Ownership Verified: 1993 Nissan D21 Hardbody - Peak rad?


Ich bin ein Kartoffel
Feb 14, 2007
Mustang SVO - Frontier Pro-4X - BRZ - D21 Hardbody
Off and on for the last 10 years I've been pining for the fjords another Nissan Hardbody. What I found was, I'm not the only one. Since there's not any new small cheap trucks, old small cheap trucks ain't so cheap anymore. Cheap ones where in very rough shape or missing major components. A few weeks back I found this one, but didn't contact the guy until last night. So today I replaced the fuel pump on the Volvo and pulled it off the trailer, changed to oil in the Frontier, then loaded family and drive two hours east into the Ozarks.

Honestly, I was trying to stay objective when I saw it, it's not perfect, but it's a really good start on what is like to do. Which, as I once mentioned here in this thread, is build a little lowrider mini truck. Nothing crazy, 2-3" (50-75mm) drop with good components so it'll ride nice, but look good running errands or hauling bikes to local trails.



I'll get a proof photo tomorrow. I'll also keep this thread updated as I get it running and start my descent into madness.

Oh, backing the trailer into the driveway when I got home, I managed to get crossed up and bumped the BRZ's rear bumper with the light pod on the trailer. Luckily it didn't do anything to the BRZ, but did chip the paint on the trailer. Doh...
Is the stripe from the factory?
Is the stripe from the factory?

I believe so. There were many variations of the stripe used, depending on year, if the vehicle was 4wd or if it was an SE (highest trim level).

I also think the dealers were known to install them if a low trim level truck was not selling. I remember $99 a month leases on these trucks when they were new.

This place seems to have the best selection of reproduction stripes available. I believe what's on my truck he's calling the lightning stripe.

Poking around under the hood tonight, found that it'll almost start. I'm still trying to understand what all has been done to it, but it might be as easy as, it needs the distributor re-timed (it has been replaced). It was all the way retarded, I turned it mid way and it wanted to start, but not quite, so I turned it full advanced and it'll start-ish, but the oil is heavily fuel fouled and so are the spark plugs. Need to change the oil before I do anything else towards starting it.
I think I have discovered what's going on. Me and the kiddo pulled the valve cover after checking the timing while cranking and found it to be way retarded. With the valve cover removed I spotted the following bolt laying below the timing chain tensioner.


I believe it to be the timing chain guide pivot bolt. How it made it to it's landing spot, I'll never quite understand. This means it's time to order a full timing chain kit (these engines are known to eat timing chains) and install it. Never know what you are buying when you buy someone else's project. Ugh...
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Going to try and do the timing chain job tomorrow, but after I moved it into place tonight, I started swapping the front end over from the standard to Pathfinder spec.




It's much better looking (forgot to take a good before photo), but still needs much messing around to fit good. Also, not sure if I'll run the clear corner markers (bought off eBay out of Latvia and are meant for Terrano) and they will need painted to match.

I've ordered harness adapters to make the headlights work, plus some new housings for the turn signals. The ones on the truck are broken and crap. The new housings also have clear lenses, that I may or may not run. Easy to swap either way I decide to go.

Also on the to install list are, 17" wheels and tires, 2" drop spindles and 3" blocks. Still to buy would be some 4wd/Pathfinder fenders, tailgate that isn't completely caved in and I'm sure many other things that I haven't thought of yet.
Timing chain job started, but it was colder than I wanted to deal with, so all I got done was removed the radiator (and found to contain something I can only describe as peanut butter snot), flushed radiator with garden hose, fan/water pump removed and started the removal of the timing cover. Next step will require finding my steering wheel/crank pulley puller.

Also took a better look down the front of the engine and found that the left side timing chain guide is totally missing in action. I contemplated pulling the pan before, but I think now it's required.
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Timing chain job is about 1/3 done. I didn't get to work on it nearly as much I would have liked, but duty called at the racetrack.

Found my pulley still attached to the lawnmower's old flywheel (https://forums.finalgear.com/threads/craigbs-rear-engined-air-cooled-kubota.61112/post-3621886).



Above is what remains of the driver's side timing chain guide (plus the other bolt found before). All, of course, found in the bottom of the oil pan. Why Nissan every thought a completely plastic timing chain guide would work? I have no earthly idea.

Now I need the two jaw puller to remove the lower timing chain gear. It's, of course, at the track and it's getting dark (I have to work outside because the shop was converted to do timing system work). So I'll pick it up tomorrow and continue in the afternoon.

This thing is absolutely filthy too. It appears to have been leaking oil for quite some time. I'll have lots of time cleaning things before I put them back.

Also, in the back of my mind, I wonder if I should replace the head gasket while this far in. With the coolant looking so bad, I can't imagine it's all just sediment from years of abuse. Decisions, decisions...
Grabbed the other puller from the track as I left the afternoon and I made it my goal to get it all back together tonight. On that, I came up short, but... IT LIVES!


I lack putting the cooling system back together, but I might roll it back from it's current spot and flush the block of any remaining peanut butter snot before I fit the new water pump, radiator, etc.


Before I fired it up I changed the oil (well, refitted the oil pan and replaced oil filter), but that led to a fight with the oil filter. Whoever gorilla gripped this damned thing on has a special place in hell.


Now, I also forgot that dude I bought it from said the cat went missing at some point. Since the cooling system isn't on, I wasn't going to run it long, but after I saw oil pressure come up, I gave it a couple revs to wake the neighbors. Two seconds later I get a text from Mrs. CraigB, who was in bed in the house, telling me what I already knew, "That's loud!" :ROFLMAO:

So now I can start doing the other things I wanted to it, get it registered and enjoy a bit of my youth.
(these engines are known to eat timing chains)
This feature was carried into the early VQ40 engines. It's a Nissan thing.
Been gone for a week on a job in Illinois (which isn't done, so I have to go back next week), but today I got it all buttoned up and took the first test drive.

I went around the block and that was more than enough. Way down on power, wouldn't accelerate, etc. After dinner I found that the #1 injector was dead. PO told me he didn't think the brand new set sitting in the passenger seat were the right ones, but they look identical to the ones in the truck. A quick confirmation on Rock Auto that they were the right ones and I swapped them in. Now it seems to run on all 4, but with open exhaust I didn't want to drive around the neighborhood at 9 pm. I'll load it on the trailer tomorrow, stop and put some fresh gas in it (says it's empty), then take it to the track to put some temp exhaust on it. Then I can also test the drivability in an actual controlled environment (and not run afoul of the local constabulary).

Since I couldn't do any more testing, I decided to spend the rest of the evening addressing the headlight conversion and decide which corner markers and turn signals I'd run. For now, since I'll have to take it for a safety inspection, I went with the stock amber stuff, but in the future I can swap to the clear stuff for funsies (plus I need to sort out the pig tails on the Terrano corners). So for now this is the front of the truck (I wiped at the front of the hood and stuck the badge back on):


It still needs a thorough cleaning, some fenders that weren't used as driving aids and lowered. I also need to get a proof photo.

photo_2023-02-28_22-44-44 (2).jpg
I think you need a late Gen1 Pathfinder set of fog lights and trims (and SE wheels). Do you think a three-slot Pathfinder hood would fit?


How do you feel about a nice wood-deck flatbed and discarding the OEM truck bed and all its rust? I think that would be pretty useful and look awesome.
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I think you need a late Gen1 Pathfinder set of fog lights and trims (and SE wheels). Do you think a three-slot Pathfinder hood would fit?


The Pathfinder fog lights always felt like a complete after thought, but if I find some in a salvage, I'll pick them up to play with.

For wheels I have a set of 17x7.5 Escalade wheels that have had the center bore enlarged to fit the Nissan hubs. Also have 225/45 tires to fit onto them. I'll need them to clear the control arms with the 2" drop spindles.

The slot hood is also on my list to find at the salvage. They do fit and where the standard hood for Hardbodies from 1986.5 to 1992, 1993 was the first year for the "Power Bulge" hood.
The early Pathfinder fog lights were even more of an afterthought - and constantly were broken because they hung so low.


So change the front wings, the hood, and ditch the tub for a flatbed - the only thing left will be the cab and doors.
Called a local exhaust shop this morning, they wanted $375 (+tax) to put a cat on the truck. Not quite ready to spend that sort of money on it just yet (though I have more than that in suspension parts and tires sitting here waiting to go on), so I dug around my shop and found some old exhaust pipe from a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe that was about the right size and bubble gum welded that in place for now. It leaks, but is much easier on the ears. Honestly, at some point most of the exhaust will need redone, a racer with an exhaust shop will be contacted for that.

Now with the quieter exhaust, I was able to drive it and understand the issues a bit more. When accelerating just about the time the truck starts to move it hits a fuel cut. I can't tell you at what RPM because there is no tach in this stripper model. Best guess was 2,500-3,000. Even with the limitations I was able to get the truck up to about 50 mph on the track while test driving.

A quick look on a Nissan truck forum and suggestions for others with a similar problem were MAF, fuel filter, spark plug wires, known issue with the wiring harness, etc. I unplugged the MAF and there was no change, but I did look at it and it seems to be missing the actual little sensing wires.

Tonight, while reading through the service manual I found online I see that a bad MAF puts the truck into a safe mode and limits the engine to 2,400 rpm. Guess I'll throw a part at it here and hope it solves the problem.

Next thing to look at is the known wiring harness issue, it's not hard to get at, but I'm out of daylight and have other things to get done.

I have already ordered some plug wires too, the ones on the truck are cheapy O'Reilly units and I just don't trust them.

Hope to find someone to mount the tires tomorrow or Friday, then put the lowering parts on it Saturday. If it doesn't run good, it can at least look better.

Edit: Oh yeah, daylight photo of the truck when I stopped and put some gas in it.

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I'm a fan of a dark gray or maybe a deep bronze color. Are you going to paint the truck or keep it OEM?