A Tale of an OG Survivor Mini-Truck
BEFORE YOU THINK TO YOURSELF, “MAN, THIS TRUCK LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE RAD MINIS FROM THE GOOD OLD DAYS,” WAIT UNTIL YOU READ THE WHOLE STORY (OR THIS FIRST PARAGRAPH AT LEAST). This ’85 Nissan 720 is the real deal, born and built in the heyday of the big mini-truck boom in Southern California. Yep, that’s right, it hasn’t been designed and painted to mimic the classic style—it IS one of the original examples of the loud and proud mini movement in the 90s. The 720 has been carefully preserved all these years by some of the very hands that had a part in creating it decades ago. When the time had finally come for the truck to change hands, however, but there was a guy who was familiar with the history of the Nissan and personally knew the artists who built it way back when during his time on the West Coast.
Josh Ellis, 40, currently hangs his hat in Charlotte, North Carolina, but he grew up in Bakersfield, California—a short two-hour cruise north from the Los Angeles area.
“I was just a teen back in those days”, Josh says. “Locally, we had Kal Koncepts, the Kolor Shoppe and several other local builders putting out the baddest rides in the country. It was kind of cool to think that a lot of these vehicles in national magazines were being built by guys in my area.”
The love of all things custom started early for Josh, and his environment proved to play a big part in what he still holds sacred.
“I grew up around mini -trucks and lowriders, but couldn’t a_ ord them back then,” Josh says. “Luckily, I had a lot of older homies who had nice rides, so I would just tag along and hang around the shows with them.”
Money wasn’t the only factor that has stood as a hurdle in the way of keeping a guy like Josh away from his dream vehicle. Family and responsibilities come first, but things have a way of happening when just the right moment appears.
“Finishing school, getting married, raising two daughters and moving all over the country for work didn’t leave me much time or opportunity to build or buy a vehicle that wasn’t absolutely necessary,” Josh admits.
All of these things are legitimate reasons that can bog down any real effort to go out hunting for a truck to enjoy. Owning a custom cruiser seemed like an unattainable pipedream, but one day Josh saw a sign that slapped him in the face—his time had finally come.
“When I saw that this 720 was up for sale, I knew the universe was trying to tell me something,” he says. “There was no longer a need for me to be relocated for work, my kids are now teenagers, and I knew that there is no second chance for an opportunity like this. I jumped on it quick and started making calls to lock down the mini-truck that I’ve wanted since I was a kid.”
Josh had kept in touch with all the guys he grew up with back in California and connected with Dion Giuliano of Kal Koncepts to let him know that he needed that Nissan in a real way.
“I asked Dion to hold the truck for me and to not sell it to anybody else,” Josh says. “The very next day, I arranged for payment to be made as well as a hauler to pick it up and deliver it to my place across the country.
I just couldn’t imagine anyone else putting their hands on this truck but me. I had secured an iconic machine built in the early 90s when I was a teen dreaming of the day when I would have one of my very own. Some things just don’t get sweeter than that.”
This particular Nissan 720 was completed back in ’97 and was once owned by Kyle “K-Daddy” Gann. It had been stored, shu_ ed around and then stored some more throughout the years, but it was never neglected—it has always been handled with care. While the truck hasn’t really gone “out” of style, there was some updating that was going to have to be made in order for it to be a reliable, modern cruiser once again.
“As soon as it arrived from California, I couldn’t wait to start with the restoration process,” Josh says. “I’ve always loved this particular truck, mostly because it never really got the credit it deserved back when it was completed. It was always in the shadow of the “Last Look” ’86 Toyota that was also built by Kal Koncepts, but I always had an eye for it. All I really wanted to do was to take this piece of automotive history from my hometown and make it my very own with current products to make it relevant again.”
After a healthy dose of mechanical updates in the way of new air ride components, fresh leather seats, audio gear, new wheels and tires, and lots of attention to detail and various repairs, Josh’s “The Look That Kills” Nissan is now back in the competitive show scene on the East Coast, picking right up where it left o_ on the opposite side of the country 22 years ago.
“I wanted to relive my 90s mini-truckin’ experience in my adult years and bring back a masterpiece that has meant so much to me for nearly half of my life,” Josh says.
Not surprisingly, this truck holds its own in the current truck scene. It has taken a best of award at every show it has been to in 2018 for its paint and graphics work. That says it all about the iconic, OG mini-truck builders who had their hand in creating and preserving this truck all this time. Dion Giuliano, Kyle “K-Daddy” Gann, Craig Fraser, Brian Jendro ‘Lil Newt Eyeball Fabrication, Ron Beam, Ryan Kirkland—some of the best painters and fabricators in the 90s and still to this day.
With the truck out for fresh eyes to see how trucks were built back when their dads were young, maybe a newfound appreciation for the old school can grow and evolve into something better for all of us in the future. The fact that this truck hasn’t missed a beat during the years it has been sidelined solidifies a positive outlook for that to happen.
“I like to categorize this truck as being ‘old school new,’” Josh adds. “It’ll take another 20-plus years at least for it to need anything else to bring it up to snu_ with whatever is on the market then. One thing is for sure though: It will be just as cool then as it was back in the 1990s.”
1985 Nissan 720
- ’85 Nissan Z24 2.4L 4-banger
- Pace Setter headers
- 2-inch stainless exhaust system
- SuperTrapp chrome muffler
- Painted front cover, water pump, alternator, engine pulleys and valve covers
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
- Shop: The Mob Shop (Nino Brown), Bakersfield, CA
- Boxed in rear sub-frame back half with monster notch
- Four-link rear suspension setup
- ’74 Datsun 620 Bullet Door rearend
- Custom ‘bag mounts at front and rear
- Front suspension components finished by Anaheim Chrome Plating
- Various components painted with House of Kolor Passion Purple Pearl
- Frame painted matte black
- Accuair Endo CVT
- Slam Specialties S5 ‘bags
- 3/8-inch airlines and stainless PTC fittings
WHEELS & TIRES
- 18×7 and 18×8 Hot Rods by Boyd Retro Series Gotcha 2’s polished with Cerakote clear
- 215/35ZR18 Neo-Gen Nitto tires at all corners
BODY & PAINT
- Shop: The Chop Shop (Brian Jendro), K-Daddyz Kustomz (Kyle Gann), Kal Koncepts (Dion Guiliano)
- House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl single stage paint
- Painted by Kal Koncepts and K-Daddyz
- Airbrushing by Craig Fraser of Air Syndicate
- Pinstriping by Ron Beam of Beam Bros., Bakersfield, CA
- Trenz billet grille
- Custom smoothed and molded front bumper and valence
- Roll pan features integrated lights
- Shaved door handles, gas filler location, front marker lights, taillights, antenna, mirrors
- LED headlights
- Chop top
- Bed molded into a walkthrough
INTERIOR & STEREO
- Dion Guiliano, Mike and Eric @ Mr. Scrape Customs, Sumter, SC
- Dodge Neon seats reshaped, headrests smoothed, wrapped in autumn leather with purple stitching
- Custom fiberglass dash built from the same mold of the “Bad to the Bone” truck
- One-off center console
- Custom Auto Meter gauges
- Custom shifter with brass polished brass knuckles and Crown Royal bag
- Steering wheel by Hot Rods by Boyd, leather split grip by Mr. Scrape
- Pioneer AVH-3400 NEX head unit
- JL Audio tweeters, speakers, two 10-inch W3 subwoofers and amps
SPECIAL THANKS FROM THE OWNER: “Thank you to my wife, Nicole Ellis, my two daughters, Madisyn and Emma, and to my family and the folks who have helped me along the way. I couldn’t have done this without my sponsors, Josh Hood at KillerWaxx Memphis, Drew Nunez at Mini Truckin’ Takeover, Jon McBride at 200 Octane, Mike Lee and Eric Shadoan at Mr. Scrape Customs, Josh Welch at Welch’s Chop Shop, Chris Coddington at Hot Rods by Boyd, also for the support of ODB and The Mayor over at the Our Lifestyle podcast.”