If you’ve ever dreamed of an off-roader that could serve as its own support vehicle, Nissan and off-road builder Ian Johnson have created just that in the form of the Nissan NV Cargo X.

As with any extreme makeover, the transition from humble commercial van to capable off-roader meant making a few significant changes to the NV 2500, which ditched its 5.6-litre gasoline V8 in favour of the Cummins turbodiesel used in the Titan XD pickup, which also donated its Aisin transmission and 4WD system.

The stock van’s independent front suspension was replaced with a tougher solid axle arrangement. And while the Cargo X’s sheet metal is all original, there’s a custom off-road lighting setup, 10,000-lb front-mounted winch, and a tube bumper and custom skid plate.

Inside, Johnson took advantage of the NV 2500’s cargo and upfitter mounting points to install an onboard air system (for adding and removing air from the tires on the go, to suit varying terrain); fluid containment and storage; full-size spare tire; recovery rope and tracks; high-lift jack; portable welder(!); and a tool set.

Johnson’s suspension modifications, including 37-inch General mud-terrain tires, give the Cargo X a massive 22 inches of ground clearance; Nissan doesn’t provide that measurement for the stock van, but we’d bet it’d blow away that standard model’s 17.5-degree approach and departure angles. But at about 2.3 metres tall, this modified van won’t fit in many downtown parking garages.

Once all the goodies were bolted in, Johnson’s team took the Cargo X rock-crawling in Arizona’s Pyeatt Draw, a geologically ancient ravine full of steep ledges, boulders, and fallen logs.

We can think of a few delivery drivers, contractors, and construction types who would love to get their hands on a van like the Cargo X, but they’ll have to build their own: this is a one-off project that won’t be showing up in Nissan dealers any time soon.