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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
1996 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport
Dad Wagon "Gravel Express"


Nearly a decade ago I got my first taste of the original Impreza with a project car I picked up. I learned a lot about cars working on that, but I also learned about the great community around them. So when it was time for another "daily", I decided to go with something familiar but this time with a little more cargo space. Found this 1996 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport 4EAT with 270k miles on the clock. While it's up there in age and mileage, there's nearly zero rust on the car... something I battled constantly with my first Impreza Coupe. As such, Project Dad Wagon began in October.

I've spent the last two months getting it cleaned up, diagnosing issues, and discerning if this car can be a good base to build off of. Besides being rust-free, I wanted to see if enough cleaning could really save the chain-smoker-inhabited cabin. Turns out after removing, washing, and cleaning nearly every interior panel I could realistically access, I could make life much better inside this little wagon. I'll still continue to clean each time I have to remove interior pieces, but I feel like I don't get throat cancer every time I breathe inside the cabin anymore. The paint appeared to be pretty well neglected but after a few test spots of polishing, it turns out there's a really fantastic shade of dark navy blue underneath it all.

But now that I'm confident that I've saved this ashtray of a wagon, the fun can begin. And what better way to document that then by returning to the forum where it all started for me? A build thread on this just had to happen. Project: Dad Wagon has a playlist on my YouTube if you're interested in following that. Otherwise I'll be documenting, asking, and searching for ideas on here like ye olden days.

I've wanted to find an Impreza Gravel Express to import for awhile but, when I realized how much they'd be to import... I stepped back from that initial plan. So the new plan that I'll be implementing on this old Outback Sport will be to make my own Gravel Express of sorts. Yes, I know the brush guard and fully enclosed spare on the back will be nearly impossible to find, but the car itself would be nice to turn into something with a little more pep in it's step. I've never attempted an engine swap, but I figured this would be a good one to learn with. Thanks for making it this far through the read! I'm just happy to be back in an old Impreza again.
 

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1995 1.8L Impreza Coupe
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302 Posts
Cool story!
I wonder if there's a way to adapt a different rear plastic wheel cover from the 90's/2000s to the rear of your wagon; hopefully with a vinyl decal that says "gravel express" with a small "not-a" hidden in there too. lol
Keep us posted!
 

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Bluebird
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1,237 Posts
Clean OutbackSport, I can't wait to see the evolution to the Gravel Express final form. There's always auctions on eBay and various importers for the niche parts, so you should have no problem.
 

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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks everyone! Great to see some familiar faces still here, too. I've managed to track down an old WRX hood that will fit this generation. Unfortunately it's in rough shape, but the vents weren't busted so I figure worst-case scenario if it's too hard to save I've at least got the hood vents and scoop. I had thought about just cutting into my hood, but there's damage on this one too and it'd be just as much work (if not more) to get this one looking right.





Ironically a friend has a dark blue hood and needs a Red one 😆
But it'd be too far of a drive to swap em and with the condition this one is in, I feel like he'd be getting the short stick anyways. I'll know more once my body shop guy has a chance to dig into this.

The first goal of the Gravel Express stuff is the more attainable things. This hood and a rear tailgate wing will get paint matched and set. I don't think I'll go through the trouble of trying to remove the luggage rack pieces but it would be neat to find some JDM roof rails instead of the chunky ones the USDM Outback Sport came with.
 

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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
When I purchased this '96 back in October I was flip-flopping on whether to facelift it or not for weeks on end. And one I thought I had settled on one idea, I'd find myself going back to the other. Thankfully a friend has made that decision easy. I'll be able to enjoy both quite frequently since he's just finished a stellar paint job and restoration on his 2000 Impreza Outback Sport with the same parts I would've put on mine. Version 6 Grille, RS Bumper, Fog Covers, in fact I think I gave him that grille ages ago in the hopes he'd use it!



So while my Version 2 STI hood is undergoing repairs and such, I can at least take comfort in the fact that I kinda don't have to choose. Because I'll be seeing this guy enough to get my fix of the facelift. (y)
 

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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Great progress this week on the hood. It was in pretty rough shape, but since it's the steel version, it took to repairs much easier than the lighter aluminum hoods that are out there. After some bending, banging, bondo-ing, and blending, it's looking much much better.





Time to let the paint cure while I assemble the rest of the parts to put it all back together and install this on my wagon. The hardware is getting cleaned up a bit, the rubber weatherstrips under the front edge are getting new plastic clips (since nearly all of the original ones broke while I was trying to remove them!) and the wiper nozzles / hood latch will need to be transferred over. I'm also going to let it sit before putting a clear bra on it. Figured there's no point doing all this work if rock salt and pothole debris are gonna get thrown at it and chip it all up. Might as well wait a bit and seal it up to keep it looking fresh.
 

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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hood is ON and I'm so happy I went this route! Ye Olde Gravel Express idea is starting to come together and it's so great finally starting to see the pieces on the car. The paint turned out fantastic. No surprise, it's slightly more vibrant than the 27-year-old paint already on the car. But because it's the hood, you hardly ever see other body panels at the same angle as it, so you really don't notice.


It really does wake up the car aesthetically. The flat hood on the facelift models at least have some nice defined body lines moving through that meet with the grille/lights at the end but the older style almost looked completely flat. Nice to bring some hood vents and scoop to liven things up a bit. Plus I can really start to visualize this now as the "Gravel Express" from all the reference photos I've seen.




My co-driver approves, too! He was pleasantly surprised to discover the Dad Wagon's new additions. If you're on instagram, I managed to capture a little bit of his initial reception on video. Check out @75_STI for that

Next up are finding tires for these ol things. I actually ran these very same Speedlines on my Rallycross car. Bought them back from the guy I had sold them to... who was also the guy I bought them from the first time around! o_O
 

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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well that moved along quickly! Did a little research to see what I could fit under the Dad Wagon without rubbing / ruining the fenders and such. So the Speedlines are 15x7 and these Yokohama Geolandar A/T GO15 tires are 205/70R15. I was really worried they wouldn't fit and until it was down on the ground I was preparing myself to regret this purchase.



Turns out they fit! They clear everything, parking lot turns are no problem, bumps and compression don't seem to bother them at all. These may be one of the smallest "A/T" tires I've seen but they do look slightly monstrous on the Dad Wagon. The blue Speedline Lettering ties in nicely with the paint and the classic gold really just sets off the car. I'm beyond happy with this after just a quick drive around the block.


Untitled by 75 STI, on Flickr
 

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1999 Impreza 2.5RS Coupe
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493 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Update on the Dad Wagon: bigger heavier wheels means more rotating mass for these brakes to stop 😆
And... as a result that has illuminated a problem I had earlier but couldn't really figure out what was going on until we cleaned the engine bay. I had been losing Brake Fluid since I picked up the car but it wasn't anything major. Also I couldn't seem to find a leak on any of the brake lines but the pedal certainly felt squishy. Well... with the bigger tires I definitely notice it even more and I think I've found the culprit.




Looks like the brain is leaking. After a washdown and a few days of driving on these new tires, it definitely looks like the ABS Module is failing. Finding one will be a bit of a task but that's definitely jumped up to one of my top repairs I want to do with the Dad Wagon.

Speaking of leaks it looks like the tailgate has developed a leak. I thought it was the tail light seals but the other day I noticed some dried water marks coming down from the inside of the glass coming down from behind the third brake light. Unsurprisingly my third brake light doesn't work, the motor for the rear wiper, and the rear defroster lines... none of it appears to be working. All the fuses are intact for the rear so I'm assuming if I find the source of the leak I'll also discover what's up with the tailgate electronics.

 
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