Special Thanx to my fellow members of the The Backyard Boys

Aim / Motivation

Firstly I love Subaru's. I had recently bought a '99 GT Forester and although I was very impressed with its power and overall performance it is too "nicer" car to take off-road and too EXPENSIVE.

I had always been impressed by the Subaru RX Turbo but never really considered buying one. The frustration with the Forester continued until I finally decided I would build my own RX.

I set about searching for a suitable body. I didn't have a lot of money to spend so I set the budget at $1000 for a good body with no engine or $2000 for a good body with a working engine. I searched the trading post, personal ads, visited car yards but couldn't find anything suitable. Eventually I wrote a simple post to the alt.auto.subaru Newsgroup "Wanted RX Turbo". I was astonished to get a reply and even more surprised to find that the reply was from somebody local and not on the other side of Australia or even the World. I immediately replied back and organized a time to look over the car.

Car Purchase

We test drove the car and although the car wasn't anything fantastic I could see the potential immediately. The guy selling the car was great and threw in a lot of great extras that saved me a lot of money in the long run. He had even modified the L Series bonnet to take a Vortex bonnet scoop. I ended up getting the body I wanted with a working engine and a bundle of extra parts for roughly $2300 AUD.

Start Work

We started work the night we got the car towed home. We started cleaning the car and documenting what work would be required. As we cleaned the car we began to realize that underneath all the muck the car was in remarkably good condition, especially the interior. The other cars that I had looked at all had cracked dashboards and rusty bodies.

My main aim at this point was to get the car registered so that I didn't have to get it towed from one place to another.

To get the car registered we needed to :

1. Get the engine running
2. Repair the gearbox
3. Install rear disk brakes (because its a turbo)
4. Rebuild the rear suspension
5. Replace the ball joints
6. Reconnect the power steering
7. Fit new brake pads
8. Fit new tyres
9. The engine had a blown head gasket (passenger side - typical of the EA82 motor). We replaced the head gasket with the engine still in the bay. In hindsight it is easier to remove the engine.

We tested the engine and unfortunately it still suffered from some major problems including flat spots in acceleration, lack of power etc. It had already taken the whole weekend for us to replace the head gasket and get the engine running and it was becoming clear that given that I could only work on the engine over the weekends it was going to take me a year to even get the car on the road.

I decided to send the RX to the Subaru shop. Rather the muck around with the engine any further we decided to replace the engine with a reconditioned Jap import.

The Subaru shop saved me a lot of time:

1. Installed the Jap Import Engine
2. Installed the rear suspension
3. Installed the rear disc brakes
4. Reconditioned the AWD gearbox
5. Installed a second hand exhaust system
6. Refitted a new fuel system
7. Although I had to pay to have this work done it definitely saved my sanity and meant I was that much closer to getting the car in the road.

On the Road (2 months)

The Subaru Shop did the majority of the work which left me with some of the minor details such as ball joints, leaks, appearance, body work.

To my relief the car passed the safety certificate without any major dramas. It was then down to the Department of Transport and then I was on the road.

At this stage the car was still on standard (spungy) suspension with 13" wheels. The car still needed a lot of work.

The next step was to fix the suspension. I replaced the std 2WD struts with reconditioned 4WD struts and then sent the car to the local Pedder's store to have new springs fitted. They did a great job lifting the nose of the car 2" from the original height.

With my new found height it was time to test the car out. I borrowed a set of Sunraisiers and headed for Big Boys 4X4 park north of Gympie (http://www.bigboys4x4park.com.au) .

We had a great weekend and although the car had the power it suffered a real beating and it was obvious how necessary it was to have higher suspension and larger tyres.

To top it off we burnt out the clutch in the donut pit. Being constant AWD the clutch really was put to the test and the old clutch just couldn't take it.

Thanks to Jason and Darryl I was back on the road in no time.

  Lift Kit and Wheels (3 months)

Next job was the Lift Kit. The lift kit was purchased from a mate who builds lift kits for Subaru's. You can visit his site at the BYB Website or the Message Board. The kit comes with everything you need to add the much needed clearance to the Subaru. We fit the kit in about 5 hours and the only problems we encountered were the existing Subaru (welded internal) nut.

Often overlooked is that when you lift a Subaru you are actually dropping the engine in the engine bay by the height of the lift kit. The engine is now actually sitting 3" deeper in the engine bay. This did cause some problems with the standard piping. Almost all pipes into the engine had to be extended to a certain degree. We also had to modify the existing Air-Box to line up with the new position. This is not required if you already have an aftermarket high flow filter (which I now have).

Now that the car was lifted we could now fit the larger wheels and tyres. Due to the strange stud configuration on the Subaru there are really only a couple of options for wheels : Marquee, Peugot, Performance Superlites or Performance Classics. I am pretty happy with my choice. The Performance Classics look great.

Before lifting the vehicle we couldn't even fit the wheel under the wheel arch. Now the wheels fit and with stacks of clearance for jumping.

A quick final check over of the car and it was ready to back the vehicle out of the garage for display. Upon turning the vehicle it became immediately apparent that some slight panel beating was necessary to allow the bigger wheels to turn in the arches. This was done simply by using tin snips to cut frequent nitches in the guard and then bending the tabs back inside the guard. We eventually opened the guard behind the front wheels about 2 inches. The car was now drivable.

It takes a lot of getting used to driving with the lift kit if you are used to driving the car without one. I found the steering a lot easier (lighter) and the car a lot easier to drive. The height is great and I will never forget my first drive after lifting the vehicle. It is well worth the conversion. One final modification was made as a precaution. The rear brake lines have a bracket on the hanger bar. We simply disconnected this bracket to prevent extra strain being placed on the brake lines when the rear wheels drop.

  Re-Spray (5 months)

Although the green looked good the car was in much need of some panel work, rust removal and a re-spray. The choice was made to go with Black. We decided to tackle the job ourselves. With the help of some mates we started work. In hindsight I would probably think twice about doing is again. There is a LOT of work involved in spraying a car.

Firstly the car had to be sanded back with wet and dry to remove the existing paint. This not only removed the paint but also the finger prints on my fingers. A sanding block is thoroughly recommended. This job took roughly 4 hours and unfortunately is a step that must be done properly.

Rust and major dints were fixed and filled with fiberglass and mesh.

The car then had to be masked up. It was all hands on deck to get this done. This task only took about an hour. We then went over the car with primer putty where the car needed it and then on with the primer coat of paint. Fortunately I have a very talented Father-in-law which lent a hand.

Next came a lite sanding and the first coat of black. More sanding and more coats. We had a lot of problems with water in the gun and pressure. It turns out that we had the pressure too high but nevertheless we were happy with the result. All in all we gave the car about 11 coats.

We ended up removing the bonnet to get an even coat. We had really good drying conditions and the job basically took from Friday night to late Sunday afternoon.
It was then the moment for unveiling. We carefully removed the tape and paper to reveal the car below. The car looked great. The black really worked well with the wheels.

We added some decals and some pin striping and the car looked great.


Fast-Bits (6 months)

Waste-Gate modification

Having now got the car looking the way I wanted, it was now time to improve the engine. It is very cheap and easy to obtain more power from a standard turbo factory engine. Most turbo engines have the waste-gate set for about 5-7 lbs. When you accelerate the exhaust gases spin the turbo which pressurizes the air going into the manifold. As the turbo spins faster the pressure increases. Once the 5-7 lbs is achieved a hose from the turbo shifts the waste-gate to release the pressure.
The waste-gate modification bleeds some of this pressure to the atmosphere preventing the waste-gate from releasing resulting in turbo compression higher than the factory 5-7 lbs.

The home made kit we built consisted of two gas taps, a T piece and some fuel tubing. The tap is mounted in the interior of the car on the center console beside the gear stick. A second tap is mounted in the engine bay and is set at 15psi to prevent you exceeding the 15psi. It is not recommended that you exceed 15psi without further modification such as copper gaskets etc.

Hi-Flow Aftermarket Air Filter

The next modification we made was to do away with the factory air box (bad design) and install a Hi-Flow pod filter. This made an immense difference to the performance of the car. This indicated that the factory air-box is too restrictive. With the Hi-Flow Air filter fitted you can actually hear the engine breathing which is an awesome sound.

Gearbox / Diff Change

The AWD gearbox in my RX although great on the bitumen was basically useless off-road. Even in low-range the engine would labor and I would very rarely make it out of 1st gear. Fortunately for us the White RX we had recently purchased had a modified low-range gearbox along with an LSD Differential. Given that we wanted to make the White RX a road car it was natural that we give the white RX the AWD box while I benefit from the lower low-range box and LSD.

The whole job took about 8 hours. The job was basically straight forward with only some minor hitches along the way. For anybody doing the same conversion please note, you must also swap the linkages/gear levers otherwise you will find it hard to select gears.

The final results are remarkable. The AWD really finishes the White RX off and gives it a much more sturdy feel on the road while the Lower Low Range gearbox in the other RX makes driving in sand or mud effortless.

Thanks to Jay and Darryl for their help and determination.

Front Dual Shocks and rear fix

Although pretty happy with the set up I did find the RX still suffered a little when the terrain got extreme, especially when jumping. An additional shock in the front was the answer. Our local Supercheap had a sale on Gabriel shocks so we picked up a pair at $31.95 each. You need the type with bolts at both ends. We then had somebody build us some brackets and attached the brackets to the existing strut using D-bolts. The results were amazing, since the additional shock has been added I have not yet hit bottom in the front end.

Having fixed the front end a lot more weight was being thrown onto the rear. Within a couple of months of fitting the additional front shock I broke the standard Subaru rear struts. The adjustable flange literally jumped over the adjustment peg. (Although recent jumping probably didn't do it any good).

We simply hammered the flange back into place and placed a D-bolt over the adjustment to give it some strength.

My next improvement to the suspension will be additional adjustable gas shocks to the rear. Fossil has already fit his with great results.

Wish List (today-future)

That brings me to the current day. It is part of any hobby to have further plans for a project. My list would be never ending but for the moment I have a couple of additional modifications that I'd like to add in the not to distant future.

1. Intercooler (fan mounted)
2. Roll Cage

If I had the money then my next step would be to drop an EJ20 into the engine bay.

For those of you who have been keen enough to read this far, I hope you got something from reading about my project. If you have any questions then please feel free to email me and I will do my best to give you an answer to your question.