I regret to inform you that I am now a fan of the Nissan NV Cargo Van. The big, goofy one, not the perfectly reasonable and practical Nissan NV200. I’ve finally come around to the Nissan NV Cargo Van because its big problem — that it’s comically big — could actually make it a good platform for an overland build.
Nissan and some of its dealers had the idea years ago, before the NV Cargo Van was discontinued. The company asked Xtreme Off-Road host Ian Johnson to modify an NV for off-roading. Johnson had experience modifying an unlikely vehicle for off-roading but with the NV, the conversion seemed more viable.
Mostly because of the NV’s ladder frame and chassis that could easily fit a torquey engine, 4WD components and a suitable suspension. Nissan called the modified van the NV Cargo X.
The NV Cargo X got an engine swap, replacing its stock 5.6-liter V8 engine for a Cummins 5.0-liter V8 turbo diesel, borrowed from a Nissan Titan XD truck. The front suspension was heavily modified and lifted to fit 37-inch tires, while the rear suspension kept the stock multi-leaf setup. It also got a 4x4 conversion, allegedly using factory components. Nissan claims the NV Cargo Van came with reinforced mounting points, which came in handy for building and mounting a custom interior. The end result was a sizable off-roader built like a truck, but with an integrated shell that’s ready to turn into a camper.
And because it’s not one of the usual candidates for an overland platform, it could be bought cheaper today than more popular machines. Think of the usual overland suspects, like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Of course, any money you save on the NV Cargo Van might go right back into modifying it to handle the task, but I can’t help but believe there’s potential there.
A commercial Nissan NV Cargo Van with a high roof has just over 323 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than a standard M-B Sprinter (about 319 cu. ft.), but less than a high roof Sprinter. The Nissan NV Cargo Van does have a pretty tall roof height inside, at about 77-inches tall. The cargo space is there, but vehicle geometry is where the NV Cargo Van is less proven than the Sprinter. Nissan showed that with modifications, the NV can be made off-road worthy.
I’m constantly looking for machines that could provide an alternative to the van conversions and pickup trucks that people set their camper shells on — mostly because the common choices end up priced out of reach for most people. I saw a Nissan NV Cargo Van on the road recently, and I wondered about the viability of an overland and/or camper conversion. It’s an unlikely candidate, and maybe even a bad one but the NV Cargo Van could be an overland sleeper platform.