Dante, if you don't mind me asking, how much $ do you think you'll be sinking into a trailhead vehicle like this (including the cost of labor you plan to do yourself)?
I don't mind. I'll pay $1,400 for the car on Saturday, which is in the range of retail prices Kelly Bluse Book and NADA give for this car given its condition and 144,000 miles. IMO that's a good price because the guy I'm buying it from builds Subarus like the ones at http://www.hatchpatrol.com/ and this car includes his 3" lift kit and bigger wheels and tires.
The car runs fine. I don't have to do anything to it unless/until it needs a tune-up or something breaks. The "ea81" motor is a simple, reliable, carbureted pushrod (no timing belt or chain) design, so there's not much to go wrong.
That said, I started out with a larger budget and plan to spend some more on engine modifications geared toward maximizing torque. There is a surprising array of performance parts and services available for these engines. They are popular in the homebuilt aircraft community due to their simplicity and reliability. But, again, I don't have to do anything to it.
You've got room in your garage--If you took your time shopping you could probably pick up a wagon or hatchback with the ea81 engine in good-to-excellent condition for less than $2,500--possibly much less. There are a lot of members of www.usmb.net around here and they seem quite willing to help with advice, wrench turning, etc...
Pick a price you would be willing to pay for a trailhead car and then try searching www.cars.com, www.autotrader.com and www.nwclassifieds.com for subaru's under your price. You may be surprised by what you find. The newer cars with the ea82 motor are good, too, just make sure the timing belt has been changed recently. Also remember they are not as simple, so there are more things to break or wear out.
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