Someone Else's Problem: Slowbaru impossibru: My 2005 Subaru Impreza 1.5 Sports Wagon


Captain Slow Charging
Nov 26, 2007
Atomic toaster

Enter my first JDM import car, which also marks the first occasion of buying a working AWD car.

This is effectively the Demio replacement, which in a way was the Xsara replacement: a largely redundant car bought for the heck of it. Some time ago a bunch of cars were bought in time for the ice track meet, including the rusty Mercedes C280 and a Volvo 245 which was to be exported back to Sweden. On the way to go look at the Volvo, Dr_Grip, Posmo and my brother went to check out this JDM Impreza wagon as it had been for sale for a while and the price had been dropped.

Some backstory: apparently, a Finn working in Japan for a while had received this Subaru wagon from his employer. He brought it to Finland with him, but didn’t go through the importation hoops and instead told a relative to flip the car online. It ended up being registered by the following owner in 2015, and they kept it as a trouble-free second car.

Now, the time came to put it up for sale, but it didn’t seem to sell for the original price close to 2k. As the car was deemed largely functional and rust-free, but came with a bad battery and terrible tires, some extra haggling was done in addition to the advertised price drop and the Impreza changed hands (though, not steering orientation). Some service was performed, better tires mounted and the car made its way north to the ice track meet a couple weeks later.



About the car itself: It represents the “Blobeye” facelift of the GD/GG generation Impreza, which was originally introduced with round “Bugeye” headlights. Most people also know Imprezas as fire-breathing turbo monsters, but instead this is:

- Non-turbo
- 100 horsepower
- 1500cc
- Automatic!

It is stupidly slow. The weight of the drivetrain conspires together with the breathless 142Nm 1.5-liter powertrain, meaning it never really goes. The 4EAT gearbox shifts okay, the flat-four engine runs well, but there isn’t any power. However, on the ice track the AWD drivetrain together with sharp and enjoyable handling made this the fastest car through the cone courses and handling track. Despite its obvious shortcomings it’s actually completely fine. With a tow bar it’s going to be handy, with cold A/C it’s useable year round.




According to available VIN data, the vehicle was built at the Gunma plant on 24th February 2005 and it's a GG3E54R car to be precise, 01G Premium Silver GG3 wagon with the E revision (March 2004 - May 2005), option code ELC (Electric windows, Central locking, ABS brakes, Air Conditioning). Sold new and serviced at Hokuriku Subaru, which has locations in the Fukui, Ishikawa and Tokui prefectures.


The seller also mentioned the center diff binds on this car, and suggested it needs servicing (read replacement) as it’s a common pain point on some Subarus. I guess since this was also mentioned in the ad, it’s a reason why the price was decently low.

The car has no center diff.

4EAT cars do not use a center diff for power transfer. Instead, the transmission incorporates a pack of visco-style Active Torque Split multi-plate clutches in the rear end, before the driveshaft towards the rear. Some 4EAT torque bind troubleshooting googling suggests a through transmission flush with some friction modifier added in the end, which might or might not work. If it works, it’s a cheapish fix. If it does nothing, it’s a transmission flush. In the winter, on snow and ice, the issue doesn’t really matter. We’ll see how it feels in the summer.


Actual known issues that are to be repaired:

Tires are undersized: they should be 195/60R15 yet the new summer tires are 195/50. Will sell the set as the wheels are aftermarket and ugly. 5x100 PCD.

Exhaust blows but also rattles, probably a heat shield is loose.

Sound system has a dumb, partially functional 2DIN touchscreen unit. I will bin it and replace it with something more OEM looking. Top Carrozzeria DVD unit will stay.

Lastsoul ripped the rear bumper off on the cone course, so that needs to go back on and some cosmetic work done. Bodyshell was undamaged but there are some tell-tales of the car being gently rear-ended earlier, so some dings might as well be straightened at the same time.

Other than that, I’ll just enjoy the car. It’s in pretty good condition and any meaningful rust is yet to be found, so I like what I’ve bought. It also feels good to be back in a RHD car again!
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I guess this is like driving a VW Caddy with the SDI. Easiest car to drive in the world. No matter what situation you're in or what speed you are doing, the pedal needs to be on the floor.
Pretty much. And like many SDI Caddys, it has the Postman Pat steering wheel location!
That's weird, you left "address power issue with JDM v8 STI engine and driveline swap" off your list of known issues to be addressed.
Sport.....1.5 non turbo...

What's sporty about this? :)
I've tackled the first annoyances on the car: firstly, the touchscreen unit is now replaced by a mechaless Pioneer head unit I found in the barn. To fit it, I also sourced an OEM Subaru blanking plate for the bottom part of the stereo bezel, so the wires won't show.


I was originally shopping for an original Subaru double din Kenwood, but those aren't as cheap as I hoped. And at least the current unit has AUX, USB and some sort of iPhone support. I did test fit a couple other units as well, but a JVC stereo I had in store turned out to have issues with the detachable front plate and kept cutting off and bugging out. Each small adjustment also necessitated removing the painted stereo bezel/HVAC knob surround and the shifter bezel, so after a while I got tired of stressing the plastic tabs.


Also, one of the heater vents had lost its adjustment knob.


"You complete me!"
I totally missed this, mainly because I was sealing the deal (or rather trying to get my damn bank to transfer money) on my purchase at exactly the time it was posted.

I can't recall ever seeing a base spec Impreza before, the closest I've seen was a fully stickered car with a small exhaust and a distinct not-rallycar engine note. Funny you should mention viscous drive units too...

I didn't expect it to work, but connecting my phone to the head unit with a cable actually lets me play stuff via Spotify. This is handier than I expected and definitely justifies removing the double DIN one (which I also successfully sold on).


I'm also sorting out the parts underneath the removed rear bumper. As mentioned the car's gotten a bit of a nudge in there, probably because of the slowness, and the rear panel is moderately bent. It's straight enough and the tailgate closes, but there's a bit of surface rust here and there I'd like to take care of. The worst looking thing is the rear licence plate support, which is bent in various ways and really rusty.


I thought of getting a replacement one fabricated, but luckily it turns out the part is available still. It comes to 33 eur shipped from Japan (plus customs etc), which is not bad at all. Getting a used one dremeled off a junk car would probably cost the same. I'll jank this one out, clean the surface rust, get the new plate bracked welded in and paint the rear panel. That should at least slow down the rust and reduce the jankiness.


Another thing is that the muffler heat shield is hanging in there by the means of a zip tie, so that needs to be sorted out as well. The general region also needs some rust protection.
TIL you can fit two Mercedes tire sets inside an Impreza wagon and the car's own rear bumper too.


TI also L that there's a button in the end of the wiper stalk to spray washer fluid, pulling the stalk engages wipe but squirts no water.

Didn't notice it at first because the steering wheel obscures it...
Well I've never driven one of those but wow that stalk has a lot going on. They really didn't want to put buttons anywhere else, did they?
The new plate bracket arrived and I'll have the local guy weld it in. Looking at the new part, it's definitely worth it.



I also had a shot at refurbishing the cataract-y headlights, just with a 1000 grit and 3000 grit wet sand and compounding. They didn't magically turn new but the yellowedness went away.



There's some faint hazing and blemishes that sanding and polishing won't fix, but it took minutes to get them to this stage.


Well, it looks far less beat up now. I'll still rust-proof the rear apron and the rear hatch will still probably close like crap until the latch is adjusted, but the car should be able to be inspected now.

Speaking of ... there's the Takata recall for the airbag, and the dealership has ordered parts to perform it. They will take longer to arrive than the car has valid MOT for, so MOT will expire before the recall work is performed. The recall work is a must for the car to pass. Luckily the dealership does inspections so I can just dump the car there and hope for the best...
I know more than a few people that have skated through inspections of various sorts on 'well you need to do x to pass, but the parts to do x don't exist for 6 months. Come back to us to do x and we'll look the other way' in the past year or so.
On the subject of center caps, I had a thought that perhaps there are some pattern part ones that aren't licensed, so are blank already. Something like these:

Then, if you wanted to fake like they are Subaru wheels, get a set of domed stickers, like these:

This is the same place I bought the stickers for the center caps I put on my aftermarket wheels. Quality product. Might make sure they aren't in Ukraine though, seems like they were.
Those center caps seem really good and cheap actually. Original center caps have the logo outline if you remove the chrome rings, I just butchered one to see. I do like the depth in the center if no cap is fitted, but the lugnuts would need some plastic covers at the very least.

I powerwashed the car to get some of the countryside off it, and it looks at least 10% better.

Manoeuvring it on the yard it's clear the "center lock" of the transmission does bind, giving the back end of the car a bit of a weird jitter when you're turning the wheel enough in slow speeds. When the car passes the next MOT I'll consider seeing if it can be serviced in any way. Subaru forums suggest a rush and a push and the land that we stand on is ours a flush and some friction modifier could help, like I might have mentioned earlier might work. We'll see, on the road it's okay. As are the Nexen tires, too! The only annoyance along with the slowness is the wind noise near my right ear.


The guy who fit the rear bumper for me also scratched the rear quarterpanel for me (I paid for both), so now that the car was clean enough I washed the panel and had a go at wet sanding it with a hand tool and some 3000 grit, then buffing it. The scratches went away well enough to call it a success, so I'll probably try some other cosmetic attempts later on as well. The paint on the car has all kinds of issues so I can hobby-fix different scratches and blemishes without making it worse.