Nissan Hardbody and Datsun 720-inspired Frontiers debut at Chicago Auto Show

Nissan is going HAM on the throwback stuff these days, and we’re not talking about the new Z. For the Chicago Auto Show they’re bringing not one, but two concept trucks with a decidedly flavor based on new Frontier pickup. The concepts take inspiration from two predecessors that bookend the 1980s, a Datsun 720 and a D21 Nissan Hardbody.

We’ll go in inspiration-chronological order, starting with the Frontier Project 72X. It’s based on the Datsun 720, a model which holds the honor of being the first¬† Nissan to be assembled in the US, out of the company’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant. The Job One truck was a 2WD regular cab, but the Project 72X is an homage to a 4×4 King Cab.

Specifically, it’s this 4×4 Datsun 720 King Cab, immortalized in a 1:25-scale Revell model kit in 1982. The Frontier, finished in gray, wears a similar decal stripe kit and an official Nissan accessory “sport bar” behind the cab. The white steelies are actually four 2022 Frontier spares, wrapped in tires from the Pro-4X trim and tucked under a 2.5-inch lift.

The most successful concept, in our opinion, is the Frontier Project Hardbody, pays tribute to the D21 Hardbody pickup, which happens to be the first truck designed at Nissan Design America, the company’s San Diego studio.

Its black overfenders are taken from the current Pro-4X trim, but they do an excellent job of recreating the ones from the original D21 Hardbody SE 4×4. The Nissan genuine accessory sport bar once again makes an appearance to mimic the original’s as well.

However, the best touch has to be the Project Hardbody’s 3-spoke block wheels. They’re a direct callback to those found on the D21 Hardbody and Pathfinder, and Nissan Design America actually custom milled them in-house. They’re fitted with 33-inch tires under a 3-inch lift kit, and look so cool that we hope Nissan decides to actually offer them as a genuine accessory.

A black stripe along the tailgate also references the D21 Hardbody. However, we wish they had chosen a more memorable decal, like the SE rocker panel stripe from the brochure above, or the swoosh graphic that is the subject an AMT 1:20-scale model kit.

The final of the three concepts is called the Frontier Project Adventure. It’s built for overlanding and has a 5-inch lift kit on 34-inch tires. There’s no throwback for this one, but we felt obligated to include it for completeness’ sake.

For those keeping track this makes three Frontier tributes. Back in October, Nissan decked out another one in its old racing livery of white, red, and blue for the Rebelle Rally (it, too, had a model kit counterpart). But why stop there? Vintage trucks have countless decal kits. And there are plenty of toys that have commemorated them. We’d be happy to help build a tribute to one of the many Hot Wheels Datsun pickups, and that has precedent.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Nissan.

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9 Responses to Nissan Hardbody and Datsun 720-inspired Frontiers debut at Chicago Auto Show

  1. XRaider927 says:

    Hopefully Nissan needs to bring the 3-spoke block wheels back…..they’re incredible

  2. GeorgeL says:

    The GPS coordinates on the snorkel of the Project Adventure concept is the address for Nissan Design America. Cool little easter egg.

  3. Lee L says:

    I would have never thought those hardbody wheels would work on a modern truck but they really seal the deal. That is a killer looking truck.

  4. Taylor C. says:

    Looks good. However, I wonder, “why does it need to heavily leverage the past in order to look good?” Is that basically saying “current design is struggling on its own?”

  5. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Kudos to Nissan for a “normal” grill. Good looking truck. Agree with Lee: those wheels actually work!

  6. nlpnt says:

    That Monogram Snap-tite model kit of the Datsun has the same decals as the 72x in brown, in both the original 1981 and the most recent reissue. It also has the standard 720 4×4 steelies (on the chrome rack, should be painted white to build 100% stock) unlike the Revell King Cab. Unrelated tooling since Revell and Monogram didn’t merge until much later.

  7. pete240z says:

    concept…….? what can you really purchase?

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