Nitroracer (Forum Supporter)
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
2/14/21 8:51 p.m.

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region which is a great part of the country for Rallycross and I'd like to take advantage of that while things are going strong.  I toyed around with a FWD Honda and did a few events with a RWD E30 318i but those cars are both gone now.  I would like to try something all wheel drive this time around, which in 99% of cases means a Subaru product.  I've been looking for a challenge priced Subaru and I'm finding a variety of cars from 2000-2010.  Of the choices in that time period I am finding the Forester, Legacy, and Impreza models, some in wagon or outback form as well.  Even a few newer 08+ Imprezas.  Within this group, is any one better than another for a solid beginner rallycross platform?  Should I just focus on something that has had head gaskets replaced sometime in the last decade?  As you can see, I'm not the most knowledgeable on Subarus but I would like to find something fun to slide around in the dirt.

MrChaos
MrChaos GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/14/21 9:03 p.m.
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) said:

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region which is a great part of the country for Rallycross and I'd like to take advantage of that while things are going strong.  I toyed around with a FWD Honda and did a few events with a RWD E30 318i but those cars are both gone now.  I would like to try something all wheel drive this time around, which in 99% of cases means a Subaru product.  I've been looking for a challenge priced Subaru and I'm finding a variety of cars from 2000-2010.  Of the choices in that time period I am finding the Forester, Legacy, and Impreza models, some in wagon or outback form as well.  Even a few newer 08+ Imprezas.  Within this group, is any one better than another for a solid beginner rallycross platform?  Should I just focus on something that has had head gaskets replaced sometime in the last decade?  As you can see, I'm not the most knowledgeable on Subarus but I would like to find something fun to slide around in the dirt.

At least locally all the subaru people are on their 4th-5th engines in their rallycross subaru's both turbo and NA people.  And in awd here there have been a number of Audi A4's(B5 and B6 platforms)

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
2/15/21 2:18 a.m.

Of that year range, I would pick an 00-01 Outback Sport (Impreza) with the 2.2 if you can find one.  Or if you can live with an automatic, an H6-3.0 Outback would be the second choice.  The 2.2 isn't powerful but it is far more durable than the later engines.

MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter)
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) New Reader
2/15/21 3:07 a.m.

In reply to Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) :

The big dividing year on Imprezas is 2007 -- There is a lot of interchange between 1993-2007 for Imprezas, and then 2008 up to some newer date. The WRX is the turbo trim of the Impreza, and the STI is the even faster version. The WRX came with a 2.0l turbo from 2002-2005, with a 2.5l turbo engine after that. The 2.5RS trim features some WRX parts with an NA engine.
The Forester is a lifted Impreza basically (at least for the first couple generations), and that comes in generations of 1998-2002 (the SF), 2002-2008 (SG), and 2009-2013 (SH). The XT is the turbo trim of the Forester.
The Outback is a lifted Legacy, and comes in 1995-1999, 2000-2004 (my favorite), and 2005-2009 (with a facelifit for '08-'09). The legacy follows the same generations IIRC. The Outback (and Baja) were available in XT trim with a turbo 2.5l from 2004 on, the 2.5l turbocharged Legacy GT became available in 2005.
 
For engines, the big differences are between the DOHC and SOHC, NA and turbo.
The DOHC NA 2.5l engine was phased out with the last of the '99 Legacies, and has a poor reputation for head gasket problems and generally bad serviceability (on all DOHC I know of spark plugs are a 2hr job due to being buried in the valvecover which is itself only 2" from the frame rail. On turbo cars, using the OEM plugs at stock power will last you 60k miles. It's inconvenient, but not the worst.).
 
The SOHC NA 2.5l has a reputation for bad headgaskets due to graphite coated gaskets that weren't up to the task being used from the factory -- replacing these with a reputable MLS gasket solves the problem. They tend to fail by leaking externally on the bottom, so it is at least a fairly easy thing to check. Despite the recall for these engines, I have heard from a few places Subaru still includes the same graphite coated gaskets with their complete seal kits. As much as people worry about headgaskets, I haven't actually had them fail that often. We did have two engines seize up in our Subaru however, so I'd put checking the dipstick as a higher priority than worrying about the headgaskets. Due to the boxer layout, or the type of people who own them or what, they tend to leak oil.
 
The SOHC NA 2.2l has a reputation for being rock solid reliable and saving some fuel over the 2.5l. However, they only made them up to '01, and an overhaul in '97 makes it tricky (and illegal) to swap in the earlier ones. It's the kind of engine thrifty mechanics on Craigslist would seek out.
 
I'd reccomend finding something cheap with an NA SOHC 2.5l. Stay away from the turbo ones, you don't need that kind of hassle in your life. Get something that's not too rusty, I'd avoid 2002-2007 Impreza wagons, they rust from the inside around the strut tower. At minimum, get a good hand all the way up in the wheel wheel and check the strength of the inside part of the strut tower. Find one that maybe has some records / recent parts you like, and just run it. It's easy enough to pull the engine I wouldn't worry about the headgaskets too much -- The price premium for saying they've been done is not worth it unless you have records showing they used MLS gaskets. Also watch out for the timing belt, it's due every 100k (IIRC). Easy to do on a SOHC, but the parts are pricy when you're also doing the water pump. The Aisin kits seem to be the preferred choice these days, there are some bad stories about Gates kits switching bearing suppliers a few years back with disastrous results. MrSubaru1337 is a former (?) dealer tech who has almost a whole channel devoted to Subaru DIYs and information. Personally, I would have a preferance for the earlier Impreza chassis as they are the lightest and smallest, but others with more experience can speak to what will maximize your competitive advantage.
 
My very limited experience with rallyx is that the driver makes the biggest difference. When I was 17 or so, I convinced my dad to come with me to a rallycross in my mom's manual 2000 Subaru Outback (Also the first car I ever drove, which explains some of my attachement to the brand). As I recall, 75% of the field were Imprezas, and figure half of those were turbo charged. My friend's 944 broke, so we let him drive the Outback, and I remember that he actually beat at least one WRX and a bunch of Imprezas in our Outback, complete with bumper stickers. The shifter was really sloppy and the syncros of first gear weren't the happiest about it, but it did it just fine and drove home after. At this same event, with my dad in the car, I accidently got it up on two wheels after being too exuberant in a slalom and sliding sideways off course into some grass. There were bits of grass between the wheel and the tire for 6 months after.
Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
2/15/21 4:03 a.m.
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) said:
The SOHC NA 2.2l has a reputation for being rock solid reliable and saving some fuel over the 2.5l. However, they only made them up to '01, and an overhaul in '97 makes it tricky (and illegal) to swap in the earlier ones. It's the kind of engine thrifty mechanics on Craigslist would seek out.
 

The 97-98 ones swap into an older car with only a different knock sensor and look exactly the same, the 99-01 looks different and can't be swapped in easily though.

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/15/21 6:34 a.m.

Pretty much all of the Subarus I have rallycrossed have been fairly fun and can be competitive. All Impreza/WRX ranging from from 1998-2008. I would pick the one with the least rust that has the transmission you want and go for it. 

Nitroracer (Forum Supporter)
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
2/15/21 7:38 p.m.
MrChaos said:
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) said:

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region which is a great part of the country for Rallycross and I'd like to take advantage of that while things are going strong.  I toyed around with a FWD Honda and did a few events with a RWD E30 318i but those cars are both gone now.  I would like to try something all wheel drive this time around, which in 99% of cases means a Subaru product.  I've been looking for a challenge priced Subaru and I'm finding a variety of cars from 2000-2010.  Of the choices in that time period I am finding the Forester, Legacy, and Impreza models, some in wagon or outback form as well.  Even a few newer 08+ Imprezas.  Within this group, is any one better than another for a solid beginner rallycross platform?  Should I just focus on something that has had head gaskets replaced sometime in the last decade?  As you can see, I'm not the most knowledgeable on Subarus but I would like to find something fun to slide around in the dirt.

At least locally all the subaru people are on their 4th-5th engines in their rallycross subaru's both turbo and NA people.  And in awd here there have been a number of Audi A4's(B5 and B6 platforms)

I was slightly worried that may be the case.  I am sticking to NA for cost and simplicity, any WRX this cheap will be a complete basket case.  The supply of running, cheap, manual Audis might even be smaller but I wasn't looking for them.  The last few VAG products I've had weren't exactly the most reliable things either so I guess its a wash.  I would assume parts availability is a little better for a rally style Subaru.

Nitroracer (Forum Supporter)
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
2/15/21 7:41 p.m.
Tk8398 said:

Of that year range, I would pick an 00-01 Outback Sport (Impreza) with the 2.2 if you can find one.  Or if you can live with an automatic, an H6-3.0 Outback would be the second choice.  The 2.2 isn't powerful but it is far more durable than the later engines.

I want to think the 2.2L cars are a bit more durable, but they're just about gone around here.  I know they make less power, but less weight and more reliability is also good.  The H6 would be a fun platform, but I'm not willing to go for an automatic. Freeing up the exahust on one of those would be a hoot.

Nitroracer (Forum Supporter)
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
2/15/21 7:46 p.m.
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) :

The big dividing year on Imprezas is 2007 -- There is a lot of interchange between 1993-2007 for Imprezas, and then 2008 up to some newer date. The WRX is the turbo trim of the Impreza, and the STI is the even faster version. The WRX came with a 2.0l turbo from 2002-2005, with a 2.5l turbo engine after that. The 2.5RS trim features some WRX parts with an NA engine.
The Forester is a lifted Impreza basically (at least for the first couple generations), and that comes in generations of 1998-2002 (the SF), 2002-2008 (SG), and 2009-2013 (SH). The XT is the turbo trim of the Forester.
The Outback is a lifted Legacy, and comes in 1995-1999, 2000-2004 (my favorite), and 2005-2009 (with a facelifit for '08-'09). The legacy follows the same generations IIRC. The Outback (and Baja) were available in XT trim with a turbo 2.5l from 2004 on, the 2.5l turbocharged Legacy GT became available in 2005.
 
For engines, the big differences are between the DOHC and SOHC, NA and turbo.
The DOHC NA 2.5l engine was phased out with the last of the '99 Legacies, and has a poor reputation for head gasket problems and generally bad serviceability (on all DOHC I know of spark plugs are a 2hr job due to being buried in the valvecover which is itself only 2" from the frame rail. On turbo cars, using the OEM plugs at stock power will last you 60k miles. It's inconvenient, but not the worst.).
 
The SOHC NA 2.5l has a reputation for bad headgaskets due to graphite coated gaskets that weren't up to the task being used from the factory -- replacing these with a reputable MLS gasket solves the problem. They tend to fail by leaking externally on the bottom, so it is at least a fairly easy thing to check. Despite the recall for these engines, I have heard from a few places Subaru still includes the same graphite coated gaskets with their complete seal kits. As much as people worry about headgaskets, I haven't actually had them fail that often. We did have two engines seize up in our Subaru however, so I'd put checking the dipstick as a higher priority than worrying about the headgaskets. Due to the boxer layout, or the type of people who own them or what, they tend to leak oil.
 
The SOHC NA 2.2l has a reputation for being rock solid reliable and saving some fuel over the 2.5l. However, they only made them up to '01, and an overhaul in '97 makes it tricky (and illegal) to swap in the earlier ones. It's the kind of engine thrifty mechanics on Craigslist would seek out.
 
I'd reccomend finding something cheap with an NA SOHC 2.5l. Stay away from the turbo ones, you don't need that kind of hassle in your life. Get something that's not too rusty, I'd avoid 2002-2007 Impreza wagons, they rust from the inside around the strut tower. At minimum, get a good hand all the way up in the wheel wheel and check the strength of the inside part of the strut tower. Find one that maybe has some records / recent parts you like, and just run it. It's easy enough to pull the engine I wouldn't worry about the headgaskets too much -- The price premium for saying they've been done is not worth it unless you have records showing they used MLS gaskets. Also watch out for the timing belt, it's due every 100k (IIRC). Easy to do on a SOHC, but the parts are pricy when you're also doing the water pump. The Aisin kits seem to be the preferred choice these days, there are some bad stories about Gates kits switching bearing suppliers a few years back with disastrous results. MrSubaru1337 is a former (?) dealer tech who has almost a whole channel devoted to Subaru DIYs and information. Personally, I would have a preferance for the earlier Impreza chassis as they are the lightest and smallest, but others with more experience can speak to what will maximize your competitive advantage.
 
My very limited experience with rallyx is that the driver makes the biggest difference. When I was 17 or so, I convinced my dad to come with me to a rallycross in my mom's manual 2000 Subaru Outback (Also the first car I ever drove, which explains some of my attachement to the brand). As I recall, 75% of the field were Imprezas, and figure half of those were turbo charged. My friend's 944 broke, so we let him drive the Outback, and I remember that he actually beat at least one WRX and a bunch of Imprezas in our Outback, complete with bumper stickers. The shifter was really sloppy and the syncros of first gear weren't the happiest about it, but it did it just fine and drove home after. At this same event, with my dad in the car, I accidently got it up on two wheels after being too exuberant in a slalom and sliding sideways off course into some grass. There were bits of grass between the wheel and the tire for 6 months after.

Thanks for the comprehensive run down!  It seems like most of the cars I am turning up are powered by the ubiquitous EJ253 2.5L SOHC engine so I'll look for the lightest and least rusty thing I can find.  I'd like a 2.2L car or pre 2000 model for weight savings but I'm just not finding anything.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia SuperDork
2/15/21 7:47 p.m.
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) said:.
 
For engines, the big differences are between the DOHC and SOHC, NA and turbo.......
 
 

If you were going to buy a  motor for a  VW camper conversion , which would be the best no frills motor , 

needs to be very dependable , low torque is good  ,  but really does not have to rev over 5000 rpm very often.

Thanks for your ideas

 

Tk8398
Tk8398 Reader
2/15/21 9:55 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) said:.
 
For engines, the big differences are between the DOHC and SOHC, NA and turbo.......
 
 

If you were going to buy a  motor for a  VW camper conversion , which would be the best no frills motor , 

needs to be very dependable , low torque is good  ,  but really does not have to rev over 5000 rpm very often.

Thanks for your ideas

 

SVX engine, EJ22, or TDI swap ($$$$$$$$$$$).

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/15/21 11:05 p.m.
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) Dork
2/16/21 1:23 a.m.

I did a fly and drive and brought an 02 RS home.  I rallyX'd it in November.  First event this year will be next Sunday.  
 

My advice is to find one in mostly stock condition.  Most WRXs I saw were modded in ways that would be terrible for rallyX.  I ended up with a bone stock RS and put new struts on it all around, bled the brakes and clutch and will drive it like this all season.

 

 

 

 

ckosacranoid
ckosacranoid SuperDork
2/16/21 3:02 p.m.

I have had two 95 legacy L wagons. had fun with 210,000 when I bought them. sold at 242,000 or so two years later. Had issues with clutches though.

2002 outback wagon, 189,000 when I got it. rear subframe, driveshaft, times belt, and water pump. 8000 miles short of 300,000 when I sold it and still drove and two challenges show in 15 and 17. lots of fun in that car.

Now I have a 06 subby Impreza wagon with 145,000 when I got in it in April. Needs work and not a wrx or sti. It's been fun and plan on some autocross this year. not rallycross.

MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter)
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) New Reader
2/17/21 12:19 a.m.
Tk8398 said:
californiamilleghia said:
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) said:.
 
For engines, the big differences are between the DOHC and SOHC, NA and turbo.......
 
 

If you were going to buy a  motor for a  VW camper conversion , which would be the best no frills motor , 

needs to be very dependable , low torque is good  ,  but really does not have to rev over 5000 rpm very often.

Thanks for your ideas

 

SVX engine, EJ22, or TDI swap ($$$$$$$$$$$).

The EZ30D is smaller than the SVX engine and more available. It has a timing chain and doesn't eat head gaskets. Absolutely great engine, especially if you can fabricate a better than OEM exhaust. The EZ30R may make a few more HP, but it's ECU is harder to deal with for a swap (CAN bus and immobilizer issues IIRC) -- if you can get away with standalone, the individual exhaust ports make it preferable. The EJ22 is also getting thin on the ground, but a SOHC NA EJ25 would be just fine. I owned a Vanagon for a while and looked into the whole swappage thing, and decided that the SOHC NA EJ25 was the choice for me, but I really wanted to the TDI swap to be easier. The EJ series just fits easier than any inline engine, and it's enough engine by most accounts to make a long final drive desirable. In a fantasy world, I'd have one of those JDM Subaru boxer turbo diesels, but they're hard to get imported and sketchy to install and use due to emissions.

Fun somewhat more relevant fact: The EZ30 engines bolt right up to Subaru 5mt transmissions and front subframe. I physically had one in my SF Forester all bolted down, but lost motivation when I found rust in the rear while starting the wiring. The wiring appeared to be only one step harder than the WRX swaps, the auto to manual conversion can be handled a couple different ways, and there are off the shelf solutions to convert the tachometer signal. As I recall, there's even room in front for a radiator without remaking the core support!

MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter)
MrRobogoat (Forum Supporter) New Reader
2/17/21 12:24 a.m.

In reply to bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) :

I did a fly and drive of an UrS4 back from CO, 10/10 recommend the experience. The lack of rust on most cars there is amazing to me as a lifelong New Yorker, CO is unspeakably gorgeous, and fly and drives are so much fun. I'm very much looking forward to having all of those things again someday.

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