[STi-Mlist] Full body armor? Oh yeah! (fwd) (fwd)

I just got back from armoring the underside of my 1996 Impreza LX with 23 pounds of aluminum goodness. Paul Eklund was kind enough to send me the front skid plate and rear differential protector (for a modest fee) just in time for today's rallycross. Norm “Stumpy” Johnson and I did the install, borrowing from Paul's instructions, but making a few changes for our own whims.

Really, I got them earlier this week, but I was too sick to install them, and besides, I had to put together the 1.533 GHz PC that I'm typing on. Heh heh heh. Okay, back to Subaru…

When I got the stuff, it seemed a lot bigger than I had expected. The skid plate shipped as 15 pounds (including cardboard packaging) and is much thicker than I expected. 1/8″ thick just didn't register for me under I held it in my hands. Under the car it stretches from tow hook to tow hook and back almost to where the exhaust meets up. Nice. The skid plate came with four bolts and two 2″ Primitive Racing stickers.

The rear diff protector is big enough to hold two medium-sized loaves of bread. It feels some piece of military surplus equipment, and since it was painted(?) grey it kinda looked like it, too. It shipped as 8 pounds, which included ten pounds of newspaper, gauze, and cardboard, because something that attaches to the underside of the car MUST NOT GET SCRATCHED! The rear diff protector came with two long bolts, two short bolts, two long spacers, two short spacers, four washers, and two 2″ Primitive Racing stickers.

We did the front skid plate first.

The car was jacked up by the front cross-member and then lowered onto jackstands which were placed under the frame in useful spots. We test-fit the skid plate and discovered that my car does not allow the skid plate to be tucked behind the bumper cover. We also located the front bolt holes and cleaned them out.

The engine and suspension cross members are tied together with a little hunk of metal. The little hunk has three sets of holes. I cleaned out two years of baked-in rally dirt with my fingers and various metal implements. We put long bolts with lock washers into the two front holes and put two nuts on the bolts to ensure that the skid plate would clear the exhaust headers.

We lifted up the plate, slipped it onto the bolts, and put on small washers and nuts, being sure not to tighten yet so we could insert the front bolts. Once the front bolts (with washers) were inserted, we finished by tightening everything up. We used the jack to lift the car off of the jack stands and then started it to check for rattling.

Next, we rolled the car forward and jacked up the rear. About halfway up I started hearing a hissing noise from the front of the car. All I could imagine was that the car had rolled onto a screw or something. I ran to the front of the car and discovered the can of liquid wrench jammed under the front of the car. We needed it, so I figured we shouldn't waste it on cleaning the underside of the skid plate.

With the car securely on jackstands we loosened the two bolts holding the rear differential to the rear crossmember and removed the front four bolts. (The instructions and the diff protector itself should illustrate which) This process involved a breaker bar, rachets, wrenches, and amazingly, very little swearing.

Theoretically, one is then supposed to use a 2x4 to push on the two rear bolts (which were only loosened) so that enough space is created between the differential and the crossmember to slide in the diff cover. Our regulation 2x4 didn't fit, and the 3/8″ hunk of plywood we had didn't fit either. I looked the other way as I used a real live prybar to massage the diff into place. Norm slapped the cover into place and we were done.

Oh, wait, no. Then we had to bolt the thing into place. Being high from liquid wrench fumes at that point, we tried to assemble the spacers, bolts, cover, and diff altogether, using all eight of our hands. As the air conditioning cleared the garage and our heads of fumes, we realised that we did not have eight hands between the two of us, and that the lip was on the bracket that the cover bolted to for a reason.

Simply get the diff cover into place, then slide the spacers into place and get the bolts into them through the cover. The spacers will rest on the lip. That was a head slapper. Easy, unless your fingers are still numb from breathing liquid wrench. After a certain amount of cussing we got the correct assemblage of bolts, spacers and sheet metal together and tightened everything down.

I used one of the stickers on my monitor at work and two more on my side windows. My car now has four Primitive stickers on it and one in it, assuming that the sticker on the pressure plate is still there. I wonder if I am on the Primitive team yet. I know my car feels faster for every sticker I put on it.

Someday we will go in an either trim away the front of the plate so it can mate with my bumper or drill new holes. I'm sure that the LX just has a weird front bumper.

I drove away a happy man, and somehow, my car seems to be handling more tightly. We'll see if I really needed it after today, since the rallycross is in six and a half hours. Uff da!

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