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2002 Subaru WRX - STI The Hard Way

The WRX build-up that never stops changing.

Aaron Bonk
Apr 13, 2016

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.

2002 subaru wrx sti jdm sti front grill Photo 2/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Jdm Sti Front Grill

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.

2017 Subaru Impreza
$18,395 Base Model (MSRP) MPG Fuel Economy
2002 subaru wrx sti polished intake manifold Photo 3/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Polished Intake Manifold

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."

2002 subaru wrx sti jdm rear bumper spats Photo 7/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Jdm Rear Bumper Spats

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.

2002 subaru wrx sti engine Photo 8/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Engine

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.

2002 subaru wrx sti edm headlights Photo 9/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Edm Headlights
2002 subaru wrx Rotiform sjc wheel Photo 13/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Rotiform Sjc Wheel
2002 subaru wrx sti jdm bumper spats Photo 20/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Jdm Bumper Spats
2002 subaru wrx sti apr performance rear diffuser Photo 24/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Apr Performance Rear Diffuser
2002 subaru wrx APR splitter Photo 28/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx APR Splitter
2002 subaru wrx sti sti front seatS Photo 32/32   |   2002 Subaru Wrx Sti Sti Front Seats
By Aaron Bonk
356 Articles
2002 Subaru WRX - STI The Hard Way
Tuning Menu
Owner: Matthew Meadows
Hometown: Holly Springs, North Carolina
Engine: STI engine and driveline transplant; Outfront Motorsports closed-deck block; Manley Performance pistons and rods; Outfront Motorsports / ARP head stud conversion; Killer B Motorsport oil pan, windage tray, and pick-up; custom ported and shimmed oil pump; Curt Brown Racing ported cylinder heads; GSC Power Division 1mm oversized valves and valvetrain; Piper camshafts; Gates Racing timing belt; IAG Performance timing belt guide; Killer B Motorsport Holy Header; Precision 6262 turbocharger; TurboXS front-mount intercooler; TiAL 44mm wastegate; TiAL 50mm blow-off valve; AEM electronic boost controller; COBB Tuning Accessport V3 engine management; Vibrant Performance vanjen clamps; Vibrant Performance intake and velocity stack; Cosworth intake manifold; Boomba Racing throttle body; IAG billet fuel rails; Injector Dynamics 1,300cc/min. fuel injectors; Fuelab fuel pressure regulator; Mishimoto radiator and fans; custom coolant reservoir; IAG billet TGV delete; IAG air/oil separator tank; Samco Sport radiator hoses; BMRS fuel and coolant lines;140-amp alternator; Forza alternator relocation kit; custom tucked engine wiring harness; iridium spark plugs; AEM MAP and IAT sensors; IAG dipstick, reservoir caps, amd radiator stays; Chase Bays tucked power steering kit; Exedy twin-disc clutch and flywheel
Footwork & Chassis: 5x114 STI conversion; Air Lift Performance airbags; RideTech e3 LevelPRO system; Viair 480 compressor; Whiteline adjustable rear lateral links; Whiteline front and rear bars with Kartboy end-links; TruHart anti-lift kit; Whiteline front roll center kit; custom eight-point front sub-frame brace; Torque Solution center support bushings; Turn In Concepts cross-member bushings and Holy Shift set; Perrin Performance outrigger bushings; Kartboy short shifter; ARP wheel studs
Brakes: DBA big-brake kit; Hawk HPS pads; STI brake booster, brake master cylinder, and ABS pump
Wheels & Tires: custom Rotiform SJC wheels; Project Kics lug nuts
Exterior: Lexus Glacier Frost Mica paint; OEM front spoiler; APR Performance front and rear carbon-fiber diffusers; JDM rear side skirt spats and carbon-fiber skirt extensions; '05 STI rear bumper, flairs; JDM STI front grill; JDM rear bumper spats; JDM Type RA Spec C roof vent; JDM window rain visors; SunTek HP blue 50 window tint; EDM headlights; Morimoto HID conversion
Interior: Prova D-Shaped steering wheel; STI instrument cluster; Killer B Motorsport shift knob; STI front seats; custom rear seats; AEM air/fuel ratio, oil pressure, and boost pressure gauges; Zeitronix Ethanol Content Analyzer; custom suede interior throughout; Saab 9-3 black carpet; STI floor mats; JPM Coachworks alcantara shift boot and emergency brake boot; red LED interior lighting; STI door handles; STI shifter surround; JDM hazard switch; Pioneer head unit and speakers

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