By on August 26, 2014

07 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLiving in Denver, I see tremendous quantities of old Subarus in local wrecking yards. Subarus after about 1985 don’t make it into this series (unless they’re XTs or SVXs or 4WD Justys), but the Legacy 4WD sedan is quite rare even by Denver standards so I made an exception for this car.
13 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has a key, which means it probably came from an insurance company auction rather than a city tow yard.
02 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust barely over 100,000 miles on the clock.
15 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy 1997, all Legacies sold in the United States had all-wheel-drive, but this was still special enough to warrant these “AWD” badges.
12 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy this point, the Outback wagon (still bearing Legacy badging) was so much more popular than the Legacy sedan in the United States that most of us forgot that you could even get this thing in a three-box car shape.
04 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese engines remain legendary (get it?) for blowing head gaskets.
14 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in Denver, crushed in Denver.

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1997 Subaru Legacy AWD Sedan...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    “This one has a key, which means it probably came from an insurance company auction rather than a city tow yard.”

    Given the lack of damage I’d assume it’s a flood car?

    • 0 avatar

      All the Colorado flood cars I’ve seen so far (which is plenty) have been packed full of dirt, silt, pine cones, organic materials, etc., and most of them were beat to crap as a result of being tumbled down stream beds. It was a very violent flood, not your gradual water-rising sort of deal.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        I’m not sure about Colorado’s weather, but don’t you have regular heavy rains? A friend of mine was parked in a lot with poor drainage and during a heavy thunderstorm the water rose above the wheel hubs (but not into the interior) but the insurance company totaled it despite it being a new $50k car.

        • 0 avatar
          Felis Concolor

          CO has tended towards dryness the past 20 years. In fact this summer has been the wettest seen since ’90-91, and the landscape has turned an uncharacteristic shade of green as a result.

          The carnage on Pike’s Peak is really bad; the Sierra Club’s kept unusually quiet about their forced road construction as you can see the increased erosion from the paved surface worsen on a daily basis this past summer.

        • 0 avatar
          honda_lawn_art

          We get some downpours from time to time that will flood parking lots or streets, I imagine much like many other cities. We’d normally not total an old car for a little water in the floorboards, but that’s not to say that couldn’t have happened to this car. A few cars floated out of the parking garage last year where my brother lived, no mud necessary.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “We’d normally not total an old car for a little water in the floorboards”

            It is my understanding that most insurance companies would.

      • 0 avatar
        turvo

        True, I was just on a side street in Loveland today along the Big Thompson River and there was the mangled remains of either a mid 90’s Dodge Ram or a late 90’s F-150. Almost impossible to tell it was so crumpled and covered with debris.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This one is fairly easy to diagnose. It met it’s fate either with the head gaskets failing or a neglected timing belt replacement. Both seem a bit early in its life for that.
    My theory is that the timing belt broke a while ago and the owner had every intention of fixing it at first. But time got away from them and it sat, perhaps under some sort of cover, for several years. With the key there, I doubt insurance was involved based on the age and condition, but more likely someone may have given it to the junk yard to get it rid of it.
    Not a lot of love for this generation in non-GT guise. So not worth fixing.

    Edit: After seeing the seat covers and the windshield appearing to have been wiped fairly recently, I guess it probably didn’t sit long.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Jeez, those seat covers hurt the eyes. I’d rather have dirty seats.

    And a riveted dealer badge in 1997? I would have made them repair that.

  • avatar
    Fenian

    I’m pretty sure a 1997 Legacy L would still have an EJ22 which was a very reliable engine, especially compared to the early EJ25s and their problematic head gaskets.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Correct, Outbacks and 2.5GT models had the 2.5.

      Supposedly enlarging the EJ motor to 2.5 liters, which it was not quite designed for, is a major factor in the well known Subaru problems, i.e. headgaskets on the NAs and piston ring lands in the turbos. 2.0 and 2.2 motors suffer neither of those issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        I thought that was addressed when the 2.5 switched from a dual to single overhead cam. I had a 2.5 Impreza from 2000 that lasted 98K before it was hit but had no problems other than failing O2 sensors and a spark plug wire. Of course the WRX (2.0L) I replaced it with has had no mechanical issue at all in 145,000 miles with a timing belt change at 110. Looking forward to spending this weekend replacing the brakes again, but that’s a wear item.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    We still have a 1998 Legacy GT wagon with 237k miles. It has the 2.5 engine rather than the 2.2. The head gaskets started leaking several years ago but the repair seems to be holding. Timing belts are supposed to last to 105k miles but we had to put in our 4th one early this year. That works out to a life expectancy of only 75k to 80k miles. Since the engine is an interference design, a broken timing belt is fatal. I wonder if the current models are any better.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      How did you know the life expectancy of the timing belt? I believe the ej25 is an interference design motor, a broken belt would need a new motor. I do know a guy who sells used Subarus who claims you just inspect the belt periodically and don’t need to change it. No idea how he knows that, we replaced the one in our 2005 Outback XT at 105k as directed no issues.

      The new Subarus all have new motors the EJ is gone (except for the STI) new FA/FB is timing chains now so no more belts.

      • 0 avatar

        Power6, Subaru recommends timing belt replacement at 110,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        johnhowington

        “a broken belt would need a new motor” wrong. the heads need to be removed and the pistons inspected. often they are fine, and the bent valves need to be replaced on the cylinder head.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          @johnhowington right I should have been more specific, just saying it is an interference design so most likely you bend valves if the belt breaks.

          @Budda-boom the recommendations have changed over the years. I haven’t seen 110k before myself, but the 2 Subarus I have owned (09 WRX, 05 Outback XT) have 105k intervals specificed. Close enough I actually had ours done at 100k. 5k either way is no big deal.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I had a 95 – same model – only blue. A decent car – unstoppable in the snow. I never liked the frameless windows, they always seem flimsy and ready to come off the tracks. There was also a bit flutter from the hood -especially at highway speeds, which was a bit unnerving. No real problems in the 5 years we had it – traded it in on a new Mazda MPV as our family had outgrown the Legacy.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Agree on the flimsy windows. My Impreza wagon (97) made pretty ratty sounds when you closed the door and the windows weren’t all the way up. They rattled around. However with windows fully closed, they made a nice tank-style door click sound.

      Overall I was just not impressed with that car. Pretty flimsy all around, lacking in interior quality, and pretty used up despite being at 85k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Subarus have rattly and somewhat flimsy interiors. It just comes with the territory. Owners put up with it to get full-time AWD and Subaru’s characteristically good packaging in fairly cheap cars.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The sixth picture down shows the emissions label, which also shows that this has the 2.2 engine, which doesn’t suffer headgasket issues the way the 2.5 does.

    Tisk, tisk. You should have noticed that Murilee.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2.2 suffers lots of head gasket issues as well. The 2.5 just gets all the press.

      • 0 avatar
        johnhowington

        “a broken belt would need a new motor” wrong. the heads need to be removed and the pistons inspected. often they are fine, and the bent valves need to be replaced on the cylinder head.

        “The 2.2 suffers lots of head gasket issues ”

        wrong. the 2.2L of yore suffer from oil leaks and water pump failures. the head gaskets are rock solid.

        “lacking in interior quality”

        this is a matter of opinion but mine counts, and yours is wrong. the interior quality in 2000 slowly started to suffer, by 2005 plastics replaced injection molded dashes, and 2010 introduced full on plastic fantastic.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        There were two types of 2.2. The first had at least two kinds of rocker arm design over the years. Your basic bulletproof engine. Never heard of head gasket issues on those.

        Gen 2 came out when the EJ25 went from DOHC to SOHC for the ’99 model year. I had one of those 2.2s, absolutely the most reliable car I ever owned. But, you could get oil burning issues due to stuck piston rings on that generation. Oil changes required on time.

        Source, my pal the ex-.Audi mechanic who went to Subaru, won three national master mechanic championships and went to Japan for the main world Subaru championship in 2004.

        He rebuilt EJ25s until they came out his ears. Always had three or four lying around his work station waiting for parts. Showed me stuck rings galore, scuffed cylinder walls on thrust side only and only at the top.

        The DOHC early EJ25 used to scuff the cam bearings due to oil drillings being too small for people who forgot to change oil. The headgaskets would leak externally. The later SOHC headgaskets leaked internally instead.

        My 2.2 used no oil at all despite sounding like a bag o’ bolts on start up, traded it at 155,000 klicks for ’08 Legacy GT. A different mechanic-bought it from the dealer. Never heard of any 2.2 having HG problems unless it was the early turbo ten years earlier.

        The later 2.5 turbo that I own now doesn’t blow them either, but breaks piston ringlands when you install
        aftermarket soup-up kits, just like the STI does stock from the factory!

        You look at a SOHC EJ25 block – the cylinders sprout out of the block completely unsupported, just ready to vibrate. The 2.2 is the same, but, crucially, the cylinders are thicker due to the quarter inch smaller bore.

        The turbo 2.5 has metal from the top of the cylinders to the block to steady them. No problems there. Here endeth the lesson.

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    That would have been a pretty recent car when I was living in Glendale and Aurora going to UCD in 2001-2004. There’s something supremely quirky about the Legacy sedan that I really like, but I don’t know if I’d buy one. It was my go-to car for Gran Turismo 1 and 2 though…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’d go for the unicorn Legacy Outback sedan or Legacy GT sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnnyFirebird

        Sadly GT6 doesn’t have any of the Outback models, you can drive a Japan-only RSK ’98 or a 2.0 GT ’03. Lame!

        For my real life dumb car purchasing I have a savings account that will one day materialize into a C4 Corvette for me and the BF.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Last Friday at the auto shop I saw an Outback LL Bean H6, the rarest one! Parked next to it was a BROWN final model Saab 9-5!

          On my way there, I saw a gen1 Passat TDI WAGON!

          It was a special day.

          • 0 avatar
            blppt

            Didnt that have the optional McIntosh sound system? I always wondered how that sounded.

            The base Panasonic HU in my parents 99 L was terrible.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        I still own a 1999 Legacy SUS (Outback sedan before they were badged as such). Its head gaskets lasted to ~140k before they blew. And so it still sits in my driveway collecting accumulations of pine needles and crepe myrtle blossoms.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Sort of sad but if they blow , they blow I guess .

    FWIW , my Son who’s a raging Subie fanatic , says running further than 80,000 miles on the timing belt is a grenade with the pin pulled ~ we see lots and lots of them in Junk Yards with broken timing belts and catastrophic engine damage ~ he builds good used engines out of them just as I did 40 years ago with old Air Cooled VW engines that had dropped the # 3 exhaust valves and crunched up the pistons and heads ~ I could usually make one very nice engine out of two bad ones plus have lots of ancillary parts left over to sell as Service parts .

    Apparently Subies are the new VW….

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      I think the entire EJ series is directly based on an old VW design.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        And your thinking would be incorrect. The early ohv flat fours Subaru made in the 1970s were no doubt inspired by the Borgward Lloyd flat four, a fascinating West German company that went broke in the early 1960s. Read about them at CurbsideClassic.com. The joke was that Subaru even copied the front crossmember from the Lloyd.

        But by the late 1980s, Subaru needed no help to design the EJ15, EJ18, EJ20, EJ22, EJ27 six and EJ33 six for the SVX.

        The VW Wasserboxer was a low rent ohv flat four they shoved in VW Vanagons in the 1980s. It had a 3 main bearing crank, and was more a copy of the Subaru F already running around in Leones, DLs and Brats since 1971 than anything else.

        The EJ four was a 5 main bearing die-cast block, except for the proper tough sand cast block used in the 1993 WRX EJ20 Turbo. Made it to North America for about 3 years in bugeye WRXs. Those things have to he hit by large rocks to kill them.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    112k? Had to be the timing belt, and the owner just said “Screw it” when faced with the bill for a new/rebuilt engine.

  • avatar
    blppt

    My parents had a ’99 30th anniversary L sedan with the 2.2. It was surprisingly peppy for being AWD with a 4 speed slushbox. Revved really nice to redline, too. I remember being really impressed with how it felt in corners. Was it fast? Heck no, but it had more than enough power with the way it was geared.

    Honestly, it felt far peppier than my 2008 Mercury Milan which had the benefit of 20 extra horsepower and an extra cog in the automatic. Plus, no extra parasitic drivetrain loss due to it being FWD.

    Granted, with the windows lowered, the door felt rather flimsy when closing (frameless windows), but unlike the 96 Neon my parents also had at the time, there wasnt any air leakage at highway speeds.

    Edit: that 99 was a 2.2, with the slightly uprated 142hp for that year.

  • avatar
    davew833

    1997 marked the year that the EJ22 was modified and became an interference engine. Previous to that, from the time the EJ22 was introduced in 1990, if your timing belt broke all you had to do was replace it. Another possibility here is some kind of transmission failure such as torque bind caused by running mismatched or unevenly- worn tires. If the seat covers and cheap wheel covers are any indication, the owner probably didn’t pay much attention to keeping matching tires that were all within 1/4″ of each other in circumference on the car.

  • avatar
    PolestarBlueCobalt

    I’m just sad because someone threw away that Blue Saab 9-3 in the back. Who throws away a new car?? Oh wait it’s already 10 years old. still a new car in my book.

  • avatar
    drvanwyk

    I’m a bit surprised no one has contested this yet, but in my experience AWD Legacy sedans are far from rare, on the streets or in the junkyards. The Outback SUS may have been noteworthy, but in any case its nice to see this article.

    On Legacys and Outbacks: In the US, you could buy a Legacy either in sedan or wagon styles up through 2008 IIRC. The Outback really only refers to the slightly lifted suspension and “off-road” style like the two tone paint and different bumper/foglights.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      By the sales numbers the Outback far outsells the Legacy Sedan. Legacy wagon only sold in tiny numbers it was only offered through 2006 then dropped in the US. Canada got the Legacy wagon through 2009.

      Check this out, great well known Subaru info site I just realized he has historical sales figures if only there was easy access to this info for all the makes. http: //www.cars101.com/subaru_archives.html

      You can see in 2010 Outback really took off in sales (to the dismay of those of us who think it was step down from 05-09) and you can also see the Outback has traditionally outsold the Legacy 2 to 1 and more recently closer to 3 to 1 over the Legacy.

      The Outback is a bit more than lifted and bumpers but not much more, it is amazing what those minor changes do to sales though if you look at Legacy wagon vs Outback, one kills the sedan and the other is discontinued.


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