In 2011, Subaru brought back the STI sedan after what felt like they'd been testing the waters with their five-door hatchback. Many enthusiasts believed the hatch to be "less STI", so the Subie faithful were delighted once the news of a lower, wider and meaner sedan would be returning. Sexy features like a quad exhaust, widebody shape, sharper handling and stiffer suspension added to the more attractive package, hence why guys like Leigh Gavin of Victoria, British Columbia, decided to go all-in on his 2011 Subaru WRX STI.
This is Leigh's first Subaru project car and it's been through a heap of changes over its ten-year lifespan. It screams custom show car vibes, but it also has plenty of performance upgrades to back things up. Underneath the hood is a built 2.5-liter Boxer engine that's tuned to 580whp on E85 (stock power on the turbo-four is 305hp). Leigh has also done his due diligence to ensure the footwork and chassis can perform, installing Ohlins coilovers, front and rear big brakes, plus every other suspension upgrade available for the car.
I've had the chance to see Leigh's Subie in person at a show we organized last year at the LeMay America's Car Museum, and it truly has presence. There's a healthy dose of JDM parts and a lot of custom details to "ooh" and "aah" at, too. He also lives in Victoria on Vancouver Island, so we gotta give him props for making all those long journeys to the many events he attends each and every year.
INTERVIEW WITH LEIGH GAVIN
When did you fall in love with cars, Leigh?
Started when I got to drive a brand new 1996 Toyota Supra. Since then, I've always been obsessed with Japanese cars, mostly from the '90s. Initial D and other Japanese time attack T.V. shows just added fuel to the fire.
JDM from start! I like! What project cars have you owned?
I've built a '91, '92 and '98 Acura Integra, '96 Honda Prelude, '06 Nissan G35, and a '08 Honda Fit. Out of these, my favorite build would be my '92 Acura Integra.
Didn't take you to be that big of a Honda guy, looking at your Subaru. What drew you to the STI?
I remember seeing the Tommi M kinen 2011 WRX STI N rburgring Challenge teaser in which they announced bringing back the four-door sedan. I called the Subaru dealership the next morning, put a deposit down and ended up picking one up from the first shipment from Japan. My love for my Subaru "bae" inspired me to start the Happy Endings Brand, wanting to give others the smiles and the joy that building bae gives me, and giving others the opportunity to feel what bae represents.
What was the overall direction you wanted to go with "bae"?
I've owned my Subaru for almost 10 years, so I've been through many iterations. I've had three kits - Chargespeed, Varis Narrow Body STI '12, Varis Widebody; three wheel setups - Advan RS, RZII, Volk CE28SL; two coilover setups - KW V3s and Ohlins; two air ride setups - Accuair and Air Lift; two turbo setups - Blouch Performance and Forced Performance; three custom headlight setups; and three custom taillight setups - Valenti, Illumaesthetic, Genki_Trs. My list of performance mods I've changed throughout the years is quite long and to say that I've always known the direction would be impossible as it's always evolving into something bigger and better.
Jeebus that's a lot of changes, but surely this is the best yet! Tell us a little bit about the rarest components on your build?
I own lots of Japan collector parts such as ARC, Zero Sport and Top Secret to name a few. Anything that was made one-off is what I consider rare. My one-off carbon fiber hexagon headlights, Genki_Trs LED tails, which I helped design, custom hexagon blue stitched interior, powdercoated chrome blue parts, Launsport custom carbon fiber roof, and Varis widebody kit are some of the ones that stand out.
Any major challenges you've had to overcome?
Having done most the work in my own garage, there's always been things that had their own unique challenges when dealing with many custom parts. I spend a lot of time planning what I'm going to do before executing them. I would say that would be where I spent most of my time, in researching.
What's your favorite part?
The body lines are more square, which reminds me of the '90s styling. The Varis kit complemented the overall look and that's what still makes me smile when I'm walking across a parking lot to get into my car.
Do you feel it's more of a cruiser/show car or performance build?
Since I switched between air ride and coils, depending on if it's show season, I get to enjoy a bit of both worlds. I live on an island so for me to drive to the States for shows, I need the air ride to get on and off the ferry. Yes, I drive my car to all car shows as I built my car first and foremost to enjoy driving it. To me, the car feels like my own custom creation, so I definitely enjoy driving any amount of distance.
And hope to see you driving to more shows in 2021! Thank you, Leigh!
SUBARU STORIES TO CATCH UP ON
2011 Subaru STI Limited Edition
OWNER Leigh Gavin
HOMETOWN Victoria, BC, Canada
OCCUPATION Owner of Happy Endings Brand
POWER 580whp (tuned on E85)
ENGINE IAG Performance EJ25 closed deck short block, H-beam connecting rods, air pump block off plates, CNC top feed TGV deletes, air oil separator with pitch mount bracket, dress-up caps, battery tie down, radiator stays, oil stick, fuel pressure gauge, top feed fuel rails, braided fuel lines and fittings; Manley 99.75mm Platinum pistons; .170" wrist pins; King Race rod and main bearings; ARP rod bolts, custom age 625+ head stud; 2017-spec 2.5L nitride treated STI crankshaft; DEI Cry02 intercooler sprayer; Cobb Accessport V3; Cusco oil drain plug; TiAL MVR V-band 38mm wastegate, Q blow-off valve; Tomei PonCam dual AVCS cams, valvesprings, turbo inlet; GReddy magnetic transmission/front differential drain plug; Grimmspeed boost solenoid, adjustable wastegate bracket, cerarmic coated downpipe; NGK spark plugs; Process West street intake manifold; Forced Performance RED turbo; Koyorad Race aluminum radiator; ETS front mount intercooler kit; 2019-spec steering rack; Odyssey Track battery; Killer B Motorsports oil pickup, upper turbo reservoir, oil baffle windage tray, 5-liter oil pan, 321 stainless Holy header; Rowen Race titanium quad tip exhaust; PTP Lava turbo wrap; Aeromotive A1000-6 fuel pressure regulator; COBB Tuning fuel rail line kit, flex fuel sensor kit; ID1300 injectors; DeatschWerks 300 fuel pump; Group N engine mount, pitch stop mount
DRIVETRAIN six-speed manual transmission; ACT StreetLite flywheel, Xtreme Duty street clutch kit; Techna-Fit stainless clutch lines; TWM short shifter; Cobb Tuning shifter bushings
FOOTWORK & CHASSIS Ohlins coilovers; Cusco Power braces, control arms, lower arms, differential carrier, strut tower bar; Racecomp Engineering front and rear sway bars; Whiteline Steering rack bushings, front and rear adjustable ball socket end-links
BRAKES R1 Forged Series front and rear big brake kits with 365mm front and 345mm rear drilled and slotted rotors, six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, track pads; Grimmspeed master cylinder brace; Techna-Fit stainless lines
WHEELS & TIRES 18x10.5" +15 Volk Racing CE28SL wheels with Formula lug nuts; 265/35R18 Toyo R1R tires
EXTERIOR Varis '12 Version carbon front bumper, bonnet dampener, carbon hood, Euro GT wing, carbon heat shield, carbon rear diffuser, side carbon air panel, side skirts, carbon side splitter fins, carbon big underboard, carbon canards, widebody fenders; OSS Designs custom hexagon headlights; Genki_Trs Japan custom taillights; Chargespeed LED fog light with F1-style flash brake lamp; GrimmSpeed license plate relocation kit; Beat-Sonic shark fin antenna; Hella Supertones horns; Kartboy black exhaust hangers; Liberal Aero LED Welcome Winker kit, carbon rear bumper duct; Sylvania LED daytime running fog lights; Lexus LFA Pearl White paint; Prova Blue wide-view door mirrors; JDM STI rear fog light, rain guards
INTERIOR Bride STRADIA II Kevlar seats, Low Max seat rails, shift boot, brake boot, armrest; AEM air fuel and oil pressure digital gauges; Street Faction custom heel plates; dash, doors, seats and trunk reupholsted in leather and alcantara; carbon fiber trim and e-brake handle; Cusco six-point rollcage, spin turn knob; DAMD D-shaped steering wheel with blue stitching; Happy Endings titanium shift knob; JDM arm rest, dual center console