Home » This Nissan Wagon With a GT-R Face Shows Just How Much Work Goes Into a Front-End Swap

This Nissan Wagon With a GT-R Face Shows Just How Much Work Goes Into a Front-End Swap

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Nissan has built some sweet wagons over the years, mostly under the Stagea name. Some of these even had a close relationship with the Skyline GT-R, sharing drivetrain components and engines. That all kind of died away a bit with the second-generation Stagea, particularly as the Nissan GT-R became its own model. One builder by the name of Chris Watson is marrying the two back together, however, and is doing so in wonderful style.

The build is based on a second-gen 2007 Nissan Stagea wagon with the 276-horsepower VQ35DE V6. It’s a fairly conventional looking vehicle for its era, even a tad boring. You could have put a Volkswagen badge on it, told people it was a Passat, and they might have even believed you. Watson, though, thought it could be better, and has set about a full front-end conversion that has created the GT-R wagon that Nissan never did. Even better, he’s documenting it all on his Tofu Auto Works YouTube channel.

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The build starts in straightforward fashion, with Watson removing the Stagea’s original fenders, hood, and front bumper. In its place, he lays up the GT-R’s front end components to get an idea of how he’ll tie it all together. He also elects to go for a widebody design, to make his car unique compared to others out there with a similar swap job. Right away it’s clear that there’s plenty of work to be done; the fenders in particular are a very poor fit to the Stagea body.

The hood itself proves a relatively simple job to adapt to the wagon. A pair of adapter plates help mate the GT-R panel to the wagon’s hood hinges. A few cardboard and paper templates transferred onto steel later, and it all comes together nicely. He makes quick work of it, welding on studs, drilling out rivets, and assembling it all together. He then goes about fabricating a bonnet latch for the new bonnet, along with parts salvaged from a secondary Stagea. It looks easy, but it reveals that he’s got a strong understanding of how all these parts work. When it goes this well, you know you’re watching someone with a great deal of experience. It’s a useful guide on how to approach mating one model’s hood onto a different car. You need to start with mounting it on the hinges, then sort out the latch, and make sure it all sits appropriately for the lines of the car.

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The second part of the build explores mounting the front bumper and headlights. The hood’s mounting determines the placement of the headlights and bumper, so it’s mostly about placing them where they go and then figuring out how to mount them to the Stagea chassis. It needs a brace fabricated to help the plastic match the curve of the hood. Meanwhile, the GT-R headlights prove to hit on some plastic parts of the Stagea wagon, too. Thankfully, he’s got a donor car to experiment on, so he can cut that one first to figure out how much space the headlights need. The lights themselves also need some tweaking, with the removal of a superfluous mounting tab. Once he’s figured out how it will all work, he marks up the actual build car for cutting, making sure to preserve the necessary crash structures to comply with New Zealand’s modified car laws. Once the front end supports are trimmed to make room, he demonstrates how to weld the layers of steel back together properly so it can all remain road legal.

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Careful trimming of the front end upper rails was required to get the headlights to fit, but it all came together relatively neatly.

With the bumper and headlights able to slot in to the appropriate spots, he has to fabricate new fenders to tie the new parts into the rest of the Stagea’s bodywork. This is where the real challenge starts. Where the hood, bumper, and lights took two videos, the fenders take eight. The complementary sideskirts and widebody details then require further work, along with a set of rear widened fenders to match the front kit.

The work starts with a GT-R fender as a base for the front half, thanks to the fact it already matches the complex lines of the headlights and front bumper. It’s welded to a Stagea fender which has the appropriate lines to meet the door seam. Much grinder action ensues to cut slots into the GT-R fender which allows its back half to be blended into the Stagea panel. The two are then welded together, with a nicely formed vent included for good measure. From there, lashings of body filler tidy up the panels to make them smooth and tidy. The metal fabricated fenders were then used as a base to create molds for fiberglass parts for the finished car. Oh, and naturally, it’s worth remembering that all this work has to happen twice to complete both sides of the car.

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Once that was complete, work on the widebody kit began. This is where things get really messy, with lashings of expanding foam poured into cardboard molds fitted on the car’s front and rear fenders. Once set, the cardboard is peeled off, and the foam sanded to the appropriate shape for the bulked-out fenders. Again, much like before, the foam is then used as the basis for molds to make the final fiberglass widebody kit.

At this stage, one side of the car has its widebody kit and front-end conversion finished, and it looks utterly badass. The front and rear fenders neatly wrap over the tires with a minimum of clearance, and the pumped guards help blend the purposeful GT-R front end into the more stately wagon body. When the kit is complete, and the car goes through paint, it’s likely to look cleaner. For now, though, the multi-colored panels kind of add to a rat rod look that give it even more aggression and edge.

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With over a year of videos on the project, Watson has done a great job of showing just how much work goes into a front-end swap like this. Plus, by virtue of breaking it all down into such small steps, it serves as a great introductory guide to anyone that may wish to pursue such advanced mods themselves. Don’t expect to be as talented as Watson from the get-go, of course, but take his methods as inspiration for your own work. When you’ve built something truly magnificent, like a widebody Daihatsu Feroza race car with the front-end from an SN95 Mustang, be sure to let us at The Autopian know of your glories. Happy hacking!

Image credits: Tofu Auto Works, YouTube screenshots

 

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Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
3 months ago

I respect the good work, but it seems like too much work. 99% of the population won’t even know what car it was from. And, it’s not such an epic design like a 911.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
3 months ago

I’m so glad my front end swap is so much simpler – everything just bolts on, with only a couple of bolts having nowhere to attach to (but can be left out without causing a problem.
It does help that mine is so much older and simpler – fitting an earlier front end to a later Valiant ute, to create an AP5 model ute, since the AP5 model wasn’t available in a ute body style.

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
3 months ago

I had a 2005 Infiniti G35 sedan (with the 6-speed manual – borderline holy grail), which was sold in Japan as the Skyline sedan.

At one point I was going to put the JDM Nissan Skyline badges and grille on it, but I never got around to it before I sold it.

However, I would have never had the patience and dedication to completely bastardize the looks of a Nissan Stagea to make it look like the least attractive modern Skyline.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

My armchair project is much simpler, I just want a Riley Elf shooting brake based on a Mini Countryman woody. That should be the same level of difficulty as swapping a Pontiac nose onto an El Camino.

Beater_civic
Beater_civic
3 months ago

But it was Frankenstein who was made out of other people’s parts, not Godzilla… So this would be…. Wankenstein?

… I’ll show myself the door now…

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
3 months ago

His other youtube project I actually like more. He did a bunch of mods to miata. Guy is really good with fiberglass.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
3 months ago

Not trying to yuck the dudes yum. It’s cool. But, should of probably taken the front widebody all the way back to the door, with the hard cut off plus vents. Then done a more bulbous fender-esqe carried to the end, maybe adding the rear fins from the newer Gt-R. Really just mimic the GT-R kit. The roundness off it all looks pretty 370z. Lacking the sharp line-based aggression of the GT-R.

Mark Jacob
Mark Jacob
3 months ago

There’s a little too much…car (for lack of a better term) in front of the windshield, but otherwise, I love it.

121gwats
121gwats
3 months ago

Party in the front, business in the back. Good idea, so so execution. It just doesn’t chive together. Too wide up front/narrow in the back. Lines are very straight, and vanilla in the rear vs aggressive curves in the front. Lip hangs down too far, needs side skirts, dare I say it.

Good starting point, and bonus points for keeping it in the Nissan family, but its not cohesive yet.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
3 months ago

Something doesn’t seem right, but I don’t hate it.

Buzz
Buzz
3 months ago

The front end should be an inch or two higher. It looks bad – it is incongruous with the rest of the car.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  Buzz

I don’t see it. Where is it off?

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
3 months ago
Reply to  Buzz

I think that might be it, the hood needs to be flatter

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