2003 Sonic Yellow Wagon
A Unicorn Amongst Subarus
In 2002 I had received a raise and could finally afford a new car. After a few test drives in other cars I decided I definitely wanted a WRX but with the new arrival of my daughter, my wife wanted me to get something "practical." So I thought, well, why not a WRX sport wagon. As far as my wife was concerned, it was a Subaru wagon with AWD, decent gas mileage, and a great record for safety. Good enough. So I began researching my WRX, planning the upgrade path, and reading articles and forums. When all was said and done I badgered salesmen a month until I finally found the one I wanted. I initially tried to get a silver 03 but the entire east coast was out of stock. While I was disappointed and walking out the door I spotted a sonic yellow wagon on the lot. Now, I hated how it looked on Subaru.com and wasn't interested, but after seeing it in person I turned right back around, went inside and said "I'll take that yellow one over there."
I'm a car guy that loves to tinker and go fast so I was itching to modify it and make it personal. Now I had to make some decisions about the overall direction though. It's a daily driver and it had to do that well. I wasn't looking to build it for the strip or modify it in any way that would have an adverse effect on safety since my wife and kids are along for the ride a lot. I wanted to eventually try my hand at Autocrossing and maybe even road racing, but being a family man makes the budgeting a real challenge. I wanted a car that was well rounded with power, driveability, handling, and braking, but I didn't want to yield to the adolescent impulse of adding power before the platform was ready. So I must first build a good foundation before moving up the performance stages. So I read and research A LOT!
Control Before Power
Along with doing the little things like fog light covers and tint, I really lead the way with the suspension. Three months after taking delivery of my car I got a set of Gold-Line springs as an authorized wagon fit-test. They finally settled in at 1-1/2" all around, but week after the springs were installed the ride height lead to the failure of a rear strut. Unfortunately only STI Japan made upgraded wagon-specific struts. After much research, I figured out the WRX wagon fronts match GC8s and the rears are the same as GD sedans. So I became one of the 1st in the country to get KYB AGX struts on their wagon. Then I added a Cusco 22mm front swaybar and Whiteline 24mm adjustable rear bar. Next I picked up a complete Energy suspension bushing package, and a Whiteline rear strut tower bar with quick release skewers to retain the wagon utility. Hawk HPS brake pads came next with Dot4 fluid to eliminate fade. And the platform was complete. Then I spend some time on some more appearance items like debadging it.
I read a how-to on removing the roof rack and wanted to do it. At the time I read an article about the Saab 92x Aero coming out which was built on the Subaru Impreza wagon platform (without a roof rack). Knowing how Subaru kept the Impreza simple by making parts interchangeable I thought there must be a way to capitalize on the Saab roofrails. I went to the dealer and looked up the part diagram for it a saw it looked like in was the same as the WRX. I started a post on the 92x boards for someone willing to meet up and swap roof parts and got 3 hits right away. A few weeks later I met a guy from Mass at my Mom's in CT and a few hours later we both left with smiles on our faces. I then picked up a Zerosports grille a short time later but I wasn't really happy with the appearance. I knew I wanted to change it eventually when I had the money but it wasn't a priority.
Bring On The Power
I first got a baseline run on the dyno to see where we were starting. At a dyno day with my club, my stock wagon put down 191.81 whp and 194.88 wtq. Not bad considering it was way more than the rest of the baseline numbers typically seen at 180/180. A few weeks later I bought a used WRX uppipe and gutted it my self. Then after researching the different downpipe designs I settled on the Bosal with the divorced wategate. Upon installing a K&N panel filter went in with resistors to eliminate the CELs. Then I picked up a Turbo XS (magnaflow can) axle-back. It was nice and throaty without attracting too much attention. While the throttle response was much improved, I was disappointed with the power. I knew I'd need engine management to see the cars full potential. With all of the options out there I like all of the features of the Utec more. The off-the-shelf map made a big difference with 235.0 whp and 243.7 wtq (an increase of 43.19 whp and 48.82 wtq over stock) but it still wasn't enough. Time for a bigger turbo.
I was at a local meet when a guy who had rolled his wagon when he fell asleep at the wheel on the highway. It was totalled and he ripped out all of his upgrades before junking it. Among the parts list was a vf37 twinscroll turbo kit with only few thousand miles on it. It matched perfectly with my overall plans of building a well-rounded performer so I bought it. It was installed by MSPT in February of 07 and pushed the power to 260 whp and 275 wtq but it was hardly what I expected. I was advised that I would need to lose the last cat, ditch the Utec for full engine management, and get a better boost controller if I was to get better performance and reliability. I opted for the Tomei Catless twinscroll downpipe, threw Enginuity on the ECM with a protune, an AVC-R boost controller, WBR front mount intercooler, PE timing belt, Perrin short ram intake, Perrin turbo Inlet, and Perring crank pulley. The goal was 300whp and I asked Clark Turner to do the final tune. Sleepless and exhausted with anticipation, on the morning of Sept. 28 this year, the car was on the dyno. 45 minutes later after some data-logging I was waved me over... "the good news is the baseline without tuning is 283whp and 290wtq... the bad news is we broke something and it sounds like a connecting rod." I think my heart was in worse shape than my motor. I guess 95k miles on the ODO and pushing redline too many imes on the dyno was too much for it. Right away Clark got on the phone and tried to source me a new JDM motor, but I needed to regroup and plan my next move.
As it turned out, blowing my motor was the best thing that ever happened to my car. I chose to up the displacement to the USDM STI ej257 to really utilize the vf37 turbo and create a harmonious combination of instant power and driveability.
The Extreme Makeover
Over the years I had collected a JDM/EDM STI wagon front lip, JDM Aerosync mudguards, and an OEM sedan 3-piece rear lip which I stored them in my attic for when I was able to afford the paint and installation. I then got a CF CWII hood and UK300 headlights. Those got installed right away but really made the car look too aggressive for my tastes. Then the clear-coat on my hood cracked, the paint got ripped off the bumper when someone hit it parked and had a lot of paint chips from our crappy Long Island highways. It now looked like crap so I used this as an opportunity to finally finish the outside right. So in July of this year I made the 120 mile drive to Ultimate Collision in Westchester, NY, known for doing great custom work on Subies like fitting the sedan lip on wagons. They also painted the interior trim and the black mirror pillars yellow. After 10 days without my car it was finally back together. At this time I had picked up JDM smoked headlights from Gruppe-S and sent them directly to LightWerkz for the deluxe retrofit treatment with Honda s2000 projectors. Both USS and LightWerkz did an amazing job and it was now one of a kind.
At this point, not much. My wife isn't very happy with the suspension being so stiff (funny) so there will be Bilstein Coilovers going on before the start of the next track season. I'm going to throw on JDM STI wagon lower control arms, pink bits, camber plates, fender braces, and RCE ball joint extender kit. I also have 4/2-pot calipers that are getting custom paint now along with DBA 5000 rotors, hawk pads, and goodridge SS lines. Who knows, maybe a Hydra ECU to utilize the AVCS, and an in-car PC with touchscreen, sat-nav, DVD, and gaming capabilities to round it out. Then I'll simply show it at events, race it, and enjoy it.
I'd say the plan came together. It's very well rounded to perform well in a wide range of areas. I have to say I smile ever day I walk out to my car and see it still there. I have never owned a car that brought me this much joy and I hope to have it for a long time.
I need to shoot newer pictures soon with the latest updates that have been added recently but here are a few teaser pictures:
MORE PHOTOS AND DETAILED HISTORY HERE.
335 whp / 350 wtq
PERFORMANCE Stage 4
USDM STI ej257 Motor
JDM vf37 twinscroll turbo
Enginuity Engine Management - Tuned by Dave Brown @ MSPT
Apex-i AVC-R boost controller
Tomei Catless Twinscroll downpipe
JDM twinscroll split uppipe
JDM STI equal length headers
Turbo XS axleback
WBR500 Front Mount Intercooler
Perrin short-ram intake
Perrin turbo inlet
Perrin Crank Pulley
Power Enterprises Timing Belt
STI Group N motor mounts, pitch mount and tranny mount
DeatschWerks 650cc injectors
Walbro 255lph fuel pump
NGK Iridium spark plugs
Samco Silicone Ancillary hoses
STI Intercooler water sprayer kit
Prodrive 18" P1 Anthracite wheels
Khumo Ecsta SPT 225/40/18
Subaru FHI 4-pot front brake calipers
Subaru FHI 2-pot rear brake caliper
DBA 5000 slotted 2pc front rotors
DBA 4000 slotted rear rotors
Kartboy Rear 2-pot Brake Bracket
Hawk Brake Pads front and rear
Goodridge Braided Stainless Steel Brake Lines
KYB AGX adjustable struts
Cusco 22mm front swaybar
Whiteline 24mm adj rear swaybar
Whiteline rear strut tower bar
Whiteline quick-release skewers
Motul 600 brake fluid
Energy Suspension Hyper-Flex kit
Alignment: -2.25 deg front camber / -1.0 deg rear camber
JDM Smoked headlights retrofitted
- s2000 HID projectors
- JDM STI Gen 2 Ballasts
- Phillips D2S Bulbs
- Custom Wiring Harness
- Chrome Amber Blinkers
- 5-LED Indicator Bulbs
EDM/JDM STI Wagon Front lip
JDM STI Front Grille w/ Blue Impreza "I" Badge
VIS CWII Carbon Fiber Hood painted Sonic Yellow
Sonic Yellow Painted Sideskirts
Sonic Yellow Painted Mirror Pillars
OEM Sedan 3-piece rear lip
NRG polished SS hood struts
JDM rear WRX/Impreza badge (red trim)
JDM rear STI badge (carbon)
STI carbon fiber corner markers
Hella Supertones (118db) in parallel to the OEM horns... hold your ears
PIAA Extreme white reverse lights
STI front seats, chrome door handles, and aluminum shifter trim
(5) Defi Blue Racer Gauges (Boost, Oil Pressure, EGT Gauge, Water Temp, and Volts)
ATI gauge Pod w/ blue trim
2004 WRX Gauge Cluster with Blue back-lighting
2007 Factory STI Limited Stereo with Blue back-lighting + Sirius Satelite + AUX jack
Autometer gauge cluster bezel pod
All trim painted Sonic Yellow
Momo harness pads
Prodrive Polished/Blue shift knob
Blue LED back-lit HVAC, cruise control button, and fog light switch
All weather mats
High-back racing kids seats
JDM Red Hazard Button
Dave & Gerry @ MSPT
for all of the hard work and patience.
All of my buddies who have helped and supported me over the years from NASIOC, the Long Island Subaru Club (LISC)
, and Subaru Queens Crew (SQC)
Rick @ RavSpec
for the gauges.
Clark Turner for killing my ej205 on the dyno. I'm glad it happened.
Caesar & Cory at LightWerkz
for the headlights, blue cluster and stereo mods.
Ken @ KNS Brakes
for my brakes.
Bryan @ JNJ Associates
David Kearney @ OAKOS Automotive
for the springs.
My father-in-law Tony for the hours in the driveway working on my car.
My buddy Alex for the great deal on great tires.
Everyone at Ultimate Collision
for the body work.
Most importantly my wife for her patience and understanding over the years. I know you wish I didn't spend so much time and money on it and more on you. I appreciate you not giving more **** for it.