You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

When Was The Last Time You Saw a Nissan Frontier on The Trail?

Four Wheeler logoFour Wheeler 11/30/2017 Harry Wagner

Wheeling rigs fall into one of two categories: popular vehicles with a lot of aftermarket support (think Wranglers and Tacomas), or more obscure vehicles like the Nissan Frontier shown here. There is an undeniable appeal to having something different on the trail, but in order to do so you either need to have deep pockets to pay a shop to build one-off components, or you need to be handy with a chop saw and a welder. David Kowalski falls into the latter group, and rather than trade in his pride and joy on a more common Tacoma, he has built a Nissan that can hang with the Toyotas.

Rather than sell the Nissan for something more common, David put his Frontier into service as a wheeling rig. He started by replacing the IFS with a high pinion Dana 44 front axle. Leaf springs, shackles, and hangers from Bonney Motorsports were used to locate the front axle and create enough room for 38-inch Super Swampers. “I got 4.88 gears to match the factory 4.90 gears in the rear diff, but the crawl ratio wasn’t nearly low enough on the trail,” David confesses. The next major upgrade was 3.7:1 transfer case gears from Automotive Customizers that nearly doubled the crawl ratio available from the paltry factory low range ratio of 2.02:1. Once the Frontier had locker differentials, big tires, and low gearing it was capable of going anywhere more common vehicles go, and turn heads while doing so.

a close up of a toy car on a dirt road: 02 David Kowalski Nissan Frontier Flatbed

02 David Kowalski Nissan Frontier Flatbed
© Harry Wagner

Tech Specs

2001 Nissan Frontier


Engine: 3.3L VG33E V6

Transmission: Factory five speed manual

Transfer Case: TX-10 with Automotive Customizers 3.77:1 gears

Front Axle: Dana 44 with 4.88 gears and Eaton E-Locker

Rear Axle: Nissan H233B with 4.90 gears and welded differential


Springs & Such: Bonney Motorsports leaf springs, Rancho RS5000 shocks (front and rear)

Tires & Wheels: 38x12.5/15LT Super Swamper TSLs on 15x8 US Wheel 78 Series rims with Total Metal Innovations DIY beadlocks

Steering: Factory steering box, 2-inch drop pitman arm, custom tie rod and drag link with Moog tie rod ends

Other Stuff: Custom flatbed, 12,000-pound Badlands winch, 20-inch LED light bar, custom front bumper, custom rock sliders

David Kowalski Nissan Frontier Lead Photo© Harry Wagner David Kowalski Nissan Frontier Lead Photo

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon