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Nissan Frontier Design Concepts Head to Chicago With Some Good West Coast Vibes

Japanese carmaker Nissan took its sweet time updating the Frontier midsize pickup. We don’t know why Nissan waited a good 17 years before introducing the Frontier’s first standalone model for the third-gen truck, but Nissan has something in the wraps to appease our frustrations.

Nissan is debuting a trio of Frontier concepts at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show, all penned by the brilliant minds at Nissan Design America (NDA) based in San Diego, California.

“Truck culture is now very broad – hardcore off-roaders, overlanders, surfers and kayakers, environmentalists, fishing and hunting outdoor enthusiasts and more,” said Hiren Patel, project lead designer, Nissan Design America, Inc. “The common ground is that they all use their trucks as canvases for personalization. We’re offering three styles to show how they could modify their new Frontier.”

Setting The Stage

Before we get to the bottom of it all, Nissan built the three Frontier concepts with a four-door, crew cab body style. However, what’s interesting is each vehicle starts with the three different Frontier trim models you can order today: S, SV, and Pro-4X.

Common across each is a 3.8-liter V6 gasoline engine with 310 horsepower and 281lb-ft. of torque, essentially a carryover from the outgoing Frontier. The engine sends power to the rear wheels or all four wheels using a nine-speed automatic gearbox, although all three concepts have 4WD. Frontier 4WD variants also get low-range gearing for better off-road smarts.

Of course, each Frontier concept combines bespoke graphics with readily available Nissan aftermarket parts and accessories.

Project 72X Frontier

The Project 72X Frontier starts with a Frontier S crew cab 4×4. According to Nissan, Project 72X drew inspiration from the iconic Datsun 720 truck introduced in 1979, the first Nissan vehicle to roll off the assembly line at the Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant in Tennessee. The Datsun 720 (affectionately called “Lil Hustler”) is typically a workhorse with an affordable price, and Project 72X is all about bare-bones truckin’ with minimal fuss.

The minimalist theme starts with a subdued gray exterior and retro-inspired black and white 4×4 graphics. It also has white steel wheels, which are actually the spare wheels of a 2022 Frontier. Wrapping those rollers are chunkier all-terrain tires, also derived from the 2022 Frontier. Keen-eyed enthusiasts will also notice the bed-mounted sports bar and 2.5-inch suspension lift, while you’ll need to peer under to find adjustable front upper suspension arms.

Project Hardbody Frontier

Next up is Projector Hardbody Frontier, a homage to the Datsun 720’s successor produced from 1986 to 1997. The “Hardbody” name refers to the truck’s upright styling and double-wall bed. It was also the first truck entirely designed by NDA. “It is still unmistakable on the road as a pure, modern design, even today,” Patel added.

It starts with a 2022 Frontier SV 4×4 crew cab. Nissan added a three-inch lift kit, adjustable upper control arms, classic Hardbody block-style wheels wrapped in 33-inch tires, and fenders from the Pro-4X. Also included are a bed-mounted spare tire carrier, a sports bar with 10-inch rectangular LED lights, a blacked-out grille and front bumper, and 80’s-style graphics on the doors to seal the deal.

Project Adventure Frontier

On the other hand, Project Adventure Frontier starts with a range-topping 2022 Frontier Pro-4X. Changes include a bespoke body wrap (depicting an atlas of the USA), a five-inch lift kit, stock Pro-4X wheels wrapped in 34-inch mud-terrain tires, and a unique carbon-fiber snorkel designed exclusively by NDA.

Additionally, Project Adventure has a Yakima bed rack system, a Yakima roof basket, a nifty sky tent, and a KICKER Bluetooth bed audio system.

Destination: Chicago

They all look smashing on paper, but nothing beats seeing them in person. Nissan will put Project 72X, Project Hardbody, and Project Adventure on display at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show (McCormick Place) from February 12th until the 21st.

Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.

Photos & Source: Nissan North America.