Our Overland GR chassis Subaru WRX got off the ground (figuratively, of course) in Part 1 with new brake pads and rotors from partners EBC. For Part 2, we continue to gird our five-door hatchback for off-road use with a new clutch from SPEC and new exhaust plumbing from Borla. These measures may seem at first glance unessential for our ends (of overlanding, far less taxing than most people's perception of "off road"), but by addressing these areas we're just making our rig a little more prepared and reliable for whatever comes its way.
SPEC came on board with one of its Stage 1 kits for our third gen, which includes a clutch disc, pressure plate, billet aluminum flywheel (with pilot bearing already pressed in—convenient!), throwout bearing, and alignment tool. The clutch disc is designed with an integrally molded carbon kevlar-based organic lining, and heat-treated hub that SPEC says is for strength and long life.
On the Borla Performance end of things, we scored one of their quad-exit cat-back exhaust systems. The bolt-on, stainless steel replacement plumbing is about 8 pounds lighter than stock and features double-walled rolled-edge polished tips, but the real reason you're gonna want this exhaust is because somehow Borla's R&D team found room to tuck the system muffler higher than the OE exhaust, providing a clearance gain of about 1.75 inches.
With the engine properly cooled down, we got to work. In general, clutch installations can be pretty lengthy—in excess of 8 hours often—and are not for the faint of heart, or more beginner of wrenches. At the end of the day, you are literally removing the gearbox from the car, so if the prospect of this is intimidating, either take it to a pro or do your research and have a few extra sets of hands helping out.
With the Subie still on the ground, we took off her top-mount intercooler and unplugged and unbolted/removed the starter.
The clutch slave cylinder was unbolted (but not disconnected) next and set aside out of the way, and two harness connectors on top of the transmission unplugged and tucked off to one side as well.
We detached the rear engine mount by the firewall and angled it upward so it would be out of the way, and then removed the turbo's upper heat shielding, which exposed the factory snail.
With the car in the air, the exhaust came out from the turbo back. Then we disconnected the shifter linkages from the trans, unbolted the front anti-sway bar end links, and drained the trans fluid.
To drop the gearbox, you need to pull out the front axles, which obviously means removing the front axle nuts. We additionally had to separate the front lower knuckle ball joints from their respective control arms.
With very little effort, we were able to pop out the front axles from the trans with a pry bar, making sure not to lose track of the retaining rings on the trans end of the shafts. Then we dropped the driveshaft, undid the bell housing bolts, and got the transmission jack in place.
This is where our progress ground to a halt. In a perfect world, with all the bolts and ancillary stuff out of the way, that gearbox should just fall onto our jack—right? Yeah, not so much. Our trans was effectively fused to the engine of the car—it wasn't going anywhere. After a quick web search, we discovered this issue was actually pretty common, and its solution annoyingly simple: pry the two cases apart. So, starting with a putty knife, we jammed its blade into the crack between the two cases and worked it open enough until we could stick something wider in the gap, and kept widening the gap until the gearbox broke free.
But even then, the box put up a fight! Ultimately we had to put jacks under a solid point at the front of the engine and a solid point at the rear of the car in order to keep it stationary as we rocked and wiggled the trans case off of its studs.
We unbolted the old pressure plate and removed it and the clutch disc, then did the same to the OE flywheel, all of it not looking too shabby since there's only about 80k miles on the car. Then we started the process of putting everything back together, beginning with the new SPEC flywheel, which was torqued to over 50 ft.-lb. and bolted on in a crisscross pattern for even pressure. Then the disc was popped on using the alignment tool included with the clutch kit, followed by the SPEC pressure plate, torqued to a little over 11 ft.-lb.
On the gearbox, we finagled off the stock throwout bearing and put on the SPEC one, using a bit of grease to slide it onto the input shaft.
When we get to the exhaust system part of reassembly, we bust out with the Borla plumbing. It uses the factory hangers and was a snap to install (although it should be noted with a lift a lot of this is easier to do).
Project Overland GR WRX now has a bit more growl and her engine is a bit more rev happy—thanks, SPEC and Borla! Part 3 will be a good one, as we head to RS*R USA to pick up and install our new custom coilover setup. Our project is finally getting lifted! Stay tuned!