If you want something done right, you usually have to do it yourself. After owning Subaru's "Bugeye" WRX for years, Thai Quan (known by many as ART) wanted a project car with a more modern appeal. He had already fallen in love with Subaru's all-wheel-drive performance, so he decided to stay loyal when it came time for a change. He switched to this third-generation WRX STI in hatchback form, then set out to build something unique that he would feel proud driving. This was no small feat with a turbocharged car so popular among enthusiasts, but the end result is as stunning as it looks—with enough personal touches to really call it his own.
All the work was done at the family business, Smooth Auto Body, either with Thai's own two hands or with the help of his uncle. No doubt, the gloss black exterior ties the lines of the aggressive STI together nicely, but it's the combination of one-off parts and JDM styling that really makes this vehicle special.
Thai tells us he has a "function over form" ethos, which we were a little skeptical of when we heard he was on air suspension. While several of us equate air with show and stance cars only, he is rocking a similar Air Lift 3H setup as the Scion FR-S, which recorded the second fastest lap at our Show Car Shootout last year. Maybe it's time to rethink that notion... Though, Thai's STI hasn't seen the road course yet, he explains it's not driven lightly, even admitting to losing three front splitters while powering down the freeway.
If you're wondering where he ordered the front splitter, rear diffuser, and smattering of exposed carbon fiber, you can stop looking. Some of the pieces come by way of Varis and Blacktop Aero, but many of the parts are one-of-a-kind from Thai's good friend John Flor. John is an aerospace engineer by trade who also runs a small shop called Outclassed Industries. Thai reveals the new aero additions improve airflow and weren't just designed to be different.
Continuing to the chassis, Thai's STI sits on 18x10-inch Volk TE37V wheels wrapped in Toyo R888R tires. The suspension upgrades don't stop at air, as he installed a laundry list of race-proven components from Cusco and Whiteline to make sure the car can handle and back up its looks.
After a mild tune from Snail Performance that takes into account all the bolt-on and fuel upgrades, the turbocharged EJ put down 351whp and 362 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty of power for the streets of the Bay Area, according to Thai. He drives the STI as much as he can, and it shows in little ways. While these photos might make the car look perfect, it does have its flaws; however, instead of worrying over the wear and tear, Thai left us with one point: "Imperfection builds character."