In 2001, Subaru introduced North Americans to the Impreza WRX. It was sold with a 227-horsepower factory turbocharged engine matched to an all-wheel-drive layout that beckoned the company's rallying heritage. Four-wheel-disc brakes, a functional air scoop integrated into a lightweight aluminum hood, and an optional rear spoiler all meant that, all of a sudden, Subaru was a contender among the American sport compact segment.
And then came the STI. The race car-inspired model's EJ257 made 73 more horsepower than the WRX, featured race car sort of things like a water-injection system for the top-mount intercooler, as well as limited-slip diffs at both ends and, well, you wanted it.
So did Matthew Meadows. As it turned out, though, Meadows already had a perfectly good WRX, which led him to doing the next most logical thing, which was to swap just about everything that made the STI special into place. You think that entails an engine swap and nothing else and you're wrong. It's true that Meadows plopped the STI's mill underneath the WRX's hood, but while doing so also nabbed the STI's complete drivetrain, electronics, and bumpers to match. Today, the only reason Meadows' WRX isn't a bonafide STI is because Subaru says it's not.
Meadows' just might be better anyhow. As lead tech and shop foreman at a small shop specializing in Subarus, Meadows says in a nonchalant sort of way, "Honestly, I know way more about the brand than I should." Experimentation's what's led to that knowledge. Like the five engines that've been dropped in and taken back out, the four engine management systems that've been installed and tinkered with, the slew of rims that've come and gone, and the plan of having a simple, daily driven sort of Subaru that somehow got completely forgotten about. "[My car has] always been the guinea pig for parts and testing," he says. "Almost all of the recommendations [I make] for customers' builds come from my R&D and from my dime."
Don't think Meadows is complaining, though. With nearly 12 other builds under his belt, it's not like he doesn't know how all of this would play out. "I remember driving the car from the dealership to a buddy's shop and purchasing a cat-less downpipe and an exhaust just a few hours later," he says.
Despite plans for a turbo swap, a flex-fuel conversion, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 hp, Meadows is content with how the Subie sits. But don't blink because if you do, you just might find another engine underneath this Subaru's hood and, in all likelihood, a different set of wheels.