Review Of 1987 Nissan Pathfinder Two Decades Past

As a regular reviewer of the widest variety of shiny new cars, I’m better known for my work in those of the brand-spanking variety than those simply “new to me”. Every once in a hundred or so blue moons, however, a car is invented twenty-years ago that deserves runaway praise? or ridicule, but this time it’s praise.

A few months back I had the opportunity to buy a 1987 Nissan Pathfinder, and it’s been a surprise at every corner. Well, maybe not every corner, but at least four of them, and that’s something considering at least two of them are a tad banged in.

It’s the biggest small car I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few. It’s compact on the outside enough to cram into any parking space, but unlike my ’82 Civic and ’84 Accord, it’s big enough inside to put three full child seats across the back with space leftover behind that for groceries, a stroller, or probably three five-gallon water jugs? Obviously I’d never do that, but having the option is still nice enough to have.

Because it’s so compact, it’s exceptionally economical. Though I don’t quite hit 30mpg in the city, I get real close on the freeway, and city miles are still cheaper than I would have guessed. It’s 4WD with high & low speeds, and it’s got shift on the fly, so you can switch it while you’re going. For snow and subtle off-roadery, you won’t find a better mix of economy and function.

The hidden value of a lightweight car is that parts wear out less quickly, and that they cost less when they do. This means that despite the 19-years of road running, the shocks are sound, the joints are fresh and the overall feel is 80{7999a8309af6224f4d845e4abcd27f0719096a3ddeac7de53185ec65ca31df3b} as solid as when it was new off the showroom floor.

When it comes to new cars it can be difficult to predict the costs of ownership and future maintenance, but with a generation of hindsight instead it’s crystal clear. Hindsight is 20/20, so take a look through this rearview mirror and check out the backend on this baby. All it’s taken has been brakes and a tune up every ten years, scheduled oil changes and fluid service, a belated timing belt, cautionary water pump and a starter motor at 244,000 miles. Some of these things have cost $500 or more, but when you consider it’s a $500 car with no payments, you’re still only talking about roughly $27 per month in over a lifetime.

Did I say 244,000 miles? As it turns out, yes I did. A quarter million miles and it still starts on the first try, runs like a champ, abstains from knocking, whistling and pinging, and all that on a tank of regular gas. The only time I ever bought a brand new car, I had it in for warranty repairs twice in the first four-months, so bear in mind that no car is perfect (and it was an outrageously expensive beast at that), but even with more miles on it than Willie Nelson’s tour bus, it’s rock-solid dependable.

And with all that said, it’s still 98{7999a8309af6224f4d845e4abcd27f0719096a3ddeac7de53185ec65ca31df3b} functional. No, it’s not perfect any more, but come on guys, it’s more of an antique than any of my old furniture, and that stuff is weathered to terrible degrees. There are a couple cracked trim pieces, the light is out on the aftermarket stereo and one of the blinkers comes and goes, but nothing is unacceptable or even surprising.

It’s got more stickers than I can agree with, and it’s faded in bad ways, but the fade only proves it’s been in a front-end accident, and this is all the more reason it’s an unbelievable car. Zillion miles, couple of decades, front end collision to boot and the damn thing still runs like a top.

That’s well and good, and I can accept it, not just because it’s a top-running ride, but because, despite being designed simultaneously with the release of Wham Rap ’86, unlike George Michael’s vintage work, it’s held up to the test of time. Sure, it looks like an old car, but it’s not embarrassing. It’s styling is simple, but a classic sort of plain.

And if you buy one, you can know this about your investment, it’s already done all the appreciating it’s going to do. I paid $500, but in good enough condition you could pay as much as $2,000 for yours. Imagine that, buy an economy car in 1987 and almost 20-years later you can still sell it for two grand. In any case, check it out, make sure it’s in proper shape, and just buy the thing already. As long as you keep up on your maintenance and expect that as a cost of ownership, you’ll always get your money back.

A quick wash, wax and liberal dose of Armor All slathered about the inside, and it’s surprisingly contemporary again? the spritz of aerosol New Car Smell didn’t hurt, unless you count my sensitive sinuses, but we try not to count those in my car reviews.

Better still, go for the window tint, a new stereo or some custom wheels. On those things you’ll never get your money back, but you’ll always get some of it. If you can’t take that discount, keep the originals around and put them back on when you go to sell, and sell them separately.

And if you don’t feel like buying a car from the era of Ollie North, maybe consider instead buying something newer from a manufacturer of comparable quality. Just off hand I might suggest, I don’t know, Nissan. They’ve remained a leader in styling, engineering and economy in terms of both purchase price and killer costs of ownership, whether it’s gas mileage, maintenance or low likelihood of repairs.