Nissan Hardbody Truck  (D21) Solid Axle Swap (SAS) with a Dana 44 (started 4/2005-4wd working 8/2005)

Warning 175+ small pictures and 175+ large just click on a picture for the bigger one. (updated 3/2009)

I wanted the best suspension for trail riding the Nissan King Cab D21.  I have tried Body lift & UCA lifts on My other Nissan trucks. So I decided to do a SAS swap instead of doing any other type lifts. I built the truck around 35" tires.

My Goal is too build this Truck into the best off road vehicle while still keeping it road worthy and street legal. I have owned 3 other Off highway vehicles. Did not want another vehicle just sitting around. I listed all the parts used and where I got them to help others. Material list is at the bottom of this page. Email Me if you have any questions.

stock 2wd test drive 4wd test drive  After fine tuning

Update 11/2008: I converted to Coils with a 3 link for a better ride and lower ride height. I could ahve reworked the front hanger and decreased approach angle. But I like 3 link much better.

Plan 35" tires, 4.88 gears, spring over axle, high steer crossover, U bolt flips with a shackle reversal. 

This page is broken into sections:
  • Axle Prep
  • Deconstruction
  • Front spring hangers/shackles
  • Leaf Springs
  • Shock towers
  • Steering and steering stabilizer
  • Front locker and gears
  • Front brakes
  • Front Driveshaft
  • Sway bar
  • Rocker mod
  • Transmission cross member mod
  • Y pipe mod
  • Rear shackles
  • Rear suspension
  • Rear shock mounts
  • Rear Drive shaft - one piece.
  • Material list

Axle prep

 1. This is the donor axle vehicle stock. I am going to relocate steering, shackles and U bolts. Make sure not to buy a vacumn disconnect axle. They have a hole in diff cover. These have a goofy dif cover.

2. Made a list of all parts needed, including price, brand and where to buy, when ordered and when received . This took along time to locate and research. This list changed during the process but I always had a list of stuff to try. See material list below for more details.

3. Buy front axle. I Used to locate a used one close by. These things are heavy. May be 300lbs. Dana 44 from a 86 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. 60.5 WMS. 80-91 is a 6 lug Dana 44 from a Grand Wagoneer.

4. Cleaned exterior housing with pressure washer. Lots of engine leaks all over it. Looks like its in really good shape except dust shields are damaged. Those will be discarded anyway.

5. Strip axle of all parts. Hubs, rotors, spindles, knuckles, ball joints, inspection cover. I Removed the carrier, pinion gear, all bearings and races. This was My first R&P install. This will make axle must easier to position and locate correctly under frame.


6. Stock springs and U bolts. These are the heavy duty 7 leaf. I replaced some stock springs with thicker 2 Nissan rear springs. Note one U bolt is larger than the rest. This one goes next to the housing. This springs are too soft for street use IMO. Lots of body roll. I am using Rancho 5k shocks. I later put the sway bar back on. 

7. Prepare axle for spring over. I had to grind down the cast diff housing. Cut off track bar bracket. Shock brackets have to go also. I relocated the shock mounts to rear axle since I did a U bolt flip on all corners. Do not weld on yet!

8. Grind down BOTTOM of axle for the U bolt flip and spring over axle. Just a little grinding here so U bolt have a nice contact patch. 

9. Did a mock up with 1 leaf to make sure U bolts, leaf etc all fit together. Noticed the shocks mounts will later be moved to the top of axle tube. This picture also shows the U bolt flip. Now its time to tear apart the truck.

Breather fell off. I tapped it for 1/8 NPT and Autozone sells a fitting that fits perfectly. The OEM nipple is not threaded. AutoZone part number: #896084 323310 Brass Fuel $1.99


1.  I started stripping the truck down. Removed tires, calipers, sway bar, steering (all but steering box) hubs, rotors, UCAs, tbars, shocks, cv axles, 3rd member, front tow hook, LCAs, cross member and rubber brake lines. Sold most of the stuff on ebay. Reused the sway bar and shock mount only.

Do not cut off the tie down like I did pictured. I could have used this for support for new hanger cross member.

2. Cut off all IFS brackets. Sawzall worked best. But also used cut off wheel in a grinder. Very hard to work upside down.


Start building a front cross member for the new spring hangers. Bought new front spring hangers and  through frame sleeves. Frame was lengthened, lowered and widened using a 1/4" 2" ID tube for main cross member.


Mock up leaf springs for hanger locations. I have spent allot of time here. 3 days trying different places. Trying to get the spring Horizontal AND spring pin in center of fender. The center of the opening appears to be  exactly the center of the motor mount. I used a laser level to create a Vertical line from fender down to concrete. This laser line also hit frame and leaf. Problem here is this should have been done with spring FLAT. 

 I decided against through frame due to the frame is so thick at this corner. I wanted to run standard simple shackles really close to frame. So I mounted the sleeve directly to frame underside. I added lots of 1/4 plate to gusset. Only problem here is had to notch shackle for clearance. Should have spaced away from frame. Not really a big deal it turns out. Made the shackles from 2" wide flat stock. 1" longer than stock rears. Some 14mm bolts and nuts. Used bushings and sleeve designed for a YJ.

Tacked on front and rear spring hanger. Hung axle from frame for the first time. Just used one leaf for simplicity.

Added both Nissan rear springs to stock front 7 leaf waggy pack. Removed 3 waggy springs. I had to cut the eyes off the stock Nissan springs to use them. King Cab weight is now sitting on axle, not frame.

UPDATE NEW HANGER - 7/19/2005. I moved the front spring hangers up 2 1/4" into the 2x2 square tube. I also move the hanger forward 1/2 at the same time. This increased my Caster to 4degrees. Which I am very happy with. 


I started with waggy 7 leaf packs from a 1986. $30 used with U bolts. They gave me too much height so I removed a bunch but were too soft. So I added some Nissan D21 rear leafs. I shortened the Nissan leafs to replace the 2nd leaf and 4th. I only used the Nissan spring retainers. I fine tune the ride and height by adding or removing small leaves. First main is waggy,2nd is shortened MAIN Nissan rear, then waggy, then Nissan 2nd leaf shortened then some more waggys.


Build Shock mounts and towers. I want to handle 12 inch travel shocks. I made 12 inch long Towers. 1/8 square tube, 3/16 tabs. I added some 1/4 flat stock next to and behind the shock towers due to all the holes in the frame.

Cycle system for binding. Travel is AWESOME. Around  11" of travel. Shocks are 11.7 travel. Rancho RS5005.


Update version 2: 10/7/2005  I decided to run 2 front shocks for softer springs. I also raised the upper shock mounts up and out due to the shock bodies where rubbing on the tube. It also looks cool with dual shocks. The 1.5" .120wall tube block is 6" long cut down on the back. The tabs are spaced 2". Now using Trail Master 62480s and rs5005. I can not tell the difference between the two.

Update version 3:  shock towers have been made removable and raised another 1". Have lots of clearance for up travel. I used 1.5" tube to move old dual towers up and forward 1.5".  1/2" bolts allow for removable for engine access.

Update version 4: Moved up again. Also simplified the design. Now using 12" 1x1.5" .120 tube with old 2" dual mount. I can change oil filter with OUT removing tower. 


1. Bought (right) passenger side 1976 flat top knuckle and sent knuckle to be machined to Parts Mike.  I had to paint BEFORE the machining is done. I removed all studs and ball joints. New ones go in before I bolt High steer arm on. I sold the drivers flat top. Don't need it. Flat tops were available 1974-1976 only.

2. PartsMike reamed the pitman arm opposite of stock hole. Machined flat top knuckle arrives. Install Ball joints before bolting on Arm. Also bought the special tool for install upper ball joints from Parts Mike. I know ream these myself with a $60 reamer from

3. Steering fabricate. I am using 1.25 DOM from This tube is perfect for 7/8 TREs. Just cut to length and tap. Use and left hand tap one end and right hand the other. Using same DOM for Drag ling and Tie rod. Using the popular ES2033L, ES2234R and ES2027L TREs. I had to special order the ES2033L (hole in it) from

I cut a 33.5" drag link and a 41" tie rod. I tapped the ends with right and left hand threads 7/8 18TPI. Its allot of work to tap. You can use bigger DOM and buy weldin bungs. See mu SUA page for details. Very fast setup and cheaper. 

Steering stabilizer. Bought a generic stabilizer and made a custom TRE mount from 2" flat stock. Also used Nissan IFS Shock mount as Axle end mount.


Lock right install into new carrier. 3.92 and lower gears require a different carrier than stock carrier which had 2.72 gears pictured on right.

Took pinion shims from stock 2.72 pinion. The rest of the carrier is unused. I had to buy a new 3.92-5.xx carrier for my 4.88 gears. I installed a Powertraxx lock right in it. Along with new bearings and shims etc. This was my first ring and pinion install. Since its the front should be fine.


Prepare axle parts - cut off dust shields form caliper brackets and paint. I had to buy a complete hardware kit just for the pad clips.

To install the rotors, they are connected to hub via wheel studs. Install rear bearing, wheel seal, rotor then new wheel studs.


Install WARN manual hub. Special tools needed to install wheel bearings and ball joints. Not pictured is the inner bearing.


Install knuckles, axles, caliper bracket, spindle, then rotor hub assembly. Then caliper and pads.

Made some bump stops:2" 1/4" flat stock. 1.5"x 3" tube 3/16" wall. Cut the tube to the height I need. This design hides the long center pin bolt. But does not block access to U bolt nuts.


 New page just for driveshaft info.

CUT and TURN 11/29/2006

I decided to cut and turn the inner C's. I did this for a number of reasons. I wanted more caster. Less pinion angle. I also wanted to relocate my sway bar mounts and lower shock mounts.
First step remove axle from truck. cut off all perchs, shock mounts, sway bar mounts and turn the Cs. Its allot of grinding and pounding. but basically a very cheap upgrade.

The trick is to grind the weld as much as possible. then use a cut off wheel and cut the weld all the way around until you see a crack. Then hit the back of the C until you see it move.  You CANNOT turn them. You 
have to remove then reinstall in the new angle. 

Some come off easier than others.

Then weld everything back on.

I removed the axles and steering. Also removed steering stabilizer bracket. I moved the Cs outward, but cannot get the C to turn yet.


I finally got the Cs off with a sledge hammer and a little heat. They would not turn so I removed them and put them back on were needed. The C is in the tube 1 1/4. There is some deep gouges in one side.

I welded the perch back on when  I had the drivehshaft angles perfect. I use three leafs to cycle the suspension. At 20deg the driveshaft has no binding at full droop.

I welded the Cs back on at 8deg caster at ride height. I only had 3-4 before.

I decided to raise the fill hole since the pumpkin is leaning so far down. I cut out a rectangle and flipped it over. I added some 3/16 3" flat stock for protection.


Moved to SAS sway bar page



The 35s rub the rocker and full compression. So I notched them for clearance. I followed the fender line down. I need to plate in the hole if the clearance is enough.


Modified transmission cross member for driveshaft clearance. Lots of 2" flat stock 1/4" thick.

Update version 2.0: I had some rubbing of the driveshaft at full compression. I had to notch the top. This cross member is awesome. Very strong simple and small.

Update Version 3.0 I made a new driveshaft adapter since I broke the custom one. I needed more clearance on the cross member so I made a new center section.

I welded the cross member to the table upside on some 6" blocks. Cut out the old section. Designed a new section with more clearance. Cut and tacked into place. 

EXHAUST MOD. (Headers shown)

If You have the VG30, You have to modify the Y pipe for driveshaft clearance. I first just used 2" flex pipe to clear the Header Y pipe. I later built a custom Y pipe.  See headers page for more info on those. More pix on the Headers page.



Bought some Procomp 4" lift rear springs originally designed for 79-88 Toy 4x4 rear. They are the same size as Nissan. About 2.5 wide x 47" long, Eyes 1.25. Axle placement is slightly different. The axle location is about 1.5" forward of a Nissan. Pro comp  exp-33311. 310lbs/in. The eye length is 48 1/4" because most lift springs have so much arch they lengthen the spring.

Here is some more details on these springs. 21" from front center to pin. 27" from rear center to pin.


I had to ditch the overload and degree shim. Too much height.

Use the stock front bolt. No sleeve just like stock, I dont think there was a front sleeve. Have to add the Nissan inner sleeve from the OEM bushing since the Toy rear bolt is 14mm.


I had to make new shackles. Stock ones where too short for the arched springs. 2" flat stock 1/4" thick 5.5" eye to eye center. Stock is 3".

Update 5/2006: Made new shorter shackles to lower the rear. Springs have sagged now so smaller is better. front and rear shackles are now the same length.

Stock, new rear, old rear. The front and rear shackles are now the same. I made both sets from 2" x 1/4" flat stock. 12mm bolts.

Had to lower ABS and Brake hard line due to 7.5" lift and more down travel.

Update 5/2006: moved the hard line and ABS farther down.

To move the axle back 1". Wheel compresses up into the wheel well.

After a little settling.

Update 8/2005: Had to trim front of fenders to allow tires to stuff.


Installed rear lower shock mounts. These are the original Dana 44 lower brackets I removed and recycled in the rear. I rounded off the edges of the shock mounts and welded to the side of axle. I did a U bolt flip so the OEM mounts where gone.

I relocated the upper mounts for more travel. Using 2" longer than stock shocks, 9" travel. 10" wheel travel. The mount is a 1/2" 6" long bolt and a 2"x3"wide .120 wall tab. Some round stock and washer for a spacer. I welded washer and spacer to flat stock for a simple install. Drilled a 1/2" hole through frame and weld flat stock to inner frame rail. This is similar to the OEM hanger. 


Bump stops. I made these from the old OEM bump stop on the frame. I cut of tabs and welded to plate.  



Moved to one piece shaft page.

Material List

website company part  qty number




actual autozone Haynes service manual 1 stock 86 $12.00 $12.00 $0.00 $12.00 pep boys Dana 44 hub tool 1 stock 86 $12.00 $12.00 $0.00 $12.00 k&K Motors 86 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Dana 44 1 VIN1JCNJ1 $250.00 $250.00 $15.00 $265.00 Dana open carrier new 1 3.92 up $59.00 $59.00 $11.00 $70.00 gear are us-ebay Dana diff master set 1 stock 86 $0.00 $75.00 $12.00 $85.00 autozone wheel bearing seals 2 stock 86 $1.00 $2.00 $0.00 $2.00 Yukon frt 4.88 gears  1 stock 86 $109.00 $109.00 $8.95 $109.00 autozone ball joints 2 stock 86 $14.99 $30.00 $2.00 $32.00 autozone axle u joint 1 pass side $9.00 $9.00 $0.00 $9.00 autozone drivers caliper metric 10mm 1 c528 $25.00 $25.00 $0.00 $25.00 autozone pass caliper - metric 10mm 1 c529 $25.00 $25.00 $0.00 $25.00 autozone allen head bolts for caliper 2 stock 86 $11.00 $22.00 $0.00 $22.00 autozone Drag link End - 84 GM 3/4 ton truck 1 VES2027L $18.99 $18.99 $0.00 $18.99 autozone - web only tres - 84 GM 3/4 ton- special order 1 es2233L $0.00 21.99 $6.00 $29.00 autozone tres - 84 GM 3/4 ton truck 2 ES2234R $0.00 24.99 $0.00 $14.99 parts mike 7/8 jam nuts for tres 4 custom $5.00 $20.00 $0.00 $20.00 foothilloffroad 10mm 28" brake lines 2 F0556 $35.00 $79.95 $0.00 $79.95 autozone rotor 2 stock 86 $20.00 $40.00 $5.00 $45.00 autozone brake pad clips 1 kit $3.00 $3.00 $0.00 $3.00 Private party premium warn hubs  1 20990 $17.00 $34.00 $10.00 $44.00 c and w 4 u bolts and nuts 4 stock 86 $2.50 $2.50 $0.00 $2.50 Private party new spring perches 2 generic $7.00 $14.50 $6.50 $19.49 Oscar High angle CV - 1310 extended slip 1 custom $370.00 $370.00 $0.00 $370.00 foothilloffroad leaf pin bolts 3/8 x 3.5" long 2 stock 86 $1.89 $4.00 $7.00 $11.00 foothilloffroad sleeves for poly mounts 9/16 bolts 2 YJ $2.00 $4.00 $0.00 $4.00 foothilloffroad spring polys YJ 1.5 4 YJ $2.10 $8.40 $0.00 $8.40 1.25 .219 tube tie and drag 7 7 feet $9.00 $63.00 $8.95 $80.00 foothilloffroad spring plates 2 generic $13.95 $27.90 $13.00 $27.90 c and w used Wagoneer 7 leaf frt springs 2 stock 86 $30.00 $60.00 $0.00 $60.00 foothilloffroad frame sleeve 1.5 bushing 2 YJ $9.00 $19.90 $0.00 $19.90 foothilloffroad sleeves for poly mounts 9/16 bolts 2 YJ $2.00 $4.00 $0.00 $4.00 foothilloffroad spring polys YJ 1.5 4 YJ $2.10 $8.40 $0.00 $8.40 foothilloffroad front spring hanger 2.5" leafs 2 generic $15.95 $32.00 $0.00 $31.90 autozone poly bump stops 1 black $11.00 $11.00 $0.00 $11.00 parts mike hi steer arm 1 custom $0.00 $89.00 $0.00 $89.00 parts mike hi steer mounting hardware 1 arm 1 custom $0.00 $23.95 $12.00 $36.00 parts mike mill one knuckle for hi steer 1 custom $0.00 $55.00 $12.00 $67.00 parts mike special tool for ball joint install 1 stock 86 $9.99 $9.99 $0.00 $9.99 parts mike tie rod reaming for pitman 1 free $0.00 $0.00 $9.00 $9.00 ebay used flat top knuckles - used 2 76 jeep $40.00 $80.00 $21.00 $101.00
TNT Private party steering stabilizer new 1 universal $10.00 $10.00 $0.00 $10.00 7/8 18 left tap 1 left $0.00 $89.00 $0.00 $89.00 oreily axle seal behind wheel seal 2 national 722109 $7.00 $14.00 $0.00 $14.00 7/8 18 tap 1 right $0.00 $20.59 $0.00 $20.59
4 wheel rear shocks rs5000 2 5116 $35.00 $70.00 $0.00 $70.00
acehardware ace hardware spring bolts 14mm x 120mm 6 class 8.8 $4.60 $35.00 $0.00 $35.00
acehardware ace hardware shock bolts 12mm x 70mm 6 class 8.8 $1.80 $12.00 $0.00 $12.00 4" lift springs for rear 1   92 92 $3.00 184 Private party ranch 5000 frt shocks - used 2 rs5005 $14.99 $14.99 $15.00 $29.99 northern tool 1/4 or 3/16 2x2 steel 1 generic $77.00 $77.00 $0.00 $77.00 race basics shock tabs 12 generic $0.50 $7.20 $3.85 $11.05 foothilloffroad spring plates 2 rear $13.00 $26.00 $8.00 $33.00
acehardware ace hardware spring bolts & nuts 14mm x 120mm 6 class 8.8 $4.00 $16.00 $0.00 $29.99 autozone 7/16 lug nuts 12 stock 86 $1.60 $19.20 $0.00 $19.20
ac parts ac 4.88 Hitachi gears  1 38100-06j10 $450.00 $450.00 $19.20 $469.20
McKinney Nissan McKinney Nissan pinion seal 1 Nissan $8.00 $8.00 $1.00 $9.00
McKinney Nissan McKinney Nissan pinion bearing 1 38120 $82.00 $82.00 $0.00 $82.00 expert off road Nismo gear install 1 custom $250.00 $250.00 $0.00 $250.00
optional tire rack 35x12.5-15 Kumho Venture MT 4 MT $131.00 $600.00 $38.00 $600.00 firestone - Allen tire mounting + balancing 4 4 $20.00 $69.00 $2.00 $71.00 aluminum 7 hole 4 57 $0.00 $187.50 $35.00 $246.00 Private party standard warn hubs - used 2 stock 86 $2.50 $5.00 $5.00 $10.00 just lift kits lock right Dana 44 1 2410 $229.00 $229.00 $13.00 $242.00 Junk yard One piece rear dshaft 1 01 D22 85 85 15 100
sold Private party tbars 2   -$6.25 ($25.00) ($10.00) -$25.00 Private party knuckles 2   -$25.00 ($25.00) ($10.00) -$35.00 Private party cv axles 2   -$25.00 ($25.00) ($10.00) -$35.00 Private party steering idlers 2   -$25.00 ($25.00) ($10.00) -$35.00 Private party brake calipers 2   -$25.00 ($25.00) ($10.00) -$35.00 Private party fender flares 4   -$25.00 ($25.00) ($10.00) -$35.00 Private party rims and tires 4   -$100.00 ($100.00) ($20.00) -$120.00
$3,828.93 -$320.00

Part and service Suppliers. - calipers, ball joints, brake pads, brake pins, lug nuts, oil etc.. Dana 44 gears, open carrier, LH 7/8 taps, DOM tube for steering etc.. - front driveshaft
Expert - 4.88 Nissan ring and pinion install spring hangers, spring plates, bushings, brake lines, etc.. - Ream pitman, prepare flat top. new high steer arm and hardware, 7/8 tre nuts, ball joint tool.