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Drano

New to Subaru - Down Under with a 1986 Vortex XT

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Hi everyone, as a teen in Australia, I always wanted to own a spacey-looking Subaru Vortex.. or as I now understand, an "XT" in the USA.

 

Now (thanks to a local selling website) I've bought one for just a few hundred dollars, in need of a bit of mechanical work.  :) 

This '86 front-wheel-drive manual (non-turbo) model has been owned by an older couple for the last 9 years or so, and another older owner before them (who seems to have put a St Christopher medal on the dash). It has high mileage - just over 300,000 kilometres - but over 32 years I suppose that's not so bad. 

It's quite rare here, as I know it is in America. The most recent owner had it serviced at the local Subaru dealer a couple of years ago, and they'd never seen one in the flesh. The only disappointment is that mine doesn't have the digital dashboard.


Last December, the couple backed it out of the garage, and water poured out from under the hood - so they put it back in the garage, and didn't get it fixed (they had another car, and only the wife can now drive). They called a mechanic and described the problem over the phone, and were told it was likely to be the water pump gasket. I've filled up the cooling system and started it, and the water does indeed flow out from near the top of the engine. I'm getting my mechanic to check it out this coming week, as I'm not at all familiar with flat four engines.


I've just removed the lambswool seat covers, to reveal another set of seat covers underneath, then a very good condition passenger seat, but a worn driver's seat. I'll see if I can get it re-done in a sympathetic 80s velour. I want to keep it as stock as possible.

Hopefully I can give it a workout on the road soon!  :D 

 

I'll be looking up your good advice on this site, cheers

 

 

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The paint looks in quite good nick for its age, especially for a Qld vehicle. If you are looking for some OEM alloys I know of a couple of Vortex's locally who might have a spare set cheap.

 

If you plan on an engine rebuild in the future, and want a replacement oil pump, PM me as I have a local Subaru specialist about to retire who has one spare (they are almost impossible to find now, as there is no new replacements being made for the EA82).

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Thanks dfoyl, yep I reckon it's been in the garage for much of its life, and that's protected the paint. It's outside now at my place, but I might put a car cover on it - at least to protect against the odd hailstorm.

 

Thanks for the info on alloys and oil pump. I should know more soon re engine.

 

I went and bought 1 original hubcap today, Still looking for 3 more up here, before I look interstate. I think I'll get the hubcaps first, then think about alloys.

 

That's a worry about EA82 parts! Cheers

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Neat looking Tex!

 

Not many of them getting around anymore :(

 

A guy on Ausubaru is doing one up atm. You’ll need a compatible version of internet explorer or Firefox to access that forum atm :(

 

The leak you describe will most likely be the heater circuit pipe over the top of the engine block, or the connecting heater hose above the water pump (hidden under the AC compressor and bracket). This little hose is often missed when general maintenance is carried out on the cooling system.

 

Being that it sat for a number of years without coolant in the block I’d be giving it a good flash of the system, replace all radiator and heater hoses including the two annoying little ones between the block and intake manifold and the manifold and heater circuit crossover pipe. You could expect the heater circuit crossover pipe to be corroded to all buggery and could be the source of your leak too, any EA82 heater crossover pipe will do the job.

 

I’d replace the water pump, radiator and even look into replacing the heater core as it has plastic end tanks (genius idea Subaru!) and typically let go near the 300k km mark. I did two in my L series and it’s not fun! All brass copper units are available and worth the coin for piece of mind. If doing this work be careful not to crack the instrument cluster surround as they’re rarer than hens teeth on rocking horse crap! And pull the steering wheel and drop the column to avoid cracking the windscreen (been there, done that - rookie mistake).

 

Be aware that the headgaskets could be weak now too, after all the above work is done you may find yourself tearing back into it to replace the pesky headgaskets...

 

Keep up the good work and the door wedge love! There’s not many around and good examples will be harder to come by as time goes on.

 

Lastly, get it out of the weather! Even with a car cover you’ll toast the clear coat. Do not ever cut and polish this vehicle as you’ll only be stripping the clear coat. If you want to see what crap clear coat in that Subaru blue looks like I’m more than happy to post a pic of my L’s paint ;) Also ensure the drain pipes in the sunroof are not blocked. Very common for them to rust out here due to a blockage or partial blockage.

 

Maybe one day you can make it to the annual Hunter Valley Cruise in May. I’m keen but haven’t managed to get there yet!

 

Also checkout Subyclub, another Oz based forum ;) They’re mainly into their newer Subaru’s but love hearing about old skool builds such as this ;)

 

And done :P

 

Cheers

 

Bennie

 

Ps: any engine bay pics? I’m wondering if it’s got a spider manifold and flat ribbed belts. I think the spider manifold came later though.

Edited by el_freddo
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Thanks Leeroy, shall do - I already joined The Backyard Boys - AU on Facebook, but will sign up for this one too

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Thanks for all that info, el_freddo. Monday morning my mechanic is going to check it out, so I'll know more by the arvo.

 

I don't think it's been sitting for much more than 2 months, as it was registered until mid-January and the owners said it had sprung a leak in December. So hopefully that's a plus, over something that's been sitting for years.

 

I've had a closer look at the engine after your advice, and I can see that (I think) the heater core to the dash has been disconnected at some stage - there are two pipes going into the car that are not connected, and two coming out of the engine that are connected with a u-turn short piece of hose. I think you can see it, up the top of the attached photo. The previous owner mentioned that the heater doesn't work - but here in Queensland it's rarely cold enough to need one. The aircon apparently works very well - and that is essential for me!

 

Thanks again for all the help on this site. 

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Well the Vortex is purring again, after a (stinking hot) day of work by my mechanic at home. I 'supervised'..

 

The coolant leak was from the throttle body, with one heater pipe split and another crusted and rusted upon removal (see pic). I think that's what you predicted, el_freddo?

 

My mechanic bypassed it - he said it's not cold enough in Qld to worry about it.

 

Then some spark plug jiggering got all 4 cylinders happy (was only running on 2 initially).

 

New fluids and filters, and an engine wash. New bit of pipe to join up the heater core pipes (see 2nd pic). Air conditioning does work a treat - it eventually went from the 'windscreen' down to 'face' fan setting after a bit of pressing the buttons.

 

Just got to fix a muffler hole, and get some new tyres, then I'll try to get it registered!

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Edited by Drano
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Hi everyone.. An update on my Aussie XT (Vortex): it's been registered and on the road for half a year now, after some body work (rust around boot/trunk, respray to bumper).. and bypasses to hidden heater hoses to stop another coolant leak (as suggested by el_Freddo).

At one stage It started running a little rough, but I found that whatever the issue was (injectors?) passed after some 'determined' driving to car shows etc. Just using it, basically.

After quite a while out of the dashboard, the original radio has been fixed (some dry joints re-soldered I believe).. but the passenger side electric window isn't working. I'll take off the door card again and check out the roller. Plus, some time soon I will replace the front and rear shocks (got to save up for that!). Then it's new velour & padding for the front seats..

 

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She looks sweet as mate!

Have you gone for a cruise with the roof top removed?  They used to have a bag to store it safely in the boot from memory.  There may be some tie down straps in the boot too.

Keep the pics coming when you can and look after that beast!

(can we get an engine bay pic please?)

Cheers

Bennie

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