nissan spread its wings to Tennessee when it opened the Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation in Smyrna. It was this very facility that would be the home of the first-ever Nissan truck (the Datsun 720) built in America. Because the company was making the official transition from Datsun to Nissan model names, this pickup was known by both names to make it easier on customers.
Now, just because Ford had an earlier start did not mean that it slowed down in the late twentieth century. On the contrary, having gone through five generations of F-series trucks (which still dominate the market today), Ford launched the sixth-generation F-series in 1975, introducing the F-150, a popular nameplate to this day. Having firmly established itself as a brand highly capable of producing modern full-size trucks, we see how Ford had developed the skills necessary to take all of the engineering, design, and technology excellence and fit it all into a midsize pickup.
As both Ford and Nissan respectively grew, they found their strong suits and their place in the automotive world, allowing them to develop into two leading brands. So, now we arrive at the very vehicles that got us here: the Ranger and the Frontier.
2022 Ford Ranger
The Ford Ranger took an extended break from the Ford lineup, but the company used its history of excellent truck-building to give it a makeover during this break. The Ranger finally made a big comeback in 2019, this time with a special focus on flexibility and efficiency. While this version of the midsize pickup is still young, its history has been an impressive one. Built Ford Tough, the Ranger doesn’t mess around and is equipped with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, allowing it to reach some highly competitive performance specs for a midsize pickup. With a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds, payload capacity of 1,905 pounds, 270 horsepower, and 310 pounds-feet of torque, the Ranger is a true performer, especially for a midsize pickup, and takes a significant lead over the Frontier.
An already-capable off-road vehicle, the Ranger can be made even more fit for the trail with the Tremor Off-Road Package. One of Ford’s strong suits is creative and specific trims, so whatever you want to do with your Ranger, there is a trim with which to do it.
Having a rich history of trucking, including six generations of F-series trucks by 1975 and amazing improvements since then, Ford certainly knows what it is doing when producing a truck. If it can produce large pickups like the F-150, you know you’re in good hands with a midsize pickup like the 2022 Ranger.
2022 Nissan Frontier
The Nissan Frontier was introduced in the 1998 model year and was a massive step forward for Nissan’s trucking history; this vehicle was fit for the turn of the millennium, and it looked like it too. This truck has continued to grow over the years, and for the 2022 model year, it has an all-new design and impressive performance features with excellent technology. As Nissan has grown, it has become known for its outstanding luxury designs, and part of what makes the Frontier such a unique pickup is its truly excellent design cues.
As I said before, Nissan has always found a way to bridge the gap between luxury and performance, and the 2022 Frontier proves this. With iconic Nissan seat stitching (including zero-gravity seats if you want to get really comfy), a power moonroof, and sound-absorbing acoustic glass, the 2022 Frontier is decked out with luxury features to make your ride more pleasant.
The History of Two Legends
Both Nissan and Ford are excellent brands. However, there is truth in the idea that doing something longer makes you better at it, and Ford continues to show this in its excellent designs. The quality of a vehicle does not lie merely in its performance specs or design features but in the history that has gone into the vehicle. Both the 2022 Ford Ranger and the 2022 Nissan Frontier have a lot of history going into them, but Ford’s trucking history really does stand out, and the brand’s amazing ability to innovate and improve upon its already-existing vehicles says a lot about the quality of its designs. Trucks don’t stay popular for almost a century unless there’s something really good happening there.