Weekly Treasure: 2003 Subaru Baja

Car Culture / Comments

Why chop the rear roof off an Outback?

The Subaru Baja lasted for only one generation from 2003 until 2006 and there was nothing quite like it on sale in the US at the time. The days of the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero were already long gone. Subaru, however, felt there could be a market for a somewhat different compact pickup truck with standard all-wheel drive and solid reliability. It's not like Subaru was a complete stranger to the so-called ute; the Subaru Brat was sold from 1978 until 1994 in many markets, including the US. Even President Ronald Regan owned one for use on his California ranch.

Basing it on the already highly popular Subaru Outback sport utility wagon was a no-brainer. But still, Subaru was taking a chance here because this particular body style didn't appeal to everyone, especially traditional mid-size pickup truck buyers.

Craigslist
Craigslist
Craigslist
Craigslist

The goal was to sell around 24,000 units annually, yet just 30,000 were sold during the vehicle's total lifetime. One of them, a 2003 model year, is now up for sale in Los Angeles on Craigslist for $7,600, though the seller is also willing to trade it for a Toyota 4Runner or Tacoma. Currently on its second owner, it was purchased totally stock from the original owner and has since received numerous modifications, including a new 2.5-liter boxer-four engine.

Clearly, its owner had off-roading in mind because there are now 15-inch Method Mr502 wheels with 15-inch Toyo Open Country tires, a custom exhaust system, lift kit, and bed extender. Other mechanical improvements include a new five-speed manual transmission, clutch, slave cylinder, and radiator. There's even a cool Cobb STI adjustable short shifter.

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Craigslist
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Craigslist

Despite its age, this Baja's overall condition isn't bad though the seller notes the right fender has a few dings. Total mileage: 205,000. One of the Baja's stronger selling points was that it retained four doors with fairly sufficient rear-seat space. Not all mid-size trucks at the time offered this. However, the Baja is still kind of funky-looking and the additional side cladding did very little to distract the eyes from this matter.

This 2003 example proves that with a few modifications, specifically the beefier tires and raised ride height, the long-departed Baja's appearance can be slightly improved. Combined with the manual gearbox, this thing has the potential to be a relatively inexpensive off-road toy that still has years of life left.

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Craigslist
Craigslist
Craigslist
Craigslist
Craigslist
Craigslist

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