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Need a little backup on the off-road ability of roos


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42 replies to this topic

#1 psychsurf

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 09:47 PM

I grew up in Alaska, my first car was a '84 GL, so I don't need any convincing. But my wife does.

I'm a surfer, so some of the biggest demands I put on my cars is getting in and out of tight access trails to get to the beach. My last surfmobile was a 1994 4runner with the 22re 4cyl. No suspension mods at all, stock rims/tire size. It worked great.

I've been looking at small trucks (toyotas, nissans, etc..) with the same kind of 4cyl engines as a replacement for my now-departed 4runner. They start at about $6000 for something in decent shape. More if they don't need work. As I was shopping, I happened across an ad for a 1988 gl in great shape, 110k miles, and kind of slapped my forehead. Like duh, this would be a great alternative. 4x4, lots of space to store surfboards inside, rock-solid dependable, you guys know the drill. I told my wife about, and she's less than convinced about the off-road ability of the suby. Says that if I get it I'll be disappointed later when I can't go the places my 4runner used to go. She also thinks I won't be happy with the image of driving a station wagon.

As I said, I'm a subaru lover. I know from my highschool experience what these things are capable of. There were times when they were the only things still moving in Feburary in Alaska. But for my wife's edification, could some folks kindly step forward and compare the off-road capability of a 1988 GL with a 1994 4runner?

On a related note, how much could I expect to spend for a 3 or 4" lift, tires and all related necessary parts for this car?

Thanks!

#2 zyewdall

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 10:06 PM

Ummm... the 4 runner is a station wagon too... that's what all SUV's are... :grin:

Have you taken a look at the off-road page?

From my experience (several subarus, IFS 4x4 truck, and solid axle 4x4 truck), the subaru is way better in everyday driving in snow, slush, dirt roads etc... where it starts breaking down is where you need the ground clearance or articulation that the trucks have, especially the solid axle ones. The low range isn't as good in the subarus, which most of the time can be made up for by their better handling... you can go down trails at speeds that would bounce a solid axle truck off.. but for the slow steep crawls over rocks... it can be a little bit of a problem. I've seen even the old single range subies from the 70's do some crazy stuff though. You can compensate for the ground clearance with a lift and bigger tires.. but the lack of a good low range will be the biggest problem. I've also heard that subaru's have insuffient power in the sand, but I've never driven mine there so I can't comment on that. The small size of the subaru will help a bit, compared to a large truck like the 4runner -- I can take my diesel rabbit up some crazy roads because it's small enough to drive around the rocks that a full size pickup has to drive over... and it doesn't have low range, a lift, or 4 wheel drive. I guess I would say... if you really drove the 4runner to the limits of it's capabilties... the subaru won't quite keep up... but I've also seen alot of SUV's turn around well before I did in my subaru, and almost lost a new Ford Explorer on narrow forest road once... and I wasn't even close to turning around yet.

I just priced out upgrading my '82 subaru, and I think I came to about $1,700 -- but that included an EJ22 swap, but not the pugs (which I already have). IIRC, the lift was only about $500 for parts.

#3 northguy

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:04 PM

If you want to convince her, bring her up here and put her in one. There must be a good reason that there are so many of them running around here.

#4 monstaru

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:18 PM

you can spend about 3000 grand building the nicest damn roo you ever saw.and go wherever you want.your not going rock crawling,your not going mudding.your trail riding.my brat with a 4/4 lift had 2 inches of ground clearance in front on my wifes 93 4runner.enuff said

#5 zyewdall

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:28 PM

you can spend about 3000 grand building the nicest damn roo you ever saw.and go wherever you want.your not going rock crawling,your not going mudding.your trail riding.my brat with a 4/4 lift had 2 inches of ground clearance in front on my wifes 93 4runner.enuff said


I've seen this brat... I wouldn't mess with it with any normal 90's SUV.... a 70's FJ cruiser maybe... but it lives up the monstaru name...

#6 psychsurf

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:31 PM

I thought the reason there were so many in Alaska still was that they had a top-secret subaru captive breeding program in Homer?

I always said if I ever wanted to rob a bank up there, I wouldn't need a fast getaway car... Just a brown GL. They'd have to pull over half the state. :)

I showed my wife the front page to the SJR website, she was much more impressed with the lifted roos. I think we're making progress!

#7 psychsurf

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:42 PM

Monstaru, is that $3000 including the $2000 for the car? Just in the little I've looked into it, it seems doable... $500 for the 4" lift, then rims/tires. The important question would be if I could put it all together before heading out on the next surf trip to mexico in January!

#8 zyewdall

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:46 PM

I always said if I ever wanted to rob a bank up there, I wouldn't need a fast getaway car... Just a brown GL. They'd have to pull over half the state. :)


Brown? I think the light blue ones are more common around here :-p

#9 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:53 PM

Anywhere you would likely be going you would probably not even need a lift. Maybe a slight one to allow for a bit more aggressive tires.

Frankly a stock 4Runner probably *could* outwheel all of the stock Subaru's and a good portion of the lifted ones as well. BUT - you're objective being mostly to get to/from your surfing spots - not to take the vehicle to it's extreems and see how stuck you can get.... you should be fine.

There ARE Subaru's that could outwheel a stock 4Runner. Quite a number of them actually. But the time investment to get one to that point, the stuff you will break, and the number of times you will get stuck learning what works/doesn't work.... you really have to love it. And a lot of the one's I'm refering to aren't *all* Subaru anymore - having seriously custom fabrication done, and usually some parts that are nothing Subaru ever intended (additional transfer cases, etc). There's even some folks that have put solid axles under one or both ends - but it's debateable how much "Subaru" is really left in them at that point - mostly sheet metal.

On the plus side they are excelent in snow, and are simple/easy to maintain. The gas mileage will be a lot nicer to you than a 4Runner too.

I say go for it. But be aware that the EA82 engine (the one in that 88 GL) isn't without it's pitfalls.... they do eat timing belts about every 50k, and some of the higher mileage examples generally need cooling system care at this point, and they will eat an occasional head gasket. They leak oil like mad (poorly designed seals), the oil pump seals are garbage, and the lifters tend to tick if there is any hint of air in the oil system (we call it the "Tick Of Death" [TOD], but it's not fatal at all - quite the opposite as it won't ever really harm anything but the lifters themselves).

It's popular to either "downgrade" to the EA81 (pushrod motor) or to "upgrade" to the EJ22. Both have their benefits in different ways, and don't have a lot of the drawbacks that the EA82 had.

All that said, the EA82's can easily do 250 - 300k before they actually die. The blocks themselves are near identical to the EA81 - it's everything from the heads outward that tends to give people trouble.

There's probably going to be people that will vehemently defend the EA82....but you are contemplating taking a 20 year old vehicle on a road trip to Mexico?! Check my post count and note that there's no WAY I would do that - not by January. I would have to go through the thing top-to-bottom before I contemplated something like that with an EA82. There's almost no parts availibility down there, and breaking down in the middle of nowhere in Mexico sounds like a bad time to me. I've done many thousands of miles in EA81's, EA82's, and EJ22's, and I would take an EA81 or EJ22 if I were going to a third world country with it. And I would still take plenty of spare parts, and enough tools to do just about anything short of splitting the short-block. That is the nature of old cars - wouldn't matter if we were talking about an 88 4Runner.... I would question your sanity on buying something that old and taking it on a trip that soon.

GD

#10 monstaru

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:04 AM

Frankly a stock 4Runner probably *could* outwheel all of the stock Subaru's and a good portion of the lifted ones as well. BUT - you're objective being mostly to get to/from your surfing spots - not to take the vehicle to it's extreems and see how stuck you can get.... you should be fine.


granted,i am not the best "offroad" driver by far.but i have wheeled both vehicles(the 4runner without her knowing of course):grin: at 7 mile orv park here in town.i did everything the same in each.except when i could not go up a certain trail in the 4runner.because of the wheelbase i could not get around a certain bend in the road.the brat only had a lift at that point,with 185/80/13 tires.and went around it.that may have been no fear of bashing the brat,or a shorter wheelbase.baccaruda knows of the mud puddles i speak of and of the area.cheers, brian

#11 psychsurf

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:06 AM

Well, the earlier GL is what I had in highschool, and was what I was looking for to begin with (the ea81?). But they seem way harder to find in good condition.

So, then am I to understand that the ea82 doesn't represent the same level of "bulletproofness" that the ea81 and the 22RE from my 4runner are reputed for? That is an important consideration, and one I'm glad you brought up, because marathon trips to mexico are something I do at least 2-3 times a year.

#12 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:07 AM

Granted - assuming a trail BIG enough for the 4Runner :dead:

There's always situations where smaller and lighter wins the day - and of course virtually any Subaru would look exceptionally good in those circumstances.

GD

#13 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:15 AM

So, then am I to understand that the ea82 doesn't represent the same level of "bulletproofness" that the ea81 and the 22RE from my 4runner are reputed for? That is an important consideration, and one I'm glad you brought up, because marathon trips to mexico are something I do at least 2-3 times a year.


I would say (at the risk of being stoned by the EA82 lovers here) that is a more or less fair analisys.

The EA82 was a conglomeration of old tech, and new tech. It was Subaru's first Overhead Cam, and their first with timing belts. Most of it's problems stem directly from these "firsts"

The belts don't last long. And there's TWO of them - unlike almost all other belt designs. The plastic covers suck massively as well.

Add to this that all EA82's other than the turbo models (avoid those like the plague) came stock with a single core radiator, and now you have an engine that is undercooled as well. This contributed to their tendancy to eventually need HG's.

The EA81's and the EJ22's for some reason both came with dual core radiators, and the EA81 was the product of 20 years development of the pushrod engines - it's the culmination of everything Subaru new up to that point. They are dead reliable units.

The EJ22, although the first in the EJ line, turned out to be arguably the best engine Subaru ever made, and some consider it the best to date.

For the EA81 you are looking for an '80 to '84 - Brat's were made till '87, and Hatchbacks till '89 with that engine as well.

EJ22's start in the '90 Legacy. '90 to '94 are the simplest as they have no OBD-II system. I drive a '94 as my daily.

Consider finding a 90 to 94 legacy wagon - put outback struts on it, and fit you some big 'ole shoes on there. Add a LSD rear end and you should be able to go anywhere you like.

Guess what I own? Two Legacy's, and Two EA81's.... got rid of all my EA82's as they just don't "do it" for me.

GD

#14 Phizinza

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:19 AM


This was a while ago when I first got the Roo and was a little reckless. I know it doesn't compare to other 4WD's in the video, but on that beach I've driven past people stuck in all sorts of 4WD's. Subies are just about made for sand driving.

#15 psychsurf

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:50 AM

Thank you for the great explanation, GD. I really appreciate you taking the time. I have had friends with the legacy wagons, and they all have raved about the reliability. Kind of ugly, but what can you do? So then, you'd jump in a new-for-you early 90's legacy and head south of the border?

I would still rather have a ea81... But I wonder how hard those legacies are to find with standard trans?

#16 monstaru

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 01:09 AM

whatever mate.not the only situation i have been in with the both of them.point being i have taken them both to the same places and tested them the same way.as long as you are not trying to do hardcore trails,they are the same.and as stated,my brat had more ground clearance.i am not nice to my vehicles.and if i drove that 4runner everyday, it would have died long ago.:headbang:

#17 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 01:34 AM

So then, you'd jump in a new-for-you early 90's legacy and head south of the border?


Outback struts and some heavy duty tires. But yeah - long before I would do it with an EA82. I would drive it around a bit and get to know it's quirks. And probably still take a few spares. But as for reliablility, the EJ22 is real hard to beat. If the history is unknown I would replace the timing belt/tensioners/water pump etc and some of the seals in the front. Fresh oil, etc. Really it depends on what you find. I got my 94 with a blown water pump (neglected maintenance) - 132k on it, new tires, new brakes, all records. Cost me $750 for the car and $200 in parts to do all the maintenance items. Amazing deals out there...

I would still rather have a ea81... But I wonder how hard those legacies are to find with standard trans?


Not hard at all - many, many L series wagons had AWD 5 speeds. I don't own auto's either, and both mine are AWD 5's. Take a look at craigslist - they are all over the place.

EA81's are getting long in the tooth - get a Legacy, and all you need is some strut upgrades and bigger tires. Should be good to go and will be real comfortable for a long trip. I've driven my 94 for 10 hours straight and it does great. Been to Reno and back to Portland 3 times with it and not a single thing done to it besides brake rotors (previous owner warped them), and wiper blades.

GD

#18 psychsurf

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 01:51 AM

Ok, I just did a craigslist search of all the surrounding states (GA, MS, IL, TN, FL, NC, SC, KY, AL, TX). Thanks to craigshelper.com, by the way...

What did I find? Bupkis.

There's a few around with AT, and a few sedans with manual trans, but nothing in a 5spd wagon from 90-94.

Ok, time to look farther afield... Just hate the idea of burning the time and gas to make a multi-day trip to see cars.

What's the story on the Auto trans for these guys? I'm a big proponent of having a cheap clutch to replace rather than an expensive AT, but some are better than others.

I know this thread is getting way off track from where I started, but again I really appreciate the advice. I was totally going to get that '88, it really did sound like exactly what I was looking for.

#19 kingbobdole

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 01:58 AM

I guess I'm one of those EA82 "lovers" I actually HATE the turbo ones, but my current wago has an SPFI one.
I built this car originally for $1500 TOTAL! Lift, tires, tint, SPFI conversion and the price of the wagon.
Posted Image

But I'll admit, after driving it around for almost three years without doing anything but oil changes, the timing gear did give me trouble, and I had to replace it all... Geeze... you'd think it would just last forever! I guess I better go to gears or single belts!:-p Naw, I just fixed it for about $100 in parts, and threw in a clutch and some other things here and there... so I have probably about $2000 total into it now... it's a real money cow.:grin:

Rick's old wagon cost him less... He got the car for free and we gave it one of those highly troubled EA82s from an XT...


That's me driving BTW

So basically I disagree with GD, but that's pretty common. I DO think that the EA82 can be reliable, but you just have to make sure that it is, cooling system especially. Timing belts... to me not a big deal, it breaks, I fix. Not that hard or time consuming. Plus I love my tight turning circle and still good milage.

#20 Numbchux

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 02:18 AM

now you have an engine that is undercooled as well. This contributed to their tendancy to eventually need HG's.


I've got to argue this point. I'm not exactly an EA82 lover (IMHO....the #1 worst motor Subaru has ever made. still puts it pretty high on the list in the grand scheme of things....wouldn't even put it far behind the 22RE, of which I've got one as well), but find that the single core radiator is plenty, assuming there's coolant moving through the system. heck, in my experience, keeping both radiator fans is overkill....even with the single core rad. only times I've ever had overheating issues is either with a bad water pump/tstat, or blown hoses.

in fact, I'm running an EJ22e (from a '92 Legacy) on a stock, EA82 single-core radiator with 187k miles on it. without a radiator fan at all. can't leave it idle unless it's below freezing and I leave the heat on (yes, the heater core is enough though when it is below freezing), but other than that, it stays cool just fine.



of all the things to gripe about an EA82.....the radiator is just not on the list.




all that said, I think you'll be very happy with any of the mentioned choices (EA81, EA82, or early Legacy). I say go with what you find....

also....who pays $2k for.....anything?

#21 psychsurf

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 02:22 AM

Hey KBD! Can't you see I'm drinking koolaid here? How am I supposed to adopt someone else's informed opinion as my own when other informed people are expressing dissenting opinions?

Damnit...

Ok, let me give you the rundown on the car I am considering... First it is here in the classifieds, linky: http://www.ultimates...ead.php?t=82624

Now, don't anyone else buy it out from under me until I know if I want it or not! :clap:

I talked to the seller tonight, really nice guy, gave me a killer history on the car in the half-hour we talked. The belts have about 25k miles on them, the CVs have like 60k and 20k IIRC. Most recent work includes fixing a coolant leak, fixing a short in the tail lights. He's put 60k on it in the last 2.5 years. "normal" oil leaks to the tune of 1/2 qt every 5k miles. Second owner, maintenance records all the way back, sounds incredibly clean and well-taken care of. My confidence was running extremely high, and was just pending a good test drive to make an offer. But one of the reasons I'm here is to suss out known reliability issues in the different models because I am indeed planning on making a 1000-mile trip to mexico.

Home for us is texas, so after my contract is up here in Alabama, we'll have a long shakedown run heading back to San Antonio, figured that would be a good time to see how a new car would behave on a long trip. But again, I don't want to take any more risks than necessary.

So, any more input is certainly welcome at this point!

By the way, what does this emoticon mean, exactly? :dead:

#22 psychsurf

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 07:00 AM

I know I'm way off track from my original subject here, but oh well... May as well just clog my own thread rather than starting a whole new one.

I found the one I really want. 1983 GL, looks totally pristine, only 60k. Problem is, its 1200 miles away, and on ebay. No way to check it out in advance, getting it home would cost either $500 to ship it, or $250 in plane ticket and gas and 2 days of my time. And that's hoping it's running right, since I can't check it out in advance.

Damn. I hate wanting stuff that's relatively cheap, but hard to find.

#23 Gloyale

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 11:33 AM

So, then am I to understand that the ea82 doesn't represent the same level of "bulletproofness" that the ea81 and the 22RE from my 4runner are reputed for? That is an important consideration, and one I'm glad you brought up, because marathon trips to mexico are something I do at least 2-3 times a year.


I am going to disagree with GD here. He just hates EA82s. But I've driven my EA82s and EA82 Turbos all over the US. Cross country to wiconsin and back 3-4 times a year, often in the winter through, North Dakota, at -10 degrees. For the last 6 years. No problems. Also done a few trips through Nevada in the summer, fine as well(with a good radiator and fan) Because I do my mantainence first.

I've never had an EA82 breakdown for any reason related to the engine itself. I've had Alternator failures, and a blown radiator hose. But that can happen to any Subaru engine or any car really.
The one thing that is slightly less "bullet proof" is the timing belts. I always do mine a soon as I get a new Roo. And I always carry a spare set(including tensioners) in my trunk. Never had a timing belt break on my own EA82s, cause I do the mantainence first.

I think that the fact that the EA82s are that much newer makes them the better candidate to an EA81 car. Plus the EA82 was available with SPFI instead of carb. Better millage and arguably more reliable.

I think an EA82 could do everything you need. I would take one to Mexico in a heartbeat. I would have tools and spare parts with me(because Subaru didn't sell cars in Mexico) I'd have T belts, Alt belt, Alternator, water pump, coil, and maybe an axle. I would want excactly the same spare parts list for an EA81(except t-belt) or an EJ22. So basically GDs whole issue with EA82 reliability boils down to a set of $40 belts, which won't break if you replace them before you go.

I don't know If I'd want to go THROUGH mexico or stay there for extended time with one. But do all you're mantainence and then go for a trip, you'll be fine.

There is a thread on about a member who took a ea82 wagon to mexico, I think all the way south and back. No problems. With a MPFI engine out of an XT no less. Talk about no support for parts!!(MPFI non-turbo could be the least produced EA82 engine style)

#24 Scott in Bellingham

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:36 PM

Surfs up Dude

http://www.ultimates...54&d=1127157350

#25 ezapar

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 12:53 PM

Quit letting your woman choose your ride. If you want a Subaru, buy it. Don't spend your life letting her make your choices, or soon, your undies will match your socks.




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