I’ve been a Subaru nut my entire life. From being an 8-year-old getting my mind blown after riding in the bed of a Subaru Brat sitting backward (which I still think is insanely cool), to seeing Colin McRae absolutely destroy everyone in his GC rally car, to finally being old enough to buy my own Subies. Now I get to relive my boy racer dreams. You could say my love for Subaru goes deep.
As it is for most Subaru owners, this isn’t my first one. In fact, it’s my third and I didn’t have to save up every bit of cash and eat ramen for the next five years in order to make payments on it. I figured I would buy the one Subaru that I have always had a huge soft spot for in my heart, a ’98 Subaru Legacy GT wagon. The body lines and front end of the BG5 are what ’90s Japanese radness is all about. If you squint at it hard enough, the front end almost resembles an Evo II or even an R32.
Nineties Subarus, in my opinion, are so much cooler than the ugly modern crap you see lately. Granted they may not perform half as well as the newer cars, I find that there is so much more pleasure in their simplicity.
The major thing that sucks about ’90s Subarus (or most ’90s Japanese cars for that matter) is that all the good ones were never destined for North America. Instead, all we got was the dumbed-down “soccer mom” versions of all the turbocharged goodness in Japan. Total bummer, I know, but that means there’s only room for improvement for these ’90s sluggish Subies.
Being the kind of person I am, I am a huge believer in improving the car’s handling before attempting to add power. Since the only way to add serious reliable power to the BG5 platform is to do a swap, starting with the suspension was the easiest and wisest road to take.
For this project, we enlisted the help of HSD and their MonoPro coilovers. In case you were wondering, HSD is the brand behind a lot of the bigger-name suspension companies of which we can’t name. They decided to take their technology and quality into business for themselves and start their own line of coilovers. The MonoPro coilover setup is packed with all the big features you would expect from a top-notch coilover company. Monotube shock design, height adjustment capability, damping adjustment, and adjustable pillow-ball top camber hats are just a few of the features these coilovers have built into the HSD product.
For our BG5 project we sourced a set of ’02 WRX wagon coilovers from HSD that had all the aforementioned features and more. (This way we could set the Legacy up for any condition we wanted.) We did a little research and noticed that even though HSD didn’t have a BG5 specific coilover kit on their website, they offer a kit specifically for the ’02-and-newer WRX wagon. Since all the mounting locations were exactly the same as the BG5 and it’s offered it in the spring rates we needed, we knew this kit would be a perfect fit.
Tools you’ll need:
- Impact wrench (if you have one)
- Wheel lug wrench (if you don’t have an impact gun)
- Wheel chock
- Floor jack (preferably a low-profile one)
- 2 ratchet wrenches
- 19mm close-ended ratchet wrench
- 10mm deep socket fitting
- 12mm deep socket fitting
- 19mm ratchet fitting
- Flat-head screwdriver
- Dremel or any handy cutting tool
- WD40 or PB Blaster
The install of the coilovers is actually a pretty straightforward affair for the BG5 Legacy. Once you get your workspace all cleaned up and all your tools ready to go, you should be able to do this install on your garage floor in less than three hours.
Firstly, pick a corner of the car to start with and get that part of the car securely in the air (use jackstands and a wheel chock) with the wheel off. I picked the front left because the front bolts are usually the most difficult to break free on any car. After blasting every bolt with WD40/PB blaster we started with the bottom two strut bolts. (This is where an impact wrench would have been handy, but I used what little strength I had and a wheel wrench and a close-ended ratchet wrench.)
Moving on to the removal of the brake line from the factory struts. This is where your Dremel or cutting device will come in handy, because there isn’t a notch in the stock bracket that holds the factory brake lines in place. Once you remove the retaining clip with your flat-head screwdriver, cut a notch in the factory bracket so you can just slide the brake lines out. Do not cut your brake lines.
Next come the three bolts in the engine bay to release the top of the strut perch. Once you loosen and remove those, the factory suspension should just slide right out.
As you can see with the side-by-side comparison, the factory springs and struts are a lot larger than the HSD coilovers. Not only does this provide us with a huge difference in weight (HSD’s being substantially lighter), but it also lets us get a little more aggressive with our wheel fitment because of how compact the HSD coilovers are in general. Once you’ve got your factory suspension out, reverse the order to install the HSD coilovers. After you’ve got everything bolted up and in place, use the spanner wrenches to lock down the ride height. (You might have to do this more than once after you put your wheels on to get everything perfect.) Repeat this process for the other side and your front end will be done. Time to move on to the rears.
The rear is almost the same process as the front; the only difference is that the cover over the rear top hat mount needs to be removed with a flat-head screwdriver.
Once you have popped that loose, the rest of the procedures are exactly the same as the front. Before you know it, the car will be done!
Initial driving impressions are shockingly good. Body roll is minimal, even while using the stock sway bars. Overall ride quality is also extremely improved over stock. Small bumps, large bumps, expansion joints, and even speed bumps are no problem for the coilovers. The adjustable damping makes them very livable for everyday driving and even cranked all the way up, the car still feels like it’s on ’rails. The part I like the most is that now I don’t feel like I’m bouncing all over the place when cruising on the SoCal freeways.
Suspension upgrades are a must-do for anyone looking to improve the handling and looks of their Subaru or any car. Granted my stock suspension was over 10 years old, but now the car rides and handles like it got a new breath of life.