Babe the Blue Ox - Supercharged 2000 Frontier Build + Adventures


Ditch Lights

Mounted up some flood lights in the standard "ditch light" configuration/location.

With my old lightbar from Amazon, I had these lights pointed out at an angle for "deer spotting" while driving in the mountains or cross-country at night. Reminder - here's what it looked like:

Old Lightbar Setup:

I liked this a lot. Had the floods pointed out at an angle and got really good road-side and trail-side coverage. Just had the light bar and floods on the same circuit with a single switch. But the light bar was an amazon special - had it 3+ years, but I had rebuilt it 2 or 3 times - seal was compromised, so I resealed it, cleaned it, etc. Chrome peeling, so I resprayed the baffles. But it was a lot of work for like a $40 bar. The LED chips started failing and it wasn't worth it for me to solder new ones on the board. Got a new light bar that filled the whole gap between the rack side-plates. I like the look and the amber lights are just kinda cool looking. Better quality, but I didn't have good road-side/trail-side light.

New Lightbar:

Really bright, good straight-ahead coverage, but not much side-light. Even with the "flood" prism splitter lenses on the front, the light doesn't get wide enough for me.

Anyways, here's the point - I fixed my problem by remounting these side-facing flood lights. Quite a few Jeeps, Toyotas, and other more common off road models have "ditch light brackets" that can bolt onto the hood hinge, A-pillar, or somewhere like that. I've looked, but don't think 1st gens have anything like that available.

I pulled the HVAC air intake bezel off the front of the truck. Used rivnuts to add a mounting location for a bracket.

Using about 4" of 5/16" all-thread and a couple nuts jammed together, I screwed it in. The big flat washer ads a lot of stability to the sheet metal where I mounted the rivnut.

Installed another nut and washer at the right height to support the plastic air intake vent cover piece.

Installed the plastic hood vent intake over the new studs, and added another washer/nut on top of the plastic to add stability and clamp the plastic in place. It may not look like it, but it's actually a pretty sturdy mount. Then, finally, bolted the light on the top of all the all-thread, nuts, and washers stackup.

Bonus - due to real-estate restrictions under that plastic bezel, I had to relocate the FM radio antenna - used a piece of the old tailgate-extender bracket that was originally in the back of the truck.

Wiring harness runs under the vent plastic and the (+) and (-) leads run through the firewall and tie into the same circuit as the light bar. It worked out well. Going to be excited to get it out for some night snow wheeling soon.

Teaser - got a few other mods coming along too. Hopefully I'll get them finished up in the next few months, but basically, it's exhaust and a much-needed brake upgrade (hopefully it helps!). here's a few pictures of what's coming.

Check back for those updates some time before Thanksgiving hopefully (that's my goal).

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Wow very clean ditch light install. And I’m liking what I’m seeing with the LT headers and brake setup! More details on these hopefully?


Wow very clean ditch light install. And I’m liking what I’m seeing with the LT headers and brake setup! More details on these hopefully?
Headers, cats, and muffler are all in - just finished it up about an hour ago. Hopefully writing a post on that soon. Might have some complications... As I was throwing the boxes away after wrapping it up, I happened to notice the catalytic converter box says the neck and body are stainless?! I just welded it like it was mild steel... And you can't weld stainless like regular steel supposedly. Oops... Well... I'm driving a lot this weekend, maybe wheeling, and planning to take the truck so hopefully they hold... 😬 - need to talk to my buddy who knows more about metal to find out if he thinks they're gonna crack.


Custom Exhaust (YouTube link for sound at the bottom of the post).

I've replaced the factory exhaust manifolds on the truck several times. Poor design. Anyone with a first gen knows, they crack. They restrict exhaust flow a bit too. Tired of replacing them, I went with the long tube headers, knowing I'd have to do custom exhaust to get catalytic converters back into the pipes to pass emissions. My converters were original and had about 265,000 miles on them. I was barely passing emissions (the supercharger probably doesn't help).

Parts list and details

Long Tube Stainless Headers from Amazon (probably a Doug Thorley knockoff - hopefully I don't regret getting these on the cheap. They seem good enough quality. I'm just really hoping the welds don't crack). They were like $100 I think.

2. Magnaflow Universal Catalytic Converters (supposedly stainless steel, which I didn't realize till after I welded them. True stainless is hard to weld and I wasn't set up to do so... but I have a buddy who's a MME = Metallurgical and Materials Engineer and he says that it probably only has enough chromates to be considered stainless and that it should hold fine, even though I just used a tig welder and flux core wire). Bought these because they had an O2 sensor bung already welded in. $93 each.

3. Dynomax Stainless Steel Muffler - hard to know what they sound like before buying, even if you google it. They all sounds a bit different depending on what car they're on. I probably should have gone cheaper or just grabbed one off of something at the junk yard. Not sure I'm crazy about the sound of this one. Oh well, live and learn. $100.

4. A bunch of random fittings and adapters from the parts store to get stuff to weld up to the factory pipes. $30 maybe?

Oh yeah, and I replaced all the manifold studs and stainless flange nuts with Nissan OEM ones. The old ones were looking ok, but I just wanted to do them just in case. Regretted that decision when I cross-threaded one in the passenger side. I was afraid to tighten it down too much... that's a problem for another day. Seems to hold ok, so I'll leave it.

New studs - reusing old gaskets - they weren't leaking before. Seem ok still.

Everything welded up. I am NOT a welder, and have done very little welding. The welder I was using had no shielding gas. I was using flux core, but it still splattered a lot. Used flex pipe on the long section to make it easier to install. Hopefully it holds up - doesn't leak yet!

I am glad I welded it all myself - a lot of work, kinda a headache, but I learned a lot and you can't put a price on learning new things!

Here's a few more pictures.

I put new gaskets in at every joint everywhere past the block - I have a few small leaks still, mainly because with my patchy welding jobs, the Y-pipe doesn't line up perfectly. I need to lengthen it a bit on the passenger side to make it work better, but it's pretty close. The catalytic converter heat shield on the driver side rubs the frame just a bit when the truck flexes. I'll fix that eventually. It was a tight fit and I didn't quite get it right.

Anyways, I'd do it different if I did it again. But the truck runs, should pass emissions, and it sounds alright. Can't tell a huge boost in performance - driving in the mountains will be the real test. Oh yeah, I had to lengthen the 2 post-cat O2 sensors - did that, and got no engine codes, so it seems like its all working!

Here's a video of the exhaust.

Exhaust Sound Link (YouTube)

In-Cab Sound Link (YouTube)

That's about it. I'll try to get some video of the truck on the trails sometime soon so you can hear what it sounds like for reals.

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Weekend Trip

Well the exhaust held up - I have a few leaks, but I think that they are all from gaskets or crush-rings that need to be replaced. I'm hopeful that will fix it. I'll get to that soon. We did a family trip out to Salida, Colorado, and got some wheeling in while we were up there. Nothing crazy, but saw some awesome country. Here's some shots of that.

Found a trail that went through a burn area from 2019, so just about a year ago from this picture. Very cool but kinda eerie to see. Here's a few glamor shots.

Not too far from the burn area, we found some huge gully washouts - the road ends here, but it continued in recent years - no road left now due to a lot of rain at some point!

Went up to Billings Lake the next day. We topped out at about 12,000 feet. The lake is at 11,700 or so. If you know anything about Colorado, you'll know that we had a big Pine Beetle problem a while back. The bugs killed a lot of trees in this area, and they fall over a lot. Cleared 1 off the trial using a snatch block and the winch.

My brother-in-law brought his new Tacoma out as well. We could have done a Toyota commercial up there - the scenery was stunning.

Old mining tunnel above the lake - it's not been sealed off yet. Didn't go into it because it smelled heavily of sulfur - suffocation can be a real hazard when exploring mine ruins in confined spaces.

Took a back way out of town on our way home. We found a trail system that runs through a large aspen grove - we will definitely be coming back here next year to see the fall colors - seems we were too late this weekend.

(Sherpa Equipment Company promotion shot?) I'm not a photographer obviously, but this one is kinda cool.

Anyways, that's a lot of pictures. Like I said, the new mods did well. Exhaust sounds pretty good and does seem to help a bit at elevation - was able to do some of the passes in 4th gear that I usually have to hit 3rd a couple times. Opening it up helps the engine breathe a bit better with the supercharger installed I think.


Wow nice roof rack! Bedlining the entire roof and installing a new roof rack that keeps everything low is a hot ticket item. Not sure when I'll get to it/if i will but this makes me think it's worth it.

Recommended books for Overlanding


Wow nice roof rack! Bedlining the entire roof and installing a new roof rack that keeps everything low is a hot ticket item. Not sure when I'll get to it/if i will but this makes me think it's worth it.
Thanks! I've really gotten a lot of use out of these racks. Super well built and I'm glad I went with Sherpa for them. They don't do an Xterra Rack (yet?) - would be great if they did!


I had a lot of exhaust leaks from the first round of welding... so I pulled everything out one more time and re-welded and fixed leaks. It's much better now. The piece of flex pipe I was using on the driver side wasn't going to cut it either. I added a bunch of high-temp gasket-maker to the flange gaskets to make sure they don't leak either.

Everything is a super tight fit... catalytic converter barely clears the frame, barely enough room for an O2 sensor, and the whole pipe barely clears the frame, transfer case, and drive shaft... but it's in. I may have some small leaks still, but it's 90% better.

No, I'm still not a welder... haha. But believe it or not, I'm actually getting a bit better. Anyways, I was able to wrap that project up and I'm glad it's done.


New Wheels?

I've been trying to figure out what to do about my wheel setup for a minute. The Toyota wheels are nice because they're so available. So I wanted to stick with them.

The problem is that the wheel well is getting pretty full with a 33" tire. The FJ wheels I was running were a +15mm offset. The wheel spacers I'm running are 1.25", equivalent to adding a -32mm offset. So I was basically running the equivalent of a -17mm offset wheel. Too much, so the wheels stuck out too far. This caused rubbing on the back of the wheel well. I've trimmed a lot and don't have much more room to trim.

So I decided to do new wheels. Couldn't decide if I wanted to go to a 16" wheel or not. Better for off-road, but the problem is that I can't get a 33" Wrangler Ultraterrain in a 16" wheel. Goodyear doesn't make it in that size and I really like that tire. So anyways, I tried a bunch of different wheels trying to find a good fit.

Here's some pictures of the 16" wheels. I tired some from a 1st gen Tundra and from the 2nd gen Tacomas.

I didn't really like the way either of them looked. Plus they didn't have the right offset, and were all only 7" wide.

So, I ended up settling on a set of 17's from the 4th gen 4Runner Sport Edition. I've actually been using this wheel as my spare ever since my wife got her 4Runner - hers originally had these wheels on it. They're a good fit because they have a +30 offset, PLUS, this wheel is a 17x7.5" wheel, so the extra width makes the 285 tires fit a bit better. So combined with the -32mm spacer, it works out to be equivalent to a -2mm offset wheel. This is the best of both worlds for me. Keeps the tires away from the frame while steering, but clears the wheel well while flexing. Here's a picture of those.

I cut the center caps out to fit over the Warn hubs - they came out super clean. I couldn't be happier overall.

I like the look. They look sporty. They're a bit corroded, but they still look better than the rest of the truck... so they fit in ok.

I also swapped all the tires over from the other wheels by myself... Discount Tire wanted $150 to do it, so I just went to Harbor Freight and got a couple $5.99 tire spoons instead. I wanted to make sure I could still do it and make sure my desk job hasn't made me soft. I used my hi-lift to break the beads and tire irons to get the tires swapped over. It was a pain but I did it.

A lot of work for 30mm narrow width and 15mm in each wheel well, but it's getting to that point where that makes a big difference. It's hard to tell, but it's a better fit. The tires are flush with the wheel flares now, which is really noticeable when you just look at the truck. So I'll probably stick with these for a bit.

Anyways, if you read all of that... Cheers.
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Coastal Off-Road Bumper Build (plus a few extra things at the end).

So I was just getting bored of the ARB I guess (it's for sale, winch included if any of you 1st gen Xterra or Frontier people want it). I recently bought a welder and have been tackling more welding projects so I guess I just wanted to do this one for fun. It's a bit higher clearance, thicker gauge metal than the ARB, and it's just cool to build your own.

I bought a Hobart Handler 140 (120V Mig Welder) and I'm running shielding gas (like you should). I had some holes in the body from trimming inside the wheel wells. Finally got those fixed. Here's a photo of those.

They aren't very pretty, but super functional and I'm happy to keep water and dirt out of the door jam and rocker panels.

I've also built a couple other bumpers recently. We did a True North Fab tube bumper and a Coastal Off-Road bumper for my buddy's 4Runner too. I went ahead and got a big Argon/CO2 bottle since we kept going through the little ones pretty quickly.

I'm not a professional by any means - I'm barely an amateur - but I think I'm getting better (thanks to my brother's coaching, youtube, and a lot of practice recently...)

The bumper came out well. The blinkers are some LED trailer lights. I got the same fog lights mounted in it that I had in my ARB - I'll add more pictures later. It came out decently well for my first kit like this.

Other Projects Going On...
I got my supercharger back from Jon Bond performance with new rotor coating and a smaller pulley. I adjusted the timing on the truck and bit and it's running nice right now. The extra air going through the new exhaust helps round out the sound a lot better - not quite as raspy as before, which is nice. It whines a bit more under load too, I think partially just because of the new rotor coating.

New Snow Chains
You may know that I like to snow wheel - Last winter, I was running chains only on the rear axle due to not having the fenders trimmed enough. I got another set of chains for the front. I'm looking forward to running some snow trails soon. I put them on this week to make sure everything clears and to make sure I know how to do it still.

Anyways, I have a few more things coming soon - maybe a new winch (or the old one, if I don't sell it with the ARB bumper), got the Xterra brake upgrade parts amassing - hopefully have that done in the next month. Factory upper control arms going back on too. The 4x4parts ones are all loose from the poly bushings being worn out. I've never really liked them - they actually hit the shocks just a bit at full droop. Poor design and poor quality control, so I'm just going back to the OEM ones so that I can get a good alignment. The rubber bushings may smooth out the front end a bit over the poly bushings - we will see.

Merry Christmas and cheers to 2021.