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1986 Nissan Sunny Truck - The Perfect Pickup

Nissan Sunny from Japanese Classics is a breath of fresh air

Austin Lott
Aug 13, 2018
Photographer: Faiz Rahman

Japanese Classics is far from your average vehicle importer. Founded in '11, the company has 13 employees—11 based in its headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, while two dedicated employees live abroad in Japan searching for the perfect vehicles to import. One thing that sets Japanese Classics apart from other importers is that it also sources and installs OEM replacement or aftermarket parts for any car it imports. "If a customer wants a specific exhaust or aero kit, we'll find it," explained owner Chris Bishop. This is definitely a plus, but the way we discovered the company is through its passion for building cars itself. Every year, Chris and his team take a vehicle they've shipped over and turn it into something for the show circuit. "To me, it's more than just selling cars as a dealership," Chris told us. "It's more like a family here, working on projects late at night. We're all passionate about building cool stuff that hasn't really been seen in the U.S."

1986 nissan sunny truck tailgate Photo 2/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck Tailgate

This '86 Nissan Sunny Truck wasn't just an unlikely choice, it's one they never planned on building. One bad check and a flaky customer later, Chris had come to the conclusion that they weren't supposed to sell it just yet. With only 39,000 miles and some light modifications made, it was an ideal project car.

The original plan was to adopt 09racing's popular "Hako" front-end conversion, but after much deep thought and seeing Dominic Le's "Hakotora" make waves at SEMA a few years ago (and also being featured in our February '16 issue), Chris opted for a look truer to its classic and original design. A simple Hakosuka-style front lip was added along with 09racing's Sanitora flares. A custom gray paint finished off the exterior.

1986 nissan sunny truck A12 engine Photo 6/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck A12 Engine

The Sunny needed to sit low, so Fortune Auto built a set of one-off coilovers for the front, paired with 09racing camber adjustable top hats. The truck came to them with modified leaf springs, which were too soft—it bottomed out over bumps, especially after they dropped it 3 inches. The fix for the rear was a pair of coils from a motorcycle, which let them firm up the ride and adjust rebound as needed. "Now, it's almost too low," Chris says. Almost. "Normally, I like to have at least 1.5 inches of clearance on a static car like this." He then pointed out that the Sunny is at most 1.25 inches off the ground. In this case, it wasn't a problem because the front end of the pickup is so short. "I daily drove it for a week and never scraped once."

Wheel choice had to be period correct, so Chris chose 14-inch Hayashi Racing Command wheels that were refinished by Pine Engineering in New Zealand before landing in Virginia. "Wheel size was a key part of the build. In Japan, these [trucks] are usually built with 12-, 13-, or 14-inch wheels," he continued.

1986 nissan sunny truck front seats Photo 10/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck Front Seats

Fourteen-inch wheels are about the biggest that should be run on a truck like this, but the tires are harder to find according to Chris. He wanted the truck to look like it was built in Japan rather than in America; with options for wide 14-inch tires nearly nonexistent in the U.S, a set of uniquely sized Toyo Proxes T1Rs had to be imported as well.

Japanese Classics parted ways with the Sunny pickup last December, shipping it to its new owner on the West Coast. But being the true enthusiasts they are, they're already working on two new projects for the coming show season: a four-door R32 Skyline and another Sunny truck with an SR20 swap and 510 front-end. If this Sunny is any indication of their good taste, attention to detail, and use of authentic JDM parts, then there's no doubt you'll be seeing more of Japanese Classics in a future issue Super Street.

1986 nissan sunny truck hayashi racing command wheels Photo 14/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck Hayashi Racing Command Wheels
1986 nissan sunny truck tailgate Photo 18/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck Tailgate
1986 nissan sunny truck hakosuka style front lip Photo 25/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck Hakosuka Style Front Lip
1986 nissan sunny truck passenger seat Photo 29/29   |   1986 Nissan Sunny Truck Passenger Seat
By Austin Lott
15 Articles
1986 Nissan Sunny Truck - The Perfect Pickup
Tuning Menu
Owner: Chris Bishop
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Occupation: Owner of Japanese Classics
Engine: 1.2-liter A12 inline-four with Yoshimura exhaust muffler
Drivetrain: four-speed manual transmission
Footwork & Chassis: custom Fortune Auto front coilovers with 09Racing top hats and modified leaf springs; motorcycle adjustable coilovers in rear; 3" lowering blocks
Wheels & Tires: 14x8.5" front, 14x9" rear Hayashi Racing Command wheels; 195/45R14 front, 225/40R14 rear Toyo Proxes T1R tires
Exterior: 09Racing fender flares, Hakosuka-style front lip; custom paint
Interior: Seats upholstered in Recaro fabric; interior changed to black; carpet added; Momo Race steering wheel
Thanks: "All of the employees at Japanese Classics for their passion, hard work, and dedication; Terry at Fortune Auto; Michi at 09 Racing; Aidan at Pine Engineering."

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