Every now and then one encounters an engineering or design concept that’s so straightforward, clever, and simple that you can get the entire point of it in just a simple image. Back in 1991, Nissan had such an idea, and it seems almost forgotten, barely even showing up on this all-knowing internet. It was called the Nissan Datsun 4wd Flex Cab. Catchy name.
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The important part of the name is the “Flex Cab” part. Fundamentally, this was just a Datsun pickup truck, part of the D21 generation that came to the U.S. as the Hardbody, and was known as the Navara in many other places in the world.
These were great little trucks, and came in the usual single-cab, and an extended “King Cab” version. But what if your cab needs were ever-changing, capricious and demanding and unpredictable? What options would you have?
In cruel reality, pretty much none. But in the magical world of concept cars, you could have had the Flex Cab.
The Flex Cab idea was simple; instead of having just a camper shell you could put on the back of a pickup to transform it into a sort of enclosed SUV, which would have to be cumbersomely removed, stored, and so on, the Flex Cab had a sort of integrated camper shell, but one that accordioned out to enclose as much or as little of the bed as you liked!
Need as much open pickup bed as possible? Then crunch that Flex Cab all the way in, leaving a big open bed and a smallish extended cab. Need a full SUV/camper setup? Pull that Flex Cab all the way out, and enjoy all that enclosed volume and the opening, hatch-like rear window!
Need something in between? Pull that Flex Cab out as long or as short as you like!
It’s a simple concept, but it seems like it could be so useful. It seems the Flex Cab ran in rails set into the upper truck bed, and I suspect it was powered. Sure, that canvas extendible section would be susceptible to wear and tearing like any convertible top, but, that’s a very well understood limitation.
It’s just a clever thing. It seems like it could have been an option package, even? There’s no reason this kind of thing couldn’t be made for the aftermarket today, really.
Nissan, why did you sleep on this clever idea? With the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz coming to market, maybe Nissan should take the hint and bring a new small truck to America.
If they include a Flex Cab option, they’d be printing money. I mean, it’d get some attention, at least, right?
(thanks again, Hans!)