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I'm hoping someone can help me...

I have a 1997 right hand drive forester with low km, runs like a top with a turbo and auto tranny, plus it has a great interior... I also have a 2003 forester with a blown engine and horrible interior but it steers from the right side, has a stick shift and a better body... Now what I need to know is, are they compatible enough to get one solid rig from them? Basically I want to put the low km turbo engine and the better interior from the 97' into the left-hand drive 03', it would give me a solid engine in front of a standard tranny with a much better interior.. can it be done?

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If they’re both SF body shapes then it can be done. 

If the turbo is SF and the other is the SG, few interior parts will transfer over from what I understand. Mechanically, everything will bolt in, the wiring would become the headache. 

Others will elaborate further I’m sure.



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you can swap the entire engine, body side harness and ECU.

At best it’s plug and play-ish...but...

Those aren’t US offerings so be careful with US based feedback.  That’s not a 97 engine we received in the US and 97 is Phase I and 03 is Phase 2 and they are not compatible as a plug and play swap. It can be done still but it’s not as straight forward as other EJ swaps. 

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I'll have to take a closer look at them in the sunlight to see exactly what models they are... I actually know very little about them and the base of my forester knowledge comes from stripping suspension components to lift a couple of Impreza wagons... 

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03 is likely second gen (certainly is om the US, other markets generally got them sooner).


You'll need a turbo LHD engine crossmember (should be able to use a WRX one), but other than that, all major mechanical parts should bolt up. Wiring will not be plug and play, different body styles and different driving positions will make sure of that, but with good diagrams and good understanding of them, it could be modified. Dash will have to come out of both for the wiring conversion.


Big job, likely makes more sense to sell what you have, and just buy what you want. But each to their own

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On 12/12/2020 at 7:34 PM, Canuck said:

I have a 1997 right hand drive forester

I also have a 2003 forester...but it steers from the right side, ........the left-hand drive 03',

You have a 97 RHD forester.

What is the 03?

Is the 03 also turbo?

If one is RHD and the other is LHD, you cannot just swap wiring harnesses under the dash. All the parts are on opposite sides under the dash. You would have to modify all of the harnesses to match the parts locations.


If both are RHD.

Check for part differences. Sometimes they move parts to different locations in different years, and the 03 may have parts the 97 does not have, or a newer version of some parts. Download both FSMs and look over the wiring diagrams for similarities or differences. Go to the Harness section and compare the engine harness, engine bulkhead harness, then the bulkhead in compartment harness (under dash).

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The 03 is a lefthand drive and not a turbo, now the engines is shot but the standard tranny and drivetrain is solid... interior is barely "ok", plus it's a hideous two tone beige/black...

The 97 is a righthand drive, turbocharged Japanese import with low km and an auto trans, interior is near mint with a plush black/grey patterned material, looks really swanky, lol...

Both are probly bound for the crusher after they've been stripped unless I can rescue them...

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