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Letters To Four Wheeler Editor

Posted in Features on July 9, 2018
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More V-Drive

I was reading one of your articles about the VEMCO drives and thought these pictures would be nice. I’ve had this van for about four years now. It’s missing the radiator, distributer, and starter. I found it in Albuquerque at a car shop that had a track car. They needed some parts one day for that race car and removed the items from the van. It ran very good until the parts were removed and it only has 87,000 miles. I’ve been hand turning the engine twice a year and I feel good that it still has some compression. I hope to get it running soon. I hope you like the pictures and thanks for doing the VEMCO article—it gives me more motivation to do this project.

Todd Rucker
Via email

Scout Wheeling

I really like your articles and Four Wheeler magazine. Especially like the IH Scout articles and your stories about your Scout and Colorado trips. My folks bought a new Scout II in 1979 and our first vacation trip in it was to Lake City, Colorado. I was 7 years old then but remember the trip still. We still try to make it to the Creede, Lake City, Silverton and Ouray area every summer. Nothing like that area and an open-top Scout or Jeep. The ’79 Scout is gone now but I have several Scouts still in my possession. This is in response to your March 2018 article titled “What’s Your Perfect Wheeling Weekend?” I’m a little behind, but a week in the Colorado mountains every July is my favorite four-wheeling. Here is a picture of my ’80 Scout I now take to Colorado.

Chad Brenneis
Via email

Pathfinder

I love your stories about old beater vehicles. Last May I quit my job to go on a cross-country road trip. I’m an avid mountain biker so I chose locations that had great trails. I live in Cincinnati and my trip took me all the way to Oregon and back. The plan was to buy a rooftop tent and camp all along the way. I was pretty limited on what vehicle I could take due to my budget. I had $3,000 to spend on the vehicle and $500 for maintenance and upgrades.

When looking at $3,000 vehicles a few came to mind right away. Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota 4Runner, Mitsubishi Montero, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Xterra and Chevy Trailblazer just to name a few. I searched Craigslist for a few months and just kept finding junk. I had no luck finding a decently priced Land Cruiser and all the 4Runners had frame rust or were way overpriced. One day an ad for a Pathfinder caught my eye. The ad was not particularly detailed, and the pictures were sub-par. Fed up with rusted 4Runners, I decided to meet the owner and take the car for a test drive. I immediately fell in love when I learned the car’s history. It was a one-owner vehicle and only spent a few years in Ohio (the owner bought it in California then lived in Utah before relocating to Cincinnati). The stats were also impressive: a ’04 Nissan Pathfinder with 160,000 miles, four-wheel drive, 240hp V-6, and beefy roof rack that would be perfect for a Smittybilt rooftop tent. After some tough negotiating I was able to get the car for $2,600. I put on some new Cooper all-terrains and had part of the muffler welded back together. That put me at $3300 total for the vehicle, just under budget. What a steal! The only other issue was the check engine light was on for an EVAP system leak. I tried a junkyard charcoal canister but had not luck, so I decided to live with it.

My Pathfinder was an R50 platform, which ran from 1996 to 2004. The car was definitely dated by the 2004 model year when compared to other midsized SUVs at the time. The rotary dials for the climate control look like they belong in 1996. However, everything is tight and there are no rattles. The dash is soft to the touch and every button or lever has a solid quality feel.

I drove 9,200 miles on my trip and had ZERO issues with my Pathfinder. With the tent on top I averaged 16 mpg, which included tons of mountain driving and off-road exploration. On the flat drive through Kansas I averaged 19 mpg, which was the rating for the car when new. The engine is a huge reason I love this vehicle. There is a TON of power for how small this little SUV is, and it handles great on the road. Throw it into a tight curve and it feels planted (for a 14-year-old SUV at least). Need to merge on the highway? You put your foot down and you’re off!

This all made for a great vehicle for road tripping but there was a reason I wanted something with four-wheel drive. At a lot of my destinations I was camping at a national park or national forest and had to drive a good distance off-road to get to my campsite. My R50 handled it all like a champ. You see lots of people building off-road rigs from 4Runners, Land Cruisers, and Tacomas, but the Pathfinder is often ignored as a capable off-roader. My most notable experience was driving to Gemini Bridges in Moab, Utah, to get some free camping. This trail is normally reserved for lifted Wrangler and purpose-built off-roaders, but I was surprised how effortlessly the pathfinder crawled over everything in 4-Lo.

I still have the Pathfinder and I took it to the Dirty Turtle Offroad Park, outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Once again, the Pathfinder held its own on the beginner trails and was a blast in the mud bogs. The Pathfinder now has 180,000 miles and while I originally planned on selling it, I think I will keep it until it completely dies. It just goes to show you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a ton of fun. I sometimes feel bad when I beat on it, because it is in such great condition for the age. Hands down it was the best $2,600 I have ever spent.

Matthew Dietz
Via email

Joshua Tree

Living in Southern California there are many weekend four-wheeling destinations. My most recent was Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding area. Joshua Tree is only 2 to 2.5 hours from South Bay SoCal. Joshua Tree has so much to offer for the weekender. Besides off-roading there is camping, hiking, and rockclimbing. My rig is a stock ’14 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that I modified with a 3-inch lift, aftermarket suspension parts, and off-road tires.

Michael Lafleur
Via email

What About Previa?

The Trails End article “A Mid-Engine Spin on Four-Wheel Drive” in the July 2018 edition failed to acknowledge the Toyota Previa All-Trac as a mid-engine, four-wheel-drive vehicle, which also came out in 1990. The C&C Inc. LSV mentioned in the article even has the Previa’s lengthy A-pillars and massive sloped windshield. Although the Previa is a van, the motor is behind the front seat occupants in mid-engine fashion. It is foul weather and off-road capable in All-Trac configuration with the right rubber. Thanks, and love your publication.

Rob Johnson
Via email

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