There aren't many companies old enough nowadays to have four generations working in the family business, but that's the case at Quigley Motor Co., a 4×4 full-size van-conversion installer.
Founded almost 50 years ago as a car dealership, Quigley has been converting full-size vans to four-wheel drive for commercial-fleet and personal-use buyers since 1974. However, where GM and Ford vans (and now Nissan NV vans) have dominated Quigley's sales (they're fully approved and certified by each manufacturer), things are beginning to change as two major players have replaced their old-school truck-framed variants with all-new Euro-styled full-size vans in the form of the Ram ProMaster (front-wheel drive) and Ford Transit (rear-wheel drive).
We recently met up with the folks at Quigley Motors on the off-road trails outside Moab, Utah, to see how its latest creation — a prototype 4×4 Ford Transit van — performed on the rugged and majestic trails through the Utah backcountry.
The Quigley kit starts with what basically amounts to a Ford F-150 front independent suspension underneath the cab of the van. Thankfully, the rear-wheel-drive Transit allows for a less complicated conversion when compared with front-drive vans like the Ram ProMaster. Front-wheel-drive conversion to 4×4 is time and cost intensive. This new Transit conversion from Quigley is intended to service fleet buyers in the oil industry, delivery services, emergency healthcare (ambulances), government agencies and recreational vehicle production.
Our Transit van had about 4 extra inches of lift, a heavy-duty New Process two-speed transfer case (with a 2.63:1 low range), and a new front-drive axle with short and long A-arms with a coilover suspension.
Our test vehicle was "appropriately" painted with all the necessary Ford logos. More importantly, with only minor front-end and fender-well trimming required, Quigley was able to fit aggressively treaded 4×4-appropriate 235/85R16 BF Goodrich All-Terrain off-road tires. These tires turned out to be incredibly important since we climbed and descended some nasty, steep rock climbs on the Utah slickrock as well as deep sand-roughened dirt roads.
If you've never been on desert slickrock, you need to know the name is one of those words that mean the exact opposite of what you think it means. Eons of rain and wind has created a sandpaperlike quality on every surface, so you get incredible (almost unbelievable) traction with rubber-soled shoes and tires. Wherever we entered a trail — all of which have odd-sounding names like Fins and Things, Hell's Revenge and Poison Spider — our 4×4 Transit had unbelievable traction.
The only issue for us were the occasional transitions from the sandy two-track river washes to the rock surfaces, where much of the grip was worn down by the many hundreds of tires (maybe thousands) from Jeeps, Toyota Land Cruisers, Ford Broncos and Mercedes-Benz Unimogs that came before us. These transition points were also where we fully understood why not many (any) vehicles on the trail had superchargers or turbochargers on their engines. It is certainly was not an advantage to have a pair of turbos with the transfer case set in low range. In fact, with the 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost ready to ramp up the rpms with just the slightest tap of the throttle, we found ourselves spinning tires like crazy in some precarious situations to get the traction we so desperately were hunting for.
After a while, though, we did get the hang of knowing when and where the turbos would kick in and when to get off the throttle to prevent over-revving. Naturally, we know this isn't the best combination for rock crawling: large van, low-range gearing, twin turbos and fully inflated tall and thin tires. We also know, if we had the more predictable and moderately powered 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6, or even the 3.2-liter low-end-biased turbo-diesel, we probably would have had a much less "exciting" (and more predictable) experience.
For the folks at Quigley Motors, the trip to Moab was more of a proof-of-concept run, trying to see how well the new conversion could handle even the most extreme environments. If the setup survived and could handle these types of crazy conditions, surely it would be able to deal with some bad weather on a remote delivery route, a rutted and washed-out construction lot, or getting the family to that winter mountain cabin. During this trail run we were accompanied by Quigley conversions of Ford E-Class vans, a Nissan NV2500 and a few GM vans, and all the drivers were satisfied with their performance.
To its credit, Quigley is pricing the Transit 4×4 conversion similarly to the previous Ford and GM full-size van conversions, even though some aspects of the new conversion were more complicated. That means the price for the parts and installation on a new Transit conversion are just less than $12,000. Worth noting is that Quigley has top-level status with Ford, so you can order the setup right from the dealership and roll the entire cost into your monthly payment if you decide to finance.
As you might expect, there will be some additional upkeep costs with the extra parts and front-end pieces, which need service at regular intervals.
For more information about Quigley Motors and its full-size van conversion kits for the Nissan NV, Ford E-Class or Chevrolet/GMC 2500/3500 cargo vans, click here.
Cars.com photos by Mark Williams