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Old 06-20-2018, 07:50 PM   #1
jasona
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Default 1977 Wagon low budget retro cruiser project

Well it's been a long time since I've been active on this board I want to make a 'project log' for this car, and this seems like as good a place as any.

About a week and a half ago, I picked up this 1977 4WD wagon. This first post will cover 'purchase condition':

1977 Subaru Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

I had been looking for a cheap summer project but I wasn't really thinking another Subaru until this one kind of fell into my lap. I traded one bottle of Knob Creek whiskey for it. It may or may not have a title - more on that later. With a battery installed, the lights and radio come on but the engine won't turn over. The fuel pump doesn't kick on when the ignition is turned on, and the previous owner believed this to be a problem. He installed a new fuel pump but it didn't help. Again, more on that later. The PO claims he had it driving around the yard until one day it just wouldn't turn over, and he let it sit after that, suspecting an undiagnosed electrical problem that kept power from getting to the fuel pump and starter. There is a parking permit in the windshield from 1984, and the tags on the license plate are from the same year, so I believe it hasn't been registered and road legal since then. A few more pictures:

Meeting your grandkids by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

The wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

The wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

The wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

There is extensive rust on the leading edge of both fenders and on the bottom of the doors and rocker panels. The rest of the car is remarkably rust free, and the interior is in excellent shape. The interior is basically what convinced me to buy the car:

Wagon interior by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon interior by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon interior by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon interior by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr
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Last edited by jasona; 06-21-2018 at 02:37 AM.
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Old 06-20-2018, 08:11 PM   #2
jasona
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Welcome to Fix-A-Subaru Summer Camp

Subaru Summer Camp by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Before we get into building, here's my quick thoughts on where I'm going with this car. I want to keep this low budget, I'd like to target a total cost of around $1000-$1500, minus a couple of splurges I might end up making. The interior is too good to make a trashy / rat rod project, but the exterior is too rough to make a true 'restoration', so I'll be going for a simple driver-quality car. I think I'll be lowering it, and going to a simple old school import / JDM style. I'll stick with the original engine for a while. I've done a swap into my BRAT and while that's completely do-able, it just doesn't fit the 'feel' that I want for this car. So unless I find something seriously wrong with the little 1.6 EA71, it's staying in.

My primary goal is something reasonably drivable, reliable, and decent looking that I can drive around and shoot with my film cameras
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Old 06-20-2018, 08:12 PM   #3
jasona
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After bringing the car home and doing an initial examination, here's what I found. I believe the starter is bad - constant power and signal from the ignition switch is going to the starter but no crank, so that's obvious. Doing some reading, I find out that the fuel pump isn't supposed to turn on until the engine is running, so the previous owner's focus on the fuel pump was just a red herring. The engine turns over by hand and I can feel compression on all cylinders, so at the moment I'm hopeful I can get this thing running once the new starter arrives. But until then, mechanical progress is halted, so I'm switching to appearance.

I started by scrubbing all the old grime off the exterior, first with a rag and water, then a clay bar. It helped a lot.

Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

I pulled the chrome trim off the quarter panel to expose the rust there, and went after it with a sander. Also removed the fender so I could go to work on that rust. I'm only showing one side of the car here, but the same thing is happening on both sides.

Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

After exposing the rust on the doors and rockers, I painted on a coat of POR-15 to prevent future rust, smoothed it out with some body filler, and sprayed it with some primer. In the inner wheelwells I cleaned all the dirt and found them to be mostly rust free (this is a known spot to rust on these cars), so I just blobbed a little splotch of POR-15 on the few spots of surface rust and sprayed on a coat of rattle-can truck bed liner.

Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Moving to the fenders, I sanded off some paint to reveal the extent of the bad metal. A friend brought his welder and we cut out the rust, welded in some patches, sealed it with POR-15, smoothed with body filler, and primed. A disclaimer here: Neither he or I are experienced with this kind of work, so we didn't expect perfection. But it looks alright from 10-15 feet away which is good enough for this project. It's miles better than it was by any standard. Some day I hope to find some unrusted replacement fenders, but this will do for now.

Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Throwing the fenders back on, we have a decent looking platform to start this little backyard project

Wagon by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

There are still a few cosmetics to address, but we're through the worst of it, and I've only had the car for about 10 days now. I'll update again when the time comes.

Last edited by jasona; 06-20-2018 at 08:46 PM.
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Old 06-20-2018, 08:19 PM   #4
awfulwaffle
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Dude!!!
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:04 AM   #5
Zmanwrx23
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this thing is sweeeeeeeeeeet. Can't to see more! One question what bolt pattern are the hubs? You need new wheels lol
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Old 06-21-2018, 05:26 PM   #6
jasona
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zmanwrx23 View Post
this thing is sweeeeeeeeeeet. Can't to see more! One question what bolt pattern are the hubs? You need new wheels lol
They're 4x140mm, which pretty much nobody makes aftermarket wheels for. Fortunately there's a solution: You can redrill the hubs for 6x139.7mm (Nissan/Toyota small truck pattern) and use those. I've already done that to my BRAT and will probably do it again here. It's still kind of limited because even a 'normal' sized wheel by modern standards will look too big, and I'll have a tough time fitting anything wider than 6" under the fenders. The stock wheel is a 13x4.5". I'm going to be looking for something in the 15x6" range.
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Old 06-21-2018, 05:37 PM   #7
craigjoseph
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Not sure what you're looking for style wise, but looking for wheels is always amusing so I figured I'd give it a go!

Found these that might work since they're close to the specs you were after: http://www.bbwheelsonline.com/pacer-...ned-162M-5783/

There are a ton of other wheels on there so you may have some luck.

Happy modding!
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Old 06-26-2018, 03:44 PM   #8
Geeoff
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So cool! looks like you're making great progress.
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Old 06-27-2018, 06:22 AM   #9
ScoobyDoRex
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Awesome! Subscribed.
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Old 06-27-2018, 08:23 AM   #10
D-rock240
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That interior is amazing, can't beat that purchase price either
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Old 07-03-2018, 07:29 PM   #11
jasona
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Quick update: I've done about all the body filling I care to do, so I've started spraying with primer.

Wagon build log 9 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

On the mechanical front, I removed the sheath from the engine bay wiring harness so I could trace individual wires, and I found three fuses hidden inside the sheath, two of which were blown. I replaced those two fuses as well as installed a new starter and voltage regulator (I'm no longer sure either of those were necessary but they were cheap so whatever), attached a fresh battery, and it cranks now!


I had the coil disconnected so it wouldn't start, and I suspect it'll need some more coaxing anyway before it starts, but this is big news IMO. When I started this project I had two major worries, 1: The rust holes in the front fenders, and 2: The fact that it wouldn't crank for unknown reasons. Both of those problems are now solved, giving me high confidence for continuing this project. Current total investment is just under $1000, including some goodies that I haven't mentioned yet.

Last edited by jasona; 07-03-2018 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 07-09-2018, 05:26 PM   #12
Jsubby3
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subscribed.... nothing wrong with vintage
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Old 07-09-2018, 09:03 PM   #13
CreepyCrawl
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Super wonderful!!!!! I bet it smells like Japanese vintage inside killer man, can’t wait to see more.
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Old 07-13-2018, 12:03 PM   #14
Honest Bob
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Sweet find!
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Old 07-13-2018, 06:01 PM   #15
jasona
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My buddy came over with his paint gun and laid down 4+ coats of 'holy crap that's really yellow' on the shell. I'm going to let this set up a couple days then attack it with the buffer. We still have to do the doors/hood/hatch/fenders. Neither of us have painted a car before so I was prepared for lackluster results but I have to say, this ain't too shabby.

Wagon build log 10 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon build log 11 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon build log 12 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon build log 13 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon build log 14 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

This brings the total spent to around $1300 so far, including some new brake and suspension bits I haven't gotten around to yet.

I think I've decided to have the hubs re-machined to a 4x100 bolt pattern. This is more expensive than the DIY 6x139.7 redrill I was considering doing, but 6x139.7 wheels tend to be low offset 'truck' styles, so this will give me a selection of high-offset import style wheels. I've mostly decided to do this because I think these would look great on the car:



They're 15x7 with +10 offset, which will bring the outer wheel surface about 2" further out than the stock steelies. It's going to be borderline whether they fit under the arches without poking out. If they do poke, I think a set of bolt-on fender flares might be on the table. This wheel setup will be one of the places I splurge and break the low-budget rules.

I also found out today that I have a clear title. The seller never had a title in their name, it was last titled in the name of some guy who is dead and his wife. The seller wrote me a bill of sale and promised to see what he could do about the title. A couple weeks ago he tracked down the wife on the old title, and she agreed to go to the DMV and get a new title to sign over to me. The next problem came when the car has been unregistered for so long that the DMV didn't have it in their electronic records and would have to search the old microfiche records, which they said would take a week or two. I got word from the seller this morning that all is well, he has a new clean title ready to hand over when I can meet up with him. I can get a bonded title in Alaska so it wouldn't have been the end of the world, but this is definitely easier and cheaper.
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Old 07-13-2018, 06:15 PM   #16
Fndragn
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That’s awesome! I need a fun project like this.
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Old 07-13-2018, 07:22 PM   #17
A-man07
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I love that yellow and those Drag wheels will look killer. Great project.
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Old 07-13-2018, 09:36 PM   #18
willharp360
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Subscribed. Can't wait to see end result!
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Old 07-30-2018, 05:59 PM   #19
jasona
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Well, painting has taken a lot longer than I expected, mostly due to just finding free time in the evenings for myself and my painter buddy. But this weekend we got together and possibly finished it off.

Wagon Build Log 15 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon Build Log 16 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon Build Log 17 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

We started putting the front trim pieces back in and finally, FINALLY!, got our first real good look at what it's going to look like.

Wagon Build Log 18 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon Build Log 19 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon Build Log 20 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

I bought a gallon of this paint originally, and we ran out of paint while spraying our last panel: The inside of the hood. It's yellow in there but uneven, but it's also only visible when you pop the hood so I'm not too concerned about it. When we get all the doors bolted back on, if anything looks uneven I'll buy another quart so we can spray a little more and even things out, and finish the underhood coat too. But if it looks good as-is I'm just going to roll with it.

I took a little bit of paint and VERY CAREFULLY hand painted the white lettering in the emblems to match the new color

Wagon Build Log 22 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

And here she is. Don't pay too much attention to the fact that the hood doesn't line up here: Neither the hood or the fenders are bolted down. They were still a little tacky and we didn't want to handle them any more than we had to, so they're just vaguely sitting in the right spot.

Wagon Build Log 21 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

I've already done final sanding with 1500 grit on the roof, then buffed it with 4 stages of buffing compound, and waxed it. The rest of the paint is still 'in the rough' and needs finishing, but already I'm personally thrilled with how well this came out.

Last edited by jasona; 07-30-2018 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 07-30-2018, 10:13 PM   #20
Shik
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Love it!
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:19 PM   #21
monkeyposeur
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Super cool!
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:37 PM   #22
CreepyCrawl
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Yup, super cool!!! Can’t wait to see this with the wheels!!
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Old 08-01-2018, 05:28 PM   #23
jasona
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Got the hood, fenders, doors, and hatch properly bolted up last night.

Wagon Build Log 25 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon Build Log 24 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr

Wagon Build Log 23 by Jason Ahrns, on Flickr
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Old 08-04-2018, 04:35 AM   #24
Honest Bob
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You guys are doing a great job. Cant wait to see more progress.
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Old 08-04-2018, 08:21 AM   #25
Rph74
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Wow very impressive work, looking good. Very cool car!
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