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$400 Craigslist Rescue: Will's 1988 GL

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Feast your eyes on my 1988 Subaru GL wagon, sporting a 1.8 liter horizontally opposed engine making a thundering 90hp which is mated to a 5 speed dual range part time 4WD gearbox. I bought it on Craigslist from some guy out by Joshua Tree National Park for $400 back in March of 2020. Here's the story on this car so far.

When I bought the car I made a pretty big assumption. The previous owner told me that it wasn’t running and explained that it might be better as a parts car. Having owned another Subaru with the EA82 engine, I knew they had a bit of a reputation for timing belt issues. I removed the timing covers as my first step in diagnosing the engine failure. Lo and behold, the timing belt had snapped.

With the timing belt trouble confirmed, I ordered a kit on RockAuto. The timing belt on the old EA82 engine is thankfully a very simple job (especially with this forum as a resource). Two evenings of leisurely after work wrenching and the fresh timing belt kit was installed. The battery was flat, but a jump was all she needed to crank over and fire up!

Any old Subie needs maintenance, but this car in particular was badly neglected. I started with an oil change, air filter, spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor, and plug wires. I also had to replace the MAF sensor to fix a stalling issue.

Maintenance and mods go hand in hand: so far I've outfitted her with 14″ Peugeot alloys wrapped in 195/70/14 tires which give the car a more aggressive stance and additional ground clearance. Underneath, she now rides on new struts at all 4 corners and I have started replacing bushings and mounts to make the car feel more solid. The hot summers in the California desert provided quite a challenge to the car’s 32 year old cooling system, so the radiator, hoses, and thermostat were all replaced (the previous owner had removed the thermostat to prevent overheating rather than replacing the clogged radiator like he should have).

While the EA82 engine was underpowered from the factory, my butt-dyno said it was producing even less than its advertised 90 horsepower, so next I replaced the oxygen sensor and gutted the clogged rear catalytic converter that was plugging up the exhaust. The rear brakes were also rebuilt with new drums, shoes, wheel cylinders, and hardware after they fell apart on a trip to California City. A few junkyard scores such as an OEM skid plate, a replacement headlight, and replacement corner lights have helped get her back in shape.

Looking ahead, I have a two inch lift from Anderson Design & Fabrication that I will be installing soon, as well as a set of poly bushings for the front control arms from SuperPro. This car has been a lot of fun, and I look forward to sharing more of its progress with you all!







Edited by cartwheels
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Installed the 2” lift with subframe drop from ADF! Had a few hiccups during the install process but overall I was able to knock it out in one weekend working pretty much solo.

The next day I tested the car’s capabilities out in the desert and I am happy to report that this thing is SUPER capable, even on crap all season tires. 





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Go the L’s! The cheap ones are the best and end up costing a lot more for all the right reasons! 

My $500 L series (back in 2004) is still kicking but not much in her is original! And she’s been all over the place in my part of the world. 

Got any other plans for your L? 




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Here's the video from my drive up Jawbone Canyon. This is just after I installed my 2" ADF lift kit. Below is a photo from a recent snowstorm we got. It rarely snows out in the desert, but when it does the results are spectacular.


Edited by cartwheels

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