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Rattmandu New Reader
8/25/20 1:43 p.m.

I had previously started this build log on a different forum, but it's pretty much dead, and also this forum is way more appropriate.

In a fabulous example of a project spiraling ever larger I bought an 87 Nissan Hardbody in February 2019, with the intent of making a simple flatbed for it, and eventually someday putting in a KA24DE engine and maybe a turbo. This is the day I brought it home:

And this is what it essentially looks like today:

The truck hasn't driven since about April of 2019, and in the intervening time it has gotten:

* LQ9 out of an Escalade with forged pistons and rods, a 222/231 at .050 duration 112 LSA, .545/.545 lift cam.

* CD009 transmission from a 2008 G37 with a Collins adapters kit to mate up to the LS

* 8.6" rear end from a Tahoe with 4.56 gears and a clutch style limited slip from Yukon gear and axle

* I tried to buy a lift from Cal Mini and they're a terrible company that nobody should ever give business to and it's been 17 months since I gave them my money and I still don't have all the parts . . . lol

* I've built the flat bed with roll bar, a custom rear bumper, a front half exo-cage, and I'm in process of fitting wide fiberglass fenders.

* Wheels from my buddies 4th gen 4runner, so I have Toyota logos on my Nissan, and BFG tires that are about 29.5" tall

And finally I'm in the process of designing and building my own long travel front suspension that increases track width ~11" to match the width of the rear axle. This is set up to mount to the outside of the Nissan frame rails with large mount plates to position everything, and then it uses steering knuckles from a 2wd silverado that have been modified to interface with 1" uniballs.

Full bump:

Full Droop:

And what currently exists of real parts:



Rattmandu New Reader
8/25/20 1:43 p.m.

whoops, that didn't work

Edit: Figured it out

Steve New Reader
8/25/20 2:08 p.m.

Well that escalated quickly.


Rattmandu New Reader
8/25/20 2:11 p.m.
Steve said:

Well that escalated quickly.


Yeah, I'll have to fill in some intervening detail. There's some pretty goofy pictures of the truck with no bed, no rear axle, and the last couple feet of frame chopped off. Not much of a truck at that point.


RacetruckRon GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/25/20 2:14 p.m.

Oh. My. God.  This is phenomenal!  

What shifter are do you have on that CD009?  Asking because I also have a LS swapped minitruck with a 370Z trans.

Rattmandu New Reader
8/25/20 2:23 p.m.

In reply to RacetruckRon :

That is the Collin's relocation shifter. It seems fairly nice but in the future I might go with a different one that attaches to that access cover ahead of the shifter because of some other weird decisions I made.

I wanted to go with a one piece driveshaft and because of my gearing and the length of the driveshaft, for harmonic reasons I needed to go to a larger diameter aluminum driveshaft and that doesn't clear the yoke on the shifter shaft coming out of the tail housing.

That led me to my temporary solution of flipping that shifter yoke upside down and spacing the shifter assembly up 1.5". That's technically functional but it mirrors the pattern so 1-2 are on the right hand side. I'm calling it an anti-theft feature until I fix it the right way. 

iansane GRM+ Memberand Reader
8/25/20 3:10 p.m.

That is awesome. I love the front suspension.

Rattmandu New Reader
8/25/20 3:38 p.m.

The very first thing I did after getting the truck was swap on the new wheels and tires, which actually cleared everything pretty well on the stock suspension. These are 245/65-R17s. We had gotten snowed in for a week the day after I bought the truck and I eventually had to put on snow chains to take the tires down to get them mounted.

And then I got down to interior cosmetic details which I've "definitely" been able to enjoy as the truck has just sat in my driveway. I pulled everything out of the interior to get rid of the 32 years of accumulated crud.

Threw on a Sparco steering wheel with one of the adapters that collapses in the event of a crash:

I pulled the dash out to fix some of the cracks and flock it, and modified the center console area to fit a double din unit as I don't have much need for a cigarette lighter.

And then I made a little ported box for some lightweight 6.5" woofers with neodymium magnets, and that mounts on a little steel frame at the back of the cab and also holds a shovel, hatchet, etcetera.

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
8/25/20 3:42 p.m.

Great engineering work. I can't comprehend the math, but recognize the effort and talent. Cool build! 

Rattmandu New Reader
8/25/20 5:35 p.m.

Then I yanked the bed off and things really started getting out of hand.

Pulled the bumper and the rear end and leaf springs, and chopped the frame off just behind the rear bed mounts, and ended up with a flying saucer of a truck.

I picked up an 8.6" Chevy rear end from a guy who was parting out his Tahoe. Main reasons for choosing this axle is because it's the same lug pattern as the Nissan, and I wanted disc brakes. They aren't regarded as being very strong but I'm hoping being half the weight of the truck it came from will help. After I got it I spent literally an entire Saturday death wheeling all the old bracketry off the housing, which I'm sure my neighbors loved.

I made a brace for it as the first test piece of the tubing bender I had just gotten.

And installed the Yukon limited slip diff and 4.56 gears. The 4.56 gears are going to be awful low for the LS, but they were originally chosen because it maintained the same effective gear ratio as the stock rear end with the tiny stock tires, as I had been intending to drive with the 4 cylinder still. You know. . . scope creep.

I rolled the new rear end under the bobbed frame and set it on top of some Old Man Emu heavy duty springs. These springs went from two leaves and a single overload stock to being four leaves with triple overloads. Very beefy. Also for some reason I don't remember I couldn't install the Toyota wheels and instead these are the Nissan wheels turned inside out. I believe this is "stance".

Then I started playing with where I wanted the flatbed to sit. I ended up bringing it up till the top of the bed would be even with the body line running down the cab.

The perimeter frame is 3x2 box section, .120 wall, and is just the width of the cab with the back corners mitered off.

Then I made the cross rails. They're more 3x2x0.120 for the rails where the bed attaches, and 2x2x0.095 for the other rails.

And here you can see how tight on space I am in my tiny garage and building everything in the driveway.

Bed mounts were made and attached to the frame rails.

And I set the bed frame in place.


Dieselboss15 New Reader
8/25/20 7:03 p.m.

this is great! i always wanted to lift and older minitruck.

maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
8/25/20 8:24 p.m.

Great fab skills, but the flatbed frame seems way overbuilt/heavy.  It's got to be 10x stronger than the frame it attaches to.  What are you planning to do with the flatbed that requires such strength?

Rattmandu New Reader
8/26/20 3:50 p.m.

Well, the flat bed is lighter than the sheet metal bed, and also part of the roll bar. I don't know if it will still be lighter after it eventually get's wood decking, but I'm going to need some additional traction as it is.

Made a double hoop roll bar that sits on top of the bed frame.

And it's ladder bar braced to give it some section so it doesn't mouse trap. I'm still undecided about running long diagonal bars backwards.

And then I started building a rear bumper that wraps around the mitered corners of the bed.

Integrated 2" receiver for attaching a winch, and plates in the corner of the bed for tie down points.

16ga plates wrap around the corner of the bumper for lights, and TMR shackle points on the top bar.

Lower bars attached to the bumper for a skid plate.

Center plate and skid plate attached.

And I started putting holes in the bumper for the lights. I bought a giant hole saw for this and it made it through exactly one hole before the driving arbor ripped out the back of the hole saw. Ended up doing all the others with a jig saw and a die grinder. It broke the jig saw too . . .angry

And then it was fender time. These are just some trailer fenders bolted to angle iron that sticks out from the frame.

And then I tied the roll bar in from the bed down to the frame.

And finally a parting shot of the whole truck with bed and fenders.




Rattmandu New Reader
8/29/20 8:05 p.m.

The final touches for the roll bar were some tube attachment points for the possible future front half exo-cage, some vertical bars to keep loads from sliding off the bed into the back of the cab, and four tabs for whatever else is going on top.

At this point I pulled the bed off for final welding. It's a two man job to lift it off the frame, but nothing too crazy.

And bumper stuff. The upper 2" receiver is for a removable winch and is normally covered by the license plate. The lower one is for normal trailer stuff. The bumper ended up about 75 pounds, so kind of too heavy, but comparable to what the steel jeep plate bumpers run.

I then loaded everything up have blasted and powder coated.

The powder coat ended up looking fairly nice, but I don't know if I would do it again. After sitting in my driveway for the winter it ended up rusting through the powder coat on sharper edges and around the plates of the bumper. I'm going to end up sanding it, seam sealing, and painting over the powder coat with white raptor liner or something. Oh well, that's an issue for future me, and past me was just happy to get these bright shiny white parts.

And I set about putting lights in the bumper. I got these cool little Rigid lights to use as reverse lights. They weren't meant to be flush mounted like this, but it worked well enough.

The rest of the lights are a 4" round LED that are just retained by snapping into the rubber gasket.

And a spot of wiring to round things out.

Rattmandu New Reader
8/30/20 12:07 p.m.

With the shiny new powder coat it was time to paint the cab. I started by knocking together a little spray booth to paint in my driveway.

The cab was sanded, masked, degreased, and made ready for primer.  This is more of a rough and ready paint job, so I'm not doing much in the way of fixing dents.

Primer down. The epoxy primer layed down pretty nice, but I wasn't happy with how rough the urethane primer was so I had to wet sand it in the morning.

And the single stage paint was down. The whole thing was done in white and then masked the next day for red. I was really happy with how the red was looking, and then I went and masked it too soon to do the blue. Doh.

It still turned out pretty cool.

Next I painted the upper part of the roll bar red to roughly match the line of the cab.

Once everything was dry I had a buddy come over and help me put the bed back on.

Rattmandu New Reader
8/30/20 5:36 p.m.

Jumped into a few small cosmetic details next, painted the wheels and new grill hammered silver as the bronze was clashing with the red white and blue.

This is a grill from the 4wd version of the truck, It's just a little more open.

I made a little center console thing to mount the hand brake and proportioning valve on.

And a double DIN stack of a stereo and CB radio. And you can kind of see how the hand brake sat to the left of the shifter.

At this point I was getting pretty excited as it was about to be road worthy again with the stock engine. Just needed brake lines and driveshaft. I shortened the stock driveshaft a couple inches and put on a 1350 yoke to get it mated to the Tahoe rear end.

Brake line tabs added to the rear end housing.

And after getting everything bled and ready to roll I went to fire up the engine for the first time in a month and . . . . . nothing. Wasn't getting any fuel.  So I spent a couple weeks diagnosing what I thought was a fuel injector issue, only to have my buddy discover it was a burned out fusible link, but not so burned out that I didn't measure 12 volts on the far side of the link when I tried to check them earlier. aaaaarrrghghhg. We replaced that link, fired it up and everything was fine, buttoned it up to get ready to drive, tried to start it again and . . . . got even less than nothing. In those 5 minutes the wiring to the relay that triggered the starter solenoid had failed, at which point I got super frustrated, said berk it and started pulling out the engine for the "planned to happen eventually" engine swap.

This is the last picture of the Z24 in the truck.

And it's out.


Rattmandu New Reader
8/30/20 6:19 p.m.

Now I needed to start looking for a new drivetrain in earnest. First component I got was a CD009 transmission from a 2008 G37.

Engine-wise I had been willing to settle for a 5.3 or even a 4.8, but I got lucky and found a guy locally with a  LQ9 out of a 2003 Escalade. That's the high compression (10.1 : 1 I think) 6.0 liter. This had obviously been in a truck with a pretty bumping sound system, because it had an aftermarket dual alternator bracket, haha.

After fighting for a solid hour to drag that engine up my super steep driveway, we got it mounted on the stand and I started stripping it down. Initially I was just going to throw rings and bearings at it, but I'm really bad at sticking to my initial plan.

Nice and greasy.

Slightly less greasy.

Heads off, there's some carbon build up but nothing too crazy.

The heads cleaned up nicely.

Here's the state of the pistons.

Somewhere in here I decided to add some doublers to the frame rails at the back of the cab, and boxed the front leaf spring mount. The previous owner had pretty badly bent the passenger side leaf mount on something.

And the block all stripped and cleaned up.

Then I took the block to the machine shop, and that was pretty much the last I worked on the truck in 2019.


Rattmandu New Reader
8/30/20 8:33 p.m.

Took a break from the truck over winter break and built a small utility trailer, I was going to use the stock Nissan axle for it, but I ultimately decided it was too much extra dead weight for the small trailer.

Engine hoist doubles as a painting rack.

This is where I pulled the Nissan axle and used a regular trailer axle but with 6 x 5.5 hubs so I could use the Nissan wheels.

I added these orange fiberglass poles to make backing the trailer easier. I think they're meant to be corner markers for a snow blower.

I hit the Nissan wheels with some VHT wrinkle black.

And I cleaned up the stainless steel trim rings.

Pretty snazzy.

Decked it with pre-treated deck 1x6's and stainless flat heads.

And then it was finished. Fun fact, this was finished in like February, and I was too lazy to get it inspected in the month before the Rona hit so I haven't been able to use it or have it inspected and it's just useless lawn art for forever I guess.

Rattmandu New Reader
8/31/20 10:38 p.m.

The first truck work I did in 2020 was the start of my new front suspension. I got some used 2wd Silverado spindles and set about modifying them for use with uni-balls instead of ball joints.

I made a jig that bolts to the unit bearing mounting flange to help me clamp the knuckle in the mill.

I machined out the tapered bores oversized. (The heim joint isn't what I ended up using.)

And made press fit sleeves to fit the 3/4" bolts for the uniball with high misalignment spacers. I also machined a bit of chamfer to fill with weld.

What's for dinner? It's a hot knuckle sandwich. (pre-heating the casting before I weld in the sleeves)

After welding I milled the mounting surfaces flat again.

To make my suspension modeling accurate I need to know the relative position of the wheel bearing axis, it's offset, the upper and lower ball joint positions, and the steering arm ball joint position. I was lucky enough to have a buddy at work help me use a CMM to measure the modified knuckles and I then used those measurements to model the knuckle.


Run_Away [FS]
Run_Away [FS] GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/31/20 10:50 p.m.



I like that a MINI is what's used to cart around all the truck parts.

Rattmandu New Reader
9/1/20 10:18 p.m.

Come March I got my block back from the machine shop and it was time for measurement and assembly.

Picked up a cheap bore dial indicator and a set of mics.

Everything looked good.

Dropped in the crank. Went with ARP main studs.

Checking ring gap. Going with 0.020 top ring and 0.024 second ring.

Summit's house brand forged pistons and Scat forged rods. The wrist pins are press fit so the machine shop assembled those for me.

The Scat rods also came with ARP bolts.

Did a little port matching on the exhaust side of the heads. You can see how dinky the stock port size is.

Primarily I'm just raising the roof of the port, but I also added a little chamfer to the bottom side.

Double valve springs to deal with the 0.550 lift cam.

Tore down the stock rockers for a trunnion upgrade.

Brian Tooley trunnion upgrade mostly installed. Those snap rings are a real pain in the butt.

Double roller timing chain.

LS7 lifters all ooey gooey.

MLS head gasket.

Heads on and rockers installed after measuring push-rod length. Ended up still using stock length 7.400.

Meilling oil pump spaced out to clear the double roller chain.

And the timing cover has to be clearanced to clear the spaced out oil pump. The grinding was done with a die grinder bit chucked up in my drill press. You have to clear the heads of the oil pump bolts and the flange where the pick up mounts.

A pretty tight fit.

The holes in the windage tray have to be drilled out to clear the ARP studs, and the bolt hole for the pick up tube has to be slotted since the oil pump is spaced out.

CTS-V oil pan.

And finally some long block glory shots.

The Trailblazer SS intake is a very tall boy. I started getting a bit apprehensive about fitting the engine under the hood after setting this on top.


Rattmandu New Reader
9/2/20 9:37 p.m.

June 2020 I decided to knock up the front half of the exo-cage. I started with pads for the bars to land on the apron. Plated that with a 10 gauge pad and set the mount tubes to be parrallel to the A pillar.

And added a vertical plate to distribute the load some more, and eventually I will tie from that plate down to the frame rail.

And the same on the drinker side.

Mocking up the main bars to measure the length and bend angle.

Main bars bent and welded to the quick release brackets.

Added cross bracing.

And then gussets and tabs for lights.

Pulled the frame off to weld the underside and get it painted.

84FSP UltraDork
9/3/20 7:32 a.m.

WOW - that escalated quickly.  That thing should be hilarious with a beefy LS.

This thread it excatly what I needed today. The mini towing the trailer makes my heart happy. 

Rattmandu New Reader
9/3/20 10:57 a.m.

In reply to Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) :

You should see it when I strap full sheets of plywood to the roof. 

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