During the winter of 1998, Ryan Gibson decided to start a new project. The '85 Nissan 720 truck he'd been messing with for the previous four years had been perfect for expanding his knowledge base of customs. Now, Ryan wanted to make a bigger statement with a much newer truck. To do this, he went out and purchased a brand-spankin'-new '98 Nissan Frontier standard-cab pickup he swore would become something special.
Over the next four years, Ryan completely revamped his truck from the ground up, making it into something truly extraordinary. He lowered the truck before anyone even had a chance to lay eyes on it. Since this was his first brand-new truck, to say his mom was upset when he immediately began the modifications would be an understatement. His original plan had been to finish the Nissan 720, but that soon went out the window as he fell in love with the Frontier. After driving the Frontier for six solid months, Ryan 'bagged it with the help of Sean Ornduff. He then spent the next year driving the truck in stock trim to various shows and found a few photos in the pages of Mini Truckin', which only made him want to do more to make the Frontier truly stand above the rest.
After driving the relatively stock but 'bagged truck for 12 months, Ryan and Sean dove in again to body-drop the Nissan 3-1/2 inches. Chaotic Customs in Tomball, Texas, then began the shaving process, starting with the door handles. Mark Fehrle helped out with the sheetmetal fabrication as the truck began to look far different than a typical Frontier. Even the bed floor was completely reworked for a much cleaner appearance. This was especially important since the bed floor had been raised during the body-drop session with Sean Ornduff a year earlier. Once everyone had finished with their part of the external modifications, Kaotic sprayed the Frontier's new basecoat using Lexus Burnt Orange. The new color was brighter and more orange than the factory tint, making the color change simple. The original plan had been to spray the truck with House of Kolor's Tangelo Pearl while it was still in the shop. After the dash was smoothed and painted, however, Ryan had a huge change of heart and promptly ripped the dash back out. He had other plans that just couldn't wait.
Ryan worked his ass off while the truck was in full swing to make his interior look its best. He smoothed the dash, built new lower door panel sections, and set up his system to give professional-sounding results in a very tight space. Using components from Kicker, Clarion, Infinity, and MTX, Ryan put together a tight stereo system that looks as good as it sounds and performs beyond anyone's expectations of a standard-cab pickup. The original bench seat was tossed in favor of a pair of Mazda Miata seats, which were reupholstered without headrests using tan and brown-embossed snake-print leather. Although the interior was complete, Ryan had other things to accomplish before taking his newly changed-up truck to its first event.
The new flooring in the bed of the truck was treated to a spray-in bedliner, which was tinted with the same Lexus Burnt Orange basecoat to keep it looking its best regardless of how it would be used. Inside the bed, a 120-pound nitrogen bottle was installed across the bulkhead, with 3/8-inch copper lines plumbed from the suspension to the valves. Additionally, the fuel filler had been relocated to the passenger-side wheeltub. With the bed detailed and put back on, the truck was finally finished to the point it's at today, and Ryan headed to his first show with the new-styled Frontier in Greenville, Mississippi. There, he not only debuted the truck, but won Third Place in his class and the Mini Truckin' Editor's Choice award, and wrote his own chapter in Mini Truckin' history by earning his own cover feature.
So what's next for the Frontier? When we called Ryan and asked him, he had this to say: "Man, I'm looking for something older to build that can easily pass emissions, but that's even up in the air. I may buy my old 720 back since they're not doing much with it right now. My brother's keeping me more than occupied by helping him work on his Chevy." At only 23 years of age, we wonder what Ryan will come up with next. Only time will tell.
The Low DownWheels/Tires 18x7-inch Budnik Mercury 6 billet wheels with Nitto 215/40R18 NeoGen radial tires / 4-3/4-inch backspacing on the Budniks all around
Suspension/Chassis 2-inch Belltech dropped spindles / 2,400-pound Firestone airbags all around / Gabriel nitrogen-charged shocks both fore and aft / two-link rear suspension with Panhard bar / 'bags installed on lower bars for added lift / raised fuel tank / ARO valves / nitrogen tank and regulator in bed / copper hard-lined air delivery for suspension actuation / bridge-notched rear framerails / suspension work performed by Sean Ornduff and Ryan Gibson in Tomball, Texas
Body Modifications 3-1/2-inch body drop by Sean Ornduff / custom-machined billet perimeter grille and gas cap by Lonnie Albritton / shaved mud guards / shaved taillights / shaved mirror pockets / shaved door handles / shaved gas door / shaved cowl vents / relocated fuel filler to passenger-side fenderwell / shaved tailgate handle / modified end of body line closest to tailgate / molded roll pan / molded tailgate / sheetmetal bed interior / steel inner mud guards enclose the rear part of all wheel openings for a cleaner look / Eclipse hood bubble molded into the hood for engine clearance / C-notch cover / Cadillac taillights / all bodywork by Chaotic Customs in Tomball, Texas, with sheetmetal fabrication by Mark Fehrle and prep work by Ryan Gibson
Paint/Graphics Burnt Orange basecoat / woodgrain background / custom flame foreground over woodgrain / custom paint by Max at Chaotic Customs in Tomball, Texas
Interior/Stereo Smoothed and painted dash, door panels, and center console / Mazda Miata bucket seats without headrests / beige leather and light-brown embossed leather used for seat upholstery / custom center console housing air pressure gauges, switches, and a Kicker Solo-Baric subwoofer / Clarion head unit / custom door panels with two Infinity 5-1/4-inch speakers mounted in each panel / MTX Thunder amplifier for audio components / 14-inch billet aluminum Budnik Mercury steering wheel / most interior mods by Ryan Gibson / seats upholstered by Seats Only in Cy-Fair, Texas
Engine/Performance 2.4L four-cylinder / FBI cold-air intake / electric fan / DuraLast battery relocated under the bed floor / 2-1/2-inch exhaust tubing / MagnaFlow muffler
Special Thanks Sean Ornduff / Mark Fehrle / Lonnie Albritton / Severed Ties / the Gibson family / Ryan's fiance Melissa Gilley
Owner's Quote "I'd like to show my appreciation to all my friends that helped me out. I assisted in the majority of the work, but it would not have been possible without them. My goal was to make the truck as practical and driveable as possible so I could enjoy it anytime. I also wanted a paint scheme that wouldn't go out of style anytime soon. I'd like to refer to MT's Construction Zone special that had Mike White's Dawgsled Mazda on the cover. My Frontier had a full page in the Zone special section."