I have known Earl Mangune-a car nut-for years. When he first told me he was going to turn in his pristine GS400, I thought he was crazy.
Mind you, his GS was not your average stuffy commuter; the Lexo was slammed on 19s with big brakes, a custom body kit, a thumpin' sound system and navigation. But it was not fast enough. A few days later, he picked up a new WRX and I knew it wouldn't be long before the modifying began.
I was right. Less than 48 hours after driving off the dealer's lot, he outfitted the Subaru with a new performance exhaust, air filter, boost controller and injector pulse monitor.
Of course, the car was already slammed on lightweight 18-inch SSR aluminum.
A week later he called me again. No surprise, Earl needed more power. He came up empty-handedsearching in the States; finding aftermarket performance parts for a new model is not easy. Fortunately the WRX was already a big hit in Japan and Australia; there were tons of performance parts available to satisfy his lust for boost.
His web surfing led him to AVO Turbo World based in Australia. It was parts heaven for Earl; AVO offered top- and front-mount intercooler kits, larger ball-bearing turbos, larger injectors, upgraded fuel pumps and even complete engine management systems for his Subie.
Since AVO products were already being distributed in the States, getting the products was a snap. Earl, though, has never been the type of guy to wait patiently, buying one performance product at a time. In what seemed like a flash a big shipment of AVO products arrived on his doorstep. In the box was AVO's Stage 3 set-up, complete with Garrett ball-bearing turbo upgrade, custom intake, breather tank, 3-inch exhaust system, front-mount intercooler, larger injectors, upgraded fuel pump and Link engine management.
The intake came complete with new injection-molded nylon reinforced silicone tubing that replaces the cheap rubber hose mounted beneath the intake runners. Attached to one end of the hose is a cast aluminum velocity stack with a high-flow AVO cone filter. Second on the list was installing the 3-inch polished stainless-steel AVO exhaust system.
Remarkably, the system is not only a complete three-inch system from the turbo back, but it also utilizes a 3-inch CARB-approved catalytic converter built into the downpipe section of the exhaust piping. And the entire system was lighter than the factory counterparts.
AVO offers several different size Garrett ball-bearing turbochargers for the WRX capable of supporting from 400 to 550 hp; all these hairdryers bolt directly on the factory turbo manifold. The factory water and oil feeds and drain also bolt to the upgraded turbo, making installation a lot simpler.
The last of the performance components to be installed was the Link engine management with the upgraded injectors and fuel pump. The injectors and pump are also a direct bolt-in, further quickening the installation. The Link engine management is also a plug-and-play proposition. To install the Link system, the factory breadboard is removed from the ECU and the new Link unit is put in its place. The unit comes preprogrammed and only needs fine-tuning to extract full power potential from the entire system. The complete upgrades made a whopping 255.3 hp and 230.7 lb-ft of torque to the wheels on a Dynapack four-wheel-drive dyno. All this on pump gas through the cats!
Earl moved on to matching the handling characteristics to the upgraded dyno numbers of the Subaru. Originally Earl utilized a set of modified lowering springs to attain the proper ride height, but due to the relatively long shock design of the Subie, ride quality of the car was greatly affected, giving it a very bumpy and harsh ride.
After researching all the possible lowering equipment, he finally chose a Tanabe Sustec Pro coil-over set-up. The Sustec Pro system features a short-rod and short-stroke design, improving ride quality on lowered vehicles. By changing to a coil-over set-up Earl is able to tailor the ride quality to his specific needs, from dampening to ride height to camber adjustment.
To match the WRX's new-found power, grip to the tarmac had to be increased. Not wanting to lose any more power from the four-wheel drive drivetrain, Earl opted for lightweight SSR Type C forged aluminum. The 18-inch bronze wheels are wrapped with Toyo Proxes for extra grip.
In the styling department things were kept to a minimum. Earl removed the factory side panels and had them color-matched to the factory paint. The factory headlights were removed to make way for a set of trick projector beams from Mulsanne Enterprises. We see this headlight treatment becoming a popular modification.
Like many other car nuts, Earl is hardly done with his Subaru. His next modification will be in the sound system department-he plans to install a TV monitor and DVD player. Interior upgrades are also in the works.
Power, though, is still on his mind. Beware of this Subie should you meet it on the street, this one has "The WeRXs."