Paul Cowland

Paul Cowland


Project Car Builds

Project STI Part 1 – Introduction

6 Jan , 2015  

Blame it on my friends at Subaru.. but I have another car to fettle. In between filming the latest series of Turbo Pickers on Discovery, I will be plying you guys with updates from my latest project car – this nice, but ‘well-used’ Subaru UK track hack…

It’s funny what comes your way in this job. I’ve always made it my business to get to know as many people as possible in this amazing industry of ours, and keep my eyes and ears well open. Because of that, or maybe because I’m a tenacious and fortunate type, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on this fettled, but careworn, Subaru WRX STI for a wee while… with carte blanche to do whatever I want to it. Now there’s an opportunity not to pass up!

The history of this particular car is an interesting one. Built to showcase Subaru UK’s Pro-R tuning range two or so years ago, the car was pressed into service on Day 1 as a track hack. As the Pro-R circus toured the car shows of the UK, mainly appearing at the Modified Live shows of the UK Time Attack scene, this car, complete with its lairy graphics scheme, aping the original Time Attack hatchback pedalled by Jon Mathers, was never far behind. It had a noble existence really, acting as a considerable money earner for the worthy cause of Help for Heroes at each event. Should you have been mad enough to volunteer, you could strap yourself into this car for a very sensible donation to said charity, before being scared witless by any one of Subaru UK’s test-pilots. Ex Prodrive engineer and sideways enthusiast Mike Woods put many miles on this car… mostly on the lockstops as he did so, as did rally star Jason Sharpe and of course, Jon Mathers. So, put bluntly. This car has been kicked from here to next week since the day it went on the road. It hasn’t done many miles you’ll notice, but when you remember that almost every one of these miles has been at maximum revs whilst being slid gracefully around the UK’s most iconic circuits, then you’ll begin to understand that this is not your average one-owner, low mileage, fully-historied car.

As Subaru UK would never dream of putting a car like this back out into the dealer network, I was asked if I would like to give it a home for a few months, and invited some of my industry chums to throw a few bits at it, in the name of entertainment and improvement. How could I say no? Despite its hectic early years, it’s still in remarkably good shape, with only the odd scratch, kerbed alloy and peeling sticker detracting from its otherwise lovely appearance. Add into the equation the choice mods of an Alcon brake upgrade already being fitted, plus a Pro-R backbox, Eibach springs and a few other little improvements – and it’s a really nice way to get to work in the morning. Especially when you factor the 330bhp remap into the mix.

Having come straight from its last track outing though, the tyres are almost bald, the wheels look very sorry for themselves and the suspension feels like it has done a lot more miles than the clock shows. But hey, if it was perfect, this wouldn’t be much of a blog now, would it?

So what are the plans for this new steed? Well the graphics have had their day, so they’ll need to come off at some point. With the luxury of forged internals at my disposal (this engine was uprated for non-stop, day-long track work) then it would be rude not to try and get a little more power as we go along. Wheels and tyres are an immediate must, as the rubber is on the wear indicators, and there are a few subtle styling mods that I would like to add to make it look a little more aggressive. I’m a big fan of the saloon STI shape, especially in factory Pearl White like this one, but I reckon that with a little thought, this one could look even better. And then there’s that suspension of course. Having hit every kerbstone from Snetterton to Silverstone – and at some great speed, this really could do with a fettle before too long.

All in all, it’s amazing how well this car has stood up to the abuse it has received over the years. It’s an incredible testament to the build quality and reliability of my favourite Japanese marque that this car still feels quite as fresh and tight as it does after all those full-throttle antics. But just you wait until I’ve finished… she’ll be even better than the day she rolled out of Gunma!

Until next time!


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