Ironsides Reader
9/1/17 8:18 a.m.

After hunting around for a month or so, last night I piloted home a '96 Impreza L sedan. I've been on the hunt for something awd, stick shift and relatively cheap, to use in the winter months to keep my BRZ tucked away from the New England salt. This particular car supposedly came from California where it spent most of its life, only being in New England the past few winters, so largely, the body/chassis is nice and clean which was one of the selling points for me. Most Subarus in the northeast have been more than half eaten by rot, and with stricter state inspection enforcement looming here in Massachusetts, buying wisely was the name of the game. The rest of the car needs a bit of TLC, it's still seems like a youthful car even at 216k miles. The Interior needs some rehab, (one of the PO really liked red spray paint) seats need to go, the exhaust is broken after the catalytic converter and the brakes leave something to be desired. Also noticed the shifter will need a rebuild due to excessive slop and some clanging at certain rpms. Leaks from the valve cover gaskets and the power steering pump area leaks like a stuck pig. Guy I bought it from said the clutch was slipping, couldn't really tell on my test drive or ride home but the lack of power from the broken exhaust probably masked it. Either way, I may pull the engine to refresh the clutch and clean the years old oil muck off the bay and do a quick engine reseal. One big plus is the set of snow tires and wheels I bought last winter for the brz will bolt right up. I'll add some better pics once I have time to dive in and access the state of the rest of the car.

HonestSpeedShop New Reader
9/1/17 9:45 a.m.

Nice find! oil coat that bad boy and drive it for many winters to come!

Vigo UltimaDork
9/1/17 10:29 a.m.

I really like those cars. I even autocrossed a mostly stock 2.2/auto Brighton coupe once and it was very decent even without 'good' drivetrain or suspension.

Ironsides Reader
9/6/17 11:16 a.m.

Finally had a minute to have a good look over the whole car. Overall fairly clean!

The inner tie rods/rack has some play, enough to say it won't pass mass state inspection, so I'm going to order up a detroit axle rack complete with inners and swap it while I have the engine out.

Brakes were done prior to me owning it, the pads seemed to have some life left, I'm going to pull them all apart and relube the slides etc. The hoses are pretty bad, probably explains the terrible pedal feel, I'll be replacing those and I'll give the system a good bleed. 

I took advantage of the Pick n Pull labor day sale and managed to pick up most of the bits to replace all the red interior panels. Unfortunately the HVAC trim I picked up was for a manual lever style, so It won't work. I may just try some paint stripper  or brake fluid on the current panel if i can't find one at the local yard. I gave everything a good scrub down, and a vacuum, the car has 3 aftermarket amplifiers inside, I'll be yanking those probably and trying to return the stereo system to stock wiring, not a fan of someone else hack audio work. 

I have a line on a set of grey/black 06/07 WRX seats for the front, I will be picking them up this weekend. Hoping someone will want the interior in the car to recoup a few dollars, I will need to source a matching rear sedan seat. There are several on eBay, but quite spendy.

Planning to pull the engine and do a quick reseal and access any major leakage/replace the clutch. There's so much oil in the bay its hard to tell where it all originates from. Seems at minimum the vcg's are the main culprit and the power steering pump. 

Figured I'd keep a tally of costs so far:

Car: $1150

Rockauto order: $239.32 (VCG's/clutch kit/fw/oil pan seal/rear main seal/exhaust manifold gaskets/2nd cat flange gasket)

Steering rack: $132.95

Interior trim: $17

Total thus far: $1539.27

Still needed: PS pump seal kit/2nd cat (may be able to repair current broken flange) Tie rod ends, brake hoses, shifter rebuild bits, interior seats. Guilty pleasure would be a nardi shift knob and steering wheel from a JDM gc8 car but I feel like it may be unnecessary unless I can find a steal. 

Already have: 1 year old snow tires and wheels from the BRZ 

Hoping to keep the whole endeavor sub $2000, we shall see how it progresses!

einy HalfDork
9/6/17 12:00 p.m.

If the paint stripper idea doesn't leave you with a good looking part, I have had great successes using the Rustoleum '2X Ultra Cover'spray paint to 'refinish' interior plastic parts like your center piece.  You can even shoot the window winder handles with the same paint while you're at it.  They have at least four different gloss levels of black to choose from - gloss, semi-gloss, satin (my most commonly used), and flat all in that same family of paint products. 

HonestSpeedShop Reader
9/6/17 12:05 p.m.

I have the  Rustoleum '2X Ultra Cover'spray paint in my miata on a few trim bits, looks very oem in satin for most Japanese cars. 

Ironsides Reader
9/6/17 12:17 p.m.

Thanks for the tip on the Rustoelum! I'll give it a look, theres a local yard that has a handful of these cars I haven't stopped by yet, hoping I can get lucky and score a few more odds and ends this weekend. 

GCrites80s New Reader
9/6/17 1:31 p.m.

You were at the junkyard all like Bubsy saying, "What could possibly go wrong?" and of course there had to be some detail with the vents that ruined the score.

Ironsides Reader
9/6/17 4:17 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Not only that, but I also managed to drop one of the 4 door pockets on my way out of the yard, so I still have 1 red door pocket trims haha. 

Ironsides Reader
9/11/17 10:30 a.m.

Still waiting on mechanical bits, but fairly certain everything in the mail at this point. Attempted to fix the exhaust, however I wasn't able to located the correct size exhaust flange locally, so I now have one on order. The good news is as long as I can weld it up nicely, I shouldn't need to buy the whole second cat. Ground the old bolts off to survey the damage, seems like a straight forward fix:


Got the interior mostly sorted out, picked up a set of really nice 2006 wrx fronts seats locally, going to get a matching rear from another guy this week. Seem to look a lot better that the white and black leathers and they are nice and comfortable, and they bolt right in! Also found the hvac trim and remaining door pocket on a local junkyard run. Was also able to score a nice leather shifter knob out of a camry solara. 

Budget as of now, and should have covered all needed things: 

Car: $1150

Rockauto order: $239.32 (VCG's/clutch kit/fw/oil pan seal/rear main seal/exhaust manifold gaskets/2nd cat flange gasket)

Steering rack: $132.95

Interior trim/shift knob: $22

New front/rear seats: $210

Rockauto order #2: Ps/ seal kit/ brake hoses/ tie rod ends: $70

Exhaust Flange/donut seal: $15

New Total: $1839.27

Hopeful recoup:

Old interior: $100

2 Unneeded Amplifiers: $50

BRZ shift knob: $15

Ironsides Reader
10/29/17 11:34 p.m.

Was able to make some headway on the impreza this weekend. 



Pulling the engine was fairly straightforward and uneventful. Found it interesting that there were only 4 bolts holding the engine and transmission together. 


Had some help from the GF and the family pets



Hands down the dirtiest/most neglected engine bay I've experienced, hard to really tell what all was leaking and from where, the majority of the engine is covered in ps fluid from the leaky pump. Looks as though the vcg's were in fact leaking as well as the oil pan it seemed. Spent some time scrubbing away at the areas i could, I'm avoiding and additional teardown that is not necessary to keep costs down. 




The result of the afternoons scrubbing are beginning to show:


The good news is there isn't much sludge if any and the internals seem to be in decent shape, I was able to replace the valve cover gaskets, and will reseal the oil pan and possibly yhe pcv baffle plate (bought a pan gasket, however it seems like grey sealant is the preferred method, should have known better) 


Rear main doesn't appear to be leaking, I will leave it alone to avoid complications. 


Popped off the timing cover to inspect the Timing belt, it has in fact been replaced with a gates belt as stated by the previous owner. I will leave that as well. The timing cover and seals have seen better days. The seals are pretty deformed and looked to have prevented the covers from fitting correctly when they were previously reinstalled...Which must have lead to the crank pulley eating up the cover. I will source some new seals and a replacement cover hopefully, 

The clutch was good and cooked, flywheel and pressure plate has some good heat spotting as well. 


That's all till next weekend, hoping to grab the few bits I need, and finish up the engine rehab shortly, while the engine is out, I am planning to clean the bay, replace the steering rack and rebuild the shifter linkage. Once that is all set, I'll go ahead and drop the little 2.2 back in :) 

Fortunately still enough room to fit the probe back in the garage until it goes away to storage. 



RoadWarrior Reader
10/30/17 1:49 a.m.

mmm. gc8's, my favorite. That thing screams for a JDM motor swap. Shame about the interior on it, the seats it looks like it came with look to be the optional leather kit that the 02-03 wrx's had as an option. I'd love to track down a set to redo the seats on my 02 wrx with. 


My fave suspension setup i had on my '99 2.5RS coupe was JDM STI V5 inverted struts/springs/ group n strut mounts and the 02 wrx sedan swaybar, felt really good for a daily. Just make sure to grease the struts to keep the rear clunk at bay. 

Ironsides Reader
10/30/17 7:50 a.m.
RoadWarrior said:

mmm. gc8's, my favorite. That thing screams for a JDM motor swap. Shame about the interior on it, the seats it looks like it came with look to be the optional leather kit that the 02-03 wrx's had as an option. I'd love to track down a set to redo the seats on my 02 wrx with. 


My fave suspension setup i had on my '99 2.5RS coupe was JDM STI V5 inverted struts/springs/ group n strut mounts and the 02 wrx sedan swaybar, felt really good for a daily. Just make sure to grease the struts to keep the rear clunk at bay. 

The shell is so clean that I wouldnt rule out a wrx swap sometime in its future, for now though is bare bones winter duty. I would love to find some GDA struts/springs and sway bars for it though, if for nothing else to remedy the rear spring sag it currently has. 

Ironsides Reader
11/7/17 3:56 p.m.

More progress on the lil Impreza, still moving slower than I hoped.

New shifter linkage and bushings came in to remedy some shifter slop.

Before rolling it back into the garage, test fit snows I have for it, my it looks worlds better already.


Once it was in the garage, I finished degreasing the bay, I cleaned out the bellhousing, installed the new TOB and steering rack. 



Old rack has seen better days...


Said to hell with the new timing cover for now and installed the slightly manged one with the new seals. Resealed the oil pan as well for good measure and a new tstat (Still think thermostat at the base of the engine is a piss poor design) 


One thing I discovered quite unfortunately, is that the trunk leaks water. The more unfortunate part was, that is where the new clutch and flywheel had resided until I installed them (facepalm)

I was greeted by soggy cardboard and immediately had a butt pucker moment. Fortunately the flywheel only showed some light oxidation, which should remedy itself rather quickly. 


I met my goal of having the engine back in the car by Sunday night, only thing needed at the moment is a new clutch fork boot since mine has disintegrated. Hoping another days worth of fiddling and it should be running and moving again!











NGTD UberDork
11/8/17 4:22 p.m.

Check the taillights for the trunk leak. I know GD's were famous for the taillight gaskets leaking. I'm not sure if GC's have the same issue.

Ironsides Reader
12/5/17 8:43 p.m.

Been a few weeks since I last shared progress. 

Got everything else engine related reinstalled, including the flywheel inspection cover that i forgot to install prior to dropping the engine in, that was enjoyable...

Rebuilt the power steering pump....its still seems to be leaking, or the cap is seeping(more likely), I am monitoring it. The reseal kit lacked an o-ring for the reservoir. I jammed a beefy one in that I had in the garage, however it may have not seated correctly and could be my issue as well. 


Car fired right up after replacing the battery, after a few minutes the lifter quieted down and it ran quite smoothly. 

With the engine back up and running, I took a stab at rebuilding the shifter linkage. Removing the old linkage joint was a bit of a chore but I was able to get the new joint installed. Unfortunately it still has quite a bit of slop. The return spring is missing and the bushings on the shift lever and lever joint are both shot so I will order the last few bits from Subaru. 

On black friday I was able to score a matching backseat to my wrx front buckets, in great shape for $22 from Pick in pull, win. 

I got the interior all cleaned up and installed, friend of mine came and picked up the old black/white leather interior to free up some garage space. Also gave the brakes a check/regreased the caliper slides, and set front toe. 

BRZ wheels were on temporarily since my snow tires/wheels were mounted on the my brz in case of inclement weather, looked pretty hoopty. 

Another BF deal was a bluetooth headunit I snagged for cheap from bestbuy to replace the dated kenwood currently in the car. 

Having a functioning stereo was a big deal as this plans to be my daily throughout the winter months, as mentioned before, the car was the victim of a amateur car stereo audiophile at some point in its life. There were two amps in the trunk, a compact woofer underneath the passenger seat and JBL speakers all around. 

This is all well and good, however: the passenger door speaker did not work, the amplifier power cable was dangerously frayed in the engine compartment, directly next to the fuel lines. There was a mess of wires in the trunks nd the whole car had aux wire galore. I decided to remove the amps and woofer and update the headunit for ease of connectivity. 

I started in the trunk removing this rats nest (Yes that is 8 gauge wire feeding a buss fuse block and then 16guage to power each


Noting that the factory speaker wires had been cut and auxiliary speaker wire ran from the amps to the speakers, I knew things were going to get kind of ugly. I was able to get all speakers functioning once again utilizing the factory speaker harness (loose connection on the passenger door) I removed all the aftermarket rca, power and speaker wires, as well as aftermarket footwell lights and an aftermarket ignition immobilizer. 

I also cleaned up the headunit harness, I was  greeted by this mess upon removing the existing radio: 

All said and done, I am much happier with the car now that the big things are tackled!

I have been driving it the past week or so back and forth to work about 150 miles so far, It rides pretty well overall, brakes feel a bit meh, but it is a 20 year old impreza. 

The clutch cable needs a bit more a adjustment, I have a CEL for the Map sensor and my dash illumination now does not work (i assume its a bad wire connection since i removed the footwell lights, hoping easy fix). But overall the car is livable and seems to drive well otherwise. I've been experiencing a rattle from the shifter, I'm guessing that is still the need for the remaining bushings. I should probably also check the gearbox fluid level as well. 

Interior cleaned up nicely, I'll try to get some better pictures of the whole car when I get a chance. A few more loose ends and it should be a pretty tight ship, all in all I am quite happy with the car! 








ssswitch Dork
12/5/17 11:27 p.m.

You can definitely fix the tail lights leaking with Windo-Weld ribbon; that's what I had to do on my old '97 wagon. The sedans/coupes were supposed to be a little better for water intrusion into the trunk but it sounds like yours has just gotten old.

Bill Mesker
Bill Mesker New Reader
12/6/17 8:16 p.m.

Wow! I'm surprised how good the BR-Zed wheels look on the car!

Ironsides Reader
1/28/18 11:35 a.m.

3500 mile update,

I've now replaced the brake hoses, discovered a finger loose unstaked rear axle nut, installed some eibach springs and replaced more shifter bushings.

No more vibrations or rattles, I swapped the illum. control module out and now have dash lights. 

Car drives and looks great, but I now have the itch to get into something more modern to dd (for sale ad coming soon!) 






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