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time I asked my father to buy me a car. It was the only time I asked him
that because he told me that he had
to work for his first car, and I too would have to work for mine if I wanted
one. I wasn't too happy about it at the time but I did end up doing exactly what he
said: A couple summer jobs and an Internship at a Nuclear Power plant and
not only did I buy my own car, but I also paid for it in full without taking
out any kind of loan. It may not be the nicest car around, but I like it a
lot. So much in fact that some times I will go drive it around just for fun.
I created this page to share some of what I like about cars and also point
out some of the things I have done to make mine a lot better. I hope you can
share my enthusiasm and would love to hear from a fellow car enthusiast
about what you did to you car and how it worked for you.
Videos are at the bottom of the page.
in Upper Peninsula Michigan, the snowiest place in the United states, I
get about 8 months of winter driving every year (typically it snows from
October to May), where driving through ice,
blizzards, -38F temperatures and having to throw the car out of the road
into a snow bank to make it stop before it skids right through an
intersection is common place. After two winters I decided that I would absolutely not get
a car that was not all wheel drive. I also can not stand SUVs and
trucks. I think they are slow, gaz guzzling, rollover prone. It boggles my
mind that someone would buy a huge off-road vehicle to drive themselves to
work every day; alone, and on strictly paved roads...
It turns out that there are very few options for an all wheel drive car on the market today: All Subarus, the Jaguar Xtype, BMW 3**Xi, Audi, Porsche Carrera4 and the new Lamborghini, if you want to count that :)
Of that list, Subarus are of course the most affordable ones. At the time the Impreza WRX was the car to have, but once I was quoted over $5000 a year for insurance (on a perfect driver's record!) I decided that something cheaper would have to do. The next best thing to a WRX is the Subaru Impreza 2.5RS; introduced in 1998, it is the original "road legal rally car"; aggressive styling, good handling, decent power, and well within my budget. It is also 300 pounds lighter than the WRX, has no turbo lag, more low end torque and arguably handles better. It is also rather rare: It took me a couple of months to find one like I wanted and I ended up having to fly to New York to get it. The car I bought was a '99 being sold on Ebay by a doctor who seemed to have taken good care of it and still had it under warranty... I never actually saw the vehicle until I bought it, nor had I ever ridden in one before, but I was still very satisfied with it. The previous owner even did some of the very same performance upgrades I had in mind.
This is essentially the same
platform that allowed Subaru to dominate the
World Rally Championship for 3 years in a row:
I got a 5 speed manual 1999 black coupe (my favorite:). This is one of the rarest Imprezas around; there are less than one thousand of these in the United States!
16" Aluminium Alloy Wheels
I must say that modifying one's car is addictive: Making performance
enhancements on your car brings back that wonderful thrill of driving
something new, and of course makes you want more improvements. Some people
seem to like slowing their cars down with fiberglass body kits, big sound
systems, stupid looking heavy chrome rims, large dia. wheels, etc. For me,
what really does it is adding horsepower; I got my driver's license when I was 18
(legal driving age in Brazil) learning to drive on a 56-horsepower 1L VW
Golf, so when I got to drive the Subaru with 165 horses I was thrilled by
how quickly it accelerated through the gears, and, of course, excited
about the possibility of making it pick up speed even faster. Right now
its got around 200 horsepower at the crank and it will peel all 4 tires on
a hard 1st/2nd gear change, but as the saying goes, you can never have too
much power... Its easy getting used to that kind of power (200HP is by no
means a lot by sports car standards) and wanting more. Originally
I wanted to turbo it, but for the +- 5000 dollars it would cost I figured
I might as well sell the car and buy a car that was turbo to start off
with (WRX), plus a lot of people have blown EJ25 engines with turbos and I
figured I couldn't afford it if it happened to me. Instead I decided to
go naturally aspirated. Here is my upgrade path so far:
/ Clutch / Flywheel:
Oh, and the most important: The Escort Passport 8500 radar detector. I bought it before I even bough a car. It still didn't prevent me from getting tickets in 4 states and 2 countries and having my license restricted, but it definitely paid for itself due to countless other tickets it saved me from. I have a real problem keeping the car under the speed limit, but I'm working on it :-/
Here is some more info on my upgrades and the reasoning behind them. I have put them in the approximate order I think anyone wanting to upgrade their car should go, and explained why.
Tires / Wheels:
I bought the car with BF Goodrich Comp T/A 215/50 R16 all season tires.
They were nice, but once snow hit I got stuck a couple times and then sliding
out on a straight road at 40MPH in winter. I ended up hitting a guard
rail and breaking a $140 fog lamp which reinforced to me the well known
fact that all wheel drive is not enough; in order to drive safely in
snow/ice, you need real
Kuhmo Ecsta MX Maximum Performance Summer Tires (205 55 16). "WOW!"
Going from snow tires to these was
incredible; No tire squeal on high speed turns, no sliding even at twice
the suggested turn speed. The first time I tried to send the car into a
controlled slide with these the lateral force was so great that my seat
belt caught me as I almost slid off the seat! Passengers get very nervous
when you approach a corner at speeds that would send any regular car off
the road and then take it with complete confidence... These have convinced
me to never again buy all
season tires; only Max Performance tires on summer and snow tires in
winter... For anyone upgrading their car my first and foremost
recommendation is to get the best, widest tires you can. Ultimately the
only thing holding your car on the road are those 4 small rubber contact
patches, so if you don't have good tires, everything else (handling,
braking, acceleration, safety) is compromised.
Kazera KZ-V 17 x 7" Shot Peened lightweight aluminum alloy
wheel with 215 45 17 Kuhmo Ecsta MX tires.
Before I ever installed any real performance mods I decided to get a new brake system: the stock one had a "mushy" pedal feel that I seriously disliked, and plus the 4 year old rotors I had on were very worn and glazed. I went for a complete kit: Brembo cross drilled brake rotors, PBR Metal Master semi metallic brake pads and stainless steel braided, Teflon coated brake lines. I could not believe the difference this made! The stock Subaru brake lines are rubber and expand during breaking: with these new lines and the new pads/rotors all I have to do is tap the brake pedal and the car instantly stops. Locking all 4 wheels up requires about 2-3 inches of pedal travel on dry pavement, and even at very high speeds the high temperature brake pads and the cross drilled holes on the rotors ensure fast stops with virtually no fading. I feel *much* safer driving the car now. Brembo makes rotors for Porsche, Mercedes, and other top brands. Highly recommended!
These are not actual plasma discharge lamps, but
these 7200K halogen bulbs are about as close to blue HIDs as you can get
without spending 400 dollars on a complete kit (I bought headlamps +
foglight bulbs for $36 on ebay). They looked great, and really helped with
night driving, but after 3 months using them both low beams burned out
simultaneously, and they chose to do so when I was an hour away from home,
during one of the foggiest days of the year. A lot of people have
complained about these bulbs not lasting very long, and now I'm joining
the general consensus that they are not worth buying. I am now using
Sylvania Silverstars, which are not quite as blue, but are 30% brighter
than stock bulbs. My last pair lasted me about 6 months. When they burn
out again I will probably buy PIAA. I am starting to decide that
aftermarket blue tinted bulbs simply don't last as long as regular ones. I
still think the benefit in night driving is worth the more frequent
VIS Carbon fiber hood, Sparco Hood Pins, Clear Corner lens, clear signal lens, PIAA driving bulbs, Silicone Wipers, HELLA Dual tone horns:
To compliment the Silverstars I got clear
bumper lens and clear turn signals. The driving lamps on the corner
lens are PIAA Plasma White; they compliment the SilverStars very well!
Rear Differential Protector: Since I drive a fair amount off-road, this was my first mod. I had it done at the Subaru dealership: an 80 dollar steel plate that will save a 800 dollar part :) In the picture you can also see the 18mm rear sway bar, the stainless steel Borla exhaust downpipe and my SS Borla muffler.
Originally the car had an Amsoil high flow air filter. I removed it
and installed a Rallitek Short Ram Intake with a K&N Air filter: Subaru's
original intake has two air boxes, two filters and a resonator to quiet
the entire intake down. The short ram intake was lighter and less
restrictive, but it made a *lot* of noise at high RPMs with the throttle
wide open; it was louder than my aftermarket exhaust, the wind rushing past
the car at high speed, and the cd player on all at once. It got very
annoying The intake also leaned the engine out horribly; the engine would
go into fuel cut at 5500RPM and I was forced to install an air fuel
controller and run 22% extra fuel at redline. I ended up removing it installing
another intake system in its place.
is a more recent picture of my engine bay (after my best efforts at
degreasing and power washing) with the intake I am currently using; an Injen Cold Air Intake. It is a lot
quieter than the J tube intake, and it requires a lot less air/fuel
correction to run the engine at its optimal ratio. Cold Air Intakes also
provide more power than conventional intakes by pulling in denser colder
air from outside the engine bay. I originally worried about the intake
sucking in water to the engine, but with the current filter positioning I
would have to drive through over a foot of water to do that. I also
plugged the resonator hole in the fender well to further quiet down the
intake and ensure only cold air gets sucked in. Also seen in this picture
is my Primitive Racing aluminum radiator shroud; the radiator foam broke
down so I installed this shroud to ensure optimum air flow over the
radiator. I later painted the belt cover since its paint rusted off. To be added still: Magnecor spark plug wires, Optima yellow top
deep cycle battery and grounding kit. I run my hood vent covers open to keep the engine
cold (all the Subaru cars at the SCCA rally do it, so I figured it
couldn't hurt), so it takes a lot of work to keep it this clean.
Unorthodox Racing Under Drive Lightweight crankshaft pulley (and associated belts): a smaller diameter pulley then the standard one that is installed on the the engine: it transfers slightly less power to the alternator, power steering and AC system. It is also 4 pounds lighter than the stock pulley. Manufacturers claim 2.7 horsepower is gained for every pound lost at the engine crankshaft, and an extra 15% more power for under driving. A lot of people claim this helps a lot; I found that adding a lightweight flywheel helped much more.
Limited Slip differential, Whiteline polyurethane differential mounts, Stainless Steel Braided Clutch Line, Short Throw Shifter, Polyurethane Shifter Bushing, STI hardened Transmission mount. These provide the car with a very short, precise, crisp shifter feeling. It will basically go through gears as fast as the synchronizers will allow it to.
Exedy Pro Street clutch kit (clutch plate, throw out bearing and pressure plate): I managed to burn out the clutch at less than 55 000 miles, and got quoted $600 for a stock Subaru replacement clutch. Exedy makes the stock one and also makes one that costs a lot less and handles 45% more torque than the stock clutch, so that was my option. The initial break in process made the car a lot jerkier, and it also likes to bounce a bit when it is very cold, but otherwise it drives like the stock clutch. It still cost a lot (7 hours of labor) to replace it and I wasn't planning on having to do this, but at least I should be set as far as the clutch goes.
Act Streetlite flywheel (13lbs) After I broke my transmission I
figured I'd help reduce the stress on the gears during gear changes. As an
added bonus, it
also makes the car a lot snappier when accelerating from low speeds in the
first 2 gears. This proved to be a great advantage at autocross events.
The drawback was making the car jerkier as well. Still highly recommended.
Limited Slip Differential and polyurethane differential bushings: I swapped out my rear viscous coupling differential for a viscous coupling LSD from a 2000 Impreza RS. The car now feels a lot like a rear wheel drive vehicle on low traction surfaces; the back end will swing out very easily by applying the throttle. It is also harder to get stuck, since the LSD will force both rear wheels to turn even if one of them is in a completely slick surface. The white line bushings on the differential mount eliminated the loud "thump" sound Subarus make when you shift hard.
Full Stainless Steel Exhaust:
BORLA Exhaust Headers and Catback Exhaust System, Random Technology
High Flow Catalytic Converter, Magnaflow Resonator, polyurethane hangers: I had the entire
exhaust system of the car rebuilt with all stainless steel parts. The
piping is all 2 1/4" diameter; larger than stock, but not so large as to
remove all backpressure and kill the low end torque. The headers optimize gas flow and give the boxer
engine a deep mellow rumbling sound. The high flow catalytic converter and Borla down pipe with
straight through tip free up gas flow and add more horsepower. Once I was
all done I decided I did not like the raspyness of the metallic core high flow cat,
so I added a 3.5"x14" stainless steel Magnaflow
resonator to the downpipe, and that quieted down the exhaust tone and
removed the raspy sound. The whole system weights less than stock, but I
still have it held by heavy duty polyurethane hangers to minimize movement
during heavy cornering. Modesty aside, this is one of the very best
sounding cars I have ever heard, and the full exhaust system provides the
engine with a very noticeable power increase, both at the low and high
APEXI S-AFC Fuel Air Controller: I bought it installed in a carbon
faceplate on the optional Subaru gauge pod from someone that had the same
car as mine. Almost looks like Subaru put it there themselves :)The Air Fuel Controller intercepts the intake manifold air
flow sensor signal and connects to the engine Electronic Control Unit,
allowing me to change the signal going to the ECU from -50% to + 50% in
500RPM increments. By tricking the engine ECU into thinking there is more
or less air going into the engine I can make the car run leaner or richer,
not only taking full advantage of the improved "breathing" ability of the
new intake, headers and exhaust, but also being able to run a more
aggressive air/fuel curve that is optimized for power, torque
and performance. It also monitors and displays my throttle position,
engine RPM and intake manifold pressure...
Sparco racing pedals and dead pedal: Excellent for heel-toe driving; they also look and feel much better than the stock ones and slip a lot less when wet. I can't wait to get some Sparco racing shoes to go with them.
The upgrades above allowed the car to make around 200crank horsepower; perhaps a tad under. It could spin all 4 off the line in the dry, and spin them again in 2nd if the pavement was wet. It felt very fast, and very much fun. It also broke the transmission twice; the 5th gear hub nut backed off the first time (there is a service bulletin out on this; I tried to get it taken care off as soon as I realized what was happening, but it broke on the way to the dealership) and it sheared off every single teeth in the 2nd gear when I power shifted 1-2. I also spun a rear axle bearing. The best part of course is that my engine blew up. See at the bottom of the page.
I've also been getting involved in autocrosses; it is a LOT of fun and a great way to improve my driving skills. Auto-x was the main reason behind me buying kuhmo tires. I was able to come 2nd at my last autocross event, beating cars such as a Corvette Z06, a modified Dodge Viper, a Golf GTI anniversary edition, a Golf R32, Audis, other Subarus, etc... and hope to do even better next summer once I am further down the upgrades path. Here are some pictures and videos of my last auto cross in Appleton, WI.
Wet Launch (5MB): easy clutch slip on
1st gear, ride 1st to 6000RPM, slip clutch at redline into second. You can
hear all 4 tires lose traction and spin as the car slides going from 1st to
2nd. Very nice display of power. The road was wet though, so it doesn't
count. Still, its pretty impressive to see how fast it accelerates from a
standstill on completely wet pavement; you can hear me go into 3rd gear at
the end of the video; by then the car is going around 60mph.
Donuts in reverse: (1MB)Works just as well as going forward. Try that in a RWD car...
Donuts in parking lot: (15.3MB) This is a good one :)
Top speed: On a slight decline it will bounce off the rev limiter in 5th gear. This is about 144MPH (Just don't ask me how I know this...:)
|With under 200 miles to go to 80K my engine spun a piston rod bearing. This engine had been perfectly maintained and run on Mobil 1 Synthetic 10W30 changed every 3500 miles every time and allowed to warm up before hard driving but apparently it just didn't like to live at high RPMs all the time. As a result, I am now swapping in a Japanese 300HP racing motor into it.|
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Last updated 11/02/10
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