Mark D Stephens: Adventurer, writer, photographer, ambassador of the sonoran desert
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Nissan Frontier D40 (Navara):
Expedition Portal Feature Vehicle for 2007

Nissan Frontier Navara D40 Expedition Portal Project Vehicle for overland, off highway, off-road, exploration, camping, modifying, mods, modifications
"Building an innovative expedition vehicle for environmentally responsible adventure travel throughout the Southwest U.S. and Mexico."
See the Spring 2007 issue of Overland Journal for a recent desert expedition with this truck.

Special thanks to these fine sponsors:
Expedition Portal

Expeditions West website Sierra Expeditions wesbsite for winches, off road lights, roof tent, engel fridges and more
Adventure Trailers supplies incredible Scepter fuel and water cans Shrockworks bumpers, sliders, and skid plates for Nissan Frontiers

It starts on a literary scale, because that's the kind of guy I am. The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery makes the most sense out of why we're embarking on this project:

If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

See, because we have been taught a similar longing for natural wonders and wilderness, we're going to need a vehicle to help get us to these places. And as coincidence would have it, a fabulous folk singer, David Wilcox, undertook a "land cruise" project with a bio-diesel conversion Ford Expedition. Between St. Exupery and Wilcox, we're in good company.

Why this vehicle?
My wife liked it, that’s why.  Within the next year we expect to start the blissful adventure of raising children; we began our life together with rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, backpacking, and general camping.  Our kids will enter the world doing the same things; we embrace the idea of teaching them to long for the endless immensity of wilderness, like Saint-Exupery says.  We also started our life together in a 2002 Jeep Wrangler, so we need a vehicle with more cargo space and better comfort for long days on the highway or trail.

Behold, I give you our 2005 Nissan Frontier. 
The late model Nissan Frontier exhibits several features that make it a viable choice for expedition and adventure travel:

  • Nissan makes a reliable and dependable vehicle
  • A comfortable independent front coilover suspension with a solid rear axle
  • Moderate payload of 1482 lbs
  • Selectable four-wheel-drive with a two-speed transfer case
  • Crew Cab configuration for significant inside storage
  • Mid-size truck with agility to maneuver through tight trails
  • 5’ x 5’ bed with an 18” depth has a reasonable amount of storage space
  • Fully boxed frame that shares the platform with the popular Titan and Xterra
  • 265 HP
  • 125.9" wheelbase
  • 21.1 gallon fuel capacity

With these key features, I have a solid starting point for building our adventure vehicle.  

What it’s for, and where will we go?
We have keen goals for visiting remote and charming places within the Southwest and Mexico with our children: El Camino del Diablo, missions of northwestern Mexico, the Baja Peninsula, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and the National Parks of Utah are just the major points on the list.  A biking trip through Denali National Park – and with a kid in tow, of course – will be the highlight of our 2008 Summer.  

The four-door (Crew Cab) pickup truck arrangement appealed to our tastes, and satisfied our requirements for more cargo and passenger space than our Jeep could afford.   Simply put: it’s for hauling stuff to help us survive in style while visiting some interesting places.  Now we are going to share all of the modifications and improvements to the vehicle in this build series. Full reviews, installation processes, and field evaluations . . .

What are we going to do to it, and how are we going to do it?
Well, this is material for the article series. You can read the specifics at Expedition Portal, including the details about the Eezi-Awn tent, the rear swingout bumper by Kennesaw Mountain, our shower system, Shrockworks rock sliders, PRG lift and more.

Thanks for checking it out,
Mark D. Stephens
Project editor, Expeditionportal.com

Progress photos of the Nissan Frontier Expedition vehicle
Stock 2005 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab d40 January 2006:
2005 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab before any modifications at all.
Brooke helps install the PRG suspension lift on the nissan frontier expedition vehicle January 2006:
Here's my wife Brooke helping me install the PRG suspension lift - made up of aluminum billet spacers that bolt to the top of the OEM coilovers. It's a simple, inexpensive, and effective modification. However, this doesn't do anything to improve the truck's performance. We'll soon be looking into new coilover units that can the handle corrugated tracks of Baja.

For now, this does the job.

More information is included in Part 1 of the article series

Happy after giving the PRG suspension lift a workout on the Nissan FRontier Crew Cab project expedition vehicle for off road off highway camping exploration use February 2006:
On El Camino Del Diablo, I had a blast giving the new PRG lift a workout on the 120-mile desert track.
Testing the PRG suspension lift on the Nissan Frontier Expedition off road vehicle February 2006:
Here's the evidence of driving her pretty hard. Many other owners complained about the upper a-arms knocking on the coilbucket due to the spacer lift. While I never heard the knocking, I did notice some contact markings on the coilbucket.

No harm, no foul. The marks are not very significant.

See Part 1 for the details about this part of the project. Notice, too, that we quickly upgraded the tires to Load Range D BF Goodrich All Terrains. Smart move.

Shrockworks sliders on the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Project Expedition vehicle March 2006:
The Shrockworks rock sliders get installed. I couldn't have been happier with how fast these mounted on, and how heavy duty they are. Each slider weighed a little over 70 lbs, and the boys at Shrock used thick gauge tubing for maximum protection. The additional weight chisels off 10% of the payload capacity (1482 lbs), but it's entirely worth it.
BRoken Arrow trail in Sedona Arizona June 2006:
Testing out the final mods before embarking on the Mainland Mexico Expedition. I drove her up Broken Arrow trail in Sedona, Arizona, where the water tank never hit a single rock - not even while coming down the Devil's Staircase.

We're ready to rock.

Shrockworks sliders on the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab Project Expedition vehicle June 2006:
Camping on the beach of Chacala, Mexico. Our first major expedition in the Frontier Crew Cab took us as far south as Guanajuato and through an alternate route deep into the altitudinous regions of the Sierra Madres. There is a good chance we were the first people to have undertaken a full-fledged expedition route through colonial Mexico in the new model D40 Nissan Frontier/Navara.

I'm very proud of that.

We got the rear bumper tire carrier swing out just before the trip. The reason I had to get a tire carrier was to make space for the freshwater tank I installed. See the second article for the details about it.

September 2006:
Here's a shot from a "minor" expedition route we did within the Navajo Nation and Monumnet Valley. Most of the summer and fall of 2006 was spent on trips, and getting a real feel for what we want to do with this truck.
Project Crew Cab Frontier on the beach in Mexico with the Eezi-Awn tent October 2006:
"I feel the wind blow from a storm down in Mexico" is the first line from the Roger Clyne song Nada. It's a hell of a great tune. It also reminds me of this trip because on a Wednesday night Brooke and I talked about going to Mexico and camping on the beach of the Sea of Cortez, and two days later we were there. This is at El Desemboque. At this point, the only other mods on the truck are the dual battery system and GPS incororporation.

Part 3 of the article series will have the details about these two items.

January 2007:
Cruising the Hassayampa River to test out the Shrockworks winch bumper, Lightforce 170 lights, and Warn M8000 winch.

The bumper just kicks ass. Incredible approach angle (almost too much) sleek design, superior craftmanship, and well-thought-out mounting.

January 2007:
Drinking a Dos Equis beer while surveying her glory. After we got the bumper, winch, and lights in place I deserved a little treat.

Part 4 of the article series is done and awaiting the publish date. I cover the installation and evaluation of this bumper.

Driving Nissan Frontier Expedition vehicle in Baja March 2007:
She's 6 months pregnant and in search of a sweet beach to relax on for a day or two. Head to the Baja Peninsula - where else?
March 2007:
Coastal Baja Expedition ends at Bahia Colonet after going to Guerrero Negro. On the way home, we made a list of the next mods and improvements to make:
  • Add a fridge
  • Create a storage system for the truck bed
  • Figure out how to bring some mountain bikes along . . .

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Current Project Articles
Part 1

PRG suspension lift
Shrockworks sliders
BFG AT tires

Part 2

Eezi-Awn roof tent
On-board freshwater
Rear bumper/tire carrier

Part 3

Dual batery system
HAM radio
Navigational system

Part 4

Bull Bar
Winch
Lightforce Lights

Current Modifications

  • PRG Leveling Kit
  • Rear shackle lift
  • BFG A/T tires (265 / 75r 16)
  • Rock Sliders (Shrockworks)
  • Eezi-Awn 1200 roof tent
  • On-board shower with custom tank, and 2.8 GPM pump
  • Custom rear bumper and tire carrier swing gate
  • Deflecta-Shield Challenger 5920LP tool box
  • Dual battery system w/Optima yellow top and Wrangler NW managment
  • GPS navigation
  • Yaesu FT-7800 HAM radio
  • No-Loss valve caps
  • X-TREME Hi-Lift jack
  • Shrockworks Winch bumper
  • WARN M8000 winch
  • Lightforce 170 lights
  • Marcelo the Bull Skull
Mark D. Stephens: Adventurer, Writer, Photgrapher and Ambassador of the Sonoran Desert