Friday, October 30, 2015

My next flip car: Project WRX

I did really well with the Project E46 flip car. so well in fact, that my wife is actually letting me do another one. This time around, I was gunning for a car I had always wanted; something fast, manual transmission, great in the snow, and the looks only a mother could love. And after months of searching, I finally found my own 2004 Subaru WRX wagon, and of course, it's a stick.

Literally 6 months were spent on Craigslist trying to find this car.  It’s not that they don’t exist, it’s just that they fall into one of two camps; Either just so totally beaten they are unsalvageable, or so overwhelmingly modified that their price range is astronomical, and they look like a reject from 2Fast 2Furious.

I went and saw a bunch of cars. There was the one that was so rusted out it was about to crack under its own weight…one that had significant wreck damage that somehow was neglected on the Craigslist ad… and one that was so completely riced, there was just no saving it. I hope someone buys it just to put it out of its misery.  The prices also ran the gamut from $3500 for a “motor blown” model to $17,000 for a stage 2 with way too much boost, bro.

My budget for this project is $5000 for the car and $1000 in parts for $6K in total. I know with a little work, I can easily sell it for $8-9K, making a decent amount of profit. But besides the extra money, I get to drive a car I always wanted, and have something fun for the next Polar Vortex. I also get to learn how to wrench on a Subaru.

I finally found close to what I was looking for up in Rockland county, about an hour from my house. The guy was asking $5000 for a “Silver Mist” 2004 5-speed wagon. So I took a ride after work one day to check it out.

First things I noticed: high mileage at 184k, and some rust on the rear quarter panels which is easy enough to fix with some patience. Also, pretty much every Subaru has this after ten years. It had a little front end damage where they had hit a rock or something, and one of the fog lights was cracked and needed replacing. The other one didn’t work. Easy. The exhaust was loud. I can live with it. The clutch rides a little too high for comfort. The AC didn’t work. The tires are worn and the CD player didn’t function. After factoring these in, I offered him $4100 for the car, and the deal was struck.

 I take delivery of the car, make the transaction, and then proceed to take it for a ride. I open it up on the Bethpage parkway and proceed to rip through the gears…the turbo kicks in, 3K RPM is awesome. 4K is heavenly, and then @4500…BOOM the car shutters and the check engine light comes on…Seriously, WTF?

I take it slow for a little bit and then resume driving normally. The car seems fine. I get home and Google it, and find out this is something called “turbo creep”. Since this is my first turbo motor, I have some learning to do.  I use my new and awesome Bluetooth OBD II reader and determine that the fault code is a blown turbo wastegate solenoid…which sound expensive. So after some forum lurking, I learned that other things can cause this issue. Then I found the culprit, simply a worn vacuum hose exiting the solenoid. 50 cents worth of surgical tubing, and its fixed.

Think I found the problem...
But as I spend some time with this car, I am finding more and more things that need fixing and adjusting. The rear washer fluid hose had a massive tear in it which was causing a flood into the rear cargo compartment. $1.25 on a hose splice and its fixed. The heater blower motor was making a noise. Rip it apart, and find half the fan is shot. Twenty dollar replacement. The front control arms are rusted through. I spent 80 bucks on a new set, along with a new AC compressor through some dude on Craigslist. They even came with new bushings, score. New fog light also got put in.  

So now I’m about to tackle some of the more costly items like Tires, exhaust and AV, and I’ll see how lean I can get and still make a profit. 

New foglight to replace cracked one
The thought of doing the bodywork horrifies me. I have never painted a car before or removed rust. But this is why we buy project cars, to learn how to do this stuff. To get our hands dirty and make it our own, and then sell it off and make some money for the next project.