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In Love, at Last!

After getting sick of looking at infomercials on the internet I finally had a chance to kick some tires on real cargo vans, which we have all agreed are the ultimate towing machines for a serious RV camper. The exciting news in the cargo van biz is the new Nissan NV cargo van. (And once again I thank the commenter who brought this vehicle to my attention.) I found a used one for sale. Unlike the usual Chevy Express on the lot, this particular Nissan NV had both an auxiliary transmission lubricant cooler and an engine oil cooler. 

Notice how square and planar the inside of the van is. Down with those rounded and irregular ribs that are on older Chevy and Ford vans! This Nissan NV van looks so easy to convert. The planarity of the top and sides ensures that only a slight bend would be needed for insulation and Luann plywood.


It even has threaded holes on a regular basis so you can add shelves, etc.

At 5' 11.5" I can stand completely upright in the van. But by the time you add an inch of insulation on the floor and ceiling, somebody over 5'10" would have trouble living in this van full time. I only am interesting in using it as a tow vehicle/storage facility in combo with a small trailer for living, probably a non-stealth cargo trailer.

One more good thing: it has 17" tires, a real plus for backcountry camping. The Chevy and Ford vans have 16" tires. Sorry, I forgot to measure installed-tire diameter.

If I could find one of these babies with traction control, I'm sold.

These are not over-priced like those Daimler Sprinter vans of a few years back.


hey - thanks for the review. You're right, it looks like a great shell. I have some friends who are looking to do their own conversion so I'm definitely telling them about this option!
Pat said…
That looks nice. But, it could use a few more inches of headroom. I think the sprinters may have more.
Johnny Coughen said…
Good find! Nissan is great for the most part. I've only started to see these odd, import commercial vehicles on the road recently and apologize for not recommending it earlier.

Is it the 4.0 or 5.6 L engine?

Traction control? That's what good tires are for.

Glad you found the right match. Good luck with her :)
Boonie said…
Thanks Anne.

Pat, I agree that the Nissan NV needs more headroom for living. The travel trailer uses a standard height of 6'4" for small trailers. Nissan skimped a little.

Since it might be good enough to raise only the center of the van's roof, why not cut a rectangular slot-hole in the roof, 2 or 2.5 foot wide by most of the length of van.

2. Save the sheet metal rectangle.

3. Build a wooden box on top of the rectangular hole with 1X4s or 2X4s.

4. Attach the saved rectangular sheet metal on top of the wood frame top box.
Boonie said…
Johnny, I didn't buy it. I was just flirting and fluttering my eyelashes.

Traction control would be a great improvement. Good tires can't overcome a sandy or loose gravel arroyo crossing.
Ed said…

A quick Google search found this "Standard safety equipment throughout the 2012 NV lineup includes four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), as well as traction and stability control. So finding traction control seems a non-issue.

Then there was this: This uniquely designed hauler has a high-roof option, 231 cubic-foot cargo capacity (331 cubic feet in the high-roof versions),

Didn't say how high the high roof was but with your math knowledge I bet you could figure that out.

Looks like a good choice!
Mark Johnson said…
I would do it the other way around... use a utility trailer for my "bikes and gear," and make the van into living quarters.... low as the head room is , most utility trailers would have even less. I like the idea of raising the roof a few inches, too. You could put in a Fantastic Fan or swamp cooler.
Box Canyon Mark
Boonie said…
Mark, for a few hundred dollars extra you can order cargo trailers with 6'6" inside standing height.

I do sometimes consider what you like: living in the van and storing toys in the cargo trailer.

But consider that a new van costs 25K$. Now consider that the same sized (interior 10' X 6') cargo trailer costs 3K$. So you are risking more to scotch the resell value of the van.

Also, the 6' interior width of a van is marginal. There's nothing you can do about it. But you could get a 7' wide cargo trailer, my likely choice.

Although the Nissan NV looks pretty easy to convert compared to an old Ford Econoline van, it would still be three times harder than converting a cargo trailer with the walls and floor just being flat plywood and capable of taking a screw ANYWHERE.

Ed, I believe I was looking and photographing THE high roof version. The low roof version is just like a standard Chevy Express or Ford Econoline van.

Randy said…
Having lived in the famous stealth trailer for 5 years---one thing I would do different is get a 7 ft wide version with the wheels tucked under. I found the 8 ft wheel width to be a problem occasionally---and the 6 ft interior width a tiny bit constrictive.
Boonie said…
Randy, Your 2 points are duly noted. A 6 foot width is like a van -- a bit too narrow. I'm used to living in a 7 foot travel trailer. I like how you can see around it, when you're driving, without extended mirrors on the tow vehicle.

I too believe that interior wheel wells are preferred. Trailers can be ordered like that. It's unlikely that you can find a used trailer with interior wheel wells, because most customers prefer a "clean" interior that allows you to slide things in and out without banging into wheel wells.

But converters like us will just build a permanent shelf or cabinet around the wheel well.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but taking your hand off your head and removing the hat should provide an extra inch or two of roof clearance...