Desert Runner: 1988 Nissan D21 4×4

More than just a graphics package and some bolt-on accessories, this 1988 Nissan Desert Runner – based on the D21 Hardbody pickup – was the real deal, at least by 1988 standards. The seller has this rare 4×4 pickup listed here on eBay in Bountiful, Utah which is really as beautiful as it looks in these photos. The current bid price is $6,100 but the reserve isn’t met yet. Thanks to John B. for sending in this tip!

The Nissan D21 pickup succeeded the 720 which was a no-nonsense but also no-frills pickup, in comparison. That isn’t to say that the 720 was void of options or features, but as a friend who was a designer at Nissan for a decade told me, the 720 was basically a pragmatic truck for farmers and other hard-working customers and the D21 Hardbody was really the first Nissan pickup that was designed to be comfortable as well as tough. The original accessory front tube bumper is no longer with the truck which is unfortunate, it would have looked like this.

I’m a sucker for big fat graphics, subtle or loud it doesn’t matter, just so it pins a vehicle to a certain decade. I don’t know why that is, I don’t wear retro clothes like acid wash jeans or brown bomber jackets, I don’t plan on bringing back the mullet or the Tom Selleck mustache, but there’s something about a 1980s vehicle with graphics that gets to me. The original four-light halogen lightbar has been changed out for an LED one and I’m sure it’s much brighter, but for such a rare vehicle – 1 of 1000 – I’d want it bone-stock original. Thankfully, the original lights are included. You can see some damage to the lower part of the box right behind the left rear wheel but I don’t see any rust.

This truck is more than just stickers on a regular D21 Hardbody 4×4 pickup, Nissan beefed up the frame and added other heavy-duty components and it was a one-year-only limited-edition model meant to commemorate Nissan’s off-road racing efforts. The interior looks almost perfect and other than a couple of dings and some portions of the graphics being chipped or otherwise worn off on the exterior, this truck looks great to me. The bed is loaded with a roll bar, spare tire, gas cans, and other off-road necessities.

The engine looks too clean for an off-road truck, nice. It’s a Nissan 3.0L V6 and this one runs great. The seller mentions that this truck has had a new clutch, brakes, a timing belt service, oil changes, etc. I have to believe that the seller’s reserve is $10,000-$12,000 if not more. Have any of you seen this model?


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  1. Howard Kerr

    I have seen 1 or 2 examples of this version of the Desert Runner (Nissan brought the Desert Runner back about 20 years ago) over the years, and I was never completely sold on the paint and graphics. But hey, if you wanted the hardware that was part of this package you either built it yourself or lived with the red, white, and blue paint.
    My guess is that the reserve is $12K to $15K.

    Like 4
  2. JCA

    Cool and collectable truck. Love the D21. The few that i’ve looked at in my area all had rust holes in the frames. I wonder if the frame improvements on this model helped. The only other issue is lack of A/C. I think i’d want that in my desert running

    Like 3
  3. Maurice O'Connor

    I owned an automatic version for twenty years! Great truck! Had to replace the trans and computer, but would love to own another! Had the 3.0 engine with a power shift on the shifter! Bought in Gulfport Ms in 1989!

    Like 1
  4. chrlsful

    what’s that 3 sticks, split the frnt chunk from the rear? AND if so the transmis seems like it would B almost behind me in the driver’s seat?
    No, I guess it’s just the weird ‘split up’ pic…

    Seems like a good un to me. May B ‘the reserve’ is even higher. Its on an auction (hi), spec addition (up), the auction is on the net (even higher) and its a mini-p/u…keep goin…Not that I agree w/ANY of that as a price gouger~

    • Don Eladio


      Like 1
      • RacinRob4

        Was gonna ask the same , u beat me to it!!!

  5. Lothar... of the Hill People

    Isn’t it strange to have the regular manual shifter to the right of the 2WD / 4WD transfer case shift lever? Is that so the passenger can shift and the guy on the left can just steer and work the pedals?

    • Howard Kerr

      Look at a lot of vehicles built in Japan: the handbrake is often on the RIGHT side of the console, where it is more accessible to the driver. It’s the same idea here: the more frequently used transmission shifter is closer to the driver (of what was engineered as a Right Hand Drive vehicle.

      Like 1
      • Pistol Pete

        Howard I didn’t realilze this was originally designed as a right-hand-drive truck. Thanks.

  6. Robert Eddins

    No ac= lower price pretty much everywhere.

  7. Timothy Phaff Member

    Desert Runner and no AC, that alone blows the deal out the door but it is a very nice 901 out of 1000. Someone will have tons of fun with this. Possibly, even put AC in it.

  8. Nick

    This truck is a sweetie, quite rare and in great shape. I believe these were built in Smyrna, Tennessee and they were designed in at Nissan’s styling studios in San Diego. North America was their largest LHD market, the Middle East (also LHD) saw a lot of them. They did build them in and for RHD markets which had different styling though in Australia (also big on small trucks) both versions were sold.
    It’s not like the TC lever really in the way so it may be seen as a relic of the Japanese underpinnings which were mostly shared world-wide. Why add $$$ for a new linkage when it’s not a must have?
    This has a pull/push hand brake lever under the dash to the right of the steering wheel, also seen on some 4X4 Tacoma’s until quite recently.

  9. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this Nissan sold for $12,300.

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