This 1990 Nissan Hardbody named California Love, Paradise Rediscovered.

Ever since he can remember, Jeff Popiolek has been California dreaming. Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up fantasizing about the West Coast lifestyle. Little did he know purchasing a 1990 Nissan Hardbody would complete his dream.

“I really don’t know what it was exactly that I was so attracted to about life in SoCal,” Jeff admits. “It really wasn’t one particular thing that drew me in, but a fascination with the surf and skateboarding cultures, along with the year-round sunshine, palm trees and cool cars everywhere.”

A first Jeff’s parents figured his dreams of someday escaping the Midwest would fizzle out, but as soon as he was old enough and able to go, Jeff packed up and hit the road.

1990s lowered Nissan hardbody truck painted turquoise blue with a Chevy motor against a turquoise blue background

Ididit steering column on a 1990 Nissan hardbodyIn 2013 Jeff left the freezing winters behind but brought his love of custom vehicles along with him. Customized import tuners used to be his thing. After arriving in California, he took an instant liking to the sport truck scene. Jeff is an avid car show attendee and photographer, so he makes his rounds when he’s out and about. Before he knew it, Jeff was a Severed Ties petitioner and was presented with an opportunity to purchase a 1990 Nissan hardbody a previous Mini Truckin’ cover truck (Aug. 2013) from a fellow member.

“There’s so much to say when it comes to owning a previously featured truck of this caliber,” Jeff says.

“I was hearing that I should do something to change up the truck before showing it on a regular basis, while at the same time I had folks comment that it would be sacrilege to make major alterations to a cover truck.”

In the end, Jeff acted on the initial instinct he felt before he even officially took ownership on this 1990 Nissan Hardbody. Ultimately, he planned to make the truck his own by seeing through with his own changes that better represented his personal vision while still respecting the level of craftsmanship its previous owner invested in it.

“I had so much appreciation for the 1990 Nissan hardbody as it sat before, but I knew I could take it in a new direction while still keeping up with its existing level of quality.”

Being a seasoned painter, Jeff first considered all the color scheme options that could freshen up his Nissan. He even had a manageable deadline (2019 Forbidden Fantasy show) to make all the changes necessary to call this truck his own.

“I must’ve had a dozen ideas for my 1990 Nissan hardbody that I got excited about and lost sleep over that didn’t end up panning out,” he remembers. “Since I was spending a lot more time at the beach, I was trying to see how some sort of coastal theme might look like in real life without turning the truck into an obvious beach ball.”

The color palette Jeff seemed to be coming back to was the perfect shade of blue to represent water, tan for sand, and a bronze to make up the look of other seaweed and rocks that are also found along the coast. Many colors were sampled and tested before finally landing on the perfect combination.

With a loose theme going, Jeff wanted to push the paintwork further by reaching out to an established SoCal airbrush artist to take the Nissan to the next level. Alan Farias of AK Airbrushing and Auto Body worked overtime to give the entire chassis the look of weathered driftwood to add more texture to the truck’s new beachy vibe. The well-executed airbrush work also gave the truck some very realistic water graphics as well to solidify the cohesiveness of the truck’s creative overhaul.

1990s turquoise Nissan hardbody truck bed with suspension


With much more work to do, Jeff pressed on and moved inside the cab. Where more subtle touches were added to tie in with the Hardbody’s exterior look. Since the truck was scheduled to sit while the interior was being redone. Jeff figured it would be a great time to have the existing 327ci engine yanked out of the 1990 Nissan Hardbody and rebuilt. Even though he was doing his best to be thorough and proactive, this is the point when the entire renovation fell off the tracks.

“The guy working on my engine broke the news to me that it was ready to blow out in another 100 miles or so,” Jeff says. “It was nobody’s fault really, as these engines tend to take a downward spiral if not driven often.”

Shaved tailgate on a 1990 Nissan HardbodyBummed due to untimely expense and extra work involved, Jeff was still fortunate enough to be able to locate a 350ci Chevy small-block at a friend’s place that came through big time in the eleventh hour. While all this was happening, not much was going on in the interior while the truck was at the upholstery shop.

“I was given a set deadline for the work to be completed, but nothing was started inside the cab until the last five days leading up to the show,” Jeff says.

With an entire whirlwind of parts and pieces being torn off the truck. The that last week leading into what would be the truck’s big debut event, Jeff was coming to the realization that it wouldn’t happen. The feeling of disappointment was all too real, but luckily, he underestimated the crew. As a result pulling all-nighters in a last-ditch effort to get the 1990 Nissan hardbody ready for the spotlight.

Parchment colored leather and vinyl upholstery


“Seeing the truck completely torn apart during that last week was a little bit traumatic. I won’t lie,” Jeff says. “I don’t think anyone who saw it that way would believe the truck would be completely buttoned back up and running in only a few days’ time.”

There are somethings that have a weird way of working out if they’re meant to be. The response to Jeff’s restyled ride has been mostly amazing except for the comments about “ruining” a past cover truck, but he isn’t at all bothered by them. The way he sees it, while the truck was already in perfect condition when he started with it the decision to put his own spin on. He kept the chassis and suspension work in place. While drastically altering everything around it, while still finding a way to incorporate the actual tube frame and components into a very vital portion of the truck’s reimagining.

350ci Chevy small-block

The 350 Chevy Small Block was a necessary last minute addition to the build that will better suit the truck for the long haul—even in times of extended storage.

“I’ve always loved the 1990 Nissan Hardbody” Jeff says. “Being able to work with one in the condition mine was in was amazing. A quality foundation allowed me to put my creativity into turning the truck into something that represents me and what I love.”

With a fresh perspective on the California lifestyle, Jeff can kick back and drive his beach-themed  to the actual beach. The place that inspired not only the type of custom he recreated for himself. Although more importantly, a new way of life he has adopted and thrived in.

“Everything has been amazing since I’ve moved to the West, and I’d like to thank everybody who has played such an important role in building a truck that has become extremely meaningful to me.”

The existing chassis and suspension work by Chapy Andrews of Sinister FAB Werks still stands strong and will ride out the next wave.

Truck specs


Jeff Popiolek
1990 Nissan Hardbody
Orange, California
Club: Severed Ties 


Shop: Robbie Robbins
Chevy small-block 350ci
Edelbrock 1406 carb
Ceramic-coated headers
Straight pipe exhaust
MSD ignition
Painted engine block
Apex 240-amp alt
Billet pulleys
Aluminum Mishimoto radiator
Braided fuel lines
Chrome driveline and coolant reservoir
700R4 transmission mounted to tube chassis
B&M shifter


Chapy Andrews at Sinister FAB Werks, SLC, Utah
1 ¾-inch tube chassis
Mustang II IFS
Slam Specialties RE-6 (front)/RE-7 (rear) ‘bags
Painted upper and lower arms
QA1 chrome shocks
Custom rear four-link
Custom fuel cell
Painted suspension components

Wheels & Tires

22×9 Hot Rods By Boyd H.O.F wheels polished w/ brushed faces
245/30/22 Lexani tires


Little Shop S-10 disc brake conversion w/ drilled and slotted rotors
Painted calipers
Wilwood master cylinder


Shop: Alan Farias AK Airbrushing & Auto Body, Riverside, CA

Teal Pearl paint with pulverized diamonds
Shaved firewall, handles, gas door, side mirrors, tailgate, taillights
Custom fuel cell cover
Custom cut billet grille


Honda Civic seats cut and reshaped
Parchment colored leather and vinyl upholstery
Auto Meter gauges
Hot Rods By Boyd H.O.F. steering wheel
Custom door panels, console, speaker box, headliner, panels
Billet Specialties pedals, door pulls, window cranks
Ididit steering column
Lokar handles
Painted dash from a ’64 Cadillac trunk lid
Powerbass head unit
JL Audio signal processor