The Subaru WRX hit the scene at the best possible moment for success. Its popularity has forced other manufacturers, namely Mitsubishi, to step up to the plate with turbo-thrusted pocket rockets. The WRX has proven to be a supremely tunable platform that can draw from a global inventory of parts offered from Australia, Japan, the UK and America to become blindingly fast and a feast for the eyes.
Ben Jennings' black magic 2003 WRX exemplifies the possibilities of the WRX and its gutsy EJ20 engine. Ben's EJ20 was left internally stock right down to the cams, but the turbo and fuel systems were on the hit list. The stock turbo system was scrapped in favor of an AVO 450 Garrett-based ball-bearing turbo, Cusco custom headers, HKS Super Sequential blow-off valve and MRT front-mount intercooler outfitted with a Nitrous Express Intercooler Spray Bar kit. On the fuel side, a Blitz 550 fuel pump supplies 800cc Denso injectors mounted via a Vishnu fuel rail. A Link Electrosystems ECU runs the show.
Post-combustion gases are expedited out of the engine by a PDE up-pipe and a MRT single-pipe exhaust system featuring 3-inch mandrel-bent stainless-steel construction.
Ben took the big picture into consideration when laying out his engine buildup and elected to upgrade the EJ20's cooling performance with an aluminum PWR high-capacity radiator fitted with trick Samco silicon hoses.
An Exedy high-performance twin-plate clutch puts the power down. Brainstorm tuned the combination on its DTS all-wheel-drive chassis dyno. With boost dialed in to 1.26 bar via a GReddy ProFec B boost controller, Brainstorm's Roshan Harilela programmed the Link ECU and coaxed an impressive 379.2 whp and 334.4 lb-ft of torque from the stout 2.0-liter boxer. From 5700 rpm until the pull was terminated at about 7000 rpm, the EJ20 kicks out 350-plus whp.
Both the exterior and interior received exotic customization. The first thing to catch the eye is the wicked Gram Lights body tuning. A full kit, including a wild front bumper treatment complete with Zero Sports carbon-fiber ducting, is teamed with a Kaminari carbon-fiber WRC hood, a Prodrive UK300 rear wing and sumptuous Prodrive HID headlights to give the WRX its Darth Vader look.
The heavy-breathing villain would be quite comfortable at the controls of the Subaru. Ben has enhanced the cabin of his WRX with useful products that impact the driving experience, such as a pair of Sparco Pro 2000 buckets, a Speedware stainless-steel harness bar wrapped by a Sparco five-point harness system and a factory short shifter setup topped by an STi knob. Other nifty tidbits include a Sparco-inspired rear seat treatment, Dephi gauge pod stuffed with GReddy boost, EGT and A/F ratio readouts and a Sparco Mugello steering wheel.
While turbo boost is an important aspect of the WRX, its rally roots can also be seen in the all-wheel driveline and suspension. Ben upgraded the latter with an array of well-balanced components. The big hitter is a set of Tein FLEX coil-overs outfitted with Tein's EDFC (Electronic Damping Force Control) that allows cockpit adjustment of damping force on the fly. Ben enlisted a MRT rear-link upgrade kit and a grip of Cusco stiffening products to further stabilize the Subaru's underpinnings.
Soft spots on the WRX are the rear links. When Ben upgraded the suspension he had to address the problem. The MRT kit replaces the composite rubber links with solid alloy units to increase stiffness. The Cusco gear consists of front and rear sway bars, front and rear strut tower bars and a triangle bar. Braking power was enhanced with a StopTech front package and MRT slotted rotors out back. The StopTech setup features 13-inch rotors with 7075 T-6 aluminum hats and StopTech's ST40 four-piston calipers. When Ben gets hard on the brakes, the challenge falls to Toyo T1-S tires wrapped around Prodrive PFF7 aluminum.
Ben uses the WRX to make a statement to perspective clients of his company, Quarter Mile Communications, a strategic marketing consortium that handles Web sites, marketing, sponsorship and trade shows, among other things. This wicked WRX makes quite a first impression. Just think of the accounts he could land if he owned a Darth Vader costume.