80's E350 Quadravan Pathfinder what to look for?


As per the title. I'm interested in an 86 E350 Quadravan Pathfinder that's up for sale locally.

Anything to pay careful attention to, while looking it over?
Anything to avoid?
Any owners comments welcomed?

As always look out for the usual mechanical issues. Older vehicles, the Econolines especially, usually have a host of older wiring problems to deal with. As for 4x4 conversion things to look out for, make sure all the welds done for mounting the perches are solid. Pay attention to front tires and look for any funny wear, and avoid it if the frame is rusting out. The converted 4x4 frame is by far the most valuable thing on those vans IMO. Everything else can be swapped over fairly easy


I know there are petrol engines and Diesel engine (7L I think) what is better ? I dream of that van since I am 12 (I am 52) but here in france impossible because of French laws.


To Infinity and Beyond!
In the mid 80's thru early 90's I would buy 4WD vans from the oilfield service companies. Most of them were Ford E350 Pathfinder 4WD conversion "Treaters" vans. Probably bought well over a 100 of them during that time from WCNA, Halliburton, Dowell and other's.

Ford Pathfinder's all had the same problems of worn out front-ends, death wobble due the the coil spring front-end conversion, rattled like hell and were pretty well used up old vans that were only a couple of years old at the time of my purchase. The old Ford 4WD Quigley conversions did a little better do their use of leaf springs in the front however they were fewer and far between for purchase at that time. Down in the oil patch USED 4WD vans were not worth much money at that time however move em here to Tennessee and they sold like hot cakes as nobody else had anything like em! Also remember at this time all these vans had a little over 100,000 miles and were typically only 2 to maybe 3 model years old at most.

Expect to spend money replacing EVERY bushing, bearing, widget and part associated with the 4WD conversion if you buy an OBS Ford Pathfinder 4WD van and they will still have little suspension problems that might be annoying. They were that way when they were new!

Remember that these OBS Ford Pathfinder vans are 30-35 years old NOW and they will need a complete rebuild to be driveable and reliable by today's standards therefore they need to be almost "Free to Good Home" to afford the rebuild in my opinion. Fuel Economy? Forget about that with a 351 or a 460 gas engine!

I had a couple of Chevrolet Pathfinder 4WD vans back then and they were in far worse condition than the Fords when in oilfield use do to the fact that Chevy vans at time were uni-body in construction. IF you are looking at a Chevy Pathfinder I suggest you get one that was NEVER used in any form of commercial service.

On top of all this above you still have the rust issues and limited parts availability issues now associated with these OBS Ford vans. It better be a "Labor of Love" as from a financial standpoint it's a big LOSER!

It might be wise in the long run to delay the dream, go save some "MO MONEY" and then go buy a later model better condition 4WD van with the additional money you have "Saved"!
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Vintageracer, thanks for the detailed reply. Certainly puts a reality check on things.

My reasons for wanting the van are several, my other options are a F350 of similar vintage or a 60's panel van.
The van is a bit smaller than the F350, so slightly more practical (not a word I use often)
A walk through van is a more useable space than a pick up, indoor change area from surfing etc
They look cool (eye of the beholder etc)
4WD, not needed that often but I want it anyway
Ride quality is subjective, I daily drive (when it works) an ex military 110 land rover and have previously had other MV's
The van I'm interested in is an oil burner, I like diesel
I'm under no illusion about the work required, spencyg's Boomer van front end rebuild is probably what I'll do.
As for rust, well see my above comment re land rovers


New member
I have two right now, most of the comments have been spot on, however cast with a negative light. ANY vehicle you get of this vintage will have these issues. The Pathfinder 4x4's are just plain cool, and go like stink. They are easy to work on, donor bodies are everywhere and configurations are endless. Pathfinder parts however, are not endless! I am almost done with a conversion very similar to Boomer. I have found a lot of the forums and FB groups on the econolines invaluable, as well as a huge source for about any part you need. I say go for it, very cool, useful and semi-rare trucks to have. I am a huge fan.


Hillbilly of Leisure
I have an '86 Quadravan that I bought about a year ago. Was going to turn it into a dedicated camping rig, but that's been put on hold for a bit.

I think I got lucky. The last owner had it for 12 years and provided all the maintenance records and receipts since the 60K mile mark (one or two owners before him). The poor guy was forced to sell in a divorce and had to dump 2K into it to make it sale-able because he had let it sit for two years (squirrels destroyed a lot of wiring under the hood). Freshly rebuilt carburetor, replaced fuel pumps, etc. and a pile of new parts that were know to be bad where piled in the back. It desperately needs paint though. Had to spend some money on parts to get it aligned too.

I drive it once a week to keep things moving and it gets 13 MPG (gas 460 & C6 tranny). I haven't had any trouble finding parts so far and it's been 100% reliable since we picked it up. But, would I take it on a 500 mile trip? Not yet. Another year of casual driving will either prove or disprove its' reliability.

Paid $4K and have put about $1500 into wheels, tires, and misc. little parts. We don't have a truck and having that enormous, weather-proof hauling space is reason enough to keep it. The 4WD got me out of a couple of snow drifts this winter.

I don't think you are going to get into a 90s 4WD van for less than $20K, but I'm just guessing. There is a lot to be said for a 4WD van that is paid for.


I've been rooting around researching these Quadravans for a couple years. Things to look for? A lot of the front end parts were mix and match, and changed over the years. There is no support from the Pathfinder folks, and their parts manuals had proprietary part numbers so it is challenging to figure out what parts were from originally. Bushings are kinda tricky. I believe the rear radius arm bushings are same as stock. The dual track bar bushings I believe are Ford passenger car radius arm bushings; think Ford Torino. The front radius arm bushings look like Land Rover but I haven't got that figured out yet.

I have decided to pick one up to use the parts to convert my Gen 3 Class B camper van to 4x4. It's the closest I can get to a 'kit' since no one supports the Gen 3 4x4 conversions anymore. Simpler than working from scratch; I will use the Quadravan custom length HD D44 and the custom radius arms and brackets, and D60 rear. Then ditch the horrible dual track bars in favor of a panhard bar.

If you are interested, I've got a little Facebook page called Gen 3 Ford Econoline 4x4 Conversions and Quadravan. I've got some files, manuals and info there. Trying to build a knowledge base / resource / support group. Join if you want. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2597187683839568/