Member Spotlight: Blake M and his Nissan Xterra
We recently took the time to talk shop with Overland Bound Member Blake M. about his Titan swapped 2006 Nissan Xterra build. Blake chose to be very hands on with his build and did many of the modifications himself. Learn how his love for snow boarding and snowy mountains was the driving factor behind his build process.
You typically won’t find a Nissan Xterra on any top 5 overland platform lists, but his modifications and gear choices makes the Xterra a viable overland travel solution.
Name: Blake, Overland Bound Member #2055
Home Base: Snohomish, Washington
Occupation: Aerospace Mechanic
What’s the Year/Make/Model/Mileage of your rig?
2006 Nissan Xterra SE with 130K miles. I’ve had this vehicle for seven years now.
Since I bought the vehicle. I always slept in the back, before I knew overlanding was a thing. We slept in the back up until about two and a half years ago when we got our first used RTT from a friend at CVT.
What is it about Overlanding you enjoy most?
The drive. No matter what the trail or fire road is or where it leads. We sometimes find ourselves driving over ten hours in a day just because we are enjoying the ride, the scenery, and the navigating. We get itchy staying in one place longer than 12hrs because we love the aspect of exploring.
Longest trip completed/planned?
Not sure what the longest would be. One of our longer trips was six nights and seven days on the WABDR. We saw one truck and a dirt bike the entire time. Most of our trips are three days.
What influenced your Overland vehicle choice?
I was in the market for a 4WD capable vehicle that I could sleep in the back of for snowboarding and other activities. That was all I cared about at the time. I wanted it to be easier for me to stay at the mountain and snowboard. I rode in my friend’s first gen supercharged Xterra and I was sold. Seven years later I’ve not regretted that decision once.
What are 3 things that you *really* like about your rig?
- Uniqueness – I try to make it as different as possible from other Xterra’s. But what I think is cool is the Xterra is not a common build that you see on the trails or on the roads. Far and few between are the built ones.
- The roof. I have always liked the curve in the roof, since I first saw the Xterra. It’s a little different.
- Nissan. I love that I drive a Nissan in what seems like a world full of Toyota’s in the off-road community.
What modifications have you made so far on your Nissan Xterra?
Quite a few. Here’s the run down.
- Simple Titan swap is what is on the truck currently. This is when you take Nissan Titan suspension components (stock or aftermarket) and bolt them on to the Frontier or Xterra as they are all on the same build platform. This involves the upgrade to a front Titan M205 differential and axles from the stock R180. (Learn more about a Titan swap here.)
- We upgraded to the UpTop Overland roof rack a few months back, so far so good.
- Front bumper/skid with Smittybilt winch.
- Rear storage build out.
- Rear seat delete DIY storage platform.
- Onboard air for air ups/air tools/air locker.
- Ditch lights and headlights that do pretty decent.
- Put a 4.56 Yukon gear set and yolk in the three-rib M205 Titan diff up front and rebuilt the diff.
- The rear axle we rebuilt and then did a 4.56 nitro gear set with a ring gear spacer from Nisstec. This is paired with an RD149 ARB air locker. Then capped it off with the Ruffstuff/Offroad Gorilla diff cover.
- Currently in the process of installing the onboard air system to run said locker, air up tires and run air tools.
Camping & Kitchen:
Currently we just use a Camp Chef Sherpa table that works out great for us, along with a camp chef dual burner stove. We use a 5lb propane tank in the back next to the drawers for that. Organizers that came with it worked perfectly for our left drawer which keeps coffee/tea, utensils etc. all organized and easy to grab. Right drawer is the pantry with some tools and fluids on the bottom.
Have been using an old CVT Shasta but recently upgraded to a clamshell style aluminum tent from a company I am really excited about, that I will be working with as the west coast rep.
Nothing special yet though there’s big plans for the future. As of now we are using a Goal Zero Yeti 500x paired with a 52l Costway fridge and it works great for that and charging cameras and phones, etc.
So far all I’ve done for lighting is put on some ditch lights and different headlights. I changed the projector and the bulb in the headlights (now using Morimoto 2stroke LED’s) but still plan to retrofit my old ones myself.
We have built a nice dual drawer storage system in the back out of ⅜ birch and some outdoor marine carpeting. There’s more storage underneath the drawers with the weird floor storage area that comes in the Xterra, and more storage on the sides of the drawers. We also did a rear seat delete and have a platform for the dog and fridge, with storage underneath.
What would you add or improve?
I plan to add a rear tire carrier swing out hopefully before Christmas. It will be a custom one off design, which I have lots of ideas for. I’m also planning to make full skids. Was going to before the prices skyrocketed. There are some sliders sitting in the garage right now that I need to put on as well. I’ll eventually get a little rowdy with it and build a VK56 block and put that in it, and I would SAS it as well.
Have you ever had to make a trail repair – If so what? If not, what are you prepared for?
None so far on this rig. I’ve helped with trail repairs before though. Replacing CV axles, changing a flat, bending back a tie rod and chasing a loose ground are some trail repair memories.
What’s the one piece of overlanding equipment you can’t live without? (Besides your rig.)
Toilet paper. Definitely toilet paper
What’s your favorite destination?
Basically anywhere in the mountains with a good view.
What else should we know about your rig?
It’s a never ending, forever changing build (but aren’t they all) that I’ve had much fun with. I’d like to focus more on suspension and drivetrain upgrades from this point forth and improving its capability.
The Finer Details
2.5” Radflo Coilovers w/ 600lb Eibach Springs
Total Chaos Chromolly Rebuildable Titan UCA’s w/ 1” Uniball
Nissan Titan boxed lower control arms
Nissan Titan Inner/Outter tie rods
Alcan Custom 4” lift leaf pack +550lbs
Bilstein 6253 Shocks
Nisstec Adjustable Shackles
Timbren Extended Bumps
Axle Degree Shims for pinion angle
U-Bolt Flip Kit
Extended Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines (front & rear)
KMC Grenade bronze
Running a Smittybilt XRC Gen3 9.5k full synthetic winch. This is sitting inside a DIY garage fabbed front winch plate bumper and front skid plate.
Just my master lock steering wheel lock and manual trans is usually a good deterrent, but if they still feel like getting after that, there’s still a fuel cutoff switch that’s hidden. Good luck!
Currently running a CB radio and looking at Midland GMRS options.
Thank you for sharing with us, Blake!
Up Next in the Member Spotlight: Chris Solis gives us the full run down on his vintage Camel Trophy Truck