1986 Chevy Pathfinder K Van

March, 2003 I purchased a van that had been converted to four wheel drive by Pathfinder Equipment Co.

A 1986 Chevrolet G 30 Sportvan 125" wheel base. It came factory equipped with a 350 V8 (LT9), Turbo 400 automatic transmission, 3.73 rear end, air conditioning, cruise control, full window package (tinted) and double opening side doors.

Pathfinder added a Dana 44 front axle and Borg Warner 1345 transfer case from a Ford. Using leaf spring front suspension and riser blocks on the stock rear suspension, a very well engineered conversion to a K van.

The previous owner added cheap 16" spoke wheels and radial tires and a Ramsey REP 8000 winch that is hitch mounted and can be used on either the front or rear. Here is a picture from the day I went to pick it up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I will update the progress of the project as I go.



April, 2003

On the test drive the rear axle was making noises. Upon inspection, the carrier housing had been hogged out where the left spider gear rides. This required a new carrier housing, all new bearings, seals and also new spider gears. New wheel bearings and seals were installed and new U-joints as well. The ring and pinion were reused as they were in good condition.
The interior of the van when I got it was just OK. No passenger seat( although the pedastool was in the back), no engine cover console or radio. The floor showed only minor surface rusting this being a New Mexico van.
The interior was stripped out and the floor was wire wheeled and then undercoated to seal against any problems.
I went to Phoenix to get some Recaro seats my brother had in his trucks over the years. They have been in storage for years and are in excellent condition.
While there I went to the wrecking yard and found a console cover, it's red and the interior is brown but hey, it has a nice wooden drink holder and matches the Recaro's pretty well. I painted the pedastools and the seats have a new home in the van.

A new grille, oh what a difference!

May, 2003

The van was ready for a road trip and a visit to Tucson was made. While there I had the rear springs rebuilt. Ivan at Arizona Spring added a leaf and re-arched the springs about 3". Now the van can be loaded no worries.

With the springs done the van returned to sitting with the rear higher than the front.
Here is a before photo.
I went to a Tucson off road shop to browse and found a Con-Ferr 6" porthole style 5' X 10' roof rack. It had been hoisted up in the back years ago and they were real anxious to get rid of it. I got a great buy and spent the next 2 hours in the parking lot installing it, a perfect fit.

On the drive over from New Mexico the wheels and tires were very unbalanced. I knew when I bought the van that the cheap steel spoke wheels and tires were crap and causing a fair amount of vibration.
I went to Discount Tire for a rotation and balance but broke down and bought a new set of alloy wheels and B.F. Goodrich All Terrain Radials in size 265/75/16. This made a huge difference in the way the van rode and it looks great. Some reflectex on the windows to keep the Tucson heat out and the van is starting to take shape.

June, 2003

I started to hear the front brake wear indicator squeeling so I decided to do the front end. The stub axle U-joints were to be replaced as a precautionary measure.
Remanufactured calipers complete with new brake pads and dust boots were installed, the wheel bearings were repacked and the hubs were checked and in good working order. New brake hoses for the front and rear were installed. We cut open the old lines and they were almost completely swollen shut, so a good decision.
A floor for the roof rack was needed and I didn't like the Con-Ferr metal one so I got some oak planks and ripped them down to about 1 3/4" wide. The rack was gusseted and reinforced and some light tabs were added front and rear. A nut was welded on a plate to the rack to be used as a spare tire hold down. The planks were sprayed with polyurethene and installed using carriage bolts.

July, 2003

The engine in the van had been messed with by the previous owner. The heads didn't match and things had been rigged together. The A/C was missing parts and the power steering pump was not the correct one.
I contacted Scoggins Dickey in Lubbock, Texas for a GM Goodwrench engine for the van. The LT9 replacement engine is available. It was more expensive than other 350's but it is the same engine as original amd since it comes with a 3 year, 50,000 mile warranty I didn't want to mess with anything else. A new A/C compressor, condensor and drier were purchased in hope of getting the A/C back to original working condition.
While in Lubbock we went to a wrecking yard and got all the needed A/C brackets, hoses, and lines along with the correct power steering pump with the remote resevoir.
An Edelbrock manifold, Carb and air cleaner were added to the order along with a new HEI distributor, water pump, flexplate and harmonic balancer.
We borrowed an engine hoist and engine stand from a friend and went at it.
With the old engine removed we installed new heat shield insulation around the engine compartment, sprayed some undercoating on the crossmember and frame and fixed wiring and vacuum issues. A pair of mechanical Auto Meter gauges for oil pressure and water temp were custom installed in the instrument housing and routed to the engine.
A new Heat Buster 4 core radiator was purchased to keep the van cool, the electric fans from the old radiator were reinstalled with a custom fabricated mounting bracket.
Putting the final touches on the engine. Things went together very well and all the pulleys and belts line up fine. The front radiator support was painted, new halogen headlights were added and the grille was reinstalled. DONE

August, 2003

Now that the engine is in it's time to start working more on the interior. The roof was insulated using foil insulation with a foam back. The rubber floor mat was insulated using the same material. The sides of the van were insulated using R-19 fiberglass insulation over the same foil insulation. Things are much quieter now.
The storage compartments and bed platform were designed and the plywood bought. I wanted two pull out storgage boxes for the rear and a storage compartment for the front with a lift up lid using gas struts to hold it open.
Inside the front storage area I installed a Hellroaring BIC-9500 battery isolator/combiner and connected it to an Optima Yellow Top deep cycle battery using Audiopipe battery terminals and welding cable. On the front of the storage compartment I installed a remote switch that allows you to combine the battery with the Yellow Top in the engine compartment. This is handy for using the winch and works as a backup to the main battery.
A Powertank Co2 system was installed in the rear corner of the platform. This allows the tires to be aired up with out removing the tank from it's bracket using the 25 foot quick connect air line. The Powertank is powerful enough to run air tools and comes with an adjustable regulator so you can set it to your needs.
I had a mattress custom made with 3 inches of closed cell foam and then 3 inches of memory foam on top and covered with a zip on cover. It is 53" wide and 75" long, under the full size sheets I added a 12 volt heating pad to take the chill off before bed. On top of that a down comforter covered with a nice duvet. Nice and toasty now!
I finally got rid of the reflectex on the windows and bought some nice brown material and had a friend sew up curtains. I bought 2 pieces of rail from an RV supply store for the long rear sides and installed eyelets in the material and sliders on the rail.
For the rest of the windows I use magnets and place the curtains over the windows and magnet in place. Works pretty good.
An Olympian Wave 3 catylitic heater is mounted on the front of the storage compartment and can be used there or removed and placed anywhere inside or outside of the van. I connect the heater to a 5 lb. propane bottle with 12 feet of hose and a quick connection. A weather staion with remote sensor was installed next to the heater to keep track of indoor and outdoor temps.
I've been wanting an Engel fridge freezer for some time and finally treated my self to one. It is the MT45 and has made my life so much easier. No more hassles with ice, my food stays more fresh and doesn't get soaked in water. It is quiet, runs on 12 volt, 115 or 220 and is very efficient. I couldn't be happier. It is covered with an insulated transit bag and mounted on a quick release platform right behind the driver seat so I can reach back and get something while driving. Next to the fridge I use an old military box as a pantry for dry goods.
I bought the van with no stereo and I was going crazy. I got a good price on a Kenwood CD/MP3 player and installed it with some 4x6 speakers in the dash and 6x9 speakers in the doors where the previous owner had left holes. It has a remote so I can lay in bed and change stations. I also installed my Garmin GPSmap 176c on a Ram mount and attatched it to the console cover, using a remote GPS antenna on the roof for better reception.
I was having some cooling problems in places like Phoenix when it was over 105 and using the A/C. The electric fans were not doing enough to keep the engine cool. I searched for a new setup and went with a Flex a Lite #295 with 2 fans and a built in shroud. Now the fans automatically come on with the A/C and I can also manually run the fans or turn them off for water crossings etc.

September, 2003

The roof rack was next to get attention. A pair of Pelican 1620 waterproof cases loaded with tools, spare parts and recovery gear fit side by side nicely on the rack. A Hi Lift jack was mounted to the side of the rack. A Wedco 20 litre Jerrycan, Honda generator and an action packer full of fire wood also found a home up top.

January, 2004

The van is doing great. I went on a trip to Mexico and spent a week out in the desert. A couple of photos from the trip showing the latest setup.