Subaru Liberty Project: The New Beginning


Without sounding too lame, I love cars. Genuinely. I don’t know what it is about them, but they have my attention at all times. I can’t remember the last time I went a whole day without daydreaming about cars. If I knew how to explain it any better than that, I would. They are a part of me and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

Lately, I have been neglecting my love of cars, among other things (like photography, design and music) and it’s been very bad for me. About two weeks ago, my friend Alex came and stayed with me for a bit, we got to talking about his BRZ, which I took a photo of below. It wasn’t until I was looking through the photos I had taken that I realized I had been missing cars so much. At that point, I decided to start making a real effort to get back into the things I love, like cars.


Over a year ago, I wrote an article for Zen Garage about how I was going to do a track project in my 2004 Subaru Liberty. I had every intention of doing so, but time and more importantly, money became a real issue. I wanted to do something different and I thought the Liberty would be a great place to start. It’s modern, safe and there is a lot you can do with them, so it was perfect. I deliberately hunted down the most basic model to save every gram I could – it doesn’t even have fog lights. I ended up getting it for a steal and out of the 15 cars I’ve owned over the last 4 years (including two Skylines, an Integra, RS Impreza, B20 swapped Civic and even a Toyota Levin) this has easily been the best/most reliable.

For the last year and a bit, this car has been my daily drive and has never let me down. Not once. Until a few weeks ago, after neglecting it a little bit (again time and money have been problematic lately) when I went to turn it on and it didn’t start. It didn’t even tick, none of the dash lights came on, not a single sign of life. My Liberty was dead.

Or so it seemed…

libdashgifI left it on my lawn for about four weeks. It had less than a quarter of a tank of petrol and I thought for sure it would never start again. The registration had run out too and work/life was getting hectic, so it just fell to the back of my mind. I started borrowing my mums automatic Toyota Yaris and just slipped into this oblivious and repetitive state of existence. I can’t say from experience, but I am sure this is similar to how dogs feel when they get “fixed.” I was pretty unaware of what was going on, but I knew I felt off.  I would wake up, walk past my Liberty every morning, straight to the Yaris and never even think about it. Spiders started spinning their webs from the mirrors to the surrounding trees, rust started to form on the wheels and after a few heavy rain storms, mother nature started to claim it as it sunk into the garden.

One day, I decided to start looking for a new car. My mum had been kind enough to offer to help me out with getting a new car, so we made the hour long trip out to a car dealer to look at a few. I knew I wanted another Liberty, because mine had been so good to me and literally cost me nothing outside of servicing costs. The first one I drove was the 2.5L Luxury edition. It was tidy, nice and a bit fancy. Heated seats, nicer stereo and a bunch of other features made it appealing. My Liberty is the 2.0L one so the extra power was noticed, although it didn’t seem to be as even as mine, with most of the power coming in then dying off around  3000-4000rpm. My 2.0L has much smoother and even power band. This one was also noticeably heavier, which I didn’t like. I then test drove the turbo version, which had a sunroof. I really liked that one, but again it just didn’t drive like my Liberty. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, fast and comfortable, but it just didn’t feel like I would ever be able to call it mine. Granted as well, the 2.5L was up for $6,000 and the turbo was $12,500. I wasn’t feeling great because I just couldn’t afford the nicer one and would have to get a loan that would last years if I bought the $6,000 one, which I wasn’t keen on.

I went home feeling pretty defeated. We had been talking about getting my car wrecked and even called a few places, so when we pulled into the driveway I decided to go sit in my car to say goodbye. As I walked towards it, the sun hit one side of it, that wasn’t particularly spider-webby or dirty and revealed the majestic pearlescent dark blue paint. I tipped from defeated to sad at that point. I sat inside the car and remembered all the good times I had in it, like the day pictured above where I took it for a drive down some of the nicest, twistiest roads Sydney has to offer. It was a great car and I was sad to let it go. I should also mention that a few months prior, a friend and I tried to install a new steering wheel, which ended up breaking the cruise control, horn and left a gaping hole with all these cables hanging out where the airbag was. Definitely learned my lesson there. A mechanic had quoted me $2000 to get a new airbag from Subaru (which ended up being bullshit, but more on that later) and among the other problems, it just wasn’t looking good.

I sat in the car, hands on the steering wheel making “broom broom” noises because I was bummed I didn’t get to take it for one last drive. I got out of the car, closed the door and was prepared to say goodbye. I was convinced that the problem was major, but luckily my mum decided to call the NRMA on the off chance it wasn’t, because as it turns out, it was just a battery issue. No need to point out how embarrassing it is when your mum knows more about cars then you do apparently…

The NRMA guys came out, installed a new battery and the car started instantly after weeks of sitting there with no petrol in it. That impressed me and was pretty much the moment I decided to keep it forever.

The car was alive again!

It needed a bunch of stuff before it would pass the registration inspection, so I got to work on fixing as much as I could. I took it to a new mechanic (one just up the road which is convenient) and after a good chat, he did a good once over and informed me that it was one of the tidiest cars he’s ever seen – he himself owns an STI Liberty, so knows a bit. He sourced me a super clean and light leather steering wheel (major upgrade from the shitty rubber one) for dirt cheap and did a full service, which made it pass the inspection! Everything works in the car and it runs/sounds much nicer than it ever did. I haven’t washed the outside yet, but the interior is super clean – especially after I swapped out the tattered old gear knob with a super cool Likewise one which coupled with the new wheel looks rad.
editedI’ve still got a few more small things to do before it’s actually on the road again, but it’s on the way. Up next I’m thinking some of the blue WRX seats for the front, a new stereo that supports bluetooth or at least audio input (CDs are driving me crazy!) as well as new suspension, tail lights and eventually the engine and gearbox from a WRX. I’ve got big plans cosmetically for this car, and I’m really hoping to see my first track day before the end of this year.

I’ve also ordered one of those awesome Hyper Rev magazines (basically a JDM style guide) from overseas, which should be here between now and never – if you don’t know what they are, google it asap! The important thing is that just now, I’ve gone outside and started my car again, for the first time. It’s alive, it’s mine and I want it to be the car I learn how to properly drive in. One day, I’ll look back and tell the story about how I almost gave up and crushed the best car that I’ve ever owned.

Stay tuned.

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