When a regular van gets a Cummins V8 and a lift kit, things get exciting.

The Nissan NV 2500 HD cargo van is hugely capable the way it leaves the factory. That wasn’t enough for off-roader Ian Johnson, who gave the NV a hefty makeover, turning it into a go-anywhere, do-anything off-roading rig called the NV Cargo X.

The starting point of the build involved ditching the NV’s stock engine in favor of the 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8 from a Nissan Titan XD, which produces an impressive 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. Then Johnson and his team of builders installed the four-wheel-drive setup from the Titan XD donor, as well as a custom lifted front suspension, and new wheels with 37-inch General Grabber 3X mud-terrain tires, giving it a claimed 22.0 inches of ground clearance, versus just 8.1 inches for the stock van.

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Other upgrades include a 10,000-pound winch up front, new tube bumpers with functional skid plates, additional LED lighting, and survival goodies like a full-size spare wheel and tire, a jack, a portable welder, and other tools for dealing with mishaps on the trail.

To put the Cargo X through its paces, Johnson and friends went to the challenging Pyeatt Draw trail near Payson, Arizona. “We asked the NV Cargo X to do work that's way outside of its normal job description, and it rose to every challenge,” he said.

The concept will remain just that, with no plans announced so far for Nissan to put anything so extreme into production. But it’s a useful way for the automaker to show off the versatility and capability of its NV cargo van and the Cummins-sourced turbodiesel V8 in its truck range.

“We thought it would be interesting to take an NV Cargo to the extreme – pushing it to where no cargo van has ever gone before,” Nissan North America truck division vice president Fred Diaz said in a statement. “We weren't disappointed.”

The Nissan NV Cargo X makes its public debut next week at the Chicago Auto Show.

Source: Nissan

Nissan NV Cargo X concept

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The Nissan NV Cargo X project vehicle, arguably the most extreme version of Nissan Commercial Vehicles' flagship NV Cargo van ever created, will make its world auto show debut at the upcoming 2017 Chicago Auto Show. Built in partnership with legendary off-road builder Ian Johnson, the NV Cargo X stands over seven-and-a-half feet tall on 37-inch tires and is powered by a Cummins® 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel transplanted from a Nissan TITAN XD full-size pickup.

In addition to its appearance at the Chicago Auto Show, which runs at Chicago's McCormick Place from February 11-20, footage of the NV Cargo X build and its shakedown on Pyeatt Draw trail in Arizona's Tonto National Forest can be viewed at NVCargoX.com.

To celebrate this vehicle with fans, Johnson will be at the Nissan booth on Saturday, Feb. 11, signing autographs from Noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.

"The Nissan NV – Cargo and Passenger van configurations – has the durability, quality and reliability that works hard for business applications – backed by America's Best Commercial Van & Truck Warranty1 with 5-Year/100,000-mile Bumper-to-Bumper coverage," said Fred Diaz, division vice president and general manager, North America Trucks and Light Commercial Vehicles, Nissan North America, Inc. "We thought it would be interesting to take an NV Cargo to the extreme – pushing it to where no cargo van has ever gone before. We weren't disappointed."

About the Nissan NV Cargo X

The Nissan NV Cargo X project vehicle will make its world auto show debut at the upcoming 2017 Chicago Auto Show. Built in partnership with legendary off-road builder Ian Johnson, the NV Cargo X stands over seven-and-a-half feet tall on 37-inch tires. To celebrate this vehicle with fans at the auto show, which runs at Chicago’s McCormick Place from February 11-20, Johnson will be at the Nissan booth on Saturday, Feb. 11, signing autographs from Noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.

The Nissan NV Cargo X project vehicle will make its world auto show debut at the upcoming 2017 Chicago Auto Show. Built in partnership with legendary off-road builder Ian Johnson, the NV Cargo X stands over seven-and-a-half feet tall on 37-inch tires. To celebrate this vehicle with fans at the auto show, which runs at Chicago's McCormick Place from February 11-20, Johnson will be at the Nissan booth on Saturday, Feb. 11, signing autographs from Noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.

"When I looked at the NV Cargo, I saw a hard-working van with a heavy-duty foundation. And I also saw possibilities for a rock crawler that could serve as its own support vehicle," said Johnson, who in addition to his custom off-road transformations also serves as the host of the "Xtreme Off-Road" television series.

Starting with a stock NV 2500 HD Cargo, Johnson and his team set out to build a custom vehicle that could handle everything from maintenance to mayhem. "A strong foundation is what makes the NV Cargo X build possible. Most work vans come with a C-channel frame that would flex and squeak under the stress of Pyeatt Draw. But every NV Cargo is built on a rigid, fully boxed ladder frame," explained Johnson.

While the NV Cargo's front independent double-wishbone suspension and multi-leaf rear suspension is responsive and rides smooth through even the toughest workdays, the NV Cargo X required something a little more radical – including a custom-modified off-road suspension system with enough suspension travel and wheelwell clearance to fit a set of 37-inch General Grabber X3 tires. While the front suspension is 100 percent custom, the rear retains the NV Cargo's standard leaf spring design.

Next, out came the factory 5.6-liter gasoline V8 engine and in its place Johnson fit a Cummins 5.0-liter V8 Turbo Diesel borrowed from Nissan's TITAN XD pickup. The engine is rated at 310 horsepower and, more importantly for rock crawling, a hefty 555 lb-ft of torque. The TITAN XD also donated its heavy-duty Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission and advanced 4-wheel drive system.

Once the front sheet metal was reinstalled following the engine transplant, other exterior modifications included installation of a custom off-road LED Lighting System, 10,000-lb. front-mounted winch and a tube bumper with custom skid plate. A special black-and-white custom wrap finished the exterior.

Next came the challenge of the cargo end of the NV Cargo X. "With the NV Cargo, the customization potential is practically limitless. Its spacious interior cargo is designed to upfit and outfit for just about any type of job," said Johnson.

With 234 cubic feet of available cargo space, the build team decided to go all out – equipping it with all the goodies usually found in an off-road support vehicle. The custom build-out utilized the NV Cargo's standard reinforced mounting points and standard cargo containment system. Ultimately, the cargo bay was filled with an onboard air system, fluid containment and storage, full-size spare, recovery rope, recovery tracks, high-lift jack, portable welder and the always important tool bag.

Then it was off to Arizona for a full-out rock test. "We asked the NV Cargo X to do work that's way outside of its normal job description, and it rose to every challenge," concluded Johnson.

About Pyeatt Draw

Tucked between Diamond Rim and Mogollon Rim outside of Payson, Arizona, Pyeatt Draw trail is the rocky dry-wash bottom of a geologically ancient ravine. Despite the beauty of the location, it is rugged terrain that's filled with steep ledges, large boulders and fallen logs.

Location: Tonto National Forest

Category: Rock, Mud, Forest

Elevation: 5,000-6,000 ft.

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Category: Rock, Mud, Forest