Nissan Pathfinder


Project Pathfinder Part 9, Headwork


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.


Or first element will be the cylinder heads.  We started with the late VG30E heads.  These castings were made from 1987 to the present.  The late castings feature a smaller in cross section but better flowing intake ports.  These ports produce substantially better low-end torque with no loss of top end power.


For our port work we turned to DPR Racing.  Dan Paramore of DPR has many, many years of experience in the realm of modifying heads and engine development.  Dan listened to our requirements and went to work.  First Dan inspected the head valves and valve guides for wear and proper clearances.  Since our head came out of a wrecked Xterra with only a few hundred miles on it, Dan pronounced that the conditon of the heads were fine. However, normally VG cylinder heads do not wear their valve guides and stems much and the need for replacement is rare.  Dan also checked the head castings for basic soundness and cracks.  Of course our heads passed with flying colors.


After inspection Dan ported the intake and exhaust ports.  Dan concentrated with straightening and cleaning up the ports while removing a minimal amount of material.  The idea was to keep the port volume down to keep the velocity up so as to enhance low-end torque.  The gains in flow will also help peak power. The short side radius of the ports was cleaned up and some minor kinks were straightened. After porting Dan polished the ports with 220 grit cartridge rolls, the engine being port injected doesn’t really need much roughness in the intake port.


stock exhaust port for nissan pathfinder
stock exhaust port
exhaust port in process nissan pathfinder
exhaust port in process
exhaust port nissan pathfinder DPR RAcing
exhaust port finished














intake port stock nissan pathfinder
stock intake port
intake port pathfinder
intake port in process
intake port pathfinder DPR Racing
intake port finished














Dan then removed some material from the combustion chambers to unshroud the intake and exhaust valves to help improve low valve lift flow.  After this he polished the chambers to reduce carbon build up and to get rid of any sharp edges where hot spots and detonation could propagate.


 stock chamber nissan  pathfinder
 stock chamber
in process chamber nissan pathfinder DPR
in process chamber. Seats are being blended to the combustion chamber
chamber finished nissan pathfinder DPR Racing
chamber finished. Smooth and polished














 stock valve job chamber intake
 stock valve job chamber intake.  Rough finish
in process chamber intake nissan pathfinder DPR
in process chamber intake.  The seats are blended to the ports and the floor humps are smoothed
chamber intake job by DPR Racing nissan pathfinder
chamber intake complete.  Note the freshly cut angles of the three angle valve job














The valve seats were treated to a 3-angle cut. 3 angle valve jobs reduce shrouding of the valves and greatly help low valve lift flow. 30 degrees on the chamber side, 45 degrees on the valve seat and a 70-degree port side cut was used.  The port and combustion chamber cuts were hand blended into the port wall and the combustion chamber bowl to make a smooth radius.  The valves were given a 30-degree backcut on top of the 45-degree seating surface to help low lift flow as well.


VG33 Valves 30 degree back cut
The valve on the right has a 30 degree back cut on top of the 45 degree seat .  As you can see this helps smooth the flow greatly.  This is especialy effective in helping low lift flow


This is a rather basic and inexpensive port job that we feel will be beneficial for both power production and fuel economy.  Almost any engine build up can benefit from mild porting like this as there are really no negative tradeoffs in powerband, fuel economy nor engine life.


Stay tuned, next month we dive into our engines bottom end.  Our goal of producing the tow power of your typical half-ton small V8 truck is becoming a reality.



DPR Racing

1015 W. 190th
Gardena, CA90248
(310) 523-4074







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Saturday, February 20, 2010 7:52 AM
Can't wait to see what this motor will do!
Monday, February 22, 2010 4:34 AM
Approximately how much does a mild port cost?

I love that this project is staying budget, and the modern performance goal is great too.
Street Surgeon
Street Surgeonlink
Monday, February 22, 2010 11:31 AM
My dad had a pathfinder of this bodystyle. The truck was a tank, until the auto refused to go into reverse one day, sad times and he sold it off. I think your Pathfinder series is pretty cool though, I've often wished that I had money I could just blow on cars to see what their true potential was!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 1:02 AM
Does anybody know what year the Xterra was that they used in project pathfinder? Does the year matters to much because I want to do the same thing to my 88 pathy?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 7:20 PM
To whom it my concern,

I would like to find out the engine spec of Project Pathfinder. I know the Pathfinder that was used was a 1993. What I don’t know is what year the donor Xterra engine was. If that is the only year that can be used, if they used the same transmission from the Pathfinder, what bell housing was used and what if any parts from my 1988 Pathfinder can be used? I wanted to do the same modifications to my Pathfinder and before I start buying parts and or engines I would like to have a better understanding of what I need. My personal email address is osoberan@yahoo.com.

Thank you,

Saturday, January 22, 2011 8:39 PM
Hello, new to the forum, but not the VG. I do have a question though. I see that the VG33 heads are a W casting, and my question is - can I put the VG33 heads on an 85 VG30 block? I have a Nissan service bulletin that says all W series heads can fit onto an A/B block using the A/B head-gasket. But is that only true among the 3.0L? or would the 3.3 be included in this you think?

And seeing as how you've compared 3.3 to 3.0 components in your build, I was wondering about your insight on this.

Thank you,
Saturday, January 22, 2011 8:40 PM
Wonderful work on the motor by the way. I love how you kept it budget oriented using OE Nissan parts. Just throwing that out there.

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