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What a blast from the past. Who else remembers the Nissan Gobi concept?


Situated in the basement of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, the Nissan Heritage Collection houses a number of production and concept vehicles significant to the brand’s U.S. operations. This story kicks off a series that will highlight select vehicles in the collection.

Challenging convention within the automotive design sphere is a hallmark of the Nissan brand, with wild concepts and the occasional production vehicle that pushed the envelope.

The countless concepts dreamed up over the years have served to inspire designers and excite customers alike. To start the retrospective series, we’ll take a look back to the early 1990s, a time that produced trends reemerging today.

Nissan revealed the Gobi concept at the North American International Auto Show in 1990.

The irony of a truck that borrows its name from an expansive desert – yet premiered in the dead of winter at a Midwest auto show – was not lost on anyone.

Penned by former Nissan designers late Jerry Hirshberg, Bruce Campbell and Diane Allen at Nissan Design International — now Nissan Design America — the Gobi concept was a modern take on the compact two-door pickup truck.

With a rounded passenger compartment and soft bodylines, the look was a vast departure from contemporary squared-off designs. Gobi’s bubble-like greenhouse took some of its inspiration from light helicopter cockpits of the time.

Its small footprint, low-sided bed walls, and low ride height result in ideal cargo loading and unloading capability for city dwellers.

The truck features an asymmetric interior design with its gauges slanted toward the driver. Furthermore, the driver has a unique, pilot-style seat, while the single passenger seat is more comfort focused.

Storage compartments are very directly labeled “stuff” and “things,” while the glovebox is removable and can be worn as a backpack. Royal blue exterior paint paired with teal accents precisely timestamp this concept as a product of the early ’90s-late ’80s.

While the concept truck never saw production, it’s a fun part of the six-decade (and growing) story of Nissan trucks in the U.S., beginning with the Datsun 220 that first went on sale in 1959.

With Nissan truck sales on the rise, it wasn’t until 1983 when Nissan rolled out its first truck in the U.S. at its new production facility in Smyrna, Tennessee — a Datsun 720 single cab. In the near 40 years since, Nissan has designed, engineered and assembled all its U.S.-market trucks right here.

Established in 1979, Nissan Design America moved to its current location in 1983. In addition to the Gobi concept, the San Diego, California-based design center is the birthplace of many Nissan production truck models including the Nissan Hardbody, Frontier and TITAN.

After making the rounds on the U.S. auto show circuit in 1990, the Gobi concept and its eccentric design language was shelved. Like many concept vehicles, the early ’90s truck served as a design exercise for the company to showcase potential future design direction and for its designers to stretch their imagination for what could be a future product could be.

Today the Gobi lives with the Nissan Heritage Collection inside the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, nearby Nissan’s North American corporate headquarters. The Nissan Heritage Collection is home to dozens of significant past production models and concepts and is currently open via private tour only.
 
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