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Jeff’s Project Updates: 1988 Subaru XT6

Not too long ago, I provided a run-down on where my projects stood as it had been a while since I gave an update. Well, the new arrivals from this summer – my first Japanese cars in many years – have been moving along at a good clip. We’ll take a look at the 1988 Subaru XT6 I bought from the original owner last summer, and if you want to catch up on all of the projects in one shot, be sure to read about them here on Barn Finds.

As you can see here and in the top photo, the Subaru’s 2.7L flat-six has been removed by the experts at The Subaru Shop in Tiverton, Rhode Island. My go-to team there of co-owners Craig and Jay have gotten the mill out of the car and will be going about resealing it this week. They’ll also be replacing the noisy lifters, throwing in a new clutch and installing new shifter bushings. As much as the engine may leak, the shifting action is a nightmare!

The next phase (assuming we make it out of the engine maintenance stage without any ugly surprises – fingers crossed), will be suspension. I worked with the guys at Ground Control to build a custom set of coilovers with Eibach springs that will be installed over KYB dampers. I went with 300 lb. springs based on recommendations from other owners, who wavered between 350 being too firm and 275 being better for off-roading. With the kit in hand, I’m eager to eliminate some of the gap in the wheel wells!

Here was a fun surprise: the XT6 has a somewhat complex head unit that is custom-fit to the dash panel. It’s a combination tape deck with multi-function equalizer, a definite throw-back to the awesome 80s. While my car still has the factory unit, the cassette doesn’t work and every button has been worn down to white splotches for lettering. I found this damn near mint-condition unit at A-Burlington Used Auto Parts in Shirley, Mass., which has tons of 1980s vehicles and parts in their inventory.

And finally, if things go south during the engine maintenance phase, I may have to assuage my XT dreams with a stand-in, which is exactly why I acquired this Tamiya model kit that has been out of production for years. I hope it doesn’t come to this, as I’d much prefer to be distracted driving my XT6 without fear of it losing all of its coolant. While this project has been a challenge, I’m having a lot of fun tracking down the parts I need and seeing it come together. Stay tuned!


  1. 68 custom

    these were odd cars yet also ahead of their time with the dash and steering wheel adjusting together. if the motor proves to be to big of a job you could always swap a WRX/STI engine and tranny in there. cool project!

  2. Scot Douglas

    “20 watts per channel, Babycakes.”

    • Jeff Staff

      I giggle every time I look at. Especially since this was probably considered a pretty kick-ass factory head unit back in the day.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      The Highland Appliance television ad!

  3. Woodie Man

    Jeff…not to focus on the pain….but what does a shop like that charge you to pull the engine, crack it open replace and reseal the block?

    • Jeff Staff

      Fair question – $1500 for headgaskets / engine reseal is their going rate. I called around and got quotes for $1275 to $2300 (and that was it, most shops said they didn’t have the bandwidth to do the work in the midst of oil changes and brake jobs, which is what most area Subaru specialists seem to deal with). Final number will be higher once things like replacing the lifters and clutch are factored in (but cheaper than doing it later on).

  4. Blueprint

    Nice vintage Tamiya kit! I also found an old but new in sealed box Revell of Germany kit to mimic my chrome bumper MGB.

    • Jeff Staff

      Thank you sir. The irony is…I bought this one from Italy, as I couldn’t find it anywhere. A week later, one in Florida pops up on eBay. I ended up buying that one, too, because my high bid was 98 cents above the other guy. Waaaay more than I wanted to pay. Oh well, guess I’ll have a spare if I screw this one up….

  5. Josh Staff

    Thanks for the update Jeff! Hopefully things go smoothly with the engine, that can be nerve racking. Looking forward to more updates!

    • Jeff Staff

      Yep. Once it’s out, and torn apart, you really hope it goes back together as intended.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Wracking. The term is “nerve wracking”.

      Sorry, that one just gets me….

  6. Rock On Member

    Speaking of updates Josh, when are we going to get a peak at Jesse’s and your Camaro?

  7. Mike

    I thought about buy a couple of these little cars in the past, but when you a 6′ 6″ and weigh 350 there isn’t much room in little cars, I can’t even get behind the steering wheel on them.LOL

    • Jeff Staff

      The seating position – even for a skinny guy like me – leaves a lot to be desired. You just sit sort of awkwardly high in it, as if you could hit the ceiling at any minute. My hat is tipped to the Germans, who do a bang-up job of giving drivers the best seat in the house.

  8. Jubjub

    I built that Tamiya model back when it was current. Turned out nice. Got really good at them. Probably should’ve stayed small scale!

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