In the USA / Isuzu NPR-HD / Which Year(s)

I am 90% certain that my base truck for building a camper will be a light truck and not a Sprinter. Sprinter costs right now are insane and the end result cramped and limited. I need a crew cab - dog kids etc. I would love 4x4 for peace of mind but no matter how i look at it i need the crew cab and I live in California - central coast - so my options are limited. So Isuzu it is.

I have a load of questions but wanted to start with what model years are worth considering. And is there any reason not to buy the gas version of the Isuzu? Gas seems more flexible. I might want to convert to 4x4 later on, though I can’t do this without outside help. Same with converting it singles. But I want to make sure I have the option of doing both. Is there such a thing as a long body for an Isuzu?

I would also be interested if there are any DMV ( california regulatory folk) gotchas when converting and modifying these trucks for registration in cali.

Thanks in advance.
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I want the truck registered in Cali. As far as i know that limits my options. Unimog Dokas are more than i need. MAN trucks and other options, including many MOGS have to be 25 years old or more. They are also bigger than i want. But maybe i missed an option? So i said where i need to register.

I have searched for Isuzus and Fuso and loads of other trucks, and answered many of my questions. But my question about the NPR and what model years i should ignore was more about tapping into deeper knowledge related to changes Isuzu have made to the trucks in the US over the past 10 years. Knowledge I don’t have. But many people here might have. DZLTOY talked in one post about the engine and tranmission in the NPR. Useful information. Maybe people here have other info.

As for frame length. Again I have searched. But what i find might not be complete.

I am gonna ask a lot of dumb questions,
but none of them will questions that i have not already googled and/or read endless threads on Expo. But I recognize the combined knowledge here could help fill gaps and prevent expensive mistakes.

I have that spec. sheet already printed. Thanks.
Though, I am not sure exactly what you are looking for, here are some suggestions:

If aesthetics are important to you, find a "generation" that you like. A 99-04 truck has the same cab, 2006 and 2007 are weird looking to me and the 2008 and up cabs all look very similar. I am not sure when the last model change was or if there has been one recently.

Anything after 2006, will likely have some emissions equipment. If that is important to you or required in the country of Commiefornia, that limits your options on finding an older and cheaper truck to build from. I have seen 2007 Fuso trucks with emissions and 2007 Fuso trucks without. I am not sure about Isuzu.

The Isuzu engines are quite detuned and anything after 1999, will be a 4Hxx series. There is a 4HE and a 4HK and at least one other. As emissions laws changed and new models were introduced, power levels changed from about 175 BHP to 215 BHP, which is the current spec. These motors are detuned for longevity and have quite a bit of power hidden inside, but unlike the USDM diesel pickup market, there are virtually no tuning options for them. It would take some pretty serious cash to run one on MoTec, Zeus or EFI Live.

Transmissions are all from Aisin Seiki. Older models used an A442, AW50 and/or derivations thereof. The newer trucks use an A465, which is the same as an AS68RC or AS69RC found in a Dodge chassis cab (not pickup) 3500 and 4500. Using the 68/69 transmission allows you to mate any transfer case that fits a Dodge HD pickup to the back of it, as it uses a very common bolt pattern that has been around for years.

What do you want to do with the truck? Is is going down a dirt road for a few miles to get to a campsite or mountain bike park or do you want to spend days off roading in Canyonlands away from it all? Do you need to leave NorCal and drive 4-5 hours on the freeway to get into the Sierras or down to Baja? All of those answers will determine what truck and how it is built IMO.

Choosing the gasoline version will give you a cheaper purchase price and less emissions equipment, at least in the SE US, it does., and you will have a few more options related to tuning the engine and transmission. The engine is GM's L96, which is rated at 297 BHP at 4300 RPM and 372 foot pounds at 4000 RPM. It is coupled to a 6L90 transmission. This driveline basically comes out of a Silverado. So the factory transfer case will bolt to the back of the 6L90, after you change to a 4WD tailshaft. If you want something like an Atlas or HERO case, those will bolt up as well.

If you convert to 4WD, you will need to redo brake lines, suspension, steering linkage and more, so it won't be a cheap swap. If you can do this work yourself, I would estimate 10-12 grand. If you are paying a shop or using high dollar parts, I would expect 2-3x that amount.

Custom Springs from Deaver, Alcan, Atlas or Betts: estimated at $2000 - 2500 for all four
NV273 transfer case, rebuilt: $1000
A pair of Superduty axles (2004 or older): $1000 - $1500 for front and rear, may need work
Chevy D60 and 14 bolt from junkyard or CL: $500 - $1000 plus rebuild parts, R/P, etc.
Semi-custom dampers front and rear with mounts and Timbrens: $500 - $1000
Basic fab work, i.e. t-case cross member, spring hangers, shock mounts: ??
Custom brake lines, steering linkage and miscellaneous parts: $500 - $1000
New wheels and tires to fit the 8 lug bolt pattern (Ford or Chevy): $1000 - $2000
Custom driveshafts from High Angle, Denny's, Tom Wods: $500 - $1000 depending on specs.

No labour, no flat bed, no camper, no roof rack, no LED light bars, no comfy suspension seats, etc.

If built right, you will have a very capable truck on and off road that will do anything short of heavy hauling or competition rock crawling. You should be able to travel in comfort at 65 MPH on the freeway and get into the back country with all of your gear or it's not worth building IMO.

Download the body builder's guide for the year of truck you are looking at. It is a large PDF document and will have detailed specs that the websites and brochures simply do not have. If you lift the truck and keep it 2wd, running singles on the rear will likely cause a marked difference in front and rear track width. I do not believe that off roading with a dually rear is a great idea, but it will handle dirt roads and grasslands just fine with a bit of pressure dropped out of the tires.

Hope that helps.
DZLToy thanks for your response. It helps a LOT! There were a couple of others here from Davidl3 ( I think ) but they seem to have been deleted. He recommended a Dana 60 at the front and I think a Sterling for the rear.

Do you know of any shops that can do this work? Do you know if this has been done by anybody already? Other than Rebelzilla. You can PM if you prefer.

What I really want/need is a low, narrow, 4WD drive vehicle, that seats at least three and sleeps at least three ( plus dog ), that I can take off-road into the where-ever. I would like to be able to get to the cab and drive without going outside, cooking inside would be great too. I need to drive quite a distance before getting most places, so on highway manners and comfort will be key until the terrain gets interesting, especially if I want company. The plan is for a low box asap (think fire truck type box) and a lifting lid box further down the road.

I have considered - on paper - Unimog Doka's ( bigger and more than I need), EarthCruisers ( too small and now too pricey), Sprinters (that market is just silly right now), Pinzgauers (not highway friendly). Land Cruiser Troopy (not available here, except really old versions), Fuso Crew Cab and the NPR Crew.

A lot of the work from Custom Campers ( especially the IVECOs would probably fit the bill, but most (all?) are not an option here in the USA.

I started considering the NPR Gas Crew simply because it seemed world fuel friendly and had decent power ( Diesel might be smarter as I can us it to power the heater and stuff in the eventual box) and some space with the crew cab. I am not opposed to diesel and I don't think the low sulphur problem will hit me for quite awhile, so a newer more comfortable truck is possible.

But if, for example, I buy a 2014 NPR-HD Crew Cab, I would then be tossing a large portion of it away, to get 4WD and Singles. My research indicates I would need axles from something like a F450 in order to match the weight rating ( in the rear at least - is that true? ) of the OEM parts. I agree the end result would be capable enough for what I want to do but I would need to find a shop to do all the mechanical work.
Iveco trucks are not known for their reliability or quality. They are part of a state owned conglomerate and are typically Italian. You can import one under the 25 year rule, a similar 15 year rule in Canada or pay to have a newer model Federalized, which is usually quite expensive.

IMO, a good used gasoline truck is the best place to start. Adding a diesel tank for stove and heater is easy and certainly not a reason to purchase a diesel powered truck. The GM driveline can be serviced at any Chevy dealer, which are more common than Isuzu MDT dealers. A gasoline V8 is not going to return stellar economy, but gas is cheaper than diesel in many places, so that will help some.

I am aware of a shop or two that could do the work, depending on your timeline and budget. I have a camper box design that I would love to build and I think it would work great for your proposed build. I will send you a PM.

For a build like this, you will be tossing bits in the bin so to speak. There are wreckers and salvage yards that may buy the parts or you may be able to start with a truck that has a blown engine for example, saving you some cash. The advantage of the Vortec and LS type engines is simply their availability. There is a huge aftermarket if you want exhaust, turbo, 1000 HP or a purple carbon fiber intake plenum. The 6L90 is a good trans and has decent support also. It can be readily mated to any one of a half dozen transfer cases to allow for a 4WD conversion to be completed using OEM parts.

Staying with the GM/Chevy theme, if that is your thing, a Chevy Dana 60 front and 14 bolt rear, are easily modified and serviced. You can have your choice of gear ratios, lockers, hubs, widths, link or leaf suspension, etc. It really comes down to your intended use and the size of your wallet.
Have you ever driven an Isuzu crew or single for a long distance Hwy trip?

Is it really noisy ? Or uncomfortable?

How does it compare to say a Ford transit van or an e350?

I have test driven them at the dealer, but never had a chance to drive one for 1000 Hwy miles...

If I could find one to rent for a week I would... and do some real world testing to see what the basic bones are like...

Any comments or thoughts?...
I am gonna assume your questions are for DZLToy. But I have driven those trucks. I have not driven the Fords. Only Toyotas. They are noiser, less comfortable. But I assume that can all be fixed, or substantially improved. New seats, sound proofing. I can rent the Isuzus at my local Enterprise. Not the gas version.
These trucks will not do 80+ MPH, nor are they designed to do so, IMO. They are very deeply geared, something like 5.29 ring gear, so they have some get up and go with the puny motors. I have driven an FE Fuso on several long trips (500 - 700 miles each). They are just OK. Think of a Chevy or Ford truck from 25 years ago. The suspension is rough and while the newer trucks are pretty quiet comparatively speaking, you are driving a brick down the road, so you get lots of wind noise. This can be fixed, along with the seating, as you note. They are really city trucks or 55- 60 mph freeway trucks. They are made to carry 10k pound loads in the smallest package possible and do it for hundreds of thousands of miles.

I had a Polaris XP1000 RZR on the back of one (flatbed Fuso) and drove at 70 - 75 mph to get to an off road park that was closing it's gates at a fixed time and got about 10 MPG. These trucks will run at high RPM all day, but I would imagine the service life and fuel economy would suffer greatly.

Changing the engine, transmission, axles and tires for more power, better ride, etc., leaves you with an NPR frame and cab and not much else, but I feel that is what it would take to make the truck equal to a new Superduty Lariat, for example.
That sounds about the same as Unimogs, Iveco Trucks, MAN Trucks, Pinz, LTMVs pretty much any of the larger trucks are going to lack comfort and be noisey. But the NPR / Fuso seems closer - not close - to what we have gotten used to with our daily drives. And, at least the times I have driven them, they are pretty easy to drive.

Davidl13 maybe try and get some input from the Aussie drivers. They seem to use the Fusi/NPR for their camping trips and I imagine their distances are similar to what you might be looking at.
If you look at some of my videos - I don't add music and the cameras have an open mike. In some you will hear the noise of the wind and the vehicle which I don't consider noisy. I also don't have any extra noise barrier fitted in the cab and have no trouble having a normal conversation while traveling at 100kph (60mph roughly). This is with a 2000 model FG637.

Wow you want 80mph + .
Our FG649 2003 duel cab srw 19.5 tyres i did put sum dynamat on the floor , we had 6 of us in it the other day did about 400kms stopped at about half way mark average speed about 95kph could talk to each other and hear each other ok.