30-Year Old Gem: 1988 Nissan Pathfinder 4×4

A two-door SUV? What a concept. Several manufacturers made two-door SUVs but I can’t think of too many who still do today, they seem to have gone the way of manual transmissions. This great-looking 1988 Nissan Pathfinder is indeed a two-door model as they all were until 1990. Our own Jeff Lavery showed us one a few months ago and that looked like another winner. This example is listed on eBay in San Bernardino, California with a current bid price of $2,300 and there is no reserve! I hope I can make it through this one without bidding on it.

I have two “excuses” for not going after this one, even though it truly looks like a jewel of a one-owner rust-free Pathfinder: 1) it’s an automatic – and 2) it’s red. Almost any other color this side of lavender or chartreuse would work for me but I’m just not a red car guy. And, I know that an automatic transmission is what 95% of most buyers now want and buy, but give me a good manual transmission any day of the week. I don’t know if the Pathfinder had what us Subaru guys know as “hill-holder” (I know, it wasn’t invented by Subaru!) and vehicles creep right up behind you now at stop lights, even on steep hills, so maybe an automatic is the way to go these days. Unless a person can master the brake/clutch ballet while being on a steep hill with a car right behind you, or the emergency brake maneuver.

Now that we have the transmission sorted out let’s move on to the color, and red this one is. The seller says that the “original paint finish has a lovely shine and there are no dents anywhere whatsoever.” And, the “body, chassis and frame are completely rust free.” Ok, it’s growing on me. The Pathfinder along with its Hardbody brother/sister pickup the Nissan D21 models were quite a departure from the former 720 trucks from Datsun/Nissan. I have a friend who was a designer at Nissan for a decade and he said that the Hardbody trucks were really the first Nissan trucks to be designed, as in design-designed, as in that looks were important and were considered by the design team; at least in the modern era. The former trucks were pragmatic Japanese workhorse vehicles and not a lot of thought was given on how they looked. The Pathfinder was introduced in 1986 in only this two-door configuration which stayed until 1990 when another two doors were added to the mix.

Kudos to the seller for providing a wealth of great photos! That’s almost as rare as finding such a nice original vehicle as this Pathfinder. As with the exterior, the interior looks as close to being like new as it can get for a 30-year old vehicle. But, it isn’t even close to being new as it has almost 190,000 miles on it! I know, I would have guessed 50,000 maybe if that. Other than some wear on the driver’s side of the carpet I don’t see any glaring problems inside. The seller mentions a single crack in the dash but I don’t see it in the photos. The back seat looks brand new, maybe because it’s too hard to squeeze back there given its two-door layout. There’s a lot of room in the cargo area but no “valuables-hider” as most of us have become accustomed to.

This is Nissan’s 3.0L V6 that would have had around 145 hp. This engine is just about as clean as everything else is. Either this truck was really taken care of or the seller has a great detail crew; or both most likely. The AC even “blows strong cold air”. NADA lists a high retail value of $3,600 which seems light to me but we’ll see since there is no reserve. Have any of you owned a first-generation Nissan Pathfinder?


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  1. Coventrycat

    Looks like the steering wheel has the wedding ring rash. Nice truck overall.

    Like 1
    • Keith

      All of them had that problem with the steering wheels, back in the day. I bought a new ’89 Pathfinder, and had to put a leather cover on the steering wheel by ’93. Those fender flares never stayed black, always had to put some kind of dressing on them to make them look black. Mine was blue with a manual trans. I put lot’s of miles on it in seven years.

      Like 1
  2. Mark

    Almost all 2 door suv’s Rotted out, these were brutal, Isuzu and montero 2 doors rotted away. 2 Door Toyota runners rotted away and Ford Explorer sports frames were junk, Chevy and gmc little blazers were a little better, anyone else think the same?

  3. dwise

    I had a 95 4 door for couple of years. Got it with about 30000 miles on it.
    Traded it off at about 70000 it was a good vehicle and was 7 years old when I got rid of it.
    That was in MN and it really did not have any rust on it which was rare for there.

    • Classic Steels

      So close the million miles 👍

      Darn imports made so good 🤓

      • Whippeteer

        70,000 miles is close to a million?

  4. Alan Blanes

    Hill holder was available on Studebaker in the 30s and 40s. They might have pioneered it.

    • John

      Was an option on Power Hawk…..
      A few decades later

  5. Rube Goldberg Member

    I hate Armor Alled tires. Nice truck. At 190g’s, this thing gonna nickel and dime you to death. “Nope, we don’t make that vacuum sensor anymore”, and it will run like crap. Been there.

    • XMA0891

      So true!! Do miss those triangle-shaped windows though…

  6. Gug Gug Ly

    The AT was horrible on these. Manual was the only way to go…

  7. JimmyJ

    Guy stole my comment bulletproof motors and terrible transmission.
    Great ride with a 5speed

  8. Wojtek

    On photo engine VG30i, 125hp, dualpoint.

  9. Nick

    I had a 1995 4 door. It was a tank. Drove it 175,000 miles, not a single problem except rust. Gave it to a friend. Still runs to this day!

  10. Vin_in_NJ

    I recall when the 4 door model came out, the positioned the handles up high by the glass, so it still looked like a 2 door

  11. Daved N.

    Beautiful color combo!!!

    Would anyone care to elaborate as to why the auto trans is so bad, besides the fact that it’s an auto?

  12. Larry K

    I’m still driving my 98 everyday with over 400k. Runs like a sewing machine. I just stripped a low mileage, rusted out one to feed it parts for another 400k.

  13. Bob C.

    Hill holder? That goes back to early 1950s Studebakers.

  14. Martin

    I drive my 87 for all my local running around
    Under 100k on it 87 3.0 4×4 5 speed and wouldn’t let it go.

    Like 2
  15. James B and Nora K cox

    Had a brand new red 5 speed Pathfinder. My first new car. Ran for years hardly any repairs. Sold it maybe ten years later. Or more. Had electrical issues. Boy took it and likely fixed it up. Everything important still worked fine.

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