The Rot Wagon: Lifted 99 Subaru Impreza

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Tinker

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It started out as a $300 beater that was "supposed to be" my new daily while I made major upgrades on the Land Rover project... things quickly got out of hand, as they have a habit of doing.

Here it is as of today, 11" taller & temporarily borrowing a few tools from the Rover to prep for running trails this weekend up at the "Summer SnoDrift" rally race:


Look how bland & stock it was back in the spring... shameful! And what a basket case. Crank pulley falling off, leaking from everywhere, interior in a state, & chunks of rusted steel dropping off over every bump:


I'll try & lay out the details of what's happened in the multiple phases of upgrades it's had over the last 4 months.
 
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Tinker

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First thing to do was start collecting parts! Most the suspension & crossmembers were rusted to dust with rubber totally blown out. A rally racer friend really hooked me up with basically the entire undercarriage of a Subaru Forester:


Pretty quickly found a set of used truck wheels on craigslist for dirt cheap:


And right afterwards I scored a deal on a barely used set of knobby tires to match:
 

Tinker

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Once I came to terms with the fact that the car was never going to get restored (both due to rust & lack of time) I started to get an idea to go with a Mad Max / Rat Rod kind of angle with the car. Seeing as LED's don't really fit with that meant it was time to jump on Ebay & hunt down vintage lights! These things range from the late 1930's to the late 40's:


I slid the roof rail as far forward as possible & whipped up some brackets to mount them. The were well weathered & took it a bit of patching up, rewiring, & modifying:
 

Tinker

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The beginning of the suspension work began with a simple Forester suspension swap. A cheap & easy project that provides gains of 2-4" of suspension lift depending on the condition/age of the springs:


Here's an explanation of the process if you're interested:

The strut swap half complete, highlighting the difference:


A good start & no risk to the CV axles by utilizing another Subaru platform's geometry!
 

Tinker

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And this is where things started to escalate.

A bunch of beer sipping, tall-tale telling, fire-side talks of how fun it would be to take one of the many Subaru's in our group of friends & lift it to the moon has led to this... an SJR lift kit!


It's a smart design which works by dropping the entire suspension, which avoid the pitfalls of extreme CV axle angles. Spacers in both aluminum & steel go above the trailing arms, control arms, subframes, & struts:


Either way I was going to NEED to tear the suspension out, because of this hot mess of a rusted out rear crossmember:
 

Tinker

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So thankful for a hard working & Subaru-knowledge-filled friend for helping, & another friend for letting us use his 2-post lift for the night to get this cranked out!

New used rear subframe going in, along with the lift kit's steel spacers above that link together in the middle:


Rear trailing arms get an aluminum spacer, & of course some of the bolts that thread up into the uni-body spun so we had to get creative before getting it locked in:


Rear differential cradle gets spaced down as well, albeit a touch less, to accommodate proper driveshaft angles:


Rear diff skid-plate requires some clearancing, no big deal:
 

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We were able to just flip this driveshaft's center support to get it at the correct angle:


Transmission crossmember drop brackets:


Which required, after plenty of head scratching, our solution to get the automatic's shifter cable back in alignment:


Next up was the front control arm drop spacers in aluminum:


And then all the strut top spacers:
 

Tinker

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Now the 5" taller tires (235/75R15 aka 29" tall) can go on!


What a difference hahahahaha!


Won't get far until we attack the arches with various cutting devices first, which honestly will just rid me of a load of rust:


We were both on the ground laughing at this point :laughing: The sight of this thing with the springs unsettled caught us both off guard when the lift dropped & well... the car did not:
 
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Tinker

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To fit the 5x4.5" truck wheels I used a set of forged aluminum spacers that adapt the 5x100 pattern:


Also required was modifying the steering shaft to extend it, & just below of it you can see a tab I made to affix one of the chassis nuts that was spinning inside of the uni-body:


Now with the engine so much lower I had to slap together an intake pipe as quick as I could so we could take her for a spin!


The e-brake cables were easy to sort out, only released it from the outer straps so it could reach:
 

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Time for a trial run! :grinning:

Honestly surprised me how well it got around with the large tires, guess it doesn't hurt to have 4.11 gears from the factory:


No troubles crawling around a moto track:


CV's weren't moaning but the tires were getting a tad bitey with the rear of the front wheel wells:


Couldn't go too hard while knowing the brake lines are wicked rusty:




 
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Tinker

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Crap... that didn't take long. Wifi brakes?


In-field "repair" to get it home:


Rust? ABS? No adjustments? Drums? NO THANKS. Get chopped old brake system!


Sketch a plan & order a handful of fittings+hose, plan's in motion:
 

Tinker

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I had this guy (adjustable proportioning valve) just sitting around collecting dust from an old project, which saved me a bunch of money towards the new system:


Smashed together a bracket that'll hang it from the master cylinder studs:


Nice & tucked out of the way but still easy to get at the front/rear adjuster:


Ditched the little front calipers for non-floating WRX 4-piston calipers & much bigger rotors, should do the trick slowing down the larger tires, & all clears easily thanks to the high offset wheels:


Braided teflon hose all the way from master to pistons:
 

Tinker

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Was waiting on parts to swap the rear brakes to discs, so for the moment I ran to the drums, also used speed bleeders that have a check valve inside, worked pretty good for solo bleeding:


Didn't like the pedal feel with the setup, so I grabbed a WRX sized master cylinder & booster. Barely fits but got the pedal effort & feel right where it should be. Now let's get rid of this trash rear drum setup!


Of course that stupid rear suspension bolt (that has no shortage of expletive filled names) was completely seized, so the cut-off wheel comes out to free the links from the old drum setup:


Sadly the rear diff on an auto is a bit of a unicorn & uses only CV axles specific to it, so it had to get swapped for a standard R160 from a Legacy, allowing me to use nearly any CV axle. Was one hell of a fight to get the rear upgraded to discs:


Once the brakes were sorted it could get back onto parts running duty for the Cummins Land Rover project:
 
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Tinker

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Staring at the chopped up arches for a few weeks gave me an idea to patch it... License plates!

Hosed it all in rust converting undercoat, bashed some plates to shape, & riveted in place on both sides:


I thought of leaving them blue, but wanted a more sneaky look, which began in red close to the stock paint:


Which after some jokes led to continuing the Outback paint scheme right over them:


It was so brutally hot that day I decided to get creative in hiding from it as I did the plates:
 
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Tinker

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Then I finally got around to putting together a snorkel. I kept the old airbox around so I could link a silicone elbow with it under the fender (where the silencer box was) to then connect with a flex pipe:


A cheap flex pipe runs up, pops out the fender, & stays with hose clamps riveted into the A-pillar under the tube:


Topped it with a cut up Pontiac Grand Prix aluminum exhaust tip I found in a scrap pile:


Slathered it all in rubberized undercoating & turned out better than I expected! Also scored a free roof basket that a friend had laying around, just threaded the rear roof rack lateral thru the basket & made brackets to hold down the front:
 

Tinker

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One cool thing about the auto transmissions in the Subaru's is they actually don't have a center diff in the usual sense... instead of plain ring & pinion, it's actually an electrically controlled clutch pack that splits power from front by default to both front & rear during traction loss. A little digging around & I found a few videos & forum write-ups about hijacking the center diff's control signal. With a switch, a relay, a big heatsink resistor, & spare bits of wire I was able to make it happen! Now I can bypass the trans controller ECU & either let it do it's thing on-road... OR lock it right in full 50/50 split and avoid exploding the transmission when the controller turns it on & off in heavy offroading!



This is a great start to the mod if you're interested, not to mention great Forester hooning videos in the mountains as well :)
 
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Tinker

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CV issues can be frustrating, & it's worth mentioning that the OEM Subaru CV's are far superior to any new or reman units you can get. That is until you get into uber expensive drag racing or sand-rail style CV's.

All that being said, save original axles or buy used ones to rebuild! Besides, they are cheap when used, I've yet to pay more than $35 a piece. So far all I've needed was spares & new boots, which is messy but easy:


Good as new!


There we go!


A friend had a great idea to mount the hi-lift jack up on the hood. It fit really well & securely between the scoop & wipers with 1/2" bolts + wing-nuts. Having the mass of it up near the hinges makes it hardly noticeable when opening the hood:


Loaded a sealed toolbox full of spare parts & fluids, lashed a first-aid kit on the headrest, then strapped my pulaski axe on board with simple u-bolts with wing-nuts:


Lastly was a water jerry for camp, & recovery treads + shovel in case things get proper muddy up there:
 
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Phildirt

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Probably my favorite build on here besides an XJ (can't remember who's, tons of fab work though) and a Power Wagon that another guy is building. Your rover is in my top 5 too. Probably number one on my "want to see it running" list.

This ride makes we want to get a beater and build it all out of garage sale/Craigslist parts. Been daydreaming about doing that to an S-10.
 
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