You know the noise; that familiar staggered, syrupy beat that thumps through your body. Now a familiar sound across Australia, with the added high-pitched whistle of pressurized air being forced through the throbbing engine, it’s a guaranteed way of making people stop what they’re doing, spin around and hunt for what’s producing that addictive, delicious note.
When Subaru’s WRX really started to garner a cult following, people took notice of the unique noise emitted by an aftermarket exhaust-equipped Sube. It came because the now-legendary quad-cam two litre EJ20T’s horizontally opposed (or “boxer”) cylinder layout gave a deep, barrel-chested, gruff note that signaled this little Japanese four-door meant business and would take almost anything other then supercars back home for a good hard rogering.
It really did flip people out that what had been a quiet, conservative car company like Subaru would release a turbocharged all-wheel drive rocket that cost only a handful of coins and broke from its unadventurous mould. Of course, with the boom in cheap, high-performance grey imports and the ever-increasing size (and weight) of Subaru’s cult-hero (and questionable styling) it hasn’t all been plain sailing at the top of the late model pile for Fuji Heavy industries. Luckily for them, though, there are guys like Aaron Fung.
His day-glo 2003 STi is one damn hot car that’d be a pleasure to own, with well over 200kw at all four wheels, some subtle interior upgrades, improved hadling and braking and that luscious, brilliant paint and panel work. While it’s been displayed on the Jetspeed stand at previous Auto Salon shows (snaring Editor’s Choice), it’s a genuine street car that sees almost daily use, which isn’t bad considering the amount of work that Aaron, Jetspeed Melbourne, BT Revolution and Revzone Tuning have put in over the last three years.
Aaron has actually owned this car since buying it new a couple of calendars back and reckons it was Nobushige Kumakubo’s citric orange DI Championship-winning Subaru (see Auto Salon Magazine issue 53) that inspired his path with this Aussie car. Jetspeed Melbourne outfitted the shell with an Msports Sports Version widebody body kit as found on the D1 car as it is wilder and more aggressive than the Street Version Msports also sell.
The Sports Version pumps the front 30mm fatter and the rear 50mm, matching up to a Chargespeed carbon fibre bonnet and boot lid on Aaron’s car, with canards, front lip spoiler and rear diffuser also crafted out of the lightweighted, stiff black material. To keep the Kumakubo theme flowing, Jetspeed whipped up a custom-mix of beautiful DeBeer three-layer orange pearl paint to flow over the top. To say this hue is amazing is to sell it far, far too short as it seems deeper than the ocean and just as wet.
It matches perfectly with Aaron’s choice of wheel: delicious Volk Racing GTVs that measure 19x8-inches and are wrapped with 235/35 Hankook K107 rubber hoops. This thing really does look like it could be Kumakubo’s daily driver and wouldn’t seem out of place dawdling through traffic in downtown Tokyo… or Footscray.
Aaron’s made sure that the cabin is a nicer place to be than the gutted DI machine, through, as there’s now red Recaro SR3 buckets replacing the stock suede efforts, with a couple of A’PEXi gauges and a mild sound system to keep the boredom at bay. A pair of Earthquake 12-inch subs and a pair of Earthquake amps reside in the boot, with power coming from an Optima dry cell battery via a Stinger capacitor. Big dollar Focal splits in the front and two-ways in the rear provide tunes from the Pioneer DVD/TV head unit. All in all, a fairly expensive audio/visual install that’ll make sure any traffic jams aren’t too boring.
Also starving off boredom is the well-modified EJ20 under the bonnet. While retaining the (quite strong) stock internals, Aaron had the Jetspeed guys outfit a few tasty treats to facilitate the Impreza powerplant; namely a sexy ARC air intake, a set of Sard 800cc fuel injectors, an Autoranic plug’n’play ECU, an upgraded Denso fuel pump, GT-spec headers and a custom three-inch turbo-back exhaust.
Once the fuel system had been upgraded (to stop the motor running out of fuel and destroying itself) and the exhaust upgraded (to allow for more power), a custom-spec Garrett turbocharger was added to the mix, controlled by an A’PEXi AVC-R, with intake charge air chilled by the GReddy RSPL front-mount air-to-air intercooler. With 1.4bar blowing through its system, the lurid STi put down an amazing 254-kW at the wheels on Revzone’s hub dyno! Not bad for a daily driver car, even if hub dynos read a little higher than normal chassis rolling road dynos.
While that might sound lame compared to the huge power figures you’ve come to expect from single-turbo GT-Rs, RX-7s and Supras, in the much-lighter STi you’re left with an incredibly dynamic package whose rolling acceleration would be brutal, making fitting into tight gaps in traffic a snack, or runs up the favourite twisty bit of country road a real heart-thumping blast. Then there’s the attraction of four-wheel drive launches!
Those launches aren’t a wince-inducing gearbox-breaking-past-time any more either, thanks to the improvements STi made to their gearboxes on late model turbo Imprezas. Along with the different struts, seats, improved grunt, fade-free four-piston and two-piston Brembo calipers, there is a six-speed close ratio manual and R180 rear-end that is almost impossible to break. No more snapping gear sets and CVs, then!
Still, with the extra power and torque now coursing through the drivetrain Aaron had to upgrade the clutch. The OEM unit’s clamping force is nowhere near enough for such a modified engine, so an Exedy heavy duty clutch was installed, along with a JUN lightweight flywheel, which reduces parasitic loss as the motor doesn’t have to spin a heavy dead weight.
While the stock Brembos are great, Aaron upgraded the pads and standard rubber lines as they’re both easily overcome by heat from hard braking. ADR-approved Goodridge braided lines keep the fluid cool and don’t stretch like stock ones (improving pedal feel), while the DBA slotted rotors up front are clamped by street/track-spec Ferodo DS2500 pads. These stoppers will surely by fade-free in the face of serious workouts at the track, or on some of Melbourne’s awesome driving roads up in the Dandenong Ranges.
To improve the already great handling from the MY03 Impreza, Tein Flex coilovers were paired up to Cusco sway bars and strut braces at each end. Now, the four-door is stiffer than an iron bar and will track straight, flat and true in corners as there is far more bracing and harder spring and damper rates than what even STi endowed the car with!
Really, Aaron has taken each aspect of this car and improved it without going overboard and making it unbalanced. There isn’t an area of the car that hasn’t had top-quality parts fitted to it that push the level of performance, usability and style a few notches higher. Is this one of the best all-round Subarus in the country? Who knows? The fact remains that it carries the Subaru performance legacy ahead with taste and sophistication.