Click here for the home page

13B powered Subaru

Introduction / The car / More Information


Subaru have been making 4 wheel drive cars since the late 1960s. These traditionally have been very durable and since the 1980s have been fitted with increasingly more powerful engines, firstly in the mid 1980s there was the Subaru RX with around 170hp, and since 1993 there is the Subaru Imprezza WRX starting at 215hp, The Japanese "STI" version has 280hp (Making it faster than some early 3rd generation RX7s).

You can read about the WRX at lots of other places.

Joel L fitted a 13B engine to a 1989 "RX" model with a five speed, full time all wheel drive.

The Car

13B powered subaru (640x449)
13B Subaru
13B powered subaru (640x386)
13B Subaru
13B powered subaru (640x426)
13B Subaru
13B powered subaru (640x421)
13B Subaru
13B powered subaru (640x422)
13B Subaru
13B powered subaru (640x428)
13B Subaru
13B powered subaru (640x384)
13B Subaru

As the original Subaru engines are boxer engines (i.e. a Flat 4 with two cylinders on each side; the engine is in a north-south layout), the engine swap is reasonably straightforward because the rotary is of comparable size and shape (it's a bit narrower and a bit taller).
The Subaru transmissions are quite strong, but I have my doubts if it would stand up to a modified 13B turbo for very long.
Of course, a transmission from a WRX (with ~215hp stock) would be much stronger though I have no idea if these would bolt into the same place.

Here is some further info sent to me by the owner:
The pictures aren't great, but they will show that the car is real. The car was driven everyday and is NOT a show car, as the dirty engine compartment shows.

To give you a little info on the swap, you were correct that it was a relatively straight forward swap BUT there was a lot of thinking, fabricating and aggravation to go along with the swap. The adapter unfortunately was not just an aluminium adapter we machined, it is actually a thick aluminium sand-casting that was then machined. The flywheel, custom fabricated along with the header which had to be pieced together to snake over, around and down past the front passenger axle. Physically mounting the engine was pretty easy with the side mounted engine mounts on the newer 13Bs. The oil cooler was mounted way out front attached to the front bumper.

The single biggest problem with the conversion was the cooling system. Roughly in the same location as the original radiator is mounted a three core radiator which is much shorter. This was pushed forward where the lower part of the front radiator support was trimmed away to make enough room for the front pulley to just clear the top of the radiator by less then an inch. That would be good enough for most engines but not for a fire breathing rotary. As shown in the pics, we had to add a second three-core radiator on the side of the engine located near the passenger inner fender. This combined with TWO electric fans solved our cooling problems. Unfortunately cooling the engine wasn't as easy as just blocking the water pump bypass and putting a one inch blocker plate like we do in our race cars. You see this car was built for the purpose of terrorizing snow covered roads. With the bypass plugged and a blocker plate in the water pump the car wouldn't generate enough heat and would actually create a condition where the intake would freeze. I had no other choice but to run a thermostat. With the extra cooling this setup is reliable and keeps the engine at the proper temp.

Other then rewiring and plumping to get all the factory gauges to work and read properly the rest of the drive train remains stock. The transaxle with locking diff and high/low (3.70/4.38) final drive ratios and rear diff handle the power perfectly. I've put several thousand (spirited) miles driving this car to my suit & tie job reliably with no breakdowns. It out drag raced (not its purpose but that seems to be the thing that happens) a 5.0 Mustang and other cars of this sort. I wanted to go ahead and turbocharge it this year but I got involved with other cars and need to sell the vehicle.

More Information:

Special thanks to Joel Lipperini ( for the pictures and information.
I have tried to contact Joel since without success.

Further reading and acknowledgements:
* No specific reading relevant to this page.

Other relevant reading at Craig's Rotary Page (Please go via the INDEX page):
* Weird Ideas (Unusual rotary applications)

Other relevant sites on the Internet (Please go via the LINKS page):
* I have not seen any other sites featuring rotary powered Subarus.

This page last updated 17/3/2001

Mazda Rotary Webring
[ Join Now | Ring Hub | Random | << Prev | Next >> ]
Rotary Top 150 - click to see other great sites and vote for me.
Click for other great sites

This site is online at tripod (The large images on many pages don't work due 20MB site limit)
Please do not 'rip' the site (due to bandwith restrictions)
I have a number of other sites. Visit the main index page
Please note this information is not definitive check the disclaimer