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Slammo
Slammo New Reader
1/13/19 5:35 p.m.

It’s high time I start a real build thread so here it is.  Simultaneously my worst and best car currently, Busty LaRue deserves to have her story told.  First though, some background.

For a while, I’ve wanted a Subaru that I didn’t especially care about that I could lift and modify in unsavory ways.  Previously, I owned a very nice 1998 Outback with a leather interior and 5 speed. I put over 90,000 miles on it over the course of five years and always kept it stock apart from wheels, lights, head unit, and a phone mount on the dash.  It was my only car and in my eyes too nice to really beat up or modify. Regrettably I sold that car a few years ago, but at the time I bought Busty I was dailying an 03 wrx. That car, despite having over 200k miles was also way too nice to screw up with goofy modifications, so my yearnings for a Subaru to hoon were still unanswered.  There were itches that needed scratched, ideas that needed fruition; I was an artist in search of a canvas. Having gone to Gamblin The Ozarks 2016 as a passenger, I needed a E36 M3box of my own. That was where Busty LaRue came into play.

Without further ado, here is the story of my gambler ordinaire.

 

August 17, 2017

Looking for a car to gamble, I had seen this Impreza for sale on Facebook for $800.  It was a 2.2L, 5 speed, AWD, and wagon, so the right combination of options that I was looking for. I went to see it and it was a mess as expected. Didn’t run, brakes didn’t work, suspension messed up, interior trashed… in other words, perfect for my use. I offered the guy $500 and he took it; in hindsight that may have been to high but I didn’t care because I finally had a beater Subaru of my own. Here's how she looked in the seller's driveway.

The name came with the car and I stuck with it because I'm generally not too great at making up my own names for things and also the car clearly had some history of personality that should be preserved and continued.  It should probably be spelled La Roux but LaRue is how the previous owner spelled it so I just rolled with it. I borrowed a friend’s truck, rented a trailer, brought her home and started assessment and disassembly.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
1/14/19 6:42 a.m.

This is the car that is responsible for me owning a Subaru. It's delightful. 

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
1/14/19 10:37 a.m.

August 25, 2017

With Busty home and in the garage, it was time to start the damage assessment.  While Harvey bared down on Houston outside, I was safe and dry inside my garage with hurricane leave from work to tear into my new project.  Knowing the suspension was trashed and wanting to lift the car for off-road duty, I had already picked up a set of early Forester struts from the junkyard.

First problem:  the “snorkus” intake that lives in front of the right wheel well is broken.  The car had been without its front bumper cover for some time and sunlight had not been kind to the white plastic.  The original design has the main intake in the engine bay just behind the right headlight, then going through this “grease trap” to collect and drain any water out before going to the air filter.  Even it if wasn’t shattered, it wouldn’t be functional due to the bumper cover’s absence. It’s gotta go!

Second problem:  The “tophat” strut mount on the right front is ripped completely through, separating the strut body from the strut tower.  Not a big deal in itself since I have the forester struts, but we’ll get to the collateral damage later.

Also the air filter is disgusting.  I’m beginning to think this car hasn’t been well maintained!  Ha ha ha.

Oh, guess the strut moved far enough for the outer CV joint to separate.  CVs go bad frequently on these cars when the rubber boots rip, so new and remanufactured axles are cheap and plentiful.  No big deal!

But, the damage cascades further:  The axle, freshly freed from its confines of the outer CV joint, apparently thrashed around quite a bit and had its way with the rubber brake line.

There was one more mystery:  this big rip in the chassis. This picture was taken from approximately where the front right wheel sits, looking towards the back of the inner fender; you can see the mud flap on the left, the control arm on the right, and the exhaust in the background.

Yes, seems this car was out for a rip at some point.  The damage extends from the chassis rail access hole (on the right in this picture) almost all the way to the rear control arm mount on the left.  My best guess is that someone hooked a tow strap to the original chassis hole in a misguided attempt to get unstuck, and the force of the tug on the hook cut open the chassis like a can opener.  Why they would have been pulling from that location and in that direction is beyond me, but I can’t think of any other reasonable explanation. Strange, yes; slight compromise of chassis, yes; abandon plans, hell no.  It’s a gambler, just send it.

With the main physical damage located and assessed, I got to work on making her whole again.

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
1/16/19 1:33 p.m.

August~September 2017

The next few weeks were a blur of work on Busty; I don’t have a whole lot of pictures, but here is a summary of what it took to bring this $500 car that had been sitting for years to road (and off-road) worthiness.

Suspension and exterior:

  • Replaced both front axles with reman units from RockAuto

  • Replaced the front right knuckle and brake line with ones from a salvage yard

  • Installed the Forester struts front and rear; the rear tophats had to be swapped for the Impreza ones due to mounting difference in the strut towers (more on this below)

  • Installed trailing arm brackets from a 97-99 Legacy Outback to provide some correction to the rear suspension geometry with the lift, moving the rear wheels back to center in the wheel wells

  • Installed aftermarket camber bolts in both front and rear to bring alignment closer to correct

  • Disconnected rear sway bar because the endlinks weren’t long enough

  • Removed the front fender liners and associated brackets so they wouldn’t get in the way or get caught on an obstacle

  • Installed stock 15” wheels and all-season tires from a 98 Outback that would work for the time being; they held air, were all the same size, had enough tread depth to be safe, and were way less ugly than the rusted steelies that were there before

I was tired of risking life and limb with rental screw-type spring compressors so to swap the rear tophats from the Impreza to the Forester struts, I called a local independent repair shop and asked if they had someone who could do the work on the side.  They directed me to a man named Poncho who didn’t take any payment for the work but instead asked a bunch of questions about the gambler 500 and ended up creating his own team. I swear I didn’t go into this trying to be a gambler evangelist, but there’s something about driving cheap cars at the end of their life way past their limits that appeals to a wide demographic.

Driveability:

  • Changed the oil and filter

  • Pulled the spark plugs and did a compression test; results were consistent and healthy

  • Replaced spark plugs, plug wires, and ignition coil; still no start

  • Pulled fuel pump assembly, realized fuel tank was trashed

  • Pulled rear subframe to swap in a fuel tank from a 97, purchased from a local partout

  • Installed new fuel filter

With the fresh fuel, spark, and sauce, the engine fired right up.  I put a temporary registration on it and the car actually drove pretty well; I was relieved to not find any hidden issues with the transmission or gearbox since it was purchased non-running and pretty beat up.

There was a change to the evaporative emissions system between 96 and 97 that meant the two fuel tanks and ancillaries were slightly different from each other.  I hooked everything up as best I could and it works, but now you can’t fill the tank without the gas nozzle clicking off so you have to stand there and hold the lever to trickle it in.  There’s no CEL though, and I haven’t hated it enough to drop the subframe again to try to fix it.

Legality:

The hatch wiring loom had been inexplicably cut at the hinge, so I used butt crimp connectors to remake all of the connections.  It’s not perfect but has worked so far. The windshield was cracked pretty badly, so I had that replaced as well. After those two items were complete, I drove the car to a Texas inspection station and it passed with flying colors.

Interior:

The interior was pretty grody so I threw away everything I didn’t feel was necessary.  Into the trash went the carpet, spare tire well cover, and most of the plastic behind the rear seats.  I did leave a lot in place for comfort and usability, including the headliner, trim around the windows, dashboard, seats, console, and door panels.

Conclusion:

At this point I had a pretty functional car.  I had around $700 between all the fixes and modifications; a lot for a $500 car but still a decent car for $1200.  I didn’t make the deadline to drive it in the 2017 Arkansas gambler, but I started daily driving it and loving it little by little.

GoLucky
GoLucky New Reader
1/16/19 6:08 p.m.

Apocalypse bumper?

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
1/16/19 9:35 p.m.

In reply to GoLucky :

Might as well be!  It's the stock bumper beam; not strong like a custom steel bumper but at least it has a better approach angle than with the bumper cover in place.  Definitely gets funny looks though.

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
4/18/19 2:01 a.m.

(I need to post more frequently if I ever want this thread to catch up to current progress!)

Picture this:  You have just bought a cheap Subaru and resurrected it for road use.  What’s the first thing you do? Rallycross of course!

10/28/2017

My friend Jim and I took my newly running car to Lonestar Rallycross at Brianne Corn Raceway outside of San Marcos, TX.  I had driven rallycross before, but it had been a while; Jim had autocrossed but was a newcomer to rallycross. Busty performed admirably, with no mechanical issues.  A lifted wagon on all season tires wasn’t ideal, but the car was surprisingly easy to drift even with a disconnected rear sway bar.

11/18/2017

The next event, Jim and I were joined by another friend Erik.  That meant the the car was driven by 3 novice drivers the whole event, a total of over 30 runs, with no mechanical issues.

 

We were all having a blast and finely honing our skills, but then I was informed that corner workers were seeing air under the inside tires around some corners.

 

I had figured the suspension lift wouldn’t be a big deal, since the car was still on all-season tires and none of us would be at the pointy end of the stick time wise.  Apparently I was wrong, and getting the car sideways also got it tippy. We finished off the day driving a bit more carefully, all with giant smiles plastered on our faces.

Busty hasn’t been rallycrossed since then, as Jim bought a salvage title WRX that has picked up those duties.  Erik’s appetite was whet and he eventually bought a 2.2L Impreza of his own and is enjoying rallycrossing it also.  I do have a set of WRX struts that could be swapped on in an hour or two for race duty, but the need has not arisen yet.

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
4/18/19 5:47 a.m.

At this point I had a functional, lifted Subaru and I was itching to try it out.  There were still a few months before the inaugural Texas gambler, and Jim suggested we go check out Sabine Pass.

Former Texas Highway 87, the road was destroyed by Hurricane Jerry in 1989 and never rebuilt.

Jim and I started on the eastern end and drove it in the westbound direction.  Some pieces of asphalt still remain of the old road, but they are few and far between.

There are a few abandoned vehicles along the beach, long since unrecognizable from the harsh exposure.

There is also some pipeline equipment here and there.  Some of it like the skid below was clearly out of service, but other sections seemed like they were in use.

The terrain wasn’t particularly challenging, but there were a few small obstacles.  Here Busty can be seen flexing on a helpless piece of driftwood.  Not bad for an old economy car!

We also had some fun in the wide open sand.

 

 

Word has it that the pass is popular with nudists due to its remote location.  We didn’t see anyone regardless of clothing status until just a few miles from the west end, likely due to it being Thanksgiving Day.

Overall it was a fun trip and a good adventure for a day off.

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
4/18/19 6:23 a.m.

Sabine pass looks like a cool spot! I wish I had something like that nearby to play around with my rallycross car.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
4/18/19 7:15 a.m.

I bet if you make a “what car is this” post the forum will have it identified in a day

Agent98
Agent98 Reader
4/18/19 10:22 a.m.

The scruffiest 1993 Mustang Cobra in existence?

 

klipless
klipless Reader
4/18/19 10:50 a.m.
Agent98 said:

The scruffiest 1993 Mustang Cobra in existence?

 

If that was a Porsche 356 it would bring six-figure on bring a trailer.

Goober89
Goober89 New Reader
4/18/19 12:02 p.m.

How was the texas gambler? I just found out about gamblers today and I'm already looking for something to run for the next one

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
4/19/19 12:14 a.m.
Patrick said:

I bet if you make a “what car is this” post the forum will have it identified in a day

If anyone is up for it, here are the other two pictures that I took that day.  Keep in mind that this was over a year ago so who knows how much worse the condition is now.

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
4/19/19 12:33 a.m.

In reply to Goober89 :

It was fun!  The on-road route was way better this year, and I think the coordinators took a lot of feedback from last year into consideration.  The downside was that they tried to cram 500 miles into one day, which meant that most teams turned back before even the halfway point.  I'll do a more complete story on it when I get caught up, but for now I want to keep the thread chronological.  You can check out Mazdeuce's writeup of last year's event here.

The Texas Gambler 500 coordinators are planning two additional events this year, and details of those can be found on their facebook page. There is also a separately organized event called the Lonestar Gambler 500 that has been announced for this fall, with dates announced and location TBA.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
4/19/19 7:08 a.m.
Slammo said:
Patrick said:

I bet if you make a “what car is this” post the forum will have it identified in a day

If anyone is up for it, here are the other two pictures that I took that day.  Keep in mind that this was over a year ago so who knows how much worse the condition is now.

It’s a toyota solara

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
4/19/19 7:10 a.m.

I used to work with an incredibly top heavy girl, who's last name was larue. She was always hitting on me. 

This thread title makes ne think of her every time i see it. 

Thats all i got.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/19/19 7:36 a.m.
Slammo said:

At this point I had a functional, lifted Subaru and I was itching to try it out.  There were still a few months before the inaugural Texas gambler, and Jim suggested we go check out Sabine Pass.

I need to do the full Sabine drive one of these days. Fun fact! The black lumpy stuff in front of Busty is a decomposing shale (feels like super gnarly mud) and it's full of fossils from about 30-125k years ago. You can find horse teeth and worm burrows and there are rumors of mammoth teeth. Best time to go hunt fossils is after a hurricane as you have a bunch of new formation exposed. Bring boots and a place to put them in the car. You don't want to get that mud on your car's carpet. 

Goober89
Goober89 New Reader
4/19/19 6:26 p.m.

In reply to Slammo :

Awesome thanks for all the info.

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
4/21/19 10:29 p.m.
Patrick said:

It’s a toyota solara

Nice.

Slammo
Slammo New Reader
4/21/19 10:30 p.m.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth :

I'd like to go again!  Remind me the next time a hurricane passes through and you can come along and explain all the neat geology we see.

Crackers
Crackers Dork
4/22/19 10:02 a.m.

I'd just like to say how amusing I find it that you buy a non-running vehicle and your first priority is to lift it. LOL

Slammo
Slammo Reader
4/23/19 5:47 a.m.

Chapter 6: Gambler prep

January-February 2018

It was clear that the all-seasons weren’t going to cut it for this build.

I got a good deal on a set of five Goodyear Wrangler A/Ts in 225/75R15.  This was the smallest size they were offered, and just about the smallest A/T tire I could find for a 15” wheel.  Still though, they are 28” tall and oversized for the car.

For reference, the 1996 Impreza came with 195/60R15 as stock, the Outback tires we had been using were 205/70R15, and these new A/Ts are 225/75R15 which are 17% bigger than the stock size.  Of course this plays havoc with just about everything from wheel interference to suspension geometry to gearing, but hey, it’s a gambler.

We went about fixing the clearance issues.  Started off with 1” wheel spacers on the front, and 1.25” wheel spacers on the rear.  Yes wheel spacers are awful, but they worked here and this car is not meant to be taken seriously so I just rolled with it.  In the rear the tires were still rubbing a tiny bit on the lower spring perch, but it was good enough for now.

We took an angle grinder to the rear quarter panels to enlarge the wheel openings.  In hindsight this would lead to other issues down the road, but at the time it got the job done.

Quick and dirty is the name of the game when you want tire clearance in a hurry.  We pulled the rear bumper cover off entirely, and an obligatory flex test was performed.  The rear sway bar had been disconnected due to the lift, but the front remained connected.

The front fenders received a similar treatment with the angle grinder.  We ended up folding the fender below the body line because there was so little that remained at the bottom.  A seam in the chassis was also rubbing heavily on the tires at full lock, so that went as well.

The interior had already been gutted but we felt it needed a special touch; enter children’s rugs from Ikea, which covered the plywood floor Jim made for the cargo area.

Not well pictured, but at this point Jim cut a hole in the right fender and made an intake snorkel out of 2” PVC pipe.  We put cheapie LEDs from Ebay on the roof to use as camp lights; these have worked surprisingly well and have been one of my favorite additions.

For a skid plate, I got lucky and found a drop of quarter inch aluminum plate just big enough to cover what I needed at a metal supply store.  I made a template with Cardboard Aided Drafting, measured the angles, and had a shop bend the plate to that spec.

CAD did the trick and the skid plate fit perfectly after holes were added and spacers made to bolt it to existing holes in the lower radiator support, front subframe, and transmission crossmember.

For a total cost of under $110, the skid plate would protect the oil pan, exhaust manifold, and front of the transmission.  We also threw some implement lights from Harbor Freight on the front bumper; these turned out to be absolutely useless.  But with that, Busty was ready for gambling!

Dead_Sled
Dead_Sled Reader
4/23/19 6:41 a.m.
Slammo said:

This whole build is great, but this right here is awesome!

I put those tires on the hearse, they've been great.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/23/19 7:25 a.m.

That skidplate reminds me, I still have that thing for you in the Grosh. Also, the front lights may be useless, but they looked rad on the shirt. 

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