Shopping: Real Estate |  Costumes  |  Guitars
This Issue Archived Articles Blog About Us Contact Us

RS Kicking Wagon

Performance, handling, braking and versatility from a modified Subaru Liberty RS wagon.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Subaru Liberty (aka Legacy) RS wagon
  • Bolt-on mods
  • Versatile, reliable and plenty of performance
  • Dual-mode steering
Email a friend     Print article

A modified car is often not a practical car. Sound systems munch up vast amounts of interior space, excessively lowered springs sacrifice suspension travel and monster turbochargers destroy driveability.

Well, here’s a modified car that has none of these flaws. The owner uses it for snowboarding adventures, drives it to uni every day and hits the racetrack whenever he gets the chance.

Say hello to Mr Versatile - the Liberty (aka Legacy) RS turbo wagon.

Click for larger image

Owned by Pat Gorr of Melbourne , this RS wagon is one of only about 100 imported into Australia in the early ‘90s. Pat purchased his RS in early 2004 with 165,000km on the odometer and having received a WRX head conversion (a common fix for Liberty RS lifter problems). The previous owner had also fitted an STi VF24 turbocharger (after the stock VF12 died) and supplied a 3 inch exhaust with the car.P>

Click for larger image

Pat loved the all-round performance of the mighty Liberty but after 12 years and almost 200,000 clicks, the original suspension was feeling tired. Understandably. Patt decided against a strut overhaul and opted for a set of Tein adjustable coil-overs (which are currently set about 2 inches lower than standard). The understeery handling was further improved with Whiteline front and rear swaybars, heavy-duty rear swaybar links, anti-lift kit, stiffer bushes for the rear control arms, and adjustable front strut tops. A carbon-fibre strut brace is fitted at the front and a rear brace is soon to be installed.

The standard 15 inch alloy wheels were discarded to make way for a set of MY01 Impreza WRX 17s, which were sourced from a mate (at the right price!). The rims wear Toyo R1-R semi-track tyres for tremendous cornering adhesion. Pat says these mods made heaps of difference to the RS wagon’s handling and feel. There was now balance and poise to match the traction delivered by the Subaru AWD system.

Click for larger image

Under the bonnet, Pat applied some of the knowledge he’d gained mainly through the Liberty RS Club forum. The first switch was to a larger VF34 ball-bearing turbo (ie STi Spec C) which bolts to the standard exhaust manifold. The compressor inhales through a K&N pod filter and blows through a Hybrid-type front-mount air-to-air intercooler measuring 600 x 300 x 75mm. Custom mild steel plumbing connects the 3 inch inlet and outlet fittings of the new ‘cooler.

For optimisation of fuel and ignition, an A’PEXi Power FC (intended for a pre-1996 WRX) was plugged in where the original Subaru ECU normally lives. The FC commands a set of 560cc upgrade injectors teamed with a Bosch Motorsport fuel pump. The standard direct-fire ignition system is prone to breaking down when pushed beyond standard so a Bosch coil pack is now in service.

Click for larger image

Boost pressure is controlled by a stand-alone A’PEXi AVC-R electronic unit, which is currently programmed to give a maximum of 1.1 Bar (16 psi). A Bosch plumb-back blow-off valve (pulled from a Japanese import Impreza STi RA) prevents boost leakage.

Pat destroyed two standard Liberty RS gearboxes before stepping up to a later-model Legacy GT twin-turbo ‘box, which has slightly greater strength, closer ratio gears and a shorter final drive ratio. Pat says he’s done around 40,000km with the Legacy twin-turbo gearbox and he hasn’t had a problem – fingers crossed! The clutch is a twin-friction (ceramic and organic) full-face Xtreme job, which Pat says hooks up nicely and gives smooth operation.

At the time of photography, the RS wagon was yet to receive a fine tune on the Technic Tuning chassis dyno. Still, with 1.1 Bar (16 psi) boost and a lot of tuning yet to be done, the car has already pushed out 176kW at all fours.


Given the standard Liberty RS Turbo makes 147kW at the flywheel and accelerates down the quarter mile in around 15.0 seconds, you can expect Pat’s example to run a low 13/high 12 (given a good launch). And there’s no trade-off in starting, idle quality, fuel economy or engine reliability.

And don’t forget the practical advantages of the wagon body.

Click for larger image

Pat often folds the back seats forward to load ‘er up with snowboards, which means an over-the-top interior fit-out is out of the question. Effective mods to the cabin include Japanese-spec WRX front seats, a Blitz AC Racing boost gauge and an AVC-R unit (which folds behind a console flap from a Liberty LX).

Click for larger image

The audio system is improved with custom enclosures around the rear wheel arches – the right-side enclosure is dedicated to a Kicker amplifier, while the left enclosure contains an Alpine 12 inch sub. The rest of the system comprises a pair of Cadence front splits, Kenwood rear ‘fills’ and a Pioneer 5550 CD/tuner (with MP3 and WMA compatibility).

Click for larger image

The conservative wagon body has been treated to a full re-spray in the original Subaru burgundy (needed due to multiple scars from shopping centre car parks) and Pat has bolted on a Japanese-spec rear spoiler for something a little different. The white-painted 17 inch Rex wheels and Phillips H4 Crystal Vision headlight bulbs add to the cause.

Click for larger image

Look behind the white spokes of those WRX wheel and you’ll see the brakes are enhanced with upsized MY04 WRX 4-pot calipers and slotted rotors. ABS brake control came fitted to all RS wagons.

Interestingly, Pat has also fitted the variable assistance steering rack from a Japanese-spec Legacy RS. The Japanese Legacy GT rack employs a dedicated computer to control pump speed – and it makes a tremendous difference to steering feel. At the time of our photo shoot, a toggle switch was used to swap between ‘firm’ and ‘light’ steering modes.

Click for larger image

When venturing onto the racetrack, Pat says his RS wagon isn’t the quickest thing attacking the apexes - but there’s no overlooking its bang for buck. Most of the other cars running similar times ride home on the back of a trailer... Interestingly, Pat has parked his RS on a weighbridge and discovered that its total kerb mass is 1440kg (with him in the driver’s seat).

Not long after our photo shoot, Pat leapt at the opportunity to buy a second-hand heavy-duty dog box and ceramic clutch. With the strength of the new ‘box, Patt can bump up the boost pressure to 1.2 Bar (18 psi) without fear of destruction. This slight amount of extra boost should get the car running to the tune of around 200kW at the treads.

A nice, round number for a very well rounded car.


Technic Tuning                                                  +61 3 9495 1683

Did you enjoy this article?

Please consider supporting AutoSpeed with a small contribution. More Info...

Share this Article: 

More of our most popular articles.
Introducing... Vortex Generators!

Special Features - 26 September, 2006

Blowing the Vortex, Part 1

Getting a handle on digital and analog signals

DIY Tech Features - 17 February, 2009

How to Electronically Modify Your Car, Part 10

Developing a cutting-edge human-powered vehicle

DIY Tech Features - 12 May, 2009

Chalky, Part 1

Less than 1 litre/100km fuel economy from this stunning concept vehicle

Special Features - 3 May, 2011

Volkswagen's Eco-Stunner

How to cheaply see what mixtures your car is running

DIY Tech Features - 16 September, 2008

Monitoring Factory Oxygen Sensors, Part 1

A home-built jet-powered kid's scooter...

Feature Cars - 23 January, 2007

John's Jet Madness!

Could it make a comeback?

Special Features - 12 May, 2009

Steam Power!

An auto trans cooler that will cost you almost nothing

Technical Features - 12 February, 2008

Cooling the Trans

Great bits for the inventive

DIY Tech Features - 31 March, 2009

More Parts for Nothing!

A few cars to keep an eye out for

Special Features - 6 April, 2010

Collecting Japanese Cars

Copyright © 1996-2020 Web Publications Pty Limited. All Rights ReservedRSS|Privacy policy|Advertise
Consulting Services: Magento Experts|Technologies : Magento Extensions|ReadytoShip