Project GC8: Wheels, tires, bushings and finally a gearbox fix

With each nut and each gasket replaced, I am slowly but surely securing the future of Project GC8 – my 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX Type RA 555 Limited, number 371 of 1000.

This has been a bit of a difficult journey since I bought the car this time last year. Looking back on that unfortunately hopeful super dry-fueled night when a bid was placed on the cheapest blue GC8 WRX for sale all over Japan, I think I probably saved it from Breakers Yard.

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New colors

An annoying knock from the engine and a gearbox that refuses to keep 3rd gear engaged, the car was not without problems. But I saw the possibility. I saw a rust-free car with decent paint, which (by WRX standards) was not mechanically and cosmetically relatively unmolested. Fast forward to 2022 and the long list of repairs is finally getting much smaller, and much less expensive.

After doing some Gremlin work, including a dirty timing belt and a dirty throttle position sensor, the rebuilt (in my kitchen) engine is now running smoothly. But my success with the engine was overshadowed by the broken transmission, driving the proverbial real pain. Finally though, after a year of religiously checking Yahoo! Auction, I was able to buy a replacement type RA gearbox. We’ll get to that soon.

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While I was waiting for a transmission to present myself, I had plenty of time to solve a few cosmetic problems, the first of which was the colorless bonnet. Originally, it was a factory subaru bonnet supplied with a heavy black protective undercoat. It wasn’t pretty and almost annoyed me like a faulty gearbox.

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A one-day trip to Shizuoka Prefecture to see Ishikawa’s body soon caught the eye, and quickly Impreza moved from a junkyard runabout to a respectable road car. Unfortunately, I formatted the flash card I used to shoot the painting process. Before I am downloading the pictures, but you can see some videos on my Instagram.

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New shoes

The paint of the type RA looks smart, it was time for the old girl to buy a new shoe. It was not only a cosmetic upgrade, but also a safety issue.

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Ever since the car was brought back from Tokushima I have been driving on a set of old Dunlop Dereza tires, a 12 hour non-stop drive. Dunlops could have been decent if they were new, they were quite worn and started cracking around the edges. I knew I wanted to upgrade my wheels, so it seemed like a good time to kill two birds with one stone.

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To upgrade from the 16-inch RAYS-made STI alternative gold wheel fitted to the type RA, there was really only one option – the 17-inch RAYS-made STI alternative imitation monoblock gold wheel. After all, the GC8’s nickname is ‘Classic’ Impreza, and nothing more classic for WRX than blue and gold.

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I got a 17-inch set in better condition than my 16 and ordered some Yokohama Advan Neovas in the form of 215 / 45R17 to wrap around them. Apparently, I should have gone for a higher profile to give the tires a more chunky look, but I’m still pretty happy with the way the new setup looks and feels now.

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I think you will agree that they give the car a much more square-off look.

In terms of performance, I have definitely noticed both excess weight and excess glue. It seems more effort is needed to get the car off the line with the big wheels, but it holds the road better now.

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Keep it tight

After 23 years and 170,000km of driving, some of which were undoubtedly track clocks up, most of Project GC8’s suspension and chassis bushings turned into mosquitoes. Then it’s time to upgrade some rubber for poly bushing.

There are several points of squishiness with the drive train that need to be addressed, one of which is the rear deaf outrigger bushing. I thought these poly inserts with aluminum collars would help keep things in place – and they did – but the extended NVG was unbearable, so I removed them immediately. I have to go the more difficult way of pressing the old bushings and inserting some proper bushings from the whiteline or powerflex.

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On the way to my replacement transmission, I wanted to make sure that the feeling of shift during 3rd gear shift (and stay) would be strong and positive. These shifter linkage bushings from Whiteline are easy to install and tighten things.

I had already installed the Casco engine and transmission mount when I rebuilt the EZ, but the pitch stop mount escaped my attention and became even more squishy. An STI replacement came in a lovely VCI-paper (doesn’t feel better than this) and fixed the problem immediately.

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I’m Yahoo! I also got an STI carbon fiber strut tower brace – something I’ve been wanting for ages – so it worked.

Daily Grind

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As far as subaru gearboxes go, the 5-speed STI is much weaker than the 6-speed. In the secondhand market, the 6-speed, however, is almost three times the price of a 5-speed, and before that it depends on the cost of the rest of the drivetrain required for the replacement.

So I decided to find a functional type RA box to enjoy driving for at least a while before moving on to the next project.

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As I said before, this gearbox took the best part of a year to find. This is only the second time I’ve seen it come up for sale on Yahoo! Auction. I missed the auction deadline for the first one and lost my chance, so I won’t let that happen a second time. I followed the bidding carefully and was lucky.

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While the Type RA was not necessarily a rare car, there were certainly not many made like the standard WRX STI, so it is hard to find one that works today. When it comes to their transmission, the older they get, the weaker the gears are obviously something about stress fatigue. The replacement gearbox I bought traveled 70,000 kilometers less than the broken gear in my car.

Here’s how I switched …

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While unloading the oil from the destroyed box, I noticed an explosion of psychedelic glitter in my oil pan. This is Ground-Down Gear Dust, which despite its JDM-Ness is unfortunately worthless. Ebay

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As soon as the car was safely jacked up, I proceeded to remove the down pipe, intercooler, starter motor and tail shaft. I then removed the bolts that secure the transmission housing to the engine block. There are also pins that need to be removed from the drive shaft and shifter linkages.

Transmission supported, I unbolted its subframe.

Absolute Disclaimer: This is not a completely safe way to completely ghetto and reduce a transmission. But in what I was doing I felt comfortable and took everything very slowly, double checking the balance of the heavy transmission with every inch.

While navigating the transmission tunnel I lowered the gearbox back and forth, the drive axles popping off (fairly forcefully). And with that, the gearbox for a safe landing I gently jumped into the cardboard boxes below.

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60-odd-kg faults are being found Out From the bottom of the car was the most obviously easy part. It was easy enough for me to do by myself as I had gravity.

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Getting a replacement unit Inside On the other hand an extra pair of hands will be needed.

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The new Beatrush transmission subframe bushing is ready, I organized to help my partner Aaron pick up the new box. With the promise of a Ramen dinner as a reward, he was happy to provide some extra muscle.

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Aaron drives the pretty Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 and it’s part of a good cup.

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I won’t bother you with the details of fitting the new gearbox, because it was the reverse order to get the old one out. Although I would say, I’m glad Aaron was there, because lifting the transmission off the ground and lining up with the engine – even just a foot away from the ground – was almost impossible for me.

Final swallows

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After a successful installation, a test drive confirms that the new transmission was trouble-free, and tightened and grooved all new bushing things. But even then there was an unpleasant sound coming from somewhere, which was no doubt spread by the thick bushes.

I checked all the wheels to carry the jolt but everything seemed to be fine, so I shifted my focus to the rear def, which I replaced with a GD WRX with a low-mileage unit. The noise continues.

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It seems that a defective wheel bearing does not always present itself as a swing wheel, so I will fit a new hub and bearing both front wheels and hopefully pick it up.

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I also found a box of bushings for different mounts, side links and control arms. Then there‚Äôs more paint, interior trim, then some hassle-free, enjoyable driving. Sounds like a track day …

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