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The Nissan Hardbody Desert Runner Is Way Cooler Than an F-150 Raptor

Road & Track logo Road & Track 7/2/2020 Mack Hogan
a truck that is driving down the road: Sure, it may not have the power of a Raptor, but it looks plucked from an Eighties action movie. © BringATrailer Sure, it may not have the power of a Raptor, but it looks plucked from an Eighties action movie.

The Ford F-150 Raptor is one of my favorite vehicles on sale. It's capable, cool, and fast. But it's also overkill, a massive truck complete with ample signs of fragile masculinity. Too big for many trails and relegated to desert running, which isn't possible in much of the country. You're mostly going to be driving it around on paved roads, where the design is just as important as the long-travel shocks. For that lifestyle, it's hard to beat the Nissan Hardbody Desert Runner.

Welcome to You Must Buy, our daily look at the cars you really should be buying instead of that boring commuter sedan.

See, a big part of what makes a vehicle cool is what it projects to the world. And a large portion of that comes from heritage. Mustangs are cool because they've always been cool, Camaros less so because of the Bumblebee-era yellow V-6 models that made the whole brand look cheap. The Raptor struggles similarly, too.

Despite Ford's success in off-road racing and long history of making desert trucks, many associate the Raptor more with the bro-dozer culture of lifted trucks haphazardly modified to look intimidating, even if that means tipping over on rough terrain. It's in your face, in your rearview mirror with its marker lights, intruding into your parking spot with its flared fenders.

a truck that is driving down the road: nissan hardbody desert runner © Bring A Trailer nissan hardbody desert runner

The Nissan Hardbody, though, is from a simpler time. Back Nissan named its truck after its double-wall bed and Toyota couldn't be bothered to come up with anything more creative than "Pickup" as its model name. Trucks were small and utilitarian. But they were also capable, as the Hardbody proved when it won its class in the 1987 Baja 500. To celebrate, Nissan made 1000 "Desert Runner" edition Hardbodies, complete with a fantastic retro livery, big tires, a bed-mounted spare tire carrier, and a blacked out light bar.

It looks like something out of an Eighties action movie, outlandish and exciting with its crazy paint and modifications. Crucially, though, it's not overly flashy or aggressive. It's a small, cool, capable truck. Not as fast or powerful as a Raptor, but far, far cooler. And now that there's a spotless example for sale on Bring a Trailer, you have a rare shot to own one.

Disclaimer: Bring a Trailer is also owned by Road & Track’s parent company, Hearst Autos.

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