• Nov 21, 2012
I was five years old when my father purchased his very first new vehicle: a 1990 Nissan Hardbody identical in nearly every way to the one you see above. When new, that torquey 2.4-liter four-cylinder would snap the truck sideways in second and send the skinny rubber at the live rear axle chirping through fourth. I spent every family vacation for years crammed in the back under a camper shell, plowing roads through blankets with my Hot Wheels while we buzzed our way north from Knoxville to Mackinac State Park or south to Orlando.

It suffered my long and laborious stick-shift learning curve and the even more painful slog to passable vehicle control.

Saturday mornings were spent riding around gnawing on a pack of poptarts with Dad at the wheel of our little red truck and Dire Straits on the two-speaker cassette deck. The faithful pickup piled on miles over the years until eventually, I grew old enough to take the wheel myself. By then, the paint had faded more orange than red, the chassis bore scars from a number of bumps and bruises at the hands of everyone in the family and the engine sounded like someone had dumped a bag of hammers under the valve cover every time I hit the starter. It suffered my long and laborious stick-shift learning curve and the even more painful slog to passable vehicle control.

I bounced it off of guard rails, rock outcroppings and other cars, but the machine never once came close to laying down. At some point, only the cab and doors remained of the original sheetmetal. It carried me through high school and into college before I turned my attention elsewhere, and Dad continued to drive the old Hardbody to work and back until just last year, when he finally gave in and drove what was left of his first new vehicle to the scrap yard with over 300,000 miles on the original drivetrain.

That little truck was ingrained in the heartwood of my family tree, and this 14,000-mile example in Salem, Oregon is an identical clone in nearly every way. From the gray cloth bench seat to the awkward steering wheel and homely looks, this little machine is the unlikeliest of time capsules, and if I had the $7,500 asking price, I'd pay the sentimentality tax in a heartbeat to have it in my garage. You can check it out over at Bring a Trailer or view the original Craigslist ad. Someone give this machine the home it deserves.


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  • 46 Comments
      Toronto St. Pats
      • 2 Years Ago
      I had a similar connection to my dad's Ford Tempo V-6. Yeah it had a shite 3-speed auto (that was aweful, the only thing that saved it was the 3.0 litre V-6), but the car fit me like a glove. It was back when a car was just a car. And when putting something as amazing as an mp3 player into it blew your mind. Now every car is so connected it's more of an Ipad than a vehicle. That V-6 sure was buttery smooth, though it did have a bit of a burble going on. And because the car was light, it could move despite the low-ish 135 hp. Gas consumption wasn't spectacular but it was ok. Would have been way better if it had 5-speeds (or even 4) instead of 3. WTF were they thinking back then? Oh and another thing, the Tempo never ever spun out in the snow no matter how shite the tires were. Never fish-tailed, never felt unbalanced. Today cars have all this techno traction control stability assist, AWD, ABS and all this gobblety-goop bullcrap and somehow as soon as it snows everyone's smashing into each other. The Tempo didn't have a lick of technology and it was the safest car I ever drove. Or at least it felt safe to maneuvre. Sure miss that car.
        bssplayr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Toronto St. Pats
        I hear ya...my parents had a total of 4 Mercury Topaz's. My mom's were both 4-doors - the first, an '85 with a 4-banger and an automatic, and then a '92, V6 auto. My father had an '86 coupe in 'sport' trim (had the high-back seats, special rims, and a unique paint and interior treatment) - 4cyl/5sp. That's the car I learned to drive manual in. He replaced it with a 'sleeper' black '94 coupe, with V6 and 5 speed. They took a beating from the critics, but these cars withstood 3 teenagers learning to drive!
        Brent Smith
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Toronto St. Pats
        My mom had a '92 Tempo. That car was the biggest pile of **** she ever drove. And this is a woman who meticulously maintains her cars. And just for comparison, she also owned a chevette.
      Charles
      • 2 Years Ago
      My first vehicle was a 96 Hardbody KC, to this day that is my favorite vehicle I've ever owned. Just a great little truck, I wish Nissan would bring something like this back cause I'd be first in line.
      Silly Pickle
      • 2 Years Ago
      "I bounced it off of guard rails, rock outcroppings and other cars..." And now you write for Autoblog? And probably drive real fast, maybe even on a tack sometimes? Sheesh...I never so much as got near a guard rail let alone bounced off another car...I should be a Formula 1 driver by now...and OWN Autoblog...maybe you should leave this one to the collectors out there. :-) just teasin' ya. I'm sure you've improved in the last 4 or 5 years since you were a teenager.
      Poe
      • 2 Years Ago
      AWESOME! I also bought the EXACT same truck brand new in 1990 - same color and all! Not my first new vehicle though... I was trading down from my first new car - a 1989 240SX - to lower my monthly payment after our first child was born, we had bought our first house, and money was tight. It was a great little truck! The KA24 engine is as solid as they come. One of my daughters is currently driving my previous commuter car - a '99 Nissan Altima - which also has a version of that same engine - and it is approaching 200K trouble-free miles. Hands down the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned.
      teamplayers99
      • 2 Years Ago
      Startup a Paypal donation on Autoblog and I bet you'll have the $7,500 in an hour
      Mikey Smelser
      • 2 Years Ago
      I had a 1990 _identical_ to the picture and only in a bit worse shape. Picked it up in 2004 or so with 95k miles from an old man who couldn't handle driving stick anymore. Had the bag of hammers under the hood, too...so I bet you found out that the timing chain guide had long disintegrated and your chain was next, amirite?
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      I love these stories! Keep em coming Zack! I too used a pickup with a stick to learn how to drive at one point. It was my Dad's Dakota... that was rear wheel drive and had every single Mopar hop up for the 318 under the hood. Needless to say it moved pretty hard when you wanted it to. My Dad made me drive it home from an errand one time, and I was scared of this thing. I only had my learners permit and had learned to drive a stick about two days ago. Did I mention it was a little damp outside? I think you can see where this is going... I'm in a left turn lane, waiting for the light to change. Light changes. I creeeeeeeeep forward. I get a gap in oncoming traffic, a big one, so alright time to make the turn... I accidentally laid down rubber all the way through a left hand turn in a 5 lane wide intersection! I was too scared to try and correct my clutch / throttle mix, I just kept turning because it was going and I wasn't stopping and I didn't want to hit anything, and of course my Dad is in the seat next to me. I remember this incident perfectly, the whole cab vibrating as the 318 did it's best to tell the world it wasn't "normal". To this day I have no idea how I didn't stuff the thing. After getting it straightened out I dared to tell my Dad "Sorry!" He wasn't saying anything so I risked a glance over... He was trying really hard not to laugh. Made me feel good. :)
      colt513
      • 2 Years Ago
      Awesome article!
      56Jalopy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I had a 1989 just like it except I had the King cab, used it as a pilot car all over the 48 states and lower provinces of Canada. It always got me there and back and I finally sold it to my son when it had 350,000 miles. It was still shiny red with no dings or dents.
      devgchr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Beautiful specimen.
      19secondsslow
      • 2 Years Ago
      Dittos for me, my dad and our Datsun pickup.
      Smartalox
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yes, let's get Zachary the truck. If the story of the last time he got caught in a Web of pick up trucks and nostalgia, it turned out to be a heck of a story.
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