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.

  • Syke Congratulations on not mentioning the political possibility. I'm sure that during the reading of the article, I'm not the only one noticing the states primarily listed are primarily considered conservative states. And they're not all states bordering Canada.
  • Redapple2 I want my 5 minutes bck
  • Paul Alexander I'd love to buy a car without infotainment.
  • EBFlex Chrysler has the best infotainment by far. The older uConnect system was bulletproof and never had issues. The newer one based on android auto is a big step backward but it's still very good. Nothing else comes close to Chrysler's infotainment.
  • EBFlex People don't want compromises. They want a vehicle that will match what they have now with ICE which includes very short refueling times, long range, and batteries that don't degrade over a rather short time. In the midwest, people don't live on top of each other. People like their space and are spread out. 30+ mile commutes are common. So is outdoor living which includes towing.Government cars make sense for the coasts where people love to live on top of each other and everything is within walking distance. They don't make sense in areas where it's cold and 40% of your range could be lost. Government cars are just not viable right now for the majority of people and the sales reflect it.