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Old 06-15-2017, 07:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Moving into the 21st century.

I've been working on, and driving Subarus since 1979. I've had many, many great ones... some I wish I still had. But up until now, I've never owned anything newer than my 94 SVX. I am a former dealership master technician, so keeping my old Soobies running is no big deal. But now I have found myself in need of a larger tow vehicle for a vintage houseboat that my wife and I plan to do some traveling with. My first thoughts had been to modify "Frankencar," a vehicle I put together 16 years ago from scrap. A homemade frame with Subaru Outback suspension, EJ22 engine, and JDM dual-range transmission. I'm on my second body now, first one rusted away in Indiana winters, Hence the reason for a heavy-duty reusable chassis. So I'm rockin an 88 XT I picked up in Missouri for 200 bucks. It is capable of towing the houseboat now, but it's a white-knuckle ride. So, I started looking for a heavier suspension from an SVX or Tribeca. Along with adding another EJ22 with a FWD transmission in the rear, driving a 3rd axle, I felt would be more than adequate to tow, and stop, the boat. After locating a donor car for the engine and transmission, I was looking for chassis components when I saw an ad for a complete 07 Tribeca, listed under auto parts, for 1k dollars. A younger guy had listed it there, his wife had gone off the road down a muddy ravine and he didn't think it could be repaired. I drove 2.5 hours to see it, and talked him out of it for 700. (don't hate me) Since he only had it listed under auto parts, he had gotten no calls for it, other than a couple of people looking for a part or two. So, I loaded her on a dolly, disconnected the driveshaft, and towed her home.



First order of business was to assess the condition and damage. 142k miles, pretty clean inside. Engine ran well but the radiator was cracked, so I couldn't run but just a couple minutes. R. lower control arm was bent, as well as at least one wheel. Front and rear bumper covers were torn off, but had been recovered and loaded in the back. Hood was a little bent and the windshield was cracked.


But I got to thinking, maybe, I just might fix her up as my tow vehicle instead of cannibalizing her. I decided I would first get a radiator, so I could make a solid determination on the engine and transmission, then make the call. My first thought was to just adapt a bigger, maybe dual core, radiator out of something else. But after checking out the weird double upper hose setup, which wasn't really a deal breaker, but after finding that the 3.6 used the same radiator, I figured the stock one was probably more than adequate. And Rock auto sold me a Denso, OE replacement, for about 140 delivered
More to come, so stay tuned!
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Old 06-15-2017, 08:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Awesome projects you got there!
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Old 06-16-2017, 05:15 AM   #3 (permalink)
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yeah at this point im more interested in learning more about XT,
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Old 06-16-2017, 07:41 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Hey, thanks guys!
OK, Frankencar, started life as Frankentruck back in 2000, when I was really needing a small truck. I had a few Brats over previous years, and they had all rusted away. The last one had bit the dust while trying to pull another car out of the woods in reverse. Note to self: reverse gear is only meant to back you out of a parking space. I was between jobs at the time, and had a barn full of Subaru parts. I also had a stack of steel angle iron from a power substation that I helped take down. Very heavily galvanized, excellent steel made in the 40's, with "Bethlehem" stamped in it. So I decided to build a frame with it, and just swap bodies, since I figured that was the only way I could win the rust war. Actually, I had envisioned building a custom cab out of fiberglass, but after finding out what the raw materials alone were going to cost, I opted to cut the front off my dads old Civic for now...


"For now" turned into more than a decade... but we had some great times, saw a lot of places, and got plenty of work done! I really had only about 40 bucks in it when I first put it together. That was for new steel brake lines and plexiglass for the back window. Everything else, I had. The running gear all came from a wrecked RHD Legacy mail car. But I swapped out the engine with another 91 (that didn't smoke), the rear struts from an Outback, and a manual trans from a Forester. That's pretty much how it stayed for 200k miles.


And then the old Civic front end got pretty rusty and tired, and never was very comfy. So I started looking into building a cab again. But still, just the price of the fiberglass mat and resin for such a project was looking like close to $2k, so... I found an XT which had been sitting for 10 years, with the intention of cutting just the front off and replacing the Honda. I ended up getting the XT running, and drove it for about a year, because it ran pretty good till the headgaskets went. So then came the operation!



I had decided to just put the whole body on the frame, and then decide where to cut it off so I could put the bed back on. But my (now ex) girlfriend said: "It's cute, don't cut it off!" and for once, she was right
Realistically, it's a little TOO cute. As it garners way more attention than I care for. I never designed it to make any kind of statement or spectacle... that's just how it turned out with the crap I had laying around. I'm constantly being photographed, waved at, thumbed up, flagged down, and always with the, "Whah doncha git sum big tahres on thare?" I just can't make them understand. That's not what it's about. It's really, if anything, more of an experiment in what I can get away with. Getting the most miles, most work done for the least effort and money spent. I wish I had done a better job of documenting the whole process. Because I really feel that this vehicle could earn some kind of world record for the most miles driven/most work done, per cent invested. It has had only regular maintenance items replaced. Valve cover gaskets are as deep into the engine as I've been. Original wheel bearings except for the r. front, original struts, original driveshaft u-joints (they are starting to squeak), original fuel pump and fuel filter

So that's pretty much how it's been for the last few years, other than installing a JDM dual range. When it had just about hit 500k miles, it started dropping a cylinder at idle. And I figured after all those years of towing trailers, hauling limestone blocks out of quarries, and heavy steel cabinets for AT&T. I had finally worn it out. It really felt like a burnt valve or broken ring lands. It did finally lose the #2 cylinder altogether, so I did some diagnosis, and found that the injector was bad. But before I bothered to replace it, I did a compression check. 180 in all 4 cylinders, cold... Bought a new injector for 35 bucks off ebay, and he's been runnin great ever since! Maybe I'll make another 500k.
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Old 06-17-2017, 09:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Now, THIS is a welcome addition to the forum!
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Old 06-17-2017, 08:32 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The B9 had cooling issues. On the steep AZ interstate grades, the engine could not keep with the speed limit under 4000 rpm. At temps above 100F this meant that the car would begin to overheat.

By contrast, the H6 OB is an athlete, (under 3000 rpm, no overheating). The 2008 TB provides adequate performance and does not attempt to overheat (it has 138k).

So you may want to do something about the cooling.

On the bright side, I truly enjoyed the front end design of the B9 (I cannot stand that of the redesigned TB). Which grill will you use? The 2006 or the 2007?
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Old 06-18-2017, 07:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hey thanks, MiddleAgeSubie!
That seems curious to me, because the radiators for the 07 and 08 are the same part number. So, I wonder what else may have been changed to improve cooling? Maybe the fans? I should look in to that, because my fan shroud is broken anyway. I was probably just going to JB it with some reinforcing patches, because a new one is 200 bucks, and I can't seem to find one used. But perhaps I should just forget the stock setup altogether and get the biggest aftermarket I can fit. I do plan on adding a serious transmission cooler, and probably an external oil cooler as well.
Not sure about the grill yet... I kind of like the 07 mesh, but like I said, it seems like used front end parts get snatched up pretty quick. I'm probably going to just try and make one with some flat black mesh, maybe trimmed out with aluminum tubing. Unless I happen to run across a good one at a decent price.
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Old 06-18-2017, 04:39 PM   #8 (permalink)
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OK, So I got the new radiator installed and the engine and trans seem to be fine. The A/C condenser was bowed in like a pringle, but wasn't leaking. So I figured I had nothing to lose, and with some 2x4's braced behind it, got it pretty flat again. At least good enough to fasten to the mounts. Miraculously, it's still not leaking. After that, I snuck it over to the local car wash, a couple blocks away, to try and blast most of the mud that was pretty thoroughly PACKED under the whole underside, in every nook and cranny! I mean like solid, on TOP of the exhaust heat shields, etc. Pretty fortunate for me though, that all the mud this thing plowed through took most of the impact. Very little metal parts were bent at all, just mostly broken plastic pieces. No idea where this woman went off the road but sure wish I had a video of it.
Got the r. front control arm changed. Couldn't find one of those used either. Just as well, cause the new one came with a ball joint, which it already had needed, and Looks to me like the rear bushing was already separated for some time. I guess that must be an issue with these cars?


Took for a little longer ride, since the wheel wasn't rubbing anymore
What a smooth, quiet, luxurious ride!!! I Love it!
Other than at least one bent wheel, I think the mechanicals are OK at this point, so I'm onto putting the body back together. Rear bumper cover looks ok, other than some torn fastener points. Front cover is pretty rough and the grills are gone. It has a hole and a couple of rips I'm going to try and patch up.
First order of business before the rear bumper cover goes on : SUPERHITCH!!

Got a bare receiver tube from Harbor Freight, and some 1/4" plate from the local metal supply, along with some 1 1/2" angle. Pulled out the ol' Lincoln "tombstone," and went to work.

I did shop around for a ready made hitch, but didn't like the way the aftermarket ones were made. Didn't look strong enough. I really liked the way the factory hitch was made, and how it tied into the car much better, but 1 1/4" ? Can't do it... not with what I plan to tow.

Love how these cars have actual bumpers, without shock absorbers! But I just couldn't leave the 8mm mounting bolts. Probably would be ok, but they are only designed to perform well in an impact situation, IMO. Nuts didn't even have complete thread circles, just intended for cutting through any slag or heavy paint globs at factory assembly. So, I knocked 'em out, drilled and replaced with 7/16" grade 8





Underside view:

Extra detail of angle iron tied into tube and running 24" up into frame rails:

All with grade 8 fasteners. That aint goin' nowhere!!
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Old 07-01-2017, 09:07 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Just a quick update: Still trying to source a few body parts. Nothing major, just a few cosmetic items mostly. But I think I've called and emailed half a dozen wrecking yards that have pics of Tribecas on ebay listings, and none of them have responded. I even supplied part numbers for everything I'm after. So either they don't have what I want, or they just have bigger fish to fry, and in any case, don't have the decency to give me any response. So in the meantime, I decided to pull the engine and do a re-seal. Grossgary/idosubaru advised that it wasn't necessary, and maybe I should have listened. But this will be the wife's daily, as well as the tow vehicle for our houseboat, that we plan to do some cross country trips with. Plus, now is the time before we sell the SVX, so I'm not in a rush. Aaaand, I've never had one of these engines down before, so curiosity has gotten the better of me as well.


So, let's see what makes it tick!

Cool!! Chain drive, double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder with bucket lifters and shim adjustment. This is just like a big Japanese motorcycle engine! I worked in a Honda/Kawasaki dealership in the early 80's, and wondered why cars didn't have engines made like they were... the future is NOW!!



I'll post more pics of the teardown and inspection soon.

Happy 4th everyone!!!
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Old 07-18-2017, 03:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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This is just awesome! I am SO drooling. Thanks a boatload Scott! I am looking forward to your adventures, and gleaning everything I can. Great pics too.
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Old 07-31-2017, 03:54 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Awesome Write up so far!
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Old 08-01-2017, 01:30 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I look forward for any news! Wonderful work!
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