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Foul_Mouth 02-06-2015 12:17 AM

Hardbody History
It appears NICO has taken this thread down for some reason (looks like they deleted it), luckily I backed it up back when I wrote it. Hardbody owners will like this information and I see no reason to hide it.

This thread compiles years of research along with information supplied directly from Nissan current and former staff as well as testimony from current and former factory sponsored race truck drivers. The goal of this article is to put all factual published and unpublished information in one place. This article only covers factory information, modification information can be found throughout but is purposely left out to stay focused on the history of the truck itself. Have information you would like to add? Make sure you cite your sources if you do post up here. Thanks for looking!

Project 850: The Next Generation

*Actual Nissan Hardbody wind tunnel test model.
*Factory Artist Brainstorming Graphic Packages
*Factory "Interior Buck" with concept drawings in the background.

Our Story Begins in:
Buick launches the Boat Tail Riviera designed by Jerry Hirschberg and team. The reason I mention this is to establish that the Hardbody is a truly USA design with some strong DNA.
Buick Riviera as designed by Jerry Hirschberg (

Nissan hires Jerry Hirschberg and Tom Semple from General Motors to head the newly formed Nissan Design America (NDA), later to become Nissan Design international (NDI).

NDI begins its first major production design, internally known as the '850', which is to become the Nissan Hardbody. Tom Semple and Allan Flowers are assigned the task of designing the successor to the Nissan 720 pick up truck. The idea behind the design was an industrial look. According to interviews by Semple and Hirschberg the main truck concept was drawn by Semple and augmented by Flower's rational approach especially in the bed design (I am not sure which aspect he is responsible for...need to fill in this gap in info). LA Times Article dated Mar 23, 1986 quotes Semple as saying, "The Japanese emphasized how very important this project was," Semple remembers. "Nissan started the small-truck market, and they wanted this to be the next generation, a vehicle that was all new from the ground up."

Also worth noting is the designers claim that the Hardbody went into production exactly how they had drawn it on paper, no last minute adjustments, it's exactly as the designers intended it. The same article by the LA Times quotes Hirschberg saying, "And, boy, when the ball gets rolling and we begin negotiating, and then by the time we're finished, they honor that design totally. When it started rolling off the production line, our jaws dropped open at the degree of adherence to the initial concept."

Nissan introduces the NAPS-Z24 2.4L with electro throttle body injection. First offered during the phasing out of the 720 pickup(I would like to find out the exact month the 720 started shipping with TBI) the Z24i will find itself powering thousands of D21 series until sometime in late 1989 when it is replaced with the KA24E for the 1990 model year.

Nissan launches the all new Nissan Hardbody truck with initial production in both Japan and the USA. Nissan retires the 720 name plate which had been in production as both Datsun and Nissan since late 1979. Many configurations as well as commercial options are available. The VG30i also becomes available as a V6 option. The D21 is the first state-side Nissan light duty truck to offer a V6. Aside from some housekeeping the frame and suspension used on the D21 is a carryover from the outgoing 720 model though not exactly. Upper control arms now use camber/caster adjustment shims located on the outside of the frame rail instead of the 720's inside the frame rail adjustments. This restricted the amount of negative camber that can be achieved by the removal of shims. 720's had limited positive camber adjustment by design.

Nissan Hardbody wins Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA).
Nissan releases SUV version of Hardbody as the WD21 Pathfinder. It is initially offered as a 2 door only configuration until problems arise surrounding duty taxes imposed by the chicken tax law which forces Pathfinder to become a 4 door SUV.

Nissan phases out the NAPS-Z24 in favor of the KA24E. Minor update to front fascia with a new grille. Pathfinder headlight and grille components no longer offered on 2wd trucks. VG30i receives multi-port fuel injection replacing the TBI system thus becoming the VG30E. Minor update in the way of white numbered gauges replacing the orange numbering system.


1991 USDM Paint Codes
531 Vail White
549 Silver Frost
AG2 Aztec Red
AH3 Cherry Red Pearl
BG6 Winter Blue
KH2 Charcoal Pearl
KH3 Super Black
TH1 Midnight Blue Pearl

1993 models have a unique gauge cluster that is only found on well...1993's. It is a transitional gauge cluster as Nissan updated electronics throughout the truck. 1993 is also the first year to feature the famous chrome 'V' grille that everyone switches to. From the outside they can be mistaken for 1994s and 1995s but the square dash gives them away.

Additional Notes: The D21 switched over to electronic VSS by July 1993.

1993 USDM Paint Codes
531 Vail White
AG2 Aztec Red
AH3 Cherry Red Pearl
BJ8 Sea Mist Silver
DJ2 Black Emerald (New for 1993)
KH3 Super Black
KJ5 Slate Gray Pearl
KL0 PLatinum
TH1 Midnight Blue Pearl

Nissan updates the interior with a new dash design, the curvy dash which is a popular swap amongst hot-rodders. The speedometer is no longer cable driven, VSS now controls what the needles reads via the ECM.

1994 USDM Paint Codes
531 Vail White
AG2 Aztec Red
AH3 Cherry Red Pearl
BN3 Calypso Blue (New for 1994MY)
DJ2 Black Emerald
KH3 Super Black
KJ5 Slate Gray Pearl
KL0 Platinum
TK3 Sapphire Blue (New color for D21)

Hardbody receives a driver side air bag and OBDII. Injectors are updated as well as adding a secondary O2 sensor post catalytic converter. The charcoal canister is relocated to the rear of the truck attached to a frame cross member underneath the bed. Also worth noting: this is the first year of the D21 to feature a Consult port located behind the internal fuse box. To try to keep costs down while still offering decent pricing Nissan limits options on all models except the SE. For the first time since introduction there is no V6 option available due to troubles meeting emission requirements.

1996 USDM Paint Codes
AG2 Aztec Red
AH3 Cherry Red Pearl
BR1 Royal Blue
BR2 Pacific Blue
FN4 Vivid Teal
KH3 Super Black
KJ5 Slate Grey
KN4 Platinum Gold
LR0 Megenta
QM1 Cloud White

Final year of US production as the Hardbody is succeeded by the D22 Frontier. Production of the D21 Hardbody does continue in Central America for a few years after the US ceased production(and I need more info on that as well.)

1997 USDM Paint Codes
AG2 Aztec Red
AH3 Cherry Red Pearl
AR0 Autumn Sunburst
BN6 Starfire Blue Pearl
BR2 Pacific Blue
FN4 Vivid Teal
KH3 Super Black
KK0 Anthracite Gray
KN4 Platinum Gold
QM1 Cloud White

FUN FACTS: The name given by Tom Semple to the bulging fenders is "Triceps". The slots on the early hoods are internally known as 'Mail Slots'.

Recommended reading:

Dealer Brochures:
Looking for Hardbody dealer sales brochures?>>>

Buick Riviera Boat Tail info:

Post Pics of your D21 Hardbody here>>>

D21 Factory Service Manuals in .pdf format. >>>

Nissan Axles Identification>>>

Driveshaft Identification:

Nissan trucks used multiple driveshafts between all the D21 models. Their lengths varied as did the number of u-joints, thickness of the tubing and the width of the yokes. Here's a little info on the subject I have gathered from pouring through FSMs from 1986.5 through 1998.

***This information is not 100% complete but will be amended as missing info is discovered. ***

Nissan D21 Truck Driveshafts 1985-1998
*Driveshafts are built by Dana/Spicer

3= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
63= Width of Yokes in millimeters (mm)
H= Unknown at this time.

The 3S63H dates back to the Datsun 620 days. It has been used on regular and long wheel base 2wd trucks since the early 70's. It was used on long bed D21 trucks equipped with the SD25 diesel engine and a manual transmission. Similar to the 3S63A except it has serviceable u-joints.

3= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
63= Width of Yokes in millimeters (mm)
A= Unknown at this time.

The 3S63A is a two-piece driveshaft that replaced the 3S63H from the 720 series trucks in 1986.5. It is found in Z24i standard and long wheel base 2wd D21 trucks. Both A/T and M/T models used the 3S63A but the sleeve yokes are different and will not work in place of each other. The front half of the shaft is 75mm in diameter while the back half is 63.5mm. The 3S63A was replaced by the 3S71A when Nissan changed the D21 trucks to the KA24E engine in 1990. The 3S63A has 63mm yokes while the 3S71A uses 71mm.

3= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
71= Width of Yoke in millimeters (mm)
A= Unknown at this time.

The 3S71A is a two-piece driveshaft found in 2wd Hardbody 4 cylinder (both M/T and A/T) regular cab, king cab and long bed (excluding Heavy Duty) trucks starting with the release of the KA24E engines in the 1990 models. The rear half measures 65mm in diameter. The front half measures 75mm in diameter until 1995 when Nissan updated the 3S71A, both halves measured 63.5mm. Reasons for this change are not known but I speculate it was to compensate for changes when the D21 received rear ABS for the 1995 model year. Automatic Hardbody trucks use a different sleeve yoke that does not interchange with the manual transmission. Nissan indicates that the u-joints are non-serviceable on the 3S71A but that is not entirely true. Other Nissan lines also used variations of the 3S71A including the 300ZX. They are not interchangeable.

3= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
80= Width of Yokes in millimeters (mm)
B= Unknown at the time.

The 3S80B was first seen in 1986.5 and uses 80mm yokes. It is mainly found in 2wd trucks powered by the VG30 series engine, this includes both Heavy Duty and SE-V6 trucks. The 3S80B is also found in long wheel base 4wd trucks up to 1997.

2= Number of Yokes
F= Unknown (May reference that is a front driveshaft)
71= Width of Yokes in millimeters (mm)
H= Unknown

The 2F71H is used to power 4wd front differentials and replaced the 2F63H in 1986.5. It is a slip yoke design with a zerk fitting for grease-ability. It has been used in all 4wd D21 applications including z24i, VG30 and KA24E equipped models. Shaft diameter is 63.5mm.

2= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
80= Width of Yokes in millimeters (mm)
B= Unknown at this time.

The 2S80B is a rear propeller shaft used on regular wheel base 4wd D21 trucks and dates back to the 720 truck days. It has two replaceable u-joints. Because of its shorter lengths it does not have a carrier or center bearing. The shaft has varying diameters depending on year ranging from 63mm, 63.5mm to 75mm. In 1996 the V6 engine option was dropped and as a result all standard wheel base 4wd trucks during model years 1996 through 1997 use the 2S80B.

The following versions were used on the 2wd D22 Frontier beginning with the 1998 model year.

2= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
1310= Driveline Series (1310)

3= Number of Yokes
S= Unknown at this time.
1310= Driveline Series (1310)

While these model numbers may show up on other Nissan/Datsun model cars and trucks I have only covered the times they appeared on the D21 series trucks. Bear in mind this information is not intended to serve as an interchange database. If such information becomes available it will be added but at this time I have only covered what came with what and when. I hope to be able to expand upon this information as time permits.

Steering Gear Identification:

Steering Gears:

Manual Steering
Model# B56S ** (Discontinued in 1991 Replaced by the VB66K)
# of Turns (Lock to Lock)
2WD= 4.9
4WD= 5.0 (3.9 4WD w/ 10.50R15 Tires)
Ratio= 22

Model# VB66K (Introduced in 1991)
# of Turns (Lock to Lock)
2WD= 5.8
4WD= 5.9 (Discontinued from 4WD models starting in 1996)
Ratio= 24.4-26.84

Power Steering
Model# PB48S (Carried over from the 720 Series Trucks)
# of Turns (Lock to Lock)
2WD= 3.7
4WD= N/A
Ratio= 16.5

Model# PB56S (Introduced in 1986 and discontinued in 1994. Replaced by PB59K)
# of Turns (Lock to Lock)
2WD= N/A
4WD= 3.8
Ratio= 17.0

Model# PB59K
# of Turns (Lock to Lock)
2WD= N/A
4WD= 3.4 (2.5 if equipped with 10.50R15 tires)
Ratio= 15

Nissan used ZF Company for the design of its steering gears. ... rview.html

-1986 Midyear, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997 Nissan D21 Factory Service Manuals
-1985 Model Nissan 720 Service Manual
-1998, 1999 Nissan D22 Frontier Service Manuals

This was compiled and written by myself, under another forum account name, and a former Nissan Design team member who goes by the name Pilikua. While we try to be 110% accurate it has been more than 30 years since Nissan designed the Hardbody and lots of information has been lost and/or corrupted. Feel free to PM me if you find any issues.

alabama_lowlife 02-06-2015 12:27 AM

This will never be deleted from here.

RONNIEBOY 02-06-2015 01:04 AM

I love it thanks

cadillacdude1975 02-06-2015 02:17 AM

i vote for the comments to be removed, lock the thread and any changes/additions need to be approved by Kelyn himself after consulting with Foul Mouth about the validity of the information.

Foul_Mouth 02-06-2015 02:26 AM

I like the idea of an open thread discussion but if something is to be added to the top as fact it needs to be backed up with a source. Just my .02 and I can with live it either way.

1990nissanhardbody 02-06-2015 03:52 AM

love this post Foul_Mouth. i read it over on NICO. but im so happy its here!

hardbodyhero 02-06-2015 04:04 AM

I kinda like cadillac's idea, but perhaps a step further. Perhaps on main page create another section dedicated to "History and Resources", allowing that area to be for posts relating to the history of all nissan trucks from the the 720's and earlier up to D21's and beyond if wanted........Also under that heading could be resources, an area to post info, links, resources to TM's or any other publications available.

I've also wanted to ask about adding a secion for Tips and Tricks or Hacks if you will-an area not for just a half assed approach to taking care of a known issue or broblem, but an area related to members sharing how to accomplish things easier. For example:

1. Just this past week, I learned the easiet way to remove defroster panels in the dash is not with a trim tool, pry bar, or pliers. Its take a couple of long wireties and bend them to form a 3-4 inch hook. Fish them down on both ends, cinch them a little and pull. Comes right up-

2. I havent seen anyone, well at least most of us that are mostly stock, solve the problem of dim interior lighting. I dont mean by just bulbs but rewiring the front map light to come on when opening the doors. It just one of the things I have been working on.

Didnt mean to hijack this comments section, I just wanted to mention.......

86NissanV6 02-07-2015 12:11 AM

This should be like a full specs list as well to go along with the history, with all the variations of ring gears, and recalls, and different transmissions, engines, and etc.

Just an idea, good post though!

swampyankee 02-07-2015 12:31 AM

Great Stuff, Thanks.

Nissean 02-19-2015 03:12 AM

I was just looking for this over at Nico and couldn't find it. Glad you saved it- best article I've seen on the development history of the Hardbody!

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