Transitioning from just for fun to make it faster.

Bombing this turd around our little track has been a blast but since it refuses to die, the time has come to address some specific issues keeping the experience from the best version of itself. The fact that we get to test some hardware along the way is a major bonus.

The biggest issue has been surprise understeer. It could be a bump, it could be a dip, and any time a tire lost contact with the ground, the direction of travel became determined by inertia, not the direction the wheels were pointed. Suspension with longer travel, and dampening that can be adjusted to suit the surface being driven on would fix this. Solution? Friends at Fortune Auto built a custom set of long-stroke coilovers to test out on the Forester, offroad. NOTE: No, this is not something they currently sell, nor is this the intended use of their subaru coilovers.

With a plan to fix the “surprise” understeer, the next thing to work on is overall traction. I was driving this car when I heard tires squeal for the first time in the dirt and realized just how much traction can be available with street tires under the best conditions. However, the second a drop of rain falls or you hit a patch of grass everything changes, fast. Street tires can get it done in the dirt and dust but to maintain consistent traction in a variety of conditions off-road, I was going to need tires with a more aggressive tread. Legitimate rally tires are out there but they are expensive. Snow tires are popular as an affordable stand-in but I am in Goochland Virginia, and we have mud here. That requires truck tires. And, to get those tires to fit a Subaru required some 15″ rally-style wheels. As seen in a previous post I was able to find a set of wheels & tires at a fair price on Facebook Marketplace that were previously installed on a slightly lifted Forester XT so I knew these would work for my application too.

Getting this to all work together came with some additional challenges. None of this was about the aggressive styling, it was about the functional performance off-road at relatively high speeds. For this to be the most fun, it all needed to happen without any rubbing even with the suspension under full compression, and steering at full lock. No exceptions. The coilover setup and installation were done under the supervision and assistance of the experts at Fortune Auto, at their facility in Powhatan Va. Measurements were taken and the coilovers were installed multiple times with no springs to allow us to test for clearance under a variety of wheel positions. We figured out fast that the front tires were going to rub a good but on a pinch weld at the front. A quick check on the googler found that STi lower control arms are a direct replacement for the ones on the SG Forester. These lower front control arms provide additional castor angle, and, more importantly, for this ugly forester, tire clearance at that one critical point that was a problem. It was also discovered that the rear lower control / lateral bars were as crooked as 4 little politicians who wanted to make sure the car had as much positive camber as possible…. Off to the parts store.

Returning to the lift with a brand new set of STi lower control arms, (new Dorman units found on Amazon here: Left – Right) And, a rear control arm upgrade (by Hardrace purchased from Rallitek) it was time to get this all back together. As hoped, the STi lower control arms provided the clearance needed for the front tires. Sadly, the hardware on the rear suspension started breaking and we were unable to get the hardrace bars installed. Once I got the car back here, not to be completely defeated, a ratchet strap was employed as an EXTRA “safety” in the event that the seized bolt decided to free up. (it hasn’t yet) Because just waiting for the new hardware to come in, allowing the installation of the rear bars before driving this car on the dirt was just not an option.

So how does it drive? Great! It took a little while to find the sweet spot in the adjustments on the coilovers but the car just floats through the course. The bumps are far less harsh, there is no unpredictable understeer, and the car now has more traction than horsepower. A Great problem to have and an easy one to solve on a Subaru.



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