Project Car SOTU 2016: Justy Little Project Creep

Making a car look good is hard work. The details make all the difference, and with a project as huge as an engine rebuild, there are a lot of details to tidy up. Little performance improvement options also encourage project creep, especially if they’re cheap on the surface—or worse, if they’ll take Justy little extra time.

Exhibit A: Removing grease and grime.
The Justy is greasy. It’s still greasy. Though I sprayed it like crazy with a quality degreasing chemical several times (as discussed in this post), that stuff’s only gonna come off in layers. It’s got years of oil leaks with embedded road grime. I still need to roll the chassis out of the garage, give it another thorough spraydown, scrubbing and hosing, and repeat that treatment on the transmission. I just bought a used Subaru-powered pressure washer on Craigslist for $50 and spent another $100 replacing the pump, so that’ll help cut through the grease.
Then, as I install all other bits—the intake manifold, timing belt cover, distributor—I need to do the same cleaning, scrubbing and general descuzzifying so it acceptably matches my impeccably clean engine block and head. I’ve already gone to the trouble of cleaning, derusting and respraying the oil pan, so I’ve lost the battle to resist cleaning everything. All this essentially guarantees it’ll leak oil and undo my hours of effort in just a few short drives. It’s not quite Murphy’s Law, but it’s close enough.
Exhibit Beta: Rust repair, improvements, and general appearance.
The battery tray is rusty and gross.  I have a welder, but I need a tray. At the very least I need to remove the rust and repaint it. If I can cut a decent part of some battery tray from a junkyard, this will make good welding practice. Finding a good match may be a challenge, because finding a Justy is nearly impossible. I may do little with this in the end, if I can find a good place to mount a tiny motorsports battery in the trunk under the rear of the car somewhere.
There’s also a rust hole behind the front left wheel. This can probably be patched up after the car is mobile without too much hassle. This is also good welding practice for me.
Exhibit 3: Performance & Reliability
I bought on eBay a used header from a Honda CBR1000RR motorcycle on a whim. It looked like a reasonably good fit for the Justy if I lopped off a tube and figured out some way to adapt the flanges. I have a welder, and failing that, I know of a good exhaust shop that does cheap work. How hard can it be? Maybe I should look for a cheap exhaust shop that does good work instead.
Well, I have a cheap flux-core welder and a cheap MIG welder, but as I mentioned, my welding skills aren’t highly practiced. I’d like this thing to be leak-free. I’m hoping my exhaust guy tells me one of two things:

  • Yes, he can do it cheaply. (In which case I’ll bring my engine on a stand and let him work his fabrication magic.)
  • No, but this is not stainless steel. (In which case I’ll booger and splatter my way to a custom Justy header. It is possible. Lincoln Electric says it’s also possible for stainless, but I’d have to buy a spool of different welding wire.)

Regardless, this is primarily for aesthetics and some weight savings rather than absolute performance.
These ridiculous sway bar mounts. Engineering like this reminds me of my previous AMC Eagle project. They had the support arm in place, but something changed at some point late in the design stage and instead of redesigning that whole piece (because presumably they’d already gone to production), Subaru instead just made an adapter bracket. This is not very Japanese.
They’re clearly stressed enough to crack, as evidenced by someone’s previous repair job. These brackets need another support point to prevent this from happening again. It would be a trivial job for any fabricator, but I’m a do-it-yourself hack. It will probably take me hours.
I’ve also often wondered about the Justy’s infamous oil pump. There are myriad posts on the Subaru Justy forums (there are at least two such forums) about the oil pump’s weaknesses, the allegedly failure-prone front engine cover, and the low-capacity, starvation-prone oil sump. Adding an oil cooler is hard on an oil pump. Overfilling the sump is an easy, if inelegant solution, but requires a quality oil to prevent foaming. Adapting a dry-sump system involves a lot of cleverness, time, effort, and probably deleting the A/C. It’s been done by one enterprising rallycrosser at great effort.
But the low cost of oil filter sandwich adapters makes an oil accumulator a solid proposition. I’ve been shopping for a used 1-quart unit, but the only one I’ve found (it comes with an electric valve and AN hose) still tills my wallet for nearly $300. I’m hesitant, and the header modifications might eat up my budget. I soothe my concerns by telling myself that $300 is a lot less than another engine rebuild—or worse, a window in the block. We’ll see what I can afford.
[Photos copyright Alan Cesar | Hooniverse 2016]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. kogashiwa Avatar

    “a used Subaru-powered pressure washer on Craigslist for $50”
    A wha?
    Please tell me it has an STi engine.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      Ha. I wish. Subaru(‘s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries) makes all kinds of engines, including small ones. This isn’t my pressure washer, but it’s the same brand with a similar Subaru powerplant:

      1. kogashiwa Avatar

        Ahh I see. Come to think of it I’ve seen Subaru small engines before at a local farm supply place.
        It’s definitely ripe for an STi badge at least.

        1. Alan Cesar Avatar
          Alan Cesar

          I like this idea.

        2. Monkey10is Avatar

          I think gold wheels and a large spoiler should be obligatory as well…

          1. Alff Avatar

            The right wing would make a great handle.

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Also marketed under the ‘Robin’ brand.

  2. CruisinTime Avatar

    I wish you Good Luck,you will need it.

  3. Batshitbox Avatar

    Aw, I just took the stock exhaust off my Laverda Triple… I’m sure it would bolt right up! Though, it’s a 3-into-1-into-2 arrangement, and might be just as heavy as your stock Soobie Unit.

  4. Bradley Brownell Avatar
    Bradley Brownell

    Project Creep… I always used to call it “While-I’m-At-It Syndrome”.

  5. Simon BiTurbo Avatar
    Simon BiTurbo

    I assume the sump is that odd shape for clearance reasons. Otherwise I’d suggest you could increase the capacity by cutting it through the middle and welding a 1″ strip of steel all the way around.
    Common enough on Spitfires, but they’re a different kettle of fish packaging-wise.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      A lot of cars, especially FWD cars where the exhaust comes out toward the front of the car, have a sump shaped like that so the exhaust can run through that spot to go under the engine. I could extend the deeper part of the sump using the method you describe, but it would be a bit trickier to match the contours and it might hurt ground clearance.

      1. Simon BiTurbo Avatar
        Simon BiTurbo

        Ah gotcha. Possibility of changing the route of the exhaust? Although i suppose at that point you’re getting to the stage of more work than alternatives…

        1. Alan Cesar Avatar
          Alan Cesar


  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    Deleting the AC for fitting a dry sump could be sold as a major power improvement, too. Justify the extra cost? Great, well-structured writeup!

  7. anonymic Avatar

    I have personal experience with this engine and I’m also a machinist. If you provide me the means, I’ll drop you my phone number and I can answer any questions you have the weaknesses and possible attack angles on that oil pump.