When I originally saw the all-new Nissan NVs parked on the pristine showroom floor of a sprawling convention center at the NTEA Work Truck Show in 2010, it was love at first sight. Nissan's first commercial offering for the U.S. wore the modern, squared-off, and clean-lined look of its cousins in the utility and truck lineups: a chrome-framed, triple-section grille, wraparound headlamps, and a windshield as wide as Tom Cruise's Wayfarers in Risky Business. Big enough to accommodate painter's ladders or a craftsman's tool chests, it was also big enough to fit up to a dozen people. Nissan was driving into new territory in the American market.
Our first date was in Miami almost year later. There, I was able to drive four different versions of this Japanese automaker's 2012 NV on urban and suburban routes, in this trendy region of the southeastern seaboard. Our group of automotive evaluators ferried goods and gear to help with a Habitat for Humanity project, which gave us the opportunity to appreciate the utility of the regular and high-roof vans, as they were loaded with a variety of materials, and also to motor along bustling freeways bearing a heavy payload to assess handling and performance, with the more-fuel-sipping V-6 and the top-end, higher-powered V-8s.
Quigley went to MOAB to test the 4x4 NV in a tough off-road setting.
The NV's automatic transmission operated in a seamless fashion when up- and down-shifting, and top of our list of "likes" was the creative interior packaging, the responsive, well-weighted steering, and the tight turning radius. And, although the mechanicals and frame made the NV workhorse-tough, we liked its sleek bodylines and the soft touches of a show pony. Compared with the Titan pickup, when you step into the interior, you feel like you've entered a Big and Tall Man's store, as the truck and van have the same large-sized controls, knobs, and seats. Designers pointed out that all controls allow drivers and passengers to use them with gloved hands -- a nifty thought!
This new van was great -- for customers in the Sunshine States, I thought. But what about a 4WD version, I asked the marketers? It's coming, they assured me, and I raced home to the mountainous New England Snow Belt region where my family and I reside to tell my contractor brother about the NV, with its 146.1-inch wheelbase that sits on large, 17-inch wheels and has a host of creature comforts. I talked about the genuinely comfy interior with large seats, ample storage, and features designed for drivers like my brother whose vehicles double as their workspaces, with passenger seats that fold flat, providing a worktable when needed, or extended room to stow long items. Plus, the lockable center console can hold hanging file folders and a laptop computer, and there is a wide and deep overhead console on High Roof models, large-sized door pockets, underseat storage drawers, wide-opening front doors, 6 feet, 3 inches of standing room inside, and tall, broad 243-degree-opening rear doors for great access to the cargo area. But I knew my brother would never shed his 4WD pickup for a van without all-weather traction.
Some 18 months later, I entered the inner chambers of Quigley Motor Company, known around the globe for its 4x4 conversions of full-size vans. I was there for a two-day look-see of Quigley's updated operations and to join with Quigley's test team and Gerrie Appie, Nissan's senior manager of Commercial and Fleet Aftermarket Engineering, for a day of four-wheeling at nearby Rausch Creek Off Road Park in Pennsylvania.
Led on a facility tour by VP Todd Quigley, I inhaled the exciting smells that come from the engineering of automotive parts, as well as the collection of materials and lubricants used in the business of designing, upfitting, and servicing vehicles. Inside Quigley's 72,000 square-foot facility is a six-bay vehicle line with vans on lifts, where hooded workers were welding parts as sparks illuminated the underbellies of vans, while other team members wielded pneumatic drills, or ferried supplies, tools, and provisions within this engineering beehive of activity that transforms everyday vans into full-on 4WD draft horses.
Once recognized for its right-hand-drive conversions, Quigley today is focused on 4WD vans and cutaways for Ford and GM, high-quality driveshafts, servicing of its vehicles, and milling unique parts, like vehicle tie-downs for 300 vans being transported by cargo plane to Iraq, for example. Celebrated on all seven continents, Quigley is called upon for jobs that require unusual or specialty work for a wide array of clients ranging from the military, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, scientists at the South Pole, and national package delivery companies, as well as customers who need 4WD and specialty equipment for RVs, school buses, ambulances, and other rescue vehicles.
"The Nissan NV is our latest conversion," said Todd Quigley, whose uncle William "Bill" Quigley started the company in 1966. Today, the highly regarded, family-run company has sold over 24,000 unique 4WD systems for vans and is run by Bill's son Mike, who is the CEO, and his wife Faye, the CFO. Also onboard are Mike and Bill's daughter, Angie Quigley, VP of Business Operations, and nephew Todd, VP of Engineering, Customer Service, and Quality Control, as well as other family members.
"We are currently building six conversions on the line, and we usually have between 42 to 44 employees. With our average person having worked here 17 years, we have a very experienced staff; we can build about 65 units per month, without overtime. Currently, we average 500-550 GM and Ford van conversions a year. We took a hit starting in the late 1990s through a few years ago, as we had previously been building 800-900 vehicles a year. We are now steady, after dipping to as low as 400 vehicles a year," said Quigley.
"Nissan came to us in 2010, as someone there knew us from previous manufacturing experience working for another automaker. We where invited to the first measuring session in November that year, and we took a look at the cargo van. In April, we did the prototyping, built two models, have now done our testing of more than 7500 miles, and will do final testing next week," explained Quigley. The family team, as well as a number of staffers, drove the vans to Moab Easter Jeep Safari and took the full-size vans on some of the hard-core trails, including Hell's Revenge. "We are family here, and we offer our employees the opportunity to go to Moab and sign up to go out on trails with us," said Quigley.
"Nissan is not taking orders yet, but looking at September as the 'go-live date.' The truck will be marketed to dealers and customers both. The warranty will be the same as the Nissan warranty -- 5 year/60,000 miles, as we structure our powertrain components warranty the same as the manufacturer; the conversion doesn't change the OE's warranty on all other parts. Brackets and other components we make come with a warranty of 3 years/36,000 miles." (GM's warranty is 5 years/100,000 miles and Ford's is 3 years/36,000 miles.)