When I first began lifting Subarus around 2013-2015, there were not many brands out there making plug and play lift kits for our cars. But around that time is when Patrick Anderson began building lift kits for Subies and creating the now infamous brand “Anderson Design & Fabrication.” Within a couple of years I began to see them all over the place and quickly became a fan of everything they were doing to make lift kits more accessible to Subaru owners.
In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and befriending Patrick. I’m regularly impressed by the technical innovation within his business and his relentless commitment to growing a brand that produces some of the strongest parts for offroad Subarus.
I live roughly 3.5 hours from Pat but I have wanted to photograph their 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness since I first saw it on their Instagram. The car technically belongs to Cody Anderson who, as the name implies, is Patrick’s brother. The car was modified using a completely custom lift kit designed by Pat. It has been lifted an additional four inches over the factory one inch lift that the car came with.
In early January 2024, after coordinating schedules with Pat, Cody, and myself, I made the trip to visit the ADF warehouse and see the car in person. I genuinely hope you enjoy checking out the incoming eye candy as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Outback Mod List
Although the custom lift kit isn’t available to the public yet, there are many parts of this build that can be purchased by consumers. If you’re interested in the mods that ADF installed on this Outback, here is a list to help you create a similar build:
- ADF lift kit
- Method 314 17×7.5 wheels 5×4.5 (5×114.3) bolt pattern
- Patagonia AT Pro 265/65R17 tires
- Bora 1 inch wheel spacers
- ADF front bumper bar
- Diode Dynamics light pods
- Diode Dynamics ditch lights
- Ditch light mounting brackets
- Diode Dynamics rock lights
- ADF front skid plate
- ADF fuel tank skid plates
- ADF rear differential skid plate
- Nameless Performance catback exhaust
- Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform Rooftop Cargo System 60″ x 49″
- ADF wind fairing
- MeLe Design Firm group 35 battery mount
- Full Throttle FT750-35 motorsports battery
- Subaru window rain guards
Exclusive ADF Outback Walk-Around Video
Pat and his brother Cody were kind enough to answer questions about the Outback on video. We looked at the undercarriage and all the fine details of the lift kit. Check out the walk-around below:
How They Built A Custom 4 Inch Lift
This Outback is lifted 5 inches over a stock Outback such as the Premium, and Limited trim levels since it still includes the longer struts that Subaru put on the Wilderness Edition. However, the car is 4 inches taller than a stock Wilderness Edition. In order to do this without damaging the suspension and drivetrain components, Patrick custom designed a large number of vital parts.
Here are a few of the components he created and hand built for the lift kit:
- 3 inch front subframe spacers (currently the only known set for this model in the world)
- 4 inch strut spacers
- Fully custom transmission mount bracket to lower the CVT into the correct position
- Reinforced sway bar bracket extensions
- Fully custom designed rear subframe support/rocksliders
- 5 inch rear multi link (subframe) spacers with a custom tie-in bar for support and reduced flex
- 2.25 inch carrier bearing spacers to correct driveline angle
Every part that he built brings the car’s suspension and drivetrain angles back within factory spec. They have also been powder coated in a matching Wilderness Edition gold/bronze to protect them against corrosion that would eventually cause rust.
Ground Clearance After The Lift
However, the fact that the unibody of the vehicle is lifted 4 inches away from the ground means that the cabin of the vehicle is further away from things like water and other things that shouldn’t be inside our cars. This also means that bigger tires can be installed on the Subaru which is usually the biggest goal of any lift kit installation since it’s where true offroad capability comes from.
Offroad Tires And Wheels
The team over at ADF fitted the Outback with a set of Milestar Patagonia A/T Pro tires in a massive 265/65R17. Paired with the 17 inch Method 314 wheels, they look great and give the car all the grip it could ever need on the trails.
The 265/65R17 tires measure out to about 30.5 inches in overall diameter which is usually not a size that would fit on a Subaru. But with the 4 inch custom lift, they fit on the car perfectly without any rubbing issues.
Patrick and his brother both mentioned how well the Patagonias ride on the streets without without sacrificing offroad grip. They also said that the tire is exceptionally quiet for an all-terrain.
The Method 314 wheels in 17×7.5 come with a 30mm offset and they opted to install a one inch spacer to help bring the wheels out even further. This helps the car handle better with a wider track and adds an aggressive look.
Properly Spacing The Drivetrain To Maintain Factory Angles
In order to lift a Subaru correctly, the CV axles, control arms, driveline, and a slew of other components need to be kept within a certain margin of error compared to their stock location. In order to do this, the 3 inch front subframe spacers, 2.25 inch carrier bearing spacers, and the 5 inch rear multilink spacers all help to achieve optimal angles. Check out the photos I took of the custom mounts and spacers Patrick built.
Since no one currently produces the correct front subframe spacers for the Outback Wilderness, Pat designed, cut, and welded his own 3 inch versions to bring the front of the drivetrain down within spec. This allows the CV axles and the front control arms to sit close to their intended angles without causing damage.
You’ll also notice the grade 10 stainless steel bolts and powder coating that has been applied to the spacers. Since these components are in direct contact with the unibody, it’s important that they don’t rust and cause permanent damage to the car. Simply painting a spacer usually doesn’t prevent rust since it eventually wears off. Powder coating is more expensive but is a much more durable option.
Once the front subframe is lowered correctly, the transmission and driveline also need to follow suit. Pat fabbed up a custom transmission mount support bracket to replace the factory one and to allow the CVT to sit lower. He then installed a carrier bearing spacer to let the drive shaft angles return to the correct position.
Failing to correct the driveline angles may result in vibration and premature u-joint failure.
Little things like these spacers and mounts are what often get overlooked when thinking about lifting a Subaru more than two inches. Most folks completely forget the extra work involved with lifting to three inches and above. It adds a substantial amount of extra time and money to the equation. But if you’re willing to put in the time to do it right, the finished product is awesome.
One of those often overlooked details are multilink spacers. Sometimes referred to as rear subframe spacers, these help correct the position of the rear wheels and push the rear differential into the right spot for optimal CV axle operation.
Patrick designed a five inch spacer to replace the one inch version that came on the stock Outback Wilderness. You can see it tucked up against the unibody of the Subaru above the sway bar reinforcement brackets.
One thing that I really like is how Patrick designed a long support bracket to tie in the front and back rear subframe spacers for additional structural integrity. When a vehicle gets lifted this high above stock, retaining rigidity around the various chassis components is important for proper handling and safety.
Having proper lighting while on the trails not only looks cool, but it provides a necessary level of visibility for navigating technical spots. Patrick and Cody opted to use Diode Dynamics lights for the front light bar, ditch lights, and the rock lights in the wheel wells.
The large rally style lights up front are enough to see anywhere in the forest after dark. This can save you from accidentally driving into an unsafe portion of the trail.
Having ditch lights lets the driver see potential hazards on the side of the vehicle. Things like downed trees that could break out a window, or large rocks that might not be easily visible can be illuminated with a set of properly aimed ditch lights. And of course, these were mounted using a set of ADF ditch light brackets.
They also installed a set of Diode Dynamics rock lights in the wheel wells. While some people might install them just for looks, I actually really like being able to see where the obstacles are under my car when I’m in rock gardens or other rugged sections of the trail. Your spotter can also use rock lights to determine how to properly guide you through difficult segments without damaging your undercarriage.
Rock lights can also make trail repairs a bit easier. With the extra lighting, you can get a clear picture of any damage that may have occurred and see which parts need to be fixed without fumbling around with a flashlight.
Roof Rack And Custom Fairing That Led To A World Famous Product
For offroaders and “softroaders” alike, a good roof rack is arguably one of the most useful accessories. It’s an easy way to carry extra fuel on the trails, or safely store a shovel out of the main cabin. But finding a good rack system that is low profile and doesn’t stand tall above the car can be a challenge. Taller roof racks can add to the drag which reduces fuel economy and some people simply dislike the appearance.
In order to get something with many mounting options that was still low pro, Patrick outfitted the Outback with a Rhino Rack. It looks great and has endless mounting options. But there was just one issue: the wind noise was loud.
The team at ADF got to work and started designing a wind fairing to cut down on drag and wind noise. The result was awesome and turned out so well that they decided to start selling them. It is now one of the top selling products on the ADF website.
Patrick worked with the folks over at Nameless Performance to get an exhaust that would fit correctly after the lift. The stock exhaust was not fitting properly after the subframe spacers were installed.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Nameless is one of the premier Subaru performance parts manufacturers. Nameless is located in Woodland Washington, within a short driving distance of ADF, which made this collaboration even more easy.
They currently have a 3 inch cat back exhaust with 5 inch single can mufflers. The exhaust note sounds awesome! But with the OBWE being a wagon, there is a drone in the vehicle at certain RPM’s that makes it a little hard to use as a family car. Patrick plans to install their dual chamber muffler to quiet it down even more for daily driving comfort.
Front Bumper Bar: The Best Option For Safer Recoveries
One of the most common mistakes I see among Subaru owners is trying to recover their car from the front tow point. The front tow points don’t have the strength to safely recover from. I’ve seen them rip right out of bumpers creating a deadly hazard and I routinely try to warn people about the dangers of it.
Fortunately, there are a few companies offering solutions for this with robust aftermarket bumpers and bumper bars.
The ADF Outback is equipped with their front bumper bar that ties into the bumper and allows for multiple accessory mounting points and a safer option for recoveries. This is where they mounted their large front light pods and a couple of d ring shackles.
Is The Wilderness Edition A Good Platform For Offroading?
While the Outback will never be a Jeep or a “real” 4×4, they can be fantastic cars for heading off the pavement. But what sets the Wilderness Edition apart from the rest? The biggest thing in my opinion is the shorter gearing of the Outback Wilderness. It shares the same 4.44 gear ratio that my older Forester has. This means that the Wilderness Edition has a bit more torque at lower speeds which makes it great for offroad use – especially when climbing steep inclines.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many other enthusiasts, the biggest drawback with the current model Subarus for offroading is the CVT transmission. They’re very efficient and smooth but they don’t give as much room for driver input and don’t take well to prolonged “abuse” on the trails. For this reason, it’s important to keep them maintained with regular fluid changes and even cooling mods when possible.
Bigger CVT Coolers: A Good Idea For Offroading, But There Are Risks
I asked Patrick if there were any things that could be done to mitigate the extra stress placed on the CVT by bigger tires. He explained that while Subaru builds the Wilderness Edition with a factory installed a CVT fluid cooler, it is possible to install a bigger cooler to increase fluid capacity and help keep the temperatures even cooler. But he said that he has seen situations where people have had warranty work denied due to the presence of an aftermarket CVT cooler.
If someone wants to install a bigger cooler, it may be wise to consult with your dealership first. Ask to speak with the Service Director if possible and explain that you want to make some improvements to the car’s reliability since you plan on driving it the way it was intended. Ask for guidance on how to best proceed with your goals for the car. You can get a feeling for how they will handle warranty claims if you have aftermarket parts on your car.
However, if your vehicle is out of warranty or if you don’t mind the risk, a bigger CVT cooler is a great way to keep the temps lower after a bigger tire installation.
Regardless of whether or not you install a new cooler, regularly changing the CVT fluid is widely accepted among enthusiasts as one of the best things you can do to lengthen the lifespan of your transmission.
Here is a collection of photographs that I shot of the ADF Outback. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to use them as your phone or desktop wallpaper.
Patrick Anderson's Advice For Lifting Your Outback Wilderness
When I asked Pat if he had any advice for people as they plan out their modifications, he said there are a few key things to look out for.
- Use a lift kit from a reputable company that’s in a country local to you. Do they answer the phone or return emails prior to purchase? If they’re hard to contact as a prospective customer, they may not be the right brand to do business with.
- Any spacer lift over an inch should have camber correction built into it (the top of the spacers should be offset from the bottom to account for the positive camber created by lifting.)
- If the lift kit is steel, make sure it’s powder coated from the manufacturer or have it powder coated before install. Failing to do this can create rust problems as they sit directly against the body of your Subaru.
- The hardware should be grade 8 minimum, but grade 10 hardware is ideal and safest.
- While there are aftermarket suspension options, Patrick suggests using a spacer lift so that the OEM suspension can be retained. The OEM suspension gives the most reliability and comfort.
- Go with the smallest tire that will still be big enough to take on the trails you’re planning to do. This helps cut down on drivetrain stress.
- Be realistic with the Subaru platform. No matter how much modifying you do, they won’t be a reliable rock crawler and can only be built so much.
If you’re on a limited budget, here are the first three things Patrick said you should purchase and install to modify your Outback for offroading:
- Lift kit
- Offroad tires
- Skid plates (front skid and transmission pan skid before rear differential skid plate)
This Outback is by far the biggest one I have ever seen. I appreciate that Subaru has begun to cater to the large group of enthusiasts who have been offroading their cars for years by creating more trail-friendly vehicles. The Wilderness Edition is a step in the right direction and seeing people modifying them further is even more encouraging.
It took Patrick weeks to build this lift kit by hand, but I think the final product has been well worth it. Innovation and continuing to push the limits of the Subaru platform is what they seem to do best at ADF and this build further cements that reputation.
If you want to see more of what they offer for your Subaru, head over to the Anderson Design website to see their Outback Wilderness Edition collection.
I can’t thank Patrick and Cody enough for letting me come see the car, photograph it, and ask questions. Feel free to share this article and follow ADF on Instagram @anderson_design_fabrication to say hi!