Rare Trail Wagons 1986 Chevy Astro Van 4×4 and More

Scoring a Legit Van!

While doing research on this apparent unicorn van I recently bought for $500, I read your article on a Pathfinder 4×4 Safari (Trail’s End, June ’21). At the end of the article, your author asks for pics of other survivors. I have one that I cannot find a single other example of. It’s a 1986 Chevy Astro van converted by Trail Wagons in California.

This company was a subsidiary of Chinook RVs. They were known to send their conversion vans to Pathfinder for a 4×4 conversion. After reading your article about the ’85 prototype 4×4 drivetrain, I realized mine is identically covered: solid lift blocks under composite springs, Dana 44 up front, and so on. Mine has the NP205 transfer case and appears to use the same mounting brackets as in this article’s old pictures. I’m not sure if Trail Wagons or Pathfinder did the V-8 conversion or somebody down the road. But it is done professionally enough that it is possible.

I’m just starting to restore it now. I’m trying to save the cool ’80s Trail Wagon paint and generous amount of oak trim and engravings. —Brian, via email

It’s Complicated

Pickups and SUVs (there are not many real SUVs left) have gotten way too complicated and expensive to service. You basically need a master’s degree in electrical engineering to do just about anything except change a fuse. Give me a manual transfer case shift lever and manual lockouts!
In my new-to-me 2004 Chevy Silverado DD/hunting/exploring rig (regular cab, longbox, 4×4, manual-shift transfer case), I’m needing the 4L60E slush box rebuilt and have to track down a random misfire code issue for the 5.3L (it could be any of more than two dozen things causing it). I dream of a simple, reliable, minimal plastic, pre-emissions K10 long box with a four-bolt 350, SM465, 31-33-inch tires and 205 T-case, in good shape, but they cost an arm and a leg that this guy can’t afford to lose. I’m sure I’ve ranted enough. —Justin (from Minnesota, the land of 10,000 pounds of salt dropped on every road, every snow storm), via email

LowBuck Scout 800

I was just reading “Low-Buck 4×4 Truck: What’s Your Best Wrecked-to-Rugged Transformation?” story in the March ’21 issue (Trail’s End) and figured I would share mine.

I purchased a 1969 Scout 800 and a 12-gauge pump shotgun from a guy for $100, and a $500 1989 Dodge W250 from a public auction. I then sold various parts from both vehicles I would not need, recouping the money spent, plus almost $1,500. I made all the mounts for the 360ci and overdrive Dodge transmission/T-case. The frame widths are the same on the Dodge and the Scout, so the 3/4-ton axles did not need much modification to fit under the Scout.

I used 4-inch K10 Skyjacker springs front and 6-inch CJ-7 springs rear, early Bronco shocks and mounts. It’s sitting on 37-inch Toyos. It has a modified Jeep YJ rollbar and other used factory parts from vehicles so that it’s easy to “parking lot repair.” The only new parts bought were safety related (harnesses, seats, fire extinguisher, and so on). All in all, I have less than $2,000 into this rig, and it brings a smile to people’s faces wherever we take it. —Caleb, via email

Super 1997 Lexus LX450

I appreciated your article titled “Hard-Working Equipment Versus Shiny, Fancy 4x4s” (4xForward, Nov. ’21). I’ve had a lot of rigs, but my current ride, which might be my favorite ever, is a 1997 Lexus LX450 (yes, I wheel a Lexus), which you can see here in stock form and current form. I go out of my way to avoid rocks and trees, but I use my truck—a lot. I drive to the trail, and it’s usually the least trail-worthy rig in the group.

This truck has done the Rubicon, Fordyce, Dusy Ershim, Moab, and many other trails. Truthfully, sometimes I am sad that it isn’t pretty anymore, but I do love the fact that I regularly drive over 1,000 miles in three days, sleep in my truck, and have a kick-butt story for every dent in my truck. To each his own, but for me, the day I’m more worried about how my truck looks than where it can go, off-roading might not be the right hobby for me anymore. —Noah, via email

Watch! Four Wheeler Readers on Overland Adventure

Like these readers’ off-road vehicles? Then check out Day 1 of the 2021 Four Wheeler Overland Adventure, where Four Wheeler readers explore the backcountry of southern Utah.

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