A lot has happened & a lot has changed. Somehow, I am still here, and so are you.
I often reminisce of the early 2ndGen days. Although Rugged Rocks
started on older Nissans in 2006, the 2ndGen saga holds a special time in history. This forum was running rampant and could have easily been mistaken for a real-time live chat. Refresh, & respond. Everyone was trying to figure out how to build these things. NissTec didn't exist. Neither did All Dogs or Xterra Performance. The 'Titan-swap' had just been discovered and PRG was just starting to crank out kits. 4x4 Parts was selling stuff but always seemed to be in the background... Not social at all, but always watching and making moves. RC hadn't touched these trucks, neither had Dirt King, Pro Comp or any other big box brand. Even Yukon Gear & Axle wouldn't touch Nissans with a 10ft pole. With the exception of FabTech. They had a 6" Frontier Kit that was just as questionable then as it is today. It does the job of lifting but not without compromise.
I was working with ARB on Lockers, Advance Adapters, Superior Axle & Gear, Doug Thorley, RCV, and many others. I was in the thick of everything that didn't have to do with Coilovers or control arms. I left those customers to Greg. He left the Gears and Locker customers to me.
A few years later, NissTec was on the scene and growing quickly. Very focused on suspension and other popular accessories. I've got to tell you; Chris did a heck of a job coming in hot offering quality setups that appealed to the masses beyond PRG's focus. If you want to go fast in the desert, Greg @ PRG is your guy. But I believe that the NissTec Kits are appealing to a larger majority. The SPC control arms are a solid selling point, using a Ball Joint instead of a Uniball which has a more universal use case... Overlanding and harsh weather environments. Both NissTec & PRG sell Radflos but they aren't built the same. Greg has the best shock tune in the industry for Nissans. (Sorry Chris)
By 2009, my efforts with ARB were starting to materialize & the first M226 Locker was test fitted, installed
and made available.
By 2012, The first M205 Gears were here. A project made possible by me working with Superior Axle and Gear and you guys backing up. They needed proof of demand, and you guys blew up their phone... To the point where they couldn't do anything else and had to tell you guys to give them some breathing room. These were the first M205 Gears to market. A couple years later, the owner of Superior dealt with a difficult series of events that lead to an abrupt closing of the company. Manufacturing contacts were handed off to me and M205 Gears are still cut by the same Gear Manufacturing Facility to this day.
Around the same time that the M205 Gears were landing, I was working on the M205 ARB Locker and after the project getting deprioritized repeatedly at ARB, they too were asking for proof of demand. This time it was huge. ARB required an order for 50 Lockers for this to become top priority. You guys came through again by helping spread the word across all the Nissan Forums and Social Media Sites. I told the Magazines & wrote newsletters repeatedly. A few weeks later we started taking deposits. A few weeks later we were a little short on qty, but I ordered extra for the shelf and ARB helped bend the rules a little bit. 6 Months later they landed and were shipping. I had worked a 6-month exclusivity on these Lockers to help keep other companies from riding the coattails of the work I put in, (a common problem with one, which apparently was not happy about this exclusivity agreement). All 50 from the first ordered were sold within a few weeks of them arriving. For the first time, Xterras and Frontiers were able to be Titan-swapped, Locked Front & Rear and Regeared. These have been in production ever since and now available throughout their distribution network.
At this time, my phone was ringing off the hook 12 hours a day and this small business was finally turning into something sustainable. But I was exhausted, unhealthy and any new hires were worthless. I went back to running things solo.
By 2013, It became time to have more M205 Gears manufactured, but it turned out that another company traced down the Gear Plant and made a long-term exclusivity agreement on 'My' Gears that I worked on with Superior. They were briefly out of reach... WoW. After jumping through some hoops, I was able to get my hands on them again but not without a significant price increase which to this day I have not passed on to the retail price. That part had essentially become a loss leader. A step backwards after all this effort.
My Pathfinder had been well published in a few magazines and won one of the Top Trucks of the Year in Off-road Magazine for 2013, (Jan 2014 issue).
By 2016, Solid Axle Swaps, (SAS), were becoming a bit more in focus in the 2ndGen world which is around when the CRWMXXS
build was done. RCV IFS Axle Shafts were in production, Doug Thorley Headers were made available, and a handful of 2ndGens were running Atlas Transfer Cases.
I believe NissTec bought Xterra Performance around this time. The Nissan Nation Podcast was also running strong which I was a guest on a few times. I would later also be on a few other Podcasts such as the 4x4Podcast & The Offroad Podcast. I was always trying to bring more Nissan wheeling awareness to the greater Off-Road Industry.
Yukon Gear reached out to me regarding making M205 Gears, they asked some questions about them and I thought we would work together getting them out. Instead, they released them a few years later on their own, and apparently, they don't work with an ARB Locker. Buyer Beware
MY understanding is that Yukon was also bought out by an investment group and made changes to their manufacturing and therefore quality. You can even buy their stuff through AutoZone. If you really want to get Yukon Gears for your Nissan for some reason, just go to AutoZone, they are way cheaper than anyone else selling them in the Nissan circles too. For example, here is the 3.73 M205 Gearset on the AutoZone website (https://www.autozone.com/powertrain...differential-ring-and-pinion-24701/713100_0_0
) But I highly don't recommend their product. But if you insist... at least ask me for my AutoZone affiliate link!
Revolution Gear was a new Gear Brand starting up using top notch manufacturing facility that is high in demand and wasn't taking any more clients... But Revolution was in. I worked with them on reinventing the wheel on a few things and run their gears where I can. In case you were wondering, the Gear Package with the highest quality cut gears on the market is the 4.10 Gear Package that I offer through Rugged Rocks.
Nitro is also selling some Nissan stuff, but they fall short on a few parts, others they get from me.
By 2017, I came to terms with SAS Builds being too demanding of projects to be profitable, and many people were already getting sticker shock... Even after stripping out as much margin as I possibly could. I started dabbling with IFS parts... Like some UCA's that offer more droop than any other using a Ball-joint, and a high quality 4-leaf Add-a-Leaf Kit that holds over many years and doesn't crack. But the jig for making the UCA's was in the RR Pathfinder
when it was stolen, never to be seen again, (I got the truck back though). With the amount of work, it took to get the jig right, and how questionable the demand was, we let that project go the way of the dodo. The 4-leaf Add-a-Leafs were awesome, few bought them and only 11 sets exist. I still run the prototype UCA's and Add-a-Leafs on my Xterra.
I also had extended R180 Axle Shafts made for Titan-swap use. They were made of Chromoly and were almost half the cost of the Sway-a-way Shafts. They sold OK at first but other cheaper Non-chromoly Shafts were favored among Nissans owners. Overall, sales were slowing down with people favoring lesser quality cheaper parts.
By 2019, I still found myself on the phone answering tech calls all day and sales had slowed even further. It turns out that a lot of people were using me like a Nissan encyclopedia. In some cases, I would spend hours on the phone with a customer to be told at the end that they would buy the parts from their friend that works for 4-wheel Parts or order them up on Amazon. Nothing upset me more. A therapist once told me I needed to start charging a Consulting Fee. I knew that wouldn't fly in this market. I think All Dogs opened around this time. I thought it was odd that another company was coming in to play in a small pond... I still do, but hey... join the rumble, I guess.
With my personal life on the rocks, (no pun intended), I was wrapping up a divorce and was ready to pull the plug on Rugged Rocks. I disabled checkout on the website and made the announcement. All of a sudden, I was bombarded with people wanting to order Gears, lots and lots of Gears. I was being begged to get an order in. One exception after another over the course of a few weeks... I was silently fully open and ended up restructuring the product offerings, (disabling small margin hard to get parts), and focusing on taking better care of myself.
By 2020, I cleaned house a bit and blew out the remaining R180 Extended Axle Shafts for a smok'in deal. I was primarily focused on living life for a little bit... Which really meant seeing the light of day, going for the occasional job, and not Pigeon-holing myself into the office and keep phone calls short. I was also spending more time working on Rugged Routes
I was still selling quite a few parts. My dad unexpectedly passed at the age of 59 on July 6th. I was unexpectedly on a super thin skeleton schedule only filling orders and communication was sparse. It went on like this for about a month. If you've never had someone in your family pass away, it's absolutely terrible on so many levels. on top of grieving, dealing with family stuff, trying to get a funeral together and run a business.... It was a mess. Top it off, a few people posted on the forums complaining about my lack of communication during that time... It was rough.
Ultimately, I got all caught up, and COVID has put an interesting twist on the world with crazy parts shortages.
Now in 2022,
COVID parts shortages have just about all been solved. I have moved and I'm back in a life situation where I have healthy flexibility in my schedule while able to run full long comfortable days. But the phone is still quiet, and most phone calls are less than 10minutes, 15 tops. Once in a while I end up in long conversations. I'm easier to get a hold of than I have been in many years. It's been this way since January of 2021 and holding steady.
I have even worked with ARB to release the Front Air-locker for the 2020+ Frontier. It took quite a bit of homework, and there is one running around in Colorado. It is in fact available and has been for the last 6 months or so. As of today, I have sold exactly zero of them! Strange.
Moving forward in the Nissan space I'm willing to further help develop parts where it makes sense. I was even recently approached by another Locker Manufacture to help release some Nissan stuff in the near future, Stay Tuned! However, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel making cheaper and cheaper knockoff versions of good parts that we already have. This niche market is hard enough to be in, and I'm not interested in racing to the bottom. You may find similar products to what I offer, on other websites for a few bucks cheaper. I'm convinced they are trying to play pricing games... But I'm not playing. I know what I'm selling and have the knowledge to back it up. The short of it is, when you shop with me you get my support. I have had my head wrapped around these things for well over a decade and am the guy that parts manufactures call when they get stumped on a Nissan product.
Over the years, I have fought tooth and nail, not to just bring things to market, but to keep them off of the chopping block and in production, (Gears, Atlas Adapters and Headers especially)! I've always been a techy guy, people always had questions, and I've loved answering them... I loved the puzzle. These days it's all been solved, so I encourage you all to SEARCH the forums. But of course, if you're stumped on a part that you got from me, give me a ring. I'm happy to help.
These days, I'm typically man of fewer words. I suppose I got tired of correcting people on the forums and facebook when the help wasn't asked for. I can't stand watching botched builds on facebook. I bailed on all the facebook groups. Wrong info floating around drives me insane... But these days I don't go out of my way trying to help people... You know where to find me. It's been 16 years and I'm still here.
In the end, we all love our trucks, the outdoors, and the people we get to enjoy it all with. On this journey, I encourage all of you to not forget the people that helped make the quality parts in this small niche industry happen, in turn making your adventures possible. Please know that your business is greatly appreciated by us all. And try to keep an eye out for those vendors that are selling you "Cheap Reinvented Junk" or playing pricing games undercutting the guys that did the hard work.
In the long run, cheaper is seldom cheaper. I'll give it to you straight.
And last but not least, make sure you call the place you bought your parts from for tech support. Even if it's Amazon
I hope to See you on the Trails...
Rugged Rocks Off Road
Lately, Chris @ NissTec, Kyle @ P&P, Nestor @ Shaddow wolf and myself have all been in touch regarding some racing that will be happening at King of the Hammers 2023. Things are about to get amped up, really interesting, and fun! Hopefully we can bring video footage to the web.