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Subaru Scott

Moving into the 21st century.

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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, I did take a closer look at the stock replacement and found that the 3.6 used the same radiator, so I figured the stock one was probably more than adequate. And Rock auto sold me a Denso, OE replacement, for about 140 delivered naughty.gif
More to come, so stay tuned!

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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. rolleyes.gif 

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 cool.gif

What a smooth, quiet, luxurious ride!!! I Love it! banana.gif

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 cool.gif






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!!

Edited by Subaru Scott

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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. wink.gif

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!! 



Could have definitely taken idosubaru's advice and just left it alone for now, because I found no issues at all. The head gaskets showed no signs of any leakage, external or internal, and I even pulled apart the metal gasket layers and looked between them. The valve adjustment was even perfect. I'm certain it could have made it to 200k without a hitch.

But it was nice to see inside one of these engines, and it's good to know that all the gaskets and seals are fresh now.

I do have to say that whichever Subaru engineer came up with the bright idea of going with socket head fasteners throughout most of the engine (Trying to win himself a promotion, no doubt), is now on my s*** list!!
The allen bolts in the timing cover... Not a fan!! I was able to get them all out without drilling any, but I had to use all my tricks, growing up in the salt belt, I consider myself a master of bolt removal. 
Inside the cover was the same fight, and the very last bolt on the oil pump cover stripped, and I had to drill it. I think at that point I was just in a hurry and overconfident. 
The first allen driver I tried on the headbolts broke. So I cut a 10mm allen wrench off and loaded that into a 10mm, 1/2" drive, deepwell impact socket. Still felt like something was going to break getting them all loose... Not a fan!!
These smarmy engineers need to try and take apart some of this themselves on an engine over 10 years old!! It's easy to reach a torque spec assembling new parts...
But the cake was the flex plate bolts. Torx 2??? It took quite a bit of research just to find out what was going on there. Seems the patent was running out on Torx 1, so they suddenly came up with something better just then... 
Absolutely nothing available at any auto parts or tool supply near me, so I had to order online. Those things were in there tighter than the hubs of hell!! Obviously installed with an impact wrench. Twisted and damn near broke the tool. NOT A FAN!!!

The heads cleaned up nicely and I called a couple of machine shops about just getting them checked for flatness. They both tried to hard-sell me on full valve jobs, refacing, etc. No, I don't want to reface unless absolutely necessary, because the compression ratio is already 10-1. 
So I ordered my own machinists straightedge and feeler gauges for under 100 bucks and checked them myself. 


They were well within spec. I couldn't detect any unevenness whatsoever. 

Pulled the oil pan and cleaned all that out, then re-assembled with Lucas assembly lube on everything, even coated the head bolt threads for torquing. Popped in a new water pump as well. The timing components all looked just fine. Hooked a test light up to the oil pressure switch and spun the engine over by hand till the light went out, so I knew it was primed.
I think it was a little easier installing the engine without the intake on, but I really should have put the wiring harness on first.


Napa had some silicone heater hose, but no pre-formed elbows, so I had to load some springs in the bypass hoses on top of the engine so they would bend without kinking. I used string to pull the springs in nice and even, worked great!




Working outside in Florida Summer isn't so bad wink.gif


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That was a damn thorough and enjoyable read! Congrats on the car, don't worry about the front bumper skin, in my opinion that car looks better WITHOUT it hahaha! They're not the prettiest rooa lol.


I've had the pleasure of doing light work on one of these in the shop i work at. Common issues are overheating typically due to a faulty radiator cap (they apparently are very sensitive to that), and the blend door actuator failing on the passenger temp side resulting in no temp control for that side.


I can't remember if these have trans coolers...might be a good idea to add one if not.


Very cool reading through your detailed work, it's inspiring as a learning tech.

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