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Jeff’s New Project, Part II: 1988 Subaru XT6

xt6

I mentioned a few weeks ago with the arrival of my 1981 Toyota Hiace that this wasn’t the only project showing up after the departure of my ’87 535is; well, as of last weekend, the “other” project is home and it is a 1988 Subaru XT6! I bought it in September from the original owner, and my brother had been kind enough to store in it Maryland where the seller lived until I got down last weekend to drive it seven hours north to Rhode Island. 

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So, first things first: this car photographs very well. The paint is completely dead and oxidized and the driver’s front fender is bashd in from a careless parallel parker. I pursued this car aggressively for its single female ownership history and because it *seemed* to have a robust maintenance file. However, for oddballs like these, even the best of the breed can be quite needy, and I will have my work cut out for me with this flat-six equipped Subaru. To its credit, it is largely original and has VIN stickers on all the panels; however, the air suspension has been swapped out for standard coil springs and shocks.

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Here’s the interior after about two hours of cleaning. The previous owner definitely treated this as their “second” car, as it was full of detrius like recycling bins and landscaping pebbles. Although she claimed to love it and that she was heartbroken to sell it on, I have found a lot of maintenance missteps to make me question that devotion. I am glad I found a salvage yard with a few Subarus of this era in it, as I will need plenty of parts. I’ll also need a full engine reseal, as the left headgasket is leaking and the oil filter housing is also quite porous.

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Even with a laundry list of maintenance items ahead of me, I can’t help start looking for OEM modifications. In the aforementioned parts yard, I spotted a turbocharged 1988 Subaru RX, which came from the factory with a limited slip differential. It’s the same gearing as the XT6, so this is effectively a bolt-on. I will also be building a custom suspension as there are no direct swap-in parts off the shelf, along with fitting some more aggressive wheels and tires and a throatier exhaust to let that boxer rumble out. Although I have my hands full with projects at the moment, I am looking forward to gradually bringing each of them up to par in the months ahead.

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Comments

  1. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Ohhhh yeah, now we’re talking! That’s a great looking car, Jeff! I can’t wait to see more updates as you get this one to where you want it.

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thank you sir!

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  2. angliagt

    Cool car! I hate those “Mad Mice” seat belts though.

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  3. Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

    The seat belts definitely take some getting used to. Now as I see previous posts for XTs pop up, I am reminded that I *need* a set of rear window louvers!

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  4. Stang1968

    The RX is a far rarer sube than the XT6. How far gone was it?

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Very, very, very far gone Motor / wiring harness stripped out long ago, body very rusty and dash yanked out. I grabbed the body kit and the diff; the vinyl/cloth seats were still there.

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  5. RJ

    I had a 89 XT6 in red with 89,000 miles on it when I got it. The rust never sleeps on these and be thankful the air suspension has already been swapped out. That is what downed mine. Sold it for what I could get. Folks who bought it claimed they were going to fix it, but to this day it sits off behind their house on a hillside sinking into the mud. Very capable cars.

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  6. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    What a cool find! Glad it got you home with no problems. I’ll keep my eyes out during my travels for Subies in junkyards. Be sure and let us know what parts you need!

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  7. Jeffro

    I love these. Tried to buy one a new out of high school brand. However, couldn’t afford the insurance. Nice find. Haven’t seen one in a while.

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  8. Jeffro

    Females are so funny

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      There were some uncomfortable moments when my wife realized I sold one car so I could purchase two new ones.

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      • Jeffro

        “Uncomfortable”…had a couple of those moments. She really flipped her wig when she realized I was stashing cars at other peoples garages. Ex wifes…they are so entertaining.

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    • angliagt

      I get into trouble with “I just want to stop & look at it”.
      I’ve ended up bringing many of those home.

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  9. Josh Mortensen Josh Mortensen Staff

    Nice score Jeff! It looks like a fun project. I’ve been thinking I need to find an old Sube to get me through the winter, but now I really want one!

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thank you sir! I have to admit, it’s been several years since I last owned a Subaru, and I love hearing that boxer warble again!

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  10. Murray

    I’ll say upfront, I have little time for Japanese cars. But leaving that prejudice aside, how could you possibly love the shape of this thing? Granted the engineering side of these things is good and interesting. Its probably a good drive too, but sooner or later you’ve got to get out of it and look at it…….. You could not give one of these away here in Aus…… But while on this occasion I’ll question your taste (also please warn me when you’re going to feature the HiAce 🙂 ) I wish you well with it…….

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Murray, is it that exact quality of weirdness and “what the heck is that thing?” that makes me love it so damn much.

      The Hiace is making slow progress. We’ve sent out the injectors for cleaning to see if we can get to the bottom of its rough running issues. I’ll send over an update once that is underway.

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      • Murray

        Well I guess to each his own, its just something from an era that produced some very ordinary cars, and this one of the most ordinary….. but then I’ve owned an MG TC for 30+ years and Im only 58 so probably shouldn’t be commenting on taste in the first place…..

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  11. Chuck Foster

    Good find, I always liked those, but never had one. I did have a 79 or so Sube FE 2 door hardtop coupe, it looked like it had a chopped top, great on gas, fun to drive. I read somewhere not long ago that these coupes were fairly rare, I banged a car up on icy roads with it in Indiana, pounded out the big dents and it kept driving, until getting rear ended one day.

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  12. davew833

    Is this the one that requires the rare as hen’s teeth Cybrid power steering fluid for its electric PS pump, or is that the 4-cylinder XT? Back in the day, I looked at these as a poor man’s Prelude, but I’ve grown to appreciate their quirky uniqueness.

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Dave, despite some of my initial disappointment with the car, the highlight was finding a brand-new bottle of the steering fluid in the trunk! Never opened! So that should tide me over as yes, it is rare as hen’s teeth (and the system doesn’t play nicely with non-OEM fluids).

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  13. Dan Rider

    I had 2 of these cars, loved them both and they would turn a few heads thats for sure, especially when someone in a “street rod” would want to race, would love to have one back to build as a show car, if anyone hears of one please let me know, located in south east kansas

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  14. -riprock

    Your efforts will be worth it!

    I recently found an unmokested 45k survivor on which even the air shocks work- drove across two states to put her to bed in Tx LOVING the 6’s power at relatively low RPMs with no lag ever- overtook many a newer sportscar and euro-tourers up and down the Rockies. Each time I stopped the was at least one person who “had” to find one for themself- seems to be a shape that has aged well in the collective memories.

    One word about the air stouts: H E A V E N

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