Preserving the frontier: Nissan’s 40-year friendship with the Mojave Road
The Mojave Road, a 130-mile stretch of desert between Fort Mojave in Nevada and Camp Cody in California, is a textbook of American history, and Nissan has a role in its story.
For centuries, indigenous people used the Mojave Road as a trading route. Starting in the mid-1800s, explorers seeking a better life used the road during America's westward expansion. In the 1860s, the U.S. Army manned outposts along the trail to protect mail deliveries.
Ultimately, the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1883 caused use of the Mojave Road to diminish. The road has sat mostly dormant since.
Historian Dennis Casebier (1934-2021) spent much of his life researching the Mojave Road. His seven-book series, "Tales of the Mojave Road," cemented it in American history.
In 1981, Casebier helped establish a volunteer organization, "Friends of the Mojave Road," to organize work to protect the land.
Nissan encapsulated its adventures on the Mojave Trail as part of its global Daring 23 campaign, created to celebrate Nissan’s 90th anniversary and explore daring moments from the company’s past that point to the bright road ahead
In 1983, Nissan organized a media drive of the road featuring the 720 truck – a precursor to today's Nissan Frontier – to bring awareness to the trail while showcasing the truck's capabilities. Attendees included Four Wheeler, AutoWeek, Motor Trend and others.
"Nissan, bringing their new truck out with a run over the Mojave Road, provided the most elaborate and valuable gesture of support," wrote Casebier in his 1983 book, "Nissan on the Mojave Road." "They became determined and supported the idea with energy and creativity."
Clockwise from upper left: "Friends of the Mojave Road" erected a post to mark the proper route through an area of drifting sand. A guide makes final checks. The Nissan crew builds a rock cairn near Shaw Pass. The Nissan 720 handles the rain-soaked road conditions admirably. More Nissan employees pose at the Ricking Sun Saloon, a makeshift area for refreshments on the route.
In February 2023, 40 years after the original Mojave Road media drive, Nissan recreated the event with the Nissan Frontier. Just as in 1983, Nissan helped reignite conversations about the Mojave Road with the help of numerous media outlets like Autoblog, Motor1 and The Drive.
Media experienced similar daunting weather conditions to those faced by the 1983 crew. Intense thunderstorms led to thick mud, swollen rivers and seemingly impassable stretches of unkept land.
"The Frontier handled (the trip) with exceptional grace," wrote Victoria Scott of Motor1. "It was, clearly, the right truck for the circumstances."
Echoing the trip from 40 years earlier, drivers in the Nissan Frontier managed cholla cactuses, rain-soaked terrain and boulder-size holes in the road with ease. Bottom right: Media members soak in the atmosphere, history and stories of the Mojave Road.
Sean Holman, board member of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association, was the guide for the 2023 trip.
"The road has many lessons to teach us," said Holman. "When I'm on the road, I think of how something so vital can be so easily replaced in just a generation – as the Mojave Road was by the railroad and Route 66, and then Interstate 40."
A lesson in both history and sustainability, Holman said the Mojave Road is an important reminder to preserve natural resources.
"This trail is a portal through history," said Holman. "It's rare to have a single route represent so much and be a public trail through a protected preserve. It offers a break from the norm, a history lesson and a place to be at one with nature.
"It reminds you to think of simpler times and ground yourself in the romanticism of the past."
Today, the Mojave Road is a National Preserve managed by the U.S. National Park Service. Learn more about the Mojave Road by visiting Goffs Historic Cultural Center, part of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association.
Nissan is dedicated to helping preserve America's natural landscapes. Nissan and Tread Lightly! work together to promote responsible off-road recreation and ensure outdoor recreation opportunities are accessible for current and future generations.
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