Transforming the Family Truckster

Transforming the Family Truckster

These are interesting times to be buying a vehicle.  The supply chain disruption (caused mainly by the semiconductor shortage I chronicled HERE) has decimated dealership car inventories.  As a result, dealers are clamoring for inventory–used or new, which is driving up the price of both. This is great if you are selling your car, but not so great if you need a replacement.  

Without getting too far off topic, I sold my 2004 Honda CRV to my son last summer, and sold my MINI to Carvana in early November (I shared the reason and details of that process HERE).  That left me in need of a vehicle for my utility needs. 

Subaru? What?

After shopping at many dealerships and brands, I landed on a Subaru Outback as my replacement vehicle.  Most of the dealers in metro Detroit were charging big premiums for their new cars (typically $3,000 – 5,000 over MSRP).  I found a really good Subaru dealer who didn’t believe in those crazy markups, because they want to keep their customers beyond just that one sale.  Smart.

blue Subaru Outback on rocks

I picked the Outback due to its strong resale value and reliability.  I was also lured to it because Subaru introduced an off-road trim called Wilderness (see picture above), which took the standard Outback and added a lifted suspension, different transmission and axle gearing, all-terrain tires and special graphics.  

While it is extremely capable, the Wilderness is overkill for my needs.  My sales associate from the Subaru store made that fact very clear.  In fact, he asked, “do you plan on hitting the trails on your way to Kroger?”  Dammit, he got me.  I listened to his advice and picked the mid-level Premium trim, which allowed me to personalize the vehicle to my liking and save $6,000 to boot!

Note:  If you are in the metro Detroit area, I highly recommend you see Brian Biondo at Hodges Subaru in Ferndale.  He can be reached at or 248-581-7759. I was extremely impressed with their low pressure, consultative approach and their pricing philosophy.  It reminded me of the Saturn process.

The Transformation

I have owned the Outback for three weeks, and am at a point that it makes sense to share the changes made so far.  I am never finished making changes, but I want to show you how easy it can be to personalize your car.

side view of Outback with boxes describing the changes made to the car.

As you can see from the picture above, I’ve been busy.  I was inspired by the Wilderness trim, but with a twist.  My changes are mostly cosmetic, saving any mechanical changes for another time.  Here are the modifications made and sources used:

  • Tires and wheels were purchased as a package from I went with an all-terrain tire (Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail) in the same size as the ones that came on my Outback (which is also the same size as the Wilderness).  The wheels are from LP Aventure.  I ordered them on Thanksgiving day, and they were delivered two days later.  Magical!
  • I added a “compass” door graphic on both front doors.  I chose a tan color that matched my interior.  I also found these on Etsy from StrangeMotion4x4.

before and after picture of front end of Outback

  • The grill had a silver bar that didn’t fit my theme, so I applied black PlastiDip to give it a more stealthy look.  I’ve used this on wheels in the past, so this should be great for the grill.

emblems on car changing color

  • The Outback emblems on the side and tailgate were converted from bright letters to bronze using pre-cut vinyl emblem overlays from TVD Vinyl Decals, which I found on Etsy. This was very easy to apply and the vinyl is high quality.

It Never Stops

I really enjoy personalizing my cars, so I know this is not the end.  I have some other ideas for the hood, but will save that for the spring.  Or a warm day in January!

My wife noticed that many Subaru owners have a lot of bumper stickers on the tailgate, or state park decals on the rear glass.  She thinks I need to do the same.  I have my opinion on that, but will let that idea simmer for a while.  

I hope the transformation of my mid-level family truckster inspires you to consider changes to your car.  Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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