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Near Extinct: First-Gen Nissan Pathfinder

The 1980s saw Toyota and Nissan build some pretty capable body-on-frame sport utility vehicles, back when the term SUV actualy meant something. Only problem is, most example have lead hard lives and are either beaten, rusty or both. This 1987 Pathfinder bucks that trend, and sports the preferred V6/manual transmission combo. Find it here on craigslist in Ohio for $4,500. 

It’s a shame to see what the modern Pathfinder has become when looking back at this rarely-seen first generation model. Initially sold as a two-door in four-cylinder and V6 form, the Pathfinder combined rugged looks with decent off-road capabilities, thanks in part to being built on the Hardbody’s platform and not some front-wheel drive midsize sedan. The seller says despite his Ohio location, the Pathfinder is from Virginia and solid underneath.

Inside, the cabin looks excellent. Finding one of these early Pathfinders is a near-impossible feat, and they’re a nice alternative to going with JDM product like a Nissan Patrol. Yes, that’s a conventional manual transmission in a four-seater SUV, something we’ll likely never see again. The dash is uncracked and seat fabrics, door panels and carpets all look super nice for something of this vintage.

Up front, there was a 145 b.h.p. 3.0L V6. Not ridiculous power, but more than enough when paired with the manual transmission. Unlike the first generation 4Runners, these Pathfinders seemingly haven’t become immensely valuable just yet. But as more vehicles from the 1980s come onto the radar screen of young collectors, I’ll bet you start to see these tick upwards – if you can find one.


  1. MH

    My buddy had one in HS. He beat the snot out of it. V6 with a stick. It would not die.

    Like 1
  2. JimmyJ

    The v6’s are better than the toyota 3.0 and with a 5 speed are tough as nails.
    The automatics that came with these were terrible my uncles wrecking yard was selling trannys before they were even out of the truck but he couldnt give away the motors. Nobody needed them

  3. DrinkinGasoline

    I just sold a 1st Gen (94) last year. It was from South Carolina. Over 200k on the odometer and all it needed was front brake pads.
    I put it up for sale on CL because Asian vehicles are just
    “not my thing” but I bought it cheap and it ran well and the 4WD worked great.
    The guy who bought it never questioned price and came with a tri-axle trailer to pick it up. He drove it up onto the trailer. He was so appreciative and ended up giving me parts that I needed for My 84 F-150. Turned out that at 50 years old, he still had his first 94 and was restoring it and mine was the exact same vehicle. I was glad to see it go as it felt cheap and tinny but also because he got such a kick out of it.

    • Enough Power

      My 94 is just about to 300k miles.

      “More than enough power” might be an overstatement, but it’s a great vehicle.

  4. DrinkinGasoline

    I just re-read the ad and it makes sense that the seller replaced vacuum lines and the TPS. These engines relied heavily on proper vacuum. I had to replace all of the vacuum lines due to S.C. dry rot as well as the TPS and ignition wires for a rough idle problem. When I pulled the plugs (even the “hard to get to” one, requiring the factory tool in the spare kit), they were the originals !

  5. Oil Slick

    Nice truck but in one northern winter it will be toasty. Needs a southern buyer.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      That is no joke…I brought mine up from S.C. and within less than 7 months, it was showing signs of surface rust on the frame and components. I should open a POR-15 franchise up here near the Great Lakes.

      Like 1
  6. Andre

    The chrome plated tires are neat. Put down the armour all. Eesh.

    Cool truck though.

    Like 1
  7. germanfordguy

    Had an 87 6cyl/5speed — bullet proof engine, rust was the problem. First area for mine was under the rear seat. Mine had the tire mounted on the rear, made for more space inside, but had to move the tire out of the way to access. Miss that car, still have the original keys

  8. Marc NYC

    IMHO this is a steal! I priced these years ago (always wanted one) in the NW, and even rusty examples with much higher mileage were going for twice this! If I didn’t just buy a DD (2005 Caddy DTS), I’d be all over this…

  9. Rustytech Member

    Pretty bad when the tires are shinier than the paint! I don’t know about one winter, but it wouldn’t take many up north to destroy this, as most died of tin worm. It’s a shame we can’t rust treat vehicles in the US Like they do in Canada. They spray a light oil mist into all the nooks and crannies before winter, the oil keeps the water and salt at bay through the winter and extends the life of the treated vehicle by years. It has to be done annually, but it does seem to work. US EPA won’t allow it here.

    • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

      Does EPA not allow KROWN? It is a non-petroleum based annual application.

  10. John H from CT

    One of the reasons for the high prices on these and the pre-05 Tacomas is that auto manufacturers are fixated on big trucks which generate enormous profit margins. So in their minds to offer a small, efficient truck will lower profits.I have a friend with an 03 Tacoma with 160K on it. Still nice condition and she must get an offer every couple of weeks for it. Still worth almost $20K because there is nothing new that is similar to replace it with.

  11. JohnD

    I’ve driven many of these, and the ‘Hardbody’ pickups of this generation. Worked for a car stereo installation shop that had a contract w/ the local Nissan dealer. Solid trucks with rugged good looks and great power for their day.

  12. Chris Melendrez

    Had an 87 with the smaller z24 engine mated with the 5 speed manual. It was the best vehicle I ever owned. Only like 105 hp, but plenty of torque and unstoppable in 4 lo. Off roaded it like crazy and it was unbreakable. I really appreciated the 30 MPG I got out of the vehicle even rolling with a small lift and heavy 31 inch off road tires. I wish they still made em like this. Now have 13 Xterra and I like it plenty, though it’s completely different and probably not as solid if I’m being honest.

  13. Thomas STORIN

    Have my 88 with over 426k a/c 4×4 work. Radio went out. Paint staring to peal on top edge near luggage rack. Outside tire average came off. But I still run to our mining claims in the desert.

  14. Adam Lee

    I bought this 95 for $500 and after a little front end work, I have the best off road capable rig that I personally have ever owned and it gets me to work everyday up I-70 in the Colorado Rockies….. Not fast by any means. Glad I have the 5 speed for the steep uphill climbs. But 4 low and first will have one of these beasts crawling up terrain you should second guess. I have a ton of fun with it and it is cheap and easy to fix. Paid $500 and brougt it back to a safe truck with less than $400. Long live the Pathy!

  15. Thomas B

    $4500 for an ’87 Nissan? I just saw a rust-free ’93 on craigslist for $1500. If you think these are rare, you’re not looking very hard. They do rust, so don’t expect to find many in the northeast, though.

    Like 1
  16. XMA0891

    Been a long time since I’ve seen a triangle-window Pathfinder – Great find! A simple truck with a six and a stick – Why won’t manufacturers make this stuff any more? Actually didn’t Suzuki take that combination right to the pin? Where are they now?

  17. DerekF

    Having owned an ’88 Hardbody pickup and drove it for 15 years and over 220K it still had tons of life when I sold it. It handled much better than the Toyota PUs and I surprised a lot of car owners on the curvy WV mountain roads.
    My step-dad had the whole series of Pathfinders and the earlier trucks were way better equipped and built than the later trucks- Nissan kept taking away features for cost reasons. Way under-appreciated but a nice specimen like this should be preserved.

  18. Sterling

    I traded my 72 ltd for this vehicle last Friday lol

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