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Subaru Forester XT Overland: It’s A Subaru Thing You Wouldn’t Understand

Eric Trytko March 22, 2017 Wagon Wednesday 9 Comments

One of the cool coming trends in the automotive world is people taking Subaru Outbacks and Foresters and turning them into true off-road vehicles capable of going well into the backcountry.  As you might guess, this trend started in the wilds and expanse of Austrailia, though to be fair, some Subaru enthusiasts have been doing this here in the States for decades.

This particular example is one of the more hardcore versions we’ve seen.  The owner, Harley, has spent some a good amount of time and money crafting his rig, which each step well thought out.  Built with the team at Leadfoot Offroad in La Verne, CA, who fabricated the front steel bumper with recovery points and a 9,500-pound winch up front, and a rear swing out bumper, also with Anderson Design and Fabrication who developed the lift kit.

When you open the hatch on this Subaru, it has a “kitchen” with a one burner stove, a sink, and a refrigerator.  It may not be the Bowman Odyssey Rig ready to spend 12 months off the grid, but for a weekend of hiking and camping, it should be more than enough.

Two very cool “performance” mods to Harley’s Forester are a WRX engine swap, at 4,500 pounds fully loaded it needs the extra grunt, and a set of Sparco Terra Rally Wheels, which drop fifty pounds from the steel wheels they replaced.

OK, this rig isn’t going to be running King of the Hammers, or rock crawling, but for 95% of what you think you’d need a 4Runner or some other SUV for, this Forester looks more than capable of handling.  Called Fozroamer you can follow the build and adventures on its website.

Following is a 26-minute video that gives you the full walkaround of the Forester, and once you are done, it may send you off to Craigslist looking for your own Subaru to modify.

  • engineerd

    Yeah, I’ve been watching a few Subie builds on ExpeditionPortal. They are really cool, and you’re absolutely right…95% of the trails in the US can be conquered by a vehicle with enough ground clearance and a good AWD system. In fact, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where I do most of my offroading, the trails I’m on could be handled by a stock Subie with a mild lift.

    • Sjalabais

      Pros and cons with building such a Subaru vs just getting a 4Runner?

      • engineerd

        The big con against a Subie build is lack of aftermarket parts. As you see in the video, much of the components were custom made. Whereas a 4Runner or Jeep build you open a catalog and your wallet and pretty much bolt on the components you want. The other con could be space. The Subaru is a car and has a smaller cargo volume than most trucks. This is only a problem if you a) pack like my wife or b) are going on an extended trip and want some luxuries of home.

        The big pro is it is different. Anyone can open a catalog and their wallet and build a 4Runner or Jeep into an overlanding machine, but there’s a much higher level of commitment and pride to doing this to a Subie (see also the people that are overlanding BMW X5s, or driving Citroen 2CVs around the world).

      • Alff

        Two other cons…
        In my experience, OEM Subaru bearings and brakes don’t offer the reliability I’d want in an overlanding machine or even a high performance road car.
        Subaru’s packaging of horizontally opposed engines creates some inconveniences that I’m no longer interested in living with (even though I’m still driving a Legacy GT wagon). For example, lifting engine and transmission off their mounts to change spark plugs isn’t a huge deal but with so many more convenient options out there why hassle with it?
        Personal experience only, YMMV.

      • outback_ute

        A pro for the Subaru would be it drives more like a car than the 4Runner which is like a truck – at least in stock form. If you dailied it with the offroad rubber & lift this one has, then that is less of an advantage!

        Plus fuel economy would be (a bit) better and the size or perhaps total height could be an issue in some cases eg parking structures.

    • outback_ute

      And probably 80% of trails you don’t need awd in dry weather.

      A few years back I had a ride around a rally stage in a Forester, and I was surprised at some of the stuff it handled at some pretty decent speed, without grounding, including a fairly large dry creek bed.

      You’d probably be better off starting with a Suzuki Grand Vitara for this sort of build though (low range), and better again with one of the older models that had forged steel suspension arms and a full chassis.

  • Alff

    As a Subaru owner for several years … I don’t understand.

  • Rover 1
    • Tiller188

      I dunno…for all the reputation Subarus have for being Lego-like, that swap didn’t look particularly EZ.

      …I’ll show myself out.