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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys,
I am absolutely decided on buying a 1st gen outback in the next month or so.
I am wondering if there is any particular year out of the 1st gens that you would personally recommend, or are they all more or less the same thing with very minor differences (aesthetics, interior options, hood scoops, ect).
I understand that the 2.2L was only produced in 1996 and it's the best engine they could have, but I also believe that the 96's don't have rear headrests, which kind of freaks me out. I also dig the fake hood scoop that the 97+ has and I strongly prefer the wheels on the 98+.
I am looking for the best vehicle possible, mainly in terms of reliability, gas efficiency, handling, breaking, and the ability to be modified. 5-speeds only! Ideally I would like to add 1-2" of lift with the forester strut replacement and buy some dark gray wheels (although I might just paint the stock ones). This will be my road tripping machine, and I would like to have a decent bit of off road capability.
All of the 97+ outbacks I am eying have already had the hg's replaced. Will that be a reoccurring problem or is it something that goes away once newer hg's are in place?
Are the transmissions all the same?
Are there any real differences between the 97, 98 and 99?

Thanks for the help!:29:
 

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1993 Legacy LSi with still functioning Air Suspension, 1999 Outback 2.5L 5MT lab Rat
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If your committed to a 5spd I'd say the 97, the engine has hydraulic lash adjusters which means lower maintenance (no valve adjustments) which can be $pendy, You can add the wheels from later models, can upgrade the headlamps, suspension, etc. Things like the 2pc headlamps can be retrofitted. If your looking at an automatic trans, the 1999, no question. The 99 has the 2nd generation 4EAT which are very durable. In terms of headgaskets the chances of a second, third or more failures have more to do with who's done/doing them, the quality of parts they used and the maintenance that the owner(s) have committed to.
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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2002 Outback Wagon
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I would get the 99 because of a few things. One if you get head gasket problems it's an external leak vs the internal leaks in the earlier years so you don't have to worry as much about overheating as long as your fluids are topped off. Two it's the easiest of its generation to find mods for. And finally I personally think it looks best
 

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98 obw 2.5dohc..auto & 99 obw 2.5dohc...auto
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I would get the 99 because of a few things. One if you get head gasket problems it's an external leak vs the internal leaks in the earlier years so you don't have to worry as much about overheating as long as your fluids are topped off. Two it's the easiest of its generation to find mods for. And finally I personally think it looks best
I beg to differ friend. I just had to replaced the HG's on my 99 OBW. The external HG leaks started in 2000 when the OBWs switch to the SOHC 2.5L. Yes, my 99 has the phase II block that became standard in 2000, but the heads are still phase I and they still had internal HG issues.

I've had a 99 and a 98 OBW and I like both. If I were you, just keep researching. I've learned a lot just by experience, but the biggest thing you should be concerned about is how often the car was maintained and the quality of work/parts put into it. If the HGs were replaced with the updated Steel Shim gaskets, and the heads were properly milled, you will never have HG problems again. That is of course...unless you run the coolant bone dry and crack/warp the heads...
 

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'07 OBXT Ltd. 5EAT, Charcoal Gray; '70 Chevy K10 4X4, 396c.i., lifted; '63 Pontiac Tempest, 326c.i.
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115 Posts
Possibly a different point of view to consider, but I had the '98 2.5LGT wagon and LOVED that car...lower center of gravity (and travel, unfortunately for your purposes), 16" BBS tuning fork wheels (stock), hood scoop, factory spoiler, different front bumper/fogs, body colored bumpers and side moldings, electric antennae, leather steering wheel....I could probably go on and on. Most of all, it was just a dependable car - No major problems whatsoever, and I got rid of it at 185K miles. I seriously regret that.

Sounds like it might be a different beast than you're looking for. However, if you're changing out a few suspension parts anyway, this might be a good contender for you.
 

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98 Outback Limited - CCR EJ22 installed 2006
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Possibly a different point of view to consider, but I had the '98 2.5LGT wagon and LOVED that car...lower center of gravity (and travel, unfortunately for your purposes), 16" BBS tuning fork wheels (stock), hood scoop, factory spoiler, different front bumper/fogs, body colored bumpers and side moldings, electric antennae, leather steering wheel....I could probably go on and on. Most of all, it was just a dependable car - No major problems whatsoever, and I got rid of it at 185K miles. I seriously regret that.

Sounds like it might be a different beast than you're looking for. However, if you're changing out a few suspension parts anyway, this might be a good contender for you.
Funny, i've been thinking about this too. Those GT wagons are sweet. Add OB struts to raise it a bit and call it a day.
 

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'07 OBXT Ltd. 5EAT, Charcoal Gray; '70 Chevy K10 4X4, 396c.i., lifted; '63 Pontiac Tempest, 326c.i.
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I'd love to get my hands on another one and do a WRX swap. Unfortunately, I've already got 2 other projects, and I don't have a money tree growing in my backyard.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Awesome, thanks a lot guys!
Well at this point I've checked out a few OBs, and just today I checked out a 1998 with 150k and in great condition. Mechanic owned (at least for the past few months), and in the last 2000 miles he has replaced the cylinder head gaskets along with intake and exhaust manifold gaskets, valve stem seals and full valve job (including decking the heads), removed clean and lapped all 16 valves and installed with new valve stem seals and valve keepers. New oil pan, valve cover gaskets cam seals front and rear crank seals. Also new timing belt, Waterpump, tensioner and idlers and thermostat, clutch disk, pressure plate,flywheel, pilot and throwout bearing and windshield as well. Good tires as well. He claims it will not need maintenance for around 80k.
The bad is he will take 4700 at the lowest, a front fog-light is broken (bulb and cover, and cage is missing), a side brake light is burnt out and so is one of the 4 'middle' break lights, the window seals are 50% flaked off around the car, there's a small rusted scratch on the drivers door and the driver's window switch is missing.

On the whole, do you think all of this work is worth an extra $1000 or so? I can most likely get an OB in comparable aesthetic condition with previously replaced HGs and belts for around $3800ish, but all of the other work done to it might be worth it in the long run. What do you think?
Also, what should I expect to pay to fix the few issues (lights and such)? I can get the scratch fixed for cheap, it's mostly the cost of the OEM parts that I'm not sure about.

Thanks again, you guys rock
 

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1999 Outback Wagon Green 2.2 swap
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The one thing that swayed me to only look at the 98 and 99 is the fuel tank. I drive about 65 miles per day for work and work 4 day sets. 97 and earlier have a 13.? gal tank, 98 and newer have a 16.9, probably bigger now on the new ones. That means I can go my whole week without the worry of filling up. I know it's a minor issue but it was big enough for me.
Good luck in your search.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Any opinions on the 98 with all the work done? I talked him down to $4500, but that is still pretty high for a 98 with 150000 miles. Is all of that work worth it? I am trying to save cash in the long run...
Or is all of that work just glorified maintenance? The shops around here will do the entire gasket system/pulls/belts/water pump/ect for around $900.
Please let me know what you guys think. I don't know anyone who can give me a good opinion, and I don't have the cash to make a big mistake.
Thanks in advance!
 

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01 Outback H6 VDC, 97 GT wgn w/ ej22, 98 OBW w/ej22
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boy, a lot of info and not all of it correct.

the 97 ej25 does not have HLAs. the 96 did. 97 - 99 have bucket and shim and should be checked / adjusted at 105k.
all legos / outbacks / GTs, 95 - 99, have a 15.9 fuel tank. imprezas may have had a 13.

in answer to the original question, the best to buy, hands down get the 96 outback manual trans. it came with the ej22 engine from the factory. that engine is noninterference, has HLAs, easy to work on, almost never, never has a head gasket problem and it will take an amazing amount of abuse and keep on running.

and you get all of the ''outback stuff''.
hands down this is the best outback suabru ever made.

second would be the 95 outback. but it is really just a lego with two tone paint.

third, any outback or GT with an ej22 engine swapped in.
i'm driving a 97 GT wagon with an ej22 swap and outback struts. i love the the engine, (see a trend here?) and the wheels. i'm 50/50 on the sun roof.
i think the fogs have come in handy only once and they don't do much.
yes to the rear spoiler and the leather.

i drove a 97 outback limited before this and i only missed the height when i sold it so i swapped the struts.
buy what you like and make it into what you want.

my .02

good luck.
 
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