Make It Taller

The Forester project stretches its legs

It was the shop calling, and far too early for new tires to be mounted and a four-wheel alignment done. I had been warned the tire size I selected for the project “just barely doesn’t fit,” but ever the optimist elected to follow the well-documented build of a certain Forester-of-the-Month—a build with the same size tire and no lift. “We can squeeze it in there if we do a little trimming on the plastic bits.” Reluctantly, I gave the go-ahead.

I picked up the Fozzy that afternoon truly amazed at how smoothly, quietly, and straight the car drove. The required trimming turned out to be minor and completely out of sight. The larger tire’s effect on performance is undetectable, and if anything the car is just a bit zippier than it was. The technician at Big-O commented that it was the worst alignment he had ever seen—suddenly the odd-sized spare tire on a bent rim, rips in the front bumper, wobble, and pulling to the right all made sense. I bet the previous owner was out jumping it and landed bad on the front right corner, never bothering to fix the damage.

Suspension Upgrades

The strut in that same front corner was also blown. With just over 100,000 miles on the chassis we opted to simply replace all of them. KYB’s slightly stiffer and better handling GR-2 series struts were selected, and they do not disappoint.

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The star of the suspension, however, is the +35mm Ironman spring lift now fitted at all four corners. In spite of the lift, the vehicle has less body roll than it did originally, and handles the street with a competency I’ve not felt since my BMW days. It also still rides nice and smooth, making it a pleasure to drive. Bonus: it appears to be impossible to bottom the new suspension out, the Schooby is now cleared for take-off.

Tires

Just barely fit—clearance between the taller 215/70R16 Yokohama Geolandars and the strut tower is so tight you can’t squeeze a pencil between them. Fortunately, with a bit of the plastic protector trimmed off we’ve experienced no rubbing, even with the steering at full lock. The new tires grip fiercely in dirt, and I’ve been told they are equally capable in sand and snow. On pavement they are only slightly more willing to break loose, a fair compromise.

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Phase One Complete

With an acceptable running ground clearance and some nice grippy tires, the Foz Project is ready for its first real adventure. I think we’ve settled on southern Utah, but the debate rages on over canoe vs. mountain bikes…

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