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.)
The upfitter's press release on the Quigley 4x4 Nissan NV conversions went out mid-July. It described Quigley as a "niche industry with intricacy." Todd added, "We need to educate the dealers and put together a dealer introduction kit to help them learn how to order, the costing to a dealer, and warranty info. Nissan's regional reps are now setting up meetings, and Nissan has sent out a press release to its internal websites. As Nissan is new to the business of selling commercial vehicles, they don't know what to do and also what can be put inside a 'naked vehicle,'" said Quigley.
"The automotive industry has come to know our name," offered Mike Quigley the next day during our evaluation of the NV on a swath of rugged off-road tracks, at the Rausch Creek Off Road Park, located one hour from Quigley headquarters. "We are in a unique situation because we have employees that are uniquely attuned to 4WD. We are versed in 4WD, service, maintenance, engineering, and quality control. Every day we are looking for something that could go wrong or did go wrong. Quality starts before the job begins, and continues as the vehicle is being built and tested and after." We use third party independent testing facilities as well as our own quality control to verify that our designs do not impede any of the OE's safety features such ABS, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, or Vehicle Dynamic Control.
"When we heard about the new NV being built, we wanted to prepare for it. Our vehicles are on all seven continents from the North Pole to the South Pole and, as the years have gone by, we have developed a clientele from many different backgrounds, ranging from tombstone carvers to the FBI, CIA, ATF, Homeland Security, Secret Service, and Border Patrol. We have also built vehicles for Iceland that are used as ambulance and rescue vehicles," said the CEO.
The 4WD conversion is available on all 2500 and 3500 NV models (cargo vans and the newly introduced passenger van) that are equipped with the 5.6-liter V-8 engine. Quigley hopes to upfit 25 units from September to December in the first three months of build.
"With all of the benefits of a high roof, good gas mileage, and tough OE parts, the NV is great. Compared with trucks, when you put together the price of the truck, a lock box, racks, and a cap, I think if people researched it -- and also the price of trailers -- the ones who have done their homework will say the pricing of the Quigley 4x4 van is fair," said Quigley.
The Quigley 4x4 Nissan NV will appeal to a wide audience of buyers who need to carry loads of goods, as well as purveyors that carry groups and gear, such as colleges, churches, and airport livery services. It competes with the Ford E-Series and GM Express/Chevy Savana and the first versions to come to market are targeted at tradesmen of various sorts, passenger-ferrying companies, and fleet owners. Ford has also announced it will develop a new model of its E Series and import a larger version of its Transit Connect next year.
The Quigley 4x4 Nissan NV conversion will be priced at $10,895. This special introductory price will be in effect until January 1, 2013.
The Quigley 4x4 Nissan NV Recipe
Quigley started the conversion by tearing apart the front end of the Nissan NV V-8s that have a GVW of 9600 pounds, and come set up with a 250/260 front axle. Engineers replace the stock axle with an American Axle with a higher gear set (3.42:1/3.55:1 gears), and add a Magna transfer case and driveline positioned in the middle of the van. Also added are a Quigley-designed single-speed transfer case using Magna components, a 9.25-inch front differential, and Quigley-manufactured front driveshafts.
Following the conversion, the NV has a bit more ground clearance and the center of gravity is lowered a touch, but the IFS front suspension and OE parts, such as front brakes, steering, and tires are retained.
"Final quality control is driving the product on-road and on a variety of twisty and windy roads, checking the driveline for vibrations," said Todd Quigley. "We went to Moab and took a 7500-mile trip with our new vehicles to see what they feel like. We do all of the engineering design in house and don't outsource."
(For Ford vans: F-350 front axle; F-350 New Process 271; two-speed transfer case. For GM vans: Magna-built GM K-30, two-speed transfer case; American Axle-built GM K-30 9.25 front axle with axle disconnect.) The NV conversion adds 315-325 pounds to the vehicle (GM’s conversion adds 365 and Ford’s adds 585).
Nissan Validates the NV on the Trail
Truck Trend joined Gerry Appie, senior manager of Commercial and Fleet Aftermarket Engineering, when he came to Quigley to verify the quality and capability of the conversion on the passenger and cargo vans.
"So many contractors are all about trucks, but the NV feels like a truck, said Appie, who works in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and has been with Nissan for two years. Previously, he worked with another U.S. automaker and was familiar with Quigley's work.
"I've been with Nissan for two years, and I've had a lot of calls for a 4WD version of the NV," said Appie. "Many have come from Alaska and North Dakota, and probably 80 percent of those are looking for oil field use. A van has a good size and offers protection from the elements.
"We don't do an official process with our own testing and evaluation. We are just getting our side of the commercial business up and running and Quigley has put on more than 7500 miles on the passenger van and 5000 on the cargo van.
"We have had a lot of applications for the van and have been working with aftermarket companies who want 4WD motorhomes, mobility vehicles, and specialty interiors; Sportsmobile is waiting for the Quigley system to do their motorhome conversions. We are getting calls from the snow states, and from police departments who are looking for prisoner transport vehicles and command units. The high-roof van works out perfectly for that. I think it's going to be a more substantial market than Quigley thinks.
"We are coming into this very quickly, so I am dealing with the reputable companies and the companies I know. The van was designed and developed for the commercial market with a strong frame, big brakes, and reciprocating-ball steering. Nissan made the NV to be what American trucks are -- we didn't just bring something else over from another country.
"I am very impressed with the quality of the NV conversion on the trail -- with no lift on it. We are four-wheeling with leather seats and air conditioning -- there is a lot of luxury there. This will work out well for the activity-minded family, for airport shuttles as we have had a lot of interest from them, as well as interior companies that do van conversions. We are also working with some of the package delivery companies that are looking for 4WD vans."
William (Bill) Quigley started the business in 1966, in Manchester, Pennsylvania, as a used light pickup business; he also sold pop-up campers and provided sales and service. Previously, he had been a salesman in a Ford dealership working with cars. When he noticed that few salesmen knew about trucks, he began to focus on them, as he enjoyed making a sale. After moving to a GM dealership, he started his own business. As son Mike joined him in 1968 following his service in the Vietnam War, they moved from trucks to conversion vans and interior conversions, appreciating that van are sealed against the elements.
In 1974, Mike convinced his dad to build a 4WD van, thinking of hunters, boaters, and outdoor sportsmen, as well as others with a need for back-country traction. As they outgrew the old shop, they developed a new facility in 1995. Nephew Todd started at the company at 15, as a way to save money to buy a car. He took out the trash and mowed the lawn. After getting an engineering degree at Pittsburg State University, he came back full time in 1999.
"If you have a van and need to get into a site or live in an area of inclement weather, it is a tool," said Todd Quigley. "A van has security with 4WD, and is a better application than a pickup truck for many customers."
Now also in the driveshaft business, Quigley found that driveshaft quality was lacking in the industry, and started an association with Rausch Creek Off Road Park, where Quigley had used the rigorous back country trails for field testing (see RCORP sidebar). "We have been a sponsor of the park for three years; all the park's trucks have our driveshafts and advertise our product. Quigley can provide driveshafts for cars and light to heavy-duty trucks, up to and including the 810 Spicer Series.
GM: $11,195 (Gas Engine Cargo/Passenger Van 159" and 177" CAW); $11,495 (Diesel Engine Cargo/Passenger Van 159" and 177" CAW); $12,295 (139" WB CAW)
Ford: $11,795 (5.4L and E-350 SRW CAW);$12,195 (6.8L & E-350/E-450 DRW CAW)
Other Unique Quigley Models
* An Amish farmer uses a rake on the back of a van to plow his fields
* The national science museum sent 24 units to Antarctica
* Helped a man on Long Island use a front-mounted, reverse rake to groom the beach
Quigley Motor Company, Inc.
100 Sunset Drive
Manchester, PA 17345
Rausch Creek Offroad Park
Rausch Creek Off Road Park is devoted to providing a fun, legal place for 4x4 off road clubs and organizations to go "wheeling." (It is not open to quads and bikes.) The park consists of almost 3000 acres of easy, intermediate, and hard trails. Rocks, bowls, hills, the glacial "Rock Creek," club-friendly trails, and free on-site camping combine to make Rausch Creek a unique 4x4 destination. The minimum group size is two vehicles.
April-November: Open Fri-Sat-Sun
Dec-Mar: Open Saturday and Sunday
Weekdays open by reservation.
All camping is by reservation.
453 Molleystown Rd
Tremont, PA 17981