Nissan Nails Concept is Still Groovy 20 Years Later – 35th Tokyo Motor Show Flashback

By Steve Laser

We’ve traveled to the Tokyo Motor Show 11 times during the past 28 years. While we looked forward to attending the 2021 edition, the organizers decided to cancel it due to concerns about the pandemic. So we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite concept vehicles from previous shows.

Let’s turn the clock back to October 24-25, 2001, for the 35th Tokyo Motor Show press days at the Makuhari Messe convention center (above). The Nissan Nails is one of the concept vehicles that continues to stand out, as we review our archive of hundreds of photos that we made at the show.

While some concepts offer thinly disguised previews of soon-to-be-released production models, Nails falls into the “visionary concept” category where ideas are only limited by the imagination. Nails tugs at our heartstrings 20 years later, along with the Honda Unibox, another favorite concept at the 2001 show.

This video, from our YouTube channel, features a compilation of Nissan Nails photos that we made at the 35th Tokyo Motor Show. We still think Nissan nailed it with the design and clever features of this unique concept.

Nails was positioned as a rugged street truck of the future, “designed and engineered to stir young people’s imagination and boost their ties with their friends.” This was a time before social media; no Facebook, Twitter, or even YouTube (how did we exist back then?).

Nissan said that Nails employs unique construction, with an A-shaped cabin frame on a low floor, that runs from the cabin along the length of the bed. The low step-in-height would make it easy to load and unload stuff like surfboards, bikes, or sports gear.

Instead of a fixed bulkhead behind the seats, Nails features a soft tent-like panel. Roll up and secure one side for increased ventilation, with the added benefit of extending the bed floor into the cabin to transport extra-long cargo with ease.

Need more space for gear? Instead of folding or flipping up the passenger seat, Nails has an innovative “comb-frame seat” design that quickly converts from a two-passenger bench into a single seat.

Inside, the steering wheel, pedals, and air vents mimic the design of the rubber-faced wheels at each corner of the vehicle. Controls, buttons, levers and switches look like they could be operated while wearing gloves.

The futuristic instrument panel features a big center screen that reminds us of our first Apple computer. It looks a bit retro now, yet remember that this concept was designed more than 20 years ago.

There’s a pocket in the center of the dash for the driver to insert a cell phone, so “personal data are linked” and the system turns on. We also like the cool design and layout of the climate controls.

In the specs department, Nails is powered by a QG15DE 1.5L DOHC 4-cylinder engine teamed with a 4-speed automatic transmission.

News crews and journalists took turns reporting on the Nissan Nails concept debut during press days at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show. We had to patiently wait for a chance to make our own photos of the interior.

If Nissan decided to create a next-generation Nails, using 2021 technology, we could envision a concept fitted with the latest multimedia and connectivity features, perhaps an EV powertrain, and maybe a dual cab body style, so more passengers could enjoy the ride.

Note: Nissan Nails is a concept vehicle and is not for sale

Story and video © 2021

Original photos © 2001 Steve Laser on location in Chiba, Japan