Fuel up your dirt bikes, load up the camping gear, schedule a house move and book a trip to the dump – it’s time to get physical with Pandem and their new range of pickup (AKA ute) kits.

I love a good ute, and who doesn’t? But what is better than one ute? Three utes, of course. A little while back, I featured J.Beat Custom’s Datsun Sunny pickup. But it’s not the only utility vehicle to get the Pandem treatment. Today, we’ll take a spin in the Hardcore Tokyo Nissan Frontier, and next time I’ll show you the TRA Kyoto Hilux. A terrific trio of mini trucks, if you will.


You might be wondering about my enthusiasm for the humble ute, and a little back story should explain it. While studying at university in Australia, my dad gifted me a grandma-spec Nissan Pulsar when he moved back to the UK. In retrospect, it was probably a very sensible and perfectly adequate daily driver for a poor student. But my housemate owned a Holden Torana and I longed for something equally cool.


I sold the little white hatchback and bought a 1970s GM Holden HQ ute with a straight-six up front, three on the tree, a bench front seat and plenty of space in the back for my husky child, Kazu. The HQ was a proper classic hunk of Aussie iron and set the ball rolling for my love of oddball cars.


But huskies aren’t the only things you can haul in a ute. Fridges, camping gear, and more is all easy work for a light truck. The Aussies have had some beauties, the king being the Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) Maloo. What my mates and I wouldn’t have done to get behind the wheel of one of those…

Need to move house? Need to rip an almighty burnout while leaving the motocross circuit? The Maloo could do both with ease.


Less performance-orientated and more likely to be found at a building site was the Nissan D22 Navara. Known as the Nissan Frontier in other markets, this ute was the hammer to the HSV’s laser level.


Fast forward 20 years, and Jun Takahashi of Hardcore Tokyo decided to import this Frontier from Thailand and transform it. The brief for the D22 build was simple: how Americans would customise the truck in JDM style.

Jun told me they kept things simple, sticking to a home garage-built ethos rather than going down the route of a fully-blown hot rod.


The body kit is unique to Pandem, and the livery takes cues from the Hardcore Tokyo line of merchandise.


Bar the bucket seats, steering wheel and shifter, the interior is building-site-spec. You can almost smell the corn beef sandwiches and chocolate milk in here.

Slamming the Frontier required a bit of fabrication work. Custom front upper arms, a custom rear 4-link, and an Airmext air suspension system featuring DJM shocks get the job done.


It would have been easy to swap in an SR20DET but, keeping with the build theme, Jun has retained the ute’s original KA24DE. With a custom exhaust system – and a little witchcraft – it somehow sounds like a rumbling V8.


Ok, so Jun’s Frontier may have lost its load capacity of a smidge over a tonne, but I think you could still enjoy the lifestyle that fast estate car owners and fast ute owners alike are known for with this build.

However, Jun-san might have to fabricate an extra floor panel to cover the Level 7 fuel tank on display in the middle of the ute bed if he wants to transport any dirt bikes…

But if things go a bit sideways doing the dump run, he’ll be safe in knowing that the 15×10-inch Centerline wheels fitted with 235/50R15 Toyo Proxes R888R semi-slicks will provide plenty of grip.


When you make a certain type of vehicle do something it was never intended to do, it’s instantly cool in my book. And that’s exactly what the Pandem x Hardcore Tokyo Nissan Frontier is.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_

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