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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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