I've reposted this story across multiple forums at different times, so the phrasing might be a little funny if you're reading it here for the first time. But I thought I might as well share this here in case you haven't stumbled across my project before.
This project has taken entirely too much time and way too much money but in the end I'll have a good story and a fun car.
Alright, so lets begin. I purchased a 2003 Subaru Baja back in 2009, it is my first car that I could call my own and it's been a blast to own. The styling on the Baja I've found to be love it or hate it, for me it's quirky and I think it looks great. I've used it for anything and everything, hauling wood/appliances/sheet metal/furniture, taking it autocrossing, light offroading and mudding, and of course as my daily driver.
It seems like I caught the mod bug, I'd always upgrade something and then a few months later I'd find something else that could be improved, I've spend entirely too much on the various little projects with this car but I guess that's part of the fun. As I was autocrossing, I learned to push my car to the limit and I was surprised at how well the Baja managed to perform snaking it's way through the cones. It was definitely a sight to see. Last year I started thinking I could use some more power, so I looked at turbo-ing my car, after more research I started looking at just buying a newer Turbo Baja but they're really rare in Canada and would be pricey to import, and with this being my first car I have become attached to it somewhat. I Toyed with the idea of swapping a turbo engine into mine but ultimately I decided it would be smartest to just buy a dedicated autocross toy.
Well, I didn't do the smartest thing. In January I saw an opportunity when looking at the SGI salvage auction, a blue 2010 Subaru WRX rollover and the idea of an engine swap seemed like an awesome project. So I put my bid in and purchased this hunk of metal sign unseen for $1500 and payed $500 to have it shipped to my house.
It definitely wasn't pretty when it came. What came after was a whole lot of months of tearing the wreck apart and buying replacement parts to get it back to running condition.
As you can see, everything looks broken and covered in a nice layer of battery acid from the accident. Seeing the Cam gears broken made my heart sink, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the valves and pistons were ok. From the original auction pictures you couldn't tell that the timing gear was trashed. At this point I figured I could at least get money back if I part it out if the engine is trash.
So time to soldier on, had a good friend help with disassembly of the wreck, here's a picture of the interior after we got the dashboard out
Backside of the wreck
The garage at this point, looks positively clean compared to now.
Close up of the timing gear, showing just how bad it looked before:
The rest of the engine bay was covered with a mixture of battery acid and dirt/grass. It was a whole lot of fun to clean up.
Got really nervous when I looked at the turbo, I thought it moved somehow and got really dented on the bottom here. I started looking at used turbos on NASIOC and was not looking forward to paying for a new one, thankfully after looking through the listings, it looks like the legacy style VF52 that's in the new WRX is supposed to look like that. Who would have thought?
Here's some pictures to show just how much force is involved in a rollover, motor mounts split in two and lower control arms found a new exciting shape to be in.
Back to progress:
Freed the motor from the wreak and put it in the garage, was fun moving the hoist around, where the wreck was it's gravel so we put down a sheet of plywood and had fun pushing it up onto the driveway and finally into the garage.
And now the fun starts. Took the motor apart, cleaning as I went. Took the heads off and checking pistons and valves to make sure it's viable. It was a good thing I did since the head aligment pins were all bent by about a cm, so instead of being a straight tube they were offset. Definitely good would have made some interesting noises if I started it up that way.
Yes, the head has a piece broken off on the exhaust. I took the head to a friend who has a machine shop in his backyard and he welded the broken piece back on.
It broke off from the force of the impact. The exhaust manifold cracked on the outer side, but on the inner side it took a piece of the head with it. Thankfully it was repairable and I didn't need to buy a whole new head.
From the looks of the pistons, I'm guessing this WRX has seen a very boring life so far.
I cleaned off all the carbon on the pistons after hours and hours of cleaning using special wipes that apparently are used to clean the carbon off in fan rotors of jet engines. looked fairly shiny after, unfortunately I didn't snap any pictures.
After it was all put back together, put on timing belt and hand cranked it to make sure there weren't any clearance issues.
Look at that fine motor, so much nicer than what it looked like back in the wreck.
painted the intake manifold wrinkle black since the batter acid splash wasn't really my style.
After the timing covers put on, and mostly back together
Had fun and put the scoop onto the hood to see what it would look like
After reading on NASIOC about the oil pickup tube cracking, I took a look at mine and it showed signs of cracking, took it to a good friend who does welding for a living and he strengthened up the tube at the failure points, I'll eventually go with an aftermarket pickup, but for now this should hold. Pictures after I re-installed it.
Once that was done and all together, it's time to get this started
Right before the swap
Settled into it's new home for the next little while
Old and dirty
Taking apart the interior
Taking everything apart, getting it ready to take out
The engine hoist is waiting, patiently...
Transmission is out
And out with the old!
Car has now went from having ~170hp to 0.
Now it's time to find room for the new rats nest. Wiring has been a nightmare beyond believe, my ultimate goal is getting everything functioning and looking as though it was factory. I purchased a subscription to the Subaru technical site which has all the factory service manuals for the WRX and my Baja, so it's been a fun time splicing systems together trying to get everything to play nice and work. Had to make a few custom wiring harnesses when some systems went through connectors on the passenger side when the new wiring has them on the drivers side. Also since the fuse box is located on the side that recieved the brunt of the impact, I had to remake the entire harness that goes to the main fuse box since pretty much everything got damaged on that side.
I decided to use the new gauges from the WRX, partly because they look better and I've gotten used to looking at mine, and partly because when I looked at the wiring diagrams for the cluster it seems like it would have been nearly impossible to get the old gauges working with the new ecu and wiring. I think I had a mini aneurysm looking at that mess on paper.
Made a backing plate from wood and covered it in 3M carbon fiber wrap so that it would fit into the mounting spot of the old gauge in the dash. Here's a picture of a mockup before it was all together. The wrap in this picture is pieced together from scraps I had from previous jobs, the final wrap was done in one piece so it looks much better.
Here's the test fit from before I had the car apart
Here it is all plugged in
And then finally, after months of on and off again working on this project, I had everything ready for the first start. Oil in the motor and all the electricals just put in all willy nilly so that it would just work and I could see if all that hard work would result in a start or if all I would hear would be click click click, or worst, click click BANG!