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Nissan Brings Surf-Themed Ariya, Leaf-Swapped Sunny EVs to SEMA 2022

In addition to the two EV concepts, the Japanese automaker is also exhibiting show cars and aftermarket parts for its Frontier pickup and Z sports coupe.

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I wish more modern EVs looked as cool as this classic restomod.

Nissan

At the 2022 SEMA Show in Las Vegas this week, Japanese automaker Nissan is showcasing six custom show cars based on models in its current and historic lineup. The lineup includes custom versions of its Z sports coupe, Frontier pickup and Ariya electric SUV. However, the star of the show is the Nissan Sunny Leaf project, which mates the compact chassis of a 1987 Nissan Sunny compact pickup with the fully electric motor of the Nissan Leaf. 

The Nissan Sunny Leaf project keeps the Sunny's truck's factory-original manual transmission intact, but swaps out the gasoline four-cylinder engine in favor of the 147-horsepower, 236-pound-foot electric motor from the current Nissan Leaf S. A custom driveshaft sends power to the rear wheels. To make things fit, builder Tommy Pike Customs fabricated a custom CNC-machined motor-to-transmission bellhousing adapter. The Leaf S' 40-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack powers the project from its snug, new aluminum battery box.

To compensate for the battery pack's extra weight, heavy-duty rear leaf springs have been fitted to the rear axle. Up front, a suspension conversion to Nissan 240SX S13 hardware modernizes the ride. The Sunny gets the complete tuner car visual makeover with a "Hakosuka" Skyline style widebody kit -- echoing one of my favorite Nissan models of all time -- 17-inch Rotiform wheels wrapped in Toyo Extensa tires and a white, red and blue Brock Racing Enterprises "46" livery that pays homage to Nissan's racing heritage. This thing looks awesome, and with around double the power and three times the torque of the original combustion motor, it's probably a hoot to drive.

Nissan Brings Six Show Cars to SEMA 2022

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Nissan's more modern SEMA EV concept is the Nissan Ariya Surfwagon concept, based on the new 2023 Ariya. Another Tommy Pike Customs creation, the Surfwagon concept features a custom vinyl wrap and chrome trim reminiscent of California-style "woodie" wagons and beach cruisers of the past. The Ariya's suspension has been lowered, bringing the 20-inch wheels with polished center caps and white-wall tires closer to the electric SUV's body. Up top, a custom roof rack holding a pair of 7-foot surfboards completes the aesthetic. Purely a style exercise, the Ariya Surfwagon concept's electric powertrain and performance are completely untouched.

In addition to the Sunny Leaf project and the Ariya Surfwagon concept, Nissan also debuted a pair of Frontier show cars -- one for the street and one for the trail, a range of Nismo performance accessories for the new Nissan Z sports coupe and the new Forsberg Racing Nissan Z Formula Drift Car. You can peep all of that in the gallery above.

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Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.

Updated Oct. 31, 2022 3:02 p.m. PT

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Written by  Antuan Goodwin
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
antuan-roadshow-headshots-jpegs-1893-007.jpg
Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
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