Staff Bio’s >> Andy (Desert Rat)
Bio:My Datsun/Nissan history goes back to when I was a young pup 26 years old in 1996 when I snatched up a tired ’73 240Z and worked on a shoestring budget to bring it to life and keep it running. Learning to tinker with and tune side draft carbs is one of my first forays into things mechanical (aside from doing oil changes and routine maintenance stuff on all the other vehicles I’d owned previously) From there, rebuilding struts, replacing the rear diff insulator, and redoing all the brake components were all learning experiences.
In 1998, my Nissan passion was put into overdrive with the purchase of a brand new 1998 Frontier 4×4. Having grown up and learning how to drive with 4×4’s, I was pretty excited with this purchase, however, the aftermarket was all but nonexistent. I was one of the first members on the Nissan truck sites as they began to pop up shortly thereafter, and I got to know folks at the ‘big three’ aftermarket suppliers for Nissan trucks. I was the guniea pig on several aftermarket parts such as steering solutions, etc, and I built one of the baddest D22’s in the country. I was one of the early moderators on 4x4parts.com and still mod the ’98-04 Frontier and Southwest forums today.
In 2001, I organized the first overland Nissan run and dubbed it “The AZ Run”. It consisted of 4 days of wheeling Arizona trails and camping along the way, with a minimum of pavement miles covered. I had participants from California, Colorado, Alabama, and of course, Arizona. It was a great success and we did an extensive writeup on it and submitted it to the 4×4 sites on the net. The only other organized run at the time was the rival event, Gathering of Xterras (GOX) in Colorado, that started right around that same time. Since then, I’ve come to know the previous and current owners of Xterraownersclub.com and have contributed heavily to that site as a participant and as a moderator.
AZ Run II expanded to a full week in March, 2002 and expanded to a larger group, as well as tougher trails. A highlight of that run was a dead alternator in a ’88 Pathfinder miles from nowhere. Solution? A 2-cycle Coleman generator bungeed to the hood of the truck keeping the battery charged. Boy, did that get some looks going down Interstate 17 into North Phoenix to the parts house!
My wife moved down to Phoenix in early 2002 and brought her 1994 Sentra in need of tinkering. Struts and a full tuneup to include all maintenance items (belts, hoses, plugs, wires, cap, rotor), as well as a fan motor resistor and a new clutch were all in order on that car. I daily drove it for a couple years before trading it in back in 2005. It was a solid little car, but not good for a big guy like me.
This newfound Nissan obsession led to the purchase of a 2002 Xterra 4×4 to add to the stable that was supposed to stay stock so my Frontier could get more modded for the AZ rockcrawling it was doing on the weekends. It was that year we started our Nissan truck site, http://www.nissan4wheelers.com and began to build the most knowledgable group of extreme Nissan wheelers in existence. To help promote our fledgeling site, I trekked to California when the first generation of Nissan_Shift commercials were being filmed, and got my truck in the commercial. In the process, I got to meet a good chunk of the SCCX crew. I already knew and wheeled with the AZXC crew, as well as another group of non-Xterra owners that became known collectively as SWANKy (Southwest Area Nissan Klub – with the y representing the few Yotas in the group)
With N4W off to a good start, we kept on finding new mods to do to the trucks in the SWANKy crew. Crawler gears became available and I was among the first with those – just in time for GONEMoab, 2003, right after another successful AZ Run III a month earlier. A bunch of IFS Nissans out there with the big dogs on Hells Revenge and Golden Spike was quite the spectacle.
2004 saw the gnarliest AZ Run yet – AZ Run IV. This had a handful of trails rated as high as 4 on a 1-5 scale. Lockers and gears were getting more and more common on the rigs coming into the event. Like the previous two, this was a 6 day run, but it was the first with no breaks in town. You bring what you need to survive 6 days of hardcore wheeling and camping with you!
Shortly after that run, the Frontier went under the knife, getting a Dana 44 solid front axle located with leaf springs to replace the ailing IFS. I also nabbed a newer engine that year since dust had reduced the first KA24DE to an oil burner at 70k miles. The Xterra started getting a lot of hand me down IFS lift parts, some body armor, and was starting to see trails as well with the wife at the wheel. A locker, full belly skids, a Shrock front bumper, Calmini Tcase gears, and a Calmini rear tire carrier soon followed to make it nearly as capable as the solid axle Frontier. Later, in 2008 the Frontier received a full exocage to add a little driver safety to the mix.
AZ Runs V, VI, and VII have occurred since. AZ Run VI and VII were covered in 4 page spreads in Four Wheeler Magazine and Off Road Magazines, respecitvely. AZ runs VIII and IX proved even bigger yet, and AZ Run X, our decade anniversary is sure to be a success in 2010.
Somewhere before AZ Run IX in 2009, the Xterra also went under the knife. It now also sports a leaf sprung Dana 44 front axle, dual lockers, Calmini crawler gears and looks pretty good next to the Frontier.
I’ve also had a couple ’83 280ZXT’s over the years to satisfy that go quick need. Well, they weren’t quick enough, and the current DD is a 1970 Chevy CST pickup, lowered, and with a blueprinted 400, but the two Nissan trucks still sit in the garage as the weekend warriors. I also have 2 wheeled interests and have put a lot of miles on my 2004 Suzuki VS800 Intruder.
Recently we rounded out the collection with a 2007 AWD S Murano for the wife. It remains (and will remain) box stock, as it is a comfortable daily driver.
As Trucks and Murano Forum moderator, I’m bringing a lot of Nissan knowledge and experience, as well as a huge resource in N4W to draw upon.