tuning

The Journey, Not The Destination

It’s not about the destination, but the journey we take to get there. No truer words could be said about Chris Fontecchio’s 2006 WRX Limited.

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Something has been happening the last few years in the Subaru community. What was once bought solely for a lack of other options has now taken on a legendary status amongst Impreza owners. The GDA was the first iteration of the WRX to be sold in America and for many, the car’s love-hate looks were a point of heated debate. Now however, the car has aged like a fine wine and the bugeye has become one of the most sought after Imprezas. As newer models have gotten chunkier and more cumbersome, the aggressive rally styling of the GDA has put it in the discussion of becoming a future classic. The thought of owning a bugeye is easy enough, but finding one that hasn’t been used and abused is another matter entirely.

What if you didn’t need to find one though, what if you just built your own? That’s exactly what Chris set out to do.

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What started life as a daily driven 2006 WRX Limited has become a track car in the making and the passion project of an owner who does things the old school way. By day, Chris is an engine tech and he’s put all of his knowledge and skill to use building the car himself.

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It’s hard work and the drive to produce a truly unique Impreza that has seen Chris’ car with 2 engine builds and a complete JDM bugeye front end conversion.

What we have here could be the ideal GD Impreza – bugeye looks with an updated interior and all the benefits of a built (2006) STI EJ257.

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Under the hood lies an EFI Logics tuned EJ257 short block with 255 heads and 257 cams. A Garrett GTX3076R aids the car in achieving 341 whp and 326 tq at 19 psi.

The attention to detail on Chris’ Impreza is truly stunning and the selection of parts even more so. It’s a conversation we’ve had time and time again on ACLASS and in this age of knockoffs, taking the time to source the real deal deserves proper admiration.

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For now the interior remains fully intact with some upgrades including a very plush Prova alcantara steering wheel which Chris calls the best mod, hands down. The alcantara trimmed, full interior may eventually give way to a roll cage as the car takes on more track day duties.

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As nice as the interior is, it’s the exterior that really sets off this Impreza’s looks. The car has been repainted with 3 coats of European WRB for a shine that’s a slightly darker than standard. To protect the new paint job, Chris has had 70% of the exterior wrapped in clear bra to prevent rock chips. Up front an STI V2 front lip has been custom molded to be seamless, while JDM side spats round off the new look. At the back, a Do-Luck carbon trunk adds subtle sportiness.

It’s the kind of exterior I love because it’s a car that truly appeals to enthusiasts. To the untrained eye, Chris’ Impreza could be just another sports sedan, but to those who know, the car is full of details waiting to be discovered.

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So where does the journey go from here? It continues forever of course. Chris will never sell the car and probably never finish it. The exterior is on pause for now while he focuses on power and handling. Despite it’s flawless condition, this is a car that gets used both on the street and at the track.

I’m always going on about the complete build – a car that perfectly blends looks with performance because one cannot exist without the other. Chris continues to succeed with this in a way few other Subaru owners are. This is a project both old and new Subaru owners can be excited about for many years to come because like wine, it will only keep getting better with age.

A big thank you to Chris Fontecchio for reaching out over Instagram and sharing his car with me! Check out the comments section for the full parts list.

Photos courtesy of Serg Rangel.

Pleasure Racing Service GRB Impreza

Pleasure Racing Service may not be one of the most well known Japanese tuning shops, but they’re certainly one of the most impressive. Where so many shops have shifted their focus towards marketability and the industry’s latest hype, PRS have stuck to their roots and remain heavily involved in motor sports. From time attack to rallying, they cater to the group of enthusiasts more interested in driving their cars than looking at them. It’s one of the reasons why this shop maintains a successful business while so many of their competitors have faded into obscurity.

With footholds in the Impreza and Evo markets, PRS has more recently experienced success in the BRZ market. The shop’s exceedingly large lineup of demo cars is fronted by their GRB Impreza.

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While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, I never was an INGS fan myself, you can be sure this car lays it down on the track.

With an over saturation of ridiculous aero kits and an all show, no go mantra flooding the industry, there’s something to be said for proper driver’s cars standing their ground.

Photo courtesy of PRS.

Okachan’s C-SER GVF STI

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C-SER has been flying under the radar for the last few years. If you haven’t heard of them, they are Yashio Factory’s Subaru brand. While their GVF demo car isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s nice to see Okachan working with the new generation STI.

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The GVF is the brand’s latest demo car and showcases some of C-SER’s unqiue exterior pieces including a rear wing and front canards (which actually look great).

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The upgrades are more than skin deep including a slew of suspension upgrades and C-SER’s titanium exhaust.

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When it comes to the GVB/F STI, it’s been pretty slim pickings the last couple of years. The car never really took off in the same way as previous iterations of the Impreza and aftermarket brands have followed suit. Perhaps the $40k price tag has something to do with it?

Photos courtesy of C-SER.

California: Car Enthusiasts Not Welcome

To be a car enthusiast in 2013 is to be part of an ever increasing minority. Al Gore and tree hugging environmentalists would have you believe that our planet is a ticking time bomb on the verge of another Ice Age and it’s all our fault. What the environmentalists fail to mention, is that the process of constructing a hybrid car battery is far more damaging to the planet than your average family sedan and much of the climate changes are part of an aging sun that’s burning hotter and hotter.

What the emissions debate is really about is finding more ways to generate money. Lets face it, California is in debt and despite the state’s overwhelming population, its economy is in the tank and unemployment remains high. Without making this too much of a political debate, consider that by 2025, 1 in 7 cars sold in California must be an EV or other zero-emissions vehicle. That same year, the state hopes to have 1.4 million electric and hybrid cars on its roads, a 75% reduction in smog-forming pollutants and a 50% reduction in green house gas emissions. Still think passing your next smog test is as simple as installing a cat?

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In 2013, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) imposed new smog testing regulations and machinery. For people who modify their cars it means more poking around in the engine bay and under the car. Don’t have a CARB sticker for that catback from Japan? Good luck. Gone are the days where just a stock downpipe is the only thing separating you and a new registration sticker. Smog check facilities are becoming more educated on what to look for and stricter than ever. New machinery uses an exhaust’s back pressure to begin a reading. Like many of you, I thought passing smog would be fairly straight forward like in years past. I converted my WRX back to stock with the exception of my 3″ catback. The car has passed 2 other times with the same setup, however this time the catback prohibited the new machinery from getting a reading. After repeated attempts where the technician went so far as to plug the exhaust tip with shop rags, my WRX failed testing. Keep in mind the rest of the car’s exhaust was factory stock.

Unless you happen to have a smog hookup, which is about as easy to find as a winning lottery ticket or more cash than Scrooge McDuck, you will likely have to take apart your entire project car. That same car you spent countless hours putting together in the first place. The state of California is making it harder and harder to be a car enthusiast which is a great irony, considering just how big car culture is here.

Things are only going to get worse in the years to come. Other states are using California as an example for the types of emissions regulations and testing they hope to implement in the future. It’s only a matter of time before every household is required to own at least one EV or hybrid…

Subaru BRZ STI tS

Subaru would like to charge you $41000 for a body kit.

Okay, so it’s a bit more than a body kit, but do Brembo brakes and some other parts lifted from the Impreza STI tS really warrant such a jump in price? What Subaru have done here is pull a fast one. They relied on the STI brand and what those 3 letters signify, to fuel a huge amount of hype over little more than a trim upgrade to the BRZ.

What Subaru should’ve done is call this car the BRZ tS (Tuned by STI), rather than giving it a name that alludes to a lineage of highly successful World Rally campaigns and road going Imprezas.

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On first impressions the car look the part. Most of the exterior upgrades can already be purchased through STI, including the front lip which finishes off the BRZ rather nicely.

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Most of the exterior’s other upgrades you’ll recognize from the BRZ’s older sibling, including the carbon rear wing.

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Not visible are a set of Brembo brakes (lifted from the Impreza STI) and an upgraded Blistein suspension for better handling.

Subaru has made no allusions to the BRZ going forced induction anytime soon. In the meantime, let the rumor mill continue…

Photos courtesy of ClicCar.

The BRZ STI Is Coming

Teaser images of the long-rumored Subaru BRZ STI have appeared on Subaru Technica International’s official website.

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The announcement comes as little surprise, considering a tuned version of the much loved coupe has been the worst kept secret in the industry.

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The question is what does STI treatment of the BRZ entail? The hope is that the naturally aspirated FA20 will come equipped with a factory turbocharger and the usual assortment of STI upgrades, including bigger brakes, stiffer suspension and more aggressive styling. No word on whether the car will also make the switch to AWD.

Expect to hear more details in the coming weeks.

Photos courtesy of Subaru.

ZERO/SPORTS Anniversary Festival

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that we were watching the demise of ZERO/SPORTS. Back in 2011 the company filed for Chapter 11 – a time when it was the thing to do if you were part of the Japanese tuning industry. After some modest Tokyo Auto Salon appearances, the company appears to have found new life with the Subaru BRZ. Back in April, ZERO/SPORTS hosted a special Anniversary Festival at the company’s tuning facilities.

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Apart from the usual festivities which included food vendors and dyno pulls for customers, 3 generations of the brand’s famed demo cars made appearances.

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As you’re likely to find with most of Japan’s larger automotive brands, ZERO/SPORTS has an impressive retail, tuning and maintenance facility called ZEROMAX. The space allows customers to get a closer look at the company’s products and meet with consultants to discuss the various tuning options available.

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Out back, customers were invited to put their cars on the dyno.

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ZERO/SPORTS has always been known for their work with the Subaru Impreza. At one point they had the most dominant STi around Tsukuba Circuit. Today the brand’s attention has shifted towards a more street-tuned approach with their latest project the CZS Impreza.

While the CZS Type ZERO aero adds a certain elegance to the current crop of Imprezas, the brand will always be most famous for their GDB Time Attack car.

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Also on hand, the BTZ007R2 GC8 demo car.

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They just don’t make them like this anymore.

In recent years the future of Japanese tuning has looked at times bleak. However it’s great to see brands like ZERO/SPORTS carrying on. With their impressive retail and tuning facility ZEROMAX and a firm grip on the BRZ market, bankruptcy is hopefully a thing of the past.

Photos courtesy of ZERO/SPORTS.

Function Is Greater Than Form

I don’t typically like to use other people’s writing as a means for my own content, but this article from Adam Zillin at 7Tune hits the nail on the head.

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Adam makes some excellent points in his discussion of the R35 GT-R and the Japanese philosophy of tuning. It’s a must read for anyone who’s grown tired of the commercialization of automotive tuning, the wheel fitment and stance movements.

The true passion we all share for driving, modifying and appreciating our cars can never be summed up by Instagram “likes” and t-shirt sales.

Photo courtesy of Adam Zillin.

The Fast & Furious Franchise: Why It’s So Great

I love the Fast & Furious franchise. Yes, they’re supremely campy and about as realistic as spotting Bigfoot in the wild, but for most car guys of my generation, they occupy a special place in our nostalgic, petrol-filled hearts. The Fast and The Furious the first time that I was properly exposed to “tuning culture”. Sure I was reading Import Tuner, Super Street and had a loose understanding of modification, but I was only in 8th grade and a long way from owning my own car. The Fast and The Furious made owning an exciting car a realistic possibility for all of us. The characters in the film weren’t driving Ferraris and Porsches, they were driving Hondas and Nissans. They were cars you’d see on a daily basis and it made the dream of owning something flashy, loud and (potentially) fast, attainable.

6 films later and the franchise is still going strong. Fast Five was the highest grossing and in my opinion, the best film of the series. I only see the sequel doing better. A 60 second teaser aired during the Super Bowl and the following day, there was a 3 minute extended trailer online. Judging by the footage, Fast & Furious 6 looks to be another 2 hours of car porn coupled with the most unrealistic plot imaginable. I think it looks fantastic.

The Fast & Furious franchise doesn’t care about winning awards or pleasing critics. It’s only goal is to have as much fun as possible. With ticket prices bordering the obscene, there are few ways to get better value for your money at the theater. One of the reasons the franchise is so successful is because it sticks to a recipe that works: exciting cars, attractive women and plenty of action. The Fast & Furious films aren’t concerned with our perception of reality or even with their own. The character Han died in Tokyo Drift, yet he’s still part of Toretto’s crew 7 years later. If director Justin Lin wants to bring a character back, he just does it. Who cares if their return makes no sense within the context of the film. You get the vibe that most of the cast are friends with each other and hanging out for 3 months on set is just as important as doing another film. Think Ocean’s Eleven.

Fast & Furious 6 is to Hollywood what drifting is to motor sports. They’re both about showing off and doing so in the loudest, flashiest way possible. Once we understand what the films are trying to achieve, we accept them for what they are. Once that happens it all begins to make much more sense. A decent plot is just icing on the cake.

There will be plenty of naysayers and I’m sure many of you reading this completely disagree with my argument. The thing us though, you’re all going to see it, regardless of how much you hate the franchise. There are plenty of bad films out there. Many of us choose to avoid them, but the Fast & Furious franchise is unique in the fact that we still pay our hard earned dollars to see the films, even if they look awful. We get nostalgic about them and yearn to journey back to that alternate reality, were everyone is good looking, drives a fast car and doesn’t have to pass a smog test. As an audience, we know beforehand we’re not about to whiteness cinematic excellence, but we see them nonetheless because we know we’ll be entertained. See the funny thing about entertainment is that it can be good, even great, but it’s never bad. That’s what these films are all about.

Tokyo Auto Salon 2013

It’s early Monday morning in Japan and this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon has officially come to an end. Here’s a sampling of all the rest of the cars present at Makuhari Messe.

As always Nissan had a very big presence at this year’s show. While the GT-R remains the king, Silvas and Skylines have not been forgotten.

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TAS needs more builds like this fantastic 180SX from SPIRIT Rei.

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It’s hard to go wrong with a white R32 on Advans. Funny enough it’s the simple builds that stand out most at TAS.

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Phoenix’s Power had the GT-R well represented at the show including this lime green example on BBS LMs.

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Next door to Phoenix’s Power was Top Secret. They also showed up with a few different GT-Rs as well as their Rocket Bunny kitted 86.

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This year could be the biggest ever turnout for imports, both European and American at TAS. Ferrari had a large presence as did Porsche and BMW amongst others.

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The Ferrari F40 was given a very nice display this year. The Japanese have always been obsessed with European cars and as exotics get older and become cheaper, we’re going to see a lot more tuners working with them.

Despite strong showings from Nissan and Toyota, Mitsubishi didn’t fare as well in 2013. The Evo X is now 5 years old and it’s beginning to show. It’s disappointing to see a car which once littered the show floor at TAS, suffer the same fate as its Subaru rival. With Mitsuibshi moving towards EV production, the CZ4A may be the last of the great tuner cars from the brand.

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Varis continues to dominate the market. I’m disappointed that Voltex never created their own Evo X wide body kit to compete.

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Unsurprisingly, Toyotas dominated the show in 2013. The 86 is the new darling of the Japanese tuning industry, massively overshadowing its sibling the BRZ.

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A JZX100 with strange lights inside of the wheels. This was a trend seen on a number of cars at TAS.

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Original Runduce was present with their 86 demo car kitted in Varis aero. This car just looks so good and is probably my favorite 86.

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After all these years, the Mazda RX-7 continues to be one of the very best looking Japanese cars.

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Last but not least there’s Subaru. As with every year, I was disappointed in the turnout for Imprezas. While the STi fights to remain relevant, the tuning industry seems to be moving on. I blame Subaru for not giving the car the AYC and extra 30-50 horsepower it so deserves.

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D Language came out with a very large booth featuring their STi, Evo and 86 demo cars.

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Blitz was also on hand with a GVB STi showing off some of their latest electronics and performance parts, including this 6-pot brake kit.

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Despite filing for bankruptcy in 2012, Zero/Sports was on hand with a GVB STi. They’re hardly the dominant force they once were at TAS.

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I’ll end with this truly awesome looking wide body GVB STi from Varis. This kit has kind of gone under the radar with all the attention on the 86.

That about does it for TAS coverage on A Class. If anything else exciting comes my way, I’ll be sure to post it. Overall I’m disappointed by this year’s show. There’s a real lack of variety right now in the Japanese tuning industry. I suppose it’s been a long time coming. With major players like Honda, Mitsubishi and Mazda failing to produce exciting cars like they once did, the industry has been forced to rely on Nissan and Toyota. Subaru can be happy with their role in the 86 and their own BRZ but as the Impreza continues to get heavier and slower, we may see another great fall by the wayside. On the bright side, the amazing reception the 86 has gotten has shown other manufacturers what’s possible. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll see more of the affordable, fun cars the Japanese automotive industry so desperately needs.

Photos courtesy of GTNET.