Beyond the polished concept cars and design studies, automakers sometimes build unique vehicles simply because they have all the parts and tools lying around and, as Nissan says, "why not?" That type of open-minded thinking recently gave way to a one-of-a-kind vehicle that blurs the lines between the Frontier pickup truck and the Leaf EV.
Joining the ranks of unlikely tiny pickup truck concepts from the likes of Mini and Smart, the Leaf pickup was brought to life at Nissan's Technical Center in Stanfield, Arizona. The team there identified the need for a small pickup truck to haul tools and equipment around the grounds.
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Rather than using an existing Nissan model – say, a Frontier – Nissan's Roland Schellenberg elected to turn the job of solving the problem into a team-building project and decided that project would be building the pickup truck out of a Leaf. He didn't find it too difficult to inspire some enthusiasm when he pitched the idea.
"After he told us it was going to be the Leaf that we would redo, I went home and stayed up till like four in the morning making all kinds of designs for what would work," recalls Arnold Mouline. "We basically got the stock Leaf, and after reviewing a bunch of designs of pickup trucks that we have here at Nissan, we decided to go with a Frontier bed."
From that vision, they secured together the Frontier cargo bed and the Leaf front-end. Of course, it was not quite as easy as saw, saw, glue. They ripped out the Leaf's rear seats and chopped off the rear cabin at the B pillars. The Frontier bed fit lengthwise, but they did have to trim some of the width and height off when fitting it to the Leaf chassis. To smooth out the mangled cab, they added a Titan rear wall, complete with working power window, at the B pillars. The tailgate appears to be built from the Leaf's original hatchback door, with a rounded spoiler to finish it off.
After completing all the structural elements, they moved on to the fun part: making the one-of-a-kind truck even more unique. They outfitted it with a bespoke rear light treatment with ground lights, wood bed trim, a set of rails and a glossy red paint job.
Nicknamed "Sparky," the Leaf pickup is now doing duty hauling people and cargo around the 3,000-acre (1,214-hectare) proving grounds, supporting operations in testing vehicle durability and comfort in the hot Arizona weather. There's no word on how the pickup makeover has affected the Leaf's 84-mile (135-km) range, but it sounds like the car has enough juice to handle its daily duties around the center.
You can take a closer look at the build in the video below.