Skip to main content

The Ideal Tow Vehicle Fantasy

I actually went for a test drive, the other day, of a 2014 Nissan Frontier pickup truck. Much to my surprise I was allowed to put my mountain bike in the cargo bed, and learned that the short (5 foot) beds of the more popular crew cab models are not long enough for a mountain bike with a front bag. Good grief -- what could you use a 5 foot bed for? The 6 foot beds of the non-crew-cab models would work for a mountain bike, but only 10% of the used Frontier markeplace is non-crew-cab.

Still, it was worth having this experience just to savor the fantasy of my ideal pickup: it would actually be a van built on a small or medium pickup platform. That is,
  1. rear wheel drive with 6000 pounds of towing capacity.
  2. no direct fuel injection and no turbos.
  3. high ground clearance and big tires. 
  4. a non-open rear differential, be it a traction control system that applies brakes to the slipping wheel, or locking or limited slip (mechanical) differential.
  5. six drive gears or more, and I don't mean with 2 of the 6 as overdrive.
  6. stripped and utilitarian in the cabin.
The small pickup truck has virtually disappeared from the North American marketplace. You could look at this and say, So What? The only customers who want small stripper pickups are auto parts stores, the phone company, the city water department, etc. And they can buy one of the small vans that have appeared the last couple years, such as the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200, and a couple others. 

But these small vans have low ground clearance, and so are virtually useless off-pavement. Since they have front wheel drive, they are useless for towing.

In fact, Nissan sort of made my ideal "pickup" when they morphed their full-size pickup, the Titan, into a humongous van, their "NV". But I already drive a full-size Ford Econoline van, and am sick of it.

So I am stuck with a sterile fantasy.


Wayne Wirs said…
I seriously love my NV. Gas mileage be damned. I'll take comfort, convenience and access any day.
Actually, your fuel economy is pretty good. When I tow a light trailer with my ancient low-roof Econoline van, I only get 10.5 mpg. You are doing better than that, I'll bet.

The trouble with engines that get better fuel economy than your Nissan V6 is the REASON they get better: turbos and direct fuel injection. How much will these and the high pressure fuel pump cost to repair, when the warranty has run out? The direct injected engines build up with crap on the intake valves. How much will it cost to disassemble the engine and clean those valves?

Your competition gets 3 mpg more than you. That's worth about $500 of gasoline per year.

How much repair can you get done these days for $500? You couldn't even get the cupholder bearings tuned up for that! (grin)
John V said…
Someday, maybe soon, you'll leave some of the guts of that old van laying on the ground somewhere. There will be no saving the old beast. If it happened this week, what would you buy? Where does the fantasy end and the reality hit?
The old van has gotten $2000 of new guts over the last month.

I know, the "wishing" game can be sterile. The trouble is that I don't really like anything out there that is available.
John V said…
I know you haven't found the silver bullet. I'm curious what you would swallow hard and buy if you had a gun to your head. You've done a lot of research.
Ed said…
Somewhere at sometime in my travels I saw a UPS pick-up chassis with a parcel box on the back. I was not close enough to tell you much more than that. At the time I guessed that it was a 4x4 so it could make deliveries to some areas where their big parcel vans could not go.
I wonder if you could get a parcel box to replace the pick-up bed? Or, here is another cap supplier with rear doors. Not a lot of locations to buy one nor any prices shown:
I had a look at your link. Those were pretty nice pickup caps. But the industrial line of common cap suppliers (Leer, ARE, etc.) cost $5000. So these specialized ones will probably come in at $8000. I was too sheepish to even inquire.
John V,
If blue smoke started pouring out of the old van:
1. Ford 150 regular cab, 5.0 V8, 6 speed automatic transmission, low trim level, rear wheel drive.
2. Nissan Frontier "king cab", i.e., the extended non-crew-cab.
3. Nissan NV full size van.

Unfortunately most of my "research" is just reading stuff on the internet. It hasn't been all that helpful.
edlfrey said…
This is custom but looks simple enough that it would not be outrageously expensive. Add the contact information to your wish list.
Creedbilt, Inc.
6012 N. 56th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301

(623) 939-8119