Latest Project Pathfinder Articles


nissan pathfinder

Project Pathfinder Part 11, Fixing the Wobbly Steering for Good

By Mari Umekubo

We had just gone through the front suspension of Project Pathfinder a year ago in the hope that our mods at the time would tighten up its pathetically loose and wandering steering.  Although our mods made a huge difference, after about 12,000 miles, a couple of off road excursions and a bunch of towing it became apparent that our front suspension would again need attention.


 nissan pathfinder engine

 Project Pathfinder Part 10, How to Build the Nissan VG30E

By Mari Umekubo

We are getting quite excited as Project Pathfinders motor is now up and running. We are out to show that a solid and reliable naturally aspirated Nissan VG30E can be just as strong or stronger in the power department as the VG33R supercharged motor in the  Frontiers with vastly superior fuel economy.  We also want to show that we can get the pulling power of a small V8 out of the VG. Last month we covered some tricks that Dan Paramore of DPR used to make our heads flow.  This month we will dive into the shortblock of our super Pathfinder.

To read about our VG30E headwork click here!


 Nissan Pathfinder  Project Pathfinder Part 9, Headwork

by Mari Umekubo

As we have reached the limit in bolt on potential for Project Pathfinder we now delve into building the ultimate tow motor.  The ultimate tow motor is probably the ultimate off road motor and perhaps the ultimate motor for a heavy clumsy SUV.  Our motor will be built to emphasis low-end torque, better for pulling, good fuel economy and the ability to run on lower grades of gas.  Since we're dirt cheap and as this is just our tow/daily transportation vehicle, we placed additional emphasis on staying away from exotic and expensive parts, instead rummaging in our spare bins of factory Nissan parts.


Project Pathfinder Cams, ECU's, & Headers

Project Pathfinder Part 8, Cams, ECU, Headers

By Mari Umekubo

The stock VG cam shafts are very mild.  At the advice of the guys at Nissan Motorsports we added a set of their #2 off road cams to Project Pathfinder.  The cams have 264 degrees of duration and .430” lift with a 106 degree intake and 116 lobe center as opposed to the tiny stock 248 degrees duration and .374” lift with 114 lobe centers.  This is quite a difference and the cams really woke Project Pathfinder up.



 nissan pathfinder shock adjusters

Project Pathfinder Part 7, External Shock Adjusters

By Mari Umekubo

In our previous installments of Project Pathfinder we corrected the sloppy handling and loose steering of our machine.  Our project is handling superbly, more like a sports sedan than an SUV.  Our next mod is one more for convenience than adding any additional performance.


nissan pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder Part 6, Safety Sake

By Mari Umekubo

Driving to races often means driving late at night to dark remote areas.  Our stock lights threw a weak yellow beam so dim we could hardly see the road at times.  Our lights were barely adequate for city driving and were hazardous on the open road.  To fix this we obtained Nissan Motorsports Euro headlight conversion kit. 



Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder Part 5, Basic Engine

By Mari Umekubo

To say that our Pathfinder sucked on power was an understatement.  Our Pathfinder could not beat anything in any contest of speed, except for perhaps another SUV.  Joggers and bicyclists gave it trouble.  It guzzled fuel like a turbo car on boost as well turning in a miserable 15 MPG around town and 19 mpg on the highway.   When attempting to tow, entering the freeway was a scary proposition and you had to depend on the mercy of other motorists and you all know that LA drivers basically have no mercy.



Project Pathfinder Part 4, Suspension Part 2

By Mari Umekubo

Now that we have the sagging springs, excess lean in the corners, bottoming out, bouncy ride and high speed oversteer of Project Pathfinder taken care of, we now turned our attention to the front suspension in our quest to tighten things up and fix the weak points of the Nissan steering system.


 nissan pathfinder suspension

Project Nissan Pathfinder Part 3, Getting Into the Suspension

By Mari Umekubo

This month we tackle an area of serious deficient for most SUV’s, the suspension.  We were faced with some tough decisions here.  Since we use our Pathfinder for everything from daily commuting, to drives to the mountains hauling mountain bikes and gear to off road exploring, we had to come up with a reasonable compromise.  Our main goal was not to build a car crushing monster truck or a Rubicon Trail bolder crawler but to greatly improve on-road handling, to eliminate the SUV characteristic of flipping over when pressed and to provide a safer ride when towing.  We wanted all of this with improved off-road capability as well.


Project Pathfinder Part 2, Brake Upgrades

By Mari Umekubo

Even with our prior upgrades to Project Pathfinder, our brakes still had much room for improvement.  Although we could now lock our wheels on clean dry pavement (amazingly the stock brakes could not lock our big sticky Yokohama tires!) it took pushing with all of our might and several revolutions of the wheels to get the pads hot enough so they could get enough bite to lock the wheels.  This sort of braking added precious feet to our stopping distance and made pedal modulation difficult, critical for limit braking performance.


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