Crapwagon Outtake: 1994 Nissan Pathfinder

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
crapwagon outtake 1994 nissan pathfinder

I loved my 1st gen Pathfinder. Unlike today’s CUVs, it was a proper SUV — derived, and barely civilized from the compact pickup truck beneath. The ride was, as they say, trucklike. The accomodations, Spartan. And, until my wife decided the normally-sturdy VG30 V6 needed some additional positive crankcase ventilation on a subzero February morning, indestructible.

(I blame my wife, but really, I’m probably at fault, as I likely botched the coolant ratio when I changed fluids the prior fall. Alas, she doesn’t read TTAC.)

Unfortunately, when our truck was hauled to the nearby Nissan dealer, our phone call came not from the service department, but from sales. A quick inspection while on a lift revealed entirely too much of the inside of the frame rails, and not enough of the outsides. The Ohio winters had claimed another victim.

I reminisced about my truck while scouring eBay,, and Autotrader today. I noticed that there are plenty of early Pathfinders out there, but very few with low miles. I saw a bunch with over 250,000 on the odometer, which is remarkable for any car with a propensity for rust.

This ’95 looks quite clean, with around 150,000 miles under the seemingly-rust-free body. The dealer only offers three photos, so I’d insist on more photos and/or a third-party inspection before winging it to Idaho. This is a no-frills, take the family anywhere machine, unlike the modern cute-utes which wince at the suggestion of gravel.

I miss my Nissan. It never let me down (let’s forget about the better half for a moment), and carried everything I threw at it. It even hauled a dead Mazda RX-7 a couple hundred miles on a heavy trailer with no complaints. I wouldn’t try that with a modern CVT-equipped equivalent.

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  • Mike Mike on Aug 27, 2015

    I had a '91 SE for a few years. I loved the fuel economy. Not that it was great, but that it was absolutely consistent. Driving around town? 19 MPG. 1,600 mile road trip? 19 MPG. Stop and go urban traffic? 19 MPG. Tough as nails too. My Pathy's previous owner had cross-threaded and stripped the head with the #6 spark plug, which is easy to do in the engine due to the layout. I bounced over a speed bump, the plug popped out and suddenly the engine went all helicoptery. I had to drive it for a week like this because I couldn't afford a fix. I finally was able to take it to a shop and got a reduced hourly rate because I helped. We HeliCoiled the head and it ran fine for another 3 years and 25k miles. I sold it for $2500 to a high school kid. Used the money to buy an '81 Alfa GTV6. I consider that a good trade, even though I miss having a dead reliable beater truck around.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Aug 28, 2015

    We had a '91 SE for 11 years. 5-speed manual. I kept the frame flushed out and had a spray rust treatement done regularly. The frame stayed solid. So when I sold it in 2006, I got $4500 for it. I also spent hours keeping the rust at bay under the back seat, in various bits of the front end, and in the rear lower corners of the rear door openings. The white paint was tough like enamel. The design lived on as the first generation X-Terra, with the main change being the X-Terra used the rear leaf suspension from the pickup rather than the Pathfinder's sophisticated 5-link rear suspension. I recall our Pathfinder had front OR rear ABS. Brake bias device also. Beautiful red cloth interior (the SE got leather later) with the most plush carpeting and mats I've ever seen. It had the adjustable shocks, which never wore out and which worked very well to give the ride needed for various conditions. The SE also came with a rear lsd differential. The low range, excellent clearance and skid plates made it ideal for off-roading. The front torsion bar suspension allowed mounting the engine very low, aiding stability. It was better than the peer 4-Runner, which suffered from rust, malfunctioning tailgate window, a narrow cabin and a dangerously high center of gravity. I've seen far many of those 4-Runners with the rubber side up. For those smart enough to figure this out, the Pathfinder was a great purchase compared to the prices driven up for the 4-Runner by mindless Toyota fans. But, on the downside was the absence of means to drive in 4wd on dry pavement. This was dangerous on roads with mixed ice and bare patches, and the thing was basically unstable in bad highway conditions. The otherwise excellent engine had a bad habit of breaking manifold studs. The so-called bumpers were laughably flimsy trim bits. We replaced the Pathfinder with the incoming 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara, which, although far less rugged, still had a low range and was a much safer vehicle. Incredibly cheapo carpet and mats though.

  • ChristianWimmer Sunak has apparently done this because his political party has lost so much support. Once the brainless masses flock to his political party again the trap will spring shut and bam - the ICE ban will be attempted to get pushed through even quicker.Honestly, Europe right now is a complete CR** HOLE thanks to the EU.Did anyone hear of the EU’s plans to make driving even more unattractive? A French Green Party politician introduced some really perverted ideas under the guise of “Vision Zero” (Zero deaths from driving in the EU) and of course the climate hysteria…1) If you just received your driver’s license you can not drive faster than 90 km/h - basically you’re stuck behind trucks on highways or can’t even overtake them on normal roads.2) If you are 60 years old, your license is only valid for 7 more years. If you are 70 years old, 5 years. If you’re 80 years old, 2 years. You are required to “renew” your license (and pay for it yourself) which will also determine if you are still fit to drive.3) The standard B driver’s license here allows you to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tons in weight. Under this idiotic proposal from that French nutjob, those 3.5 tons will decrease to 1.8 tons meaning that you can’t legally even drive a Tesla Model 3…
  • ToolGuy I blame Canada.
  • Syke This is one of those days when you come up with an article that I just live to comment on. I'm retired from (but still working at three half days a week - retirement was boring) Richmond Honda House, a Honda/Yamaha/Can-Am/Sea Doo dealership. No, I'm not a mechanic. I'm the guy who handles all the recall/warranty claims. Which between the three major brands, and a couple of small Asian brands is enough to keep me busy for about fourteen business hours split across Tuesday thru Thursday. Yes, the Spyders are reliable, but when they do break down they can be a nightmare due to you have to have a laptop plugged into one to do most kinds of service. First hint: You absolutely do not want to do massive aftermarket sound system upgrades to a Spyder. We've had nightmares with them in the past. I swear half our original customers back in the 2008-2010 period bought theirs to turn into a three-wheeled boom box, which would invariably cause voltage fluctuations in the electrical system, thus driving the various black boxes wonky and causing all sorts of problems.Those of you who decry computerization in modern automobiles will find that the Spyder is even more so. I've noticed that the Spyder has gotten a lot better since Bombardier dropped the original V-twin engine (same one that Aprilia used on their 1000's when they first came into the country) in favor of the current triple. Mechanical repairs to the drivetrain have definitely gone down.Used? The more recent models seem to have good reliability. No, not as good as the current Gold Wing, or any generation Gold Wing for that matter, but definitely within acceptable parameters. The older ones, especially the original 2008-2010 models, I'd recommend staying away from. How bad? During the 2008 recession, when motorcycle dealers were desperately hanging on, my office at Honda House was the single best cash flow for the company, totally because of warranty claims and recalls from the original models. Yes, Bombardier has gotten an awful lot better.Oh yeah, the company itself it decent to deal with on a business and support level. From my office, they're my favorite of the three, slightly ahead of Yamaha, and a night and day improvement over Honda. All you have to remember is that you're not dealing with Canadians, you're dealing with Quebecois. Yes, there's a difference, I was married to one for thirteen years.
  • Sgeffe How does this compare to something like the Polaris Slingshot?
  • Lou_BC I just don't like the C - pillar lines. The rear window doesn't flow with the roofline.