As the car rolled, so did Kendrick Gray's stomach. In a scant few seconds, his prized WRX was pummeled into oblivion. The black '05 Subaru was in the hands of a "semi-pro" driver for a video shoot, and, in the midst of a serious hot-lapping session, the car did a death wiggle, found itself in the dirt, bounced off a berm, and cartwheeled to its death... It all took about 12 seconds.
The unfortunate events on Turn 2 at Washington's Pacific Raceways set Kendrick on the road to resurrection and ultimately the creation of this awe-inspiring STI. The journey took the better part of a decade and transformed Kendrick from a wide-eyed enthusiast into a capable builder. "This all started when I lived in an apartment building with a one-car garage. It took seven years to build this car, a lot of trial and error, a lot of promises, and a lot of broken promises from people who were going to help along the way. It really forced me to tool-up and skill-up to make it happen, because at times I couldn't rely on anyone." The Subie was well worth the wait. It was conceived as a double-edged sword that's as impactful on the show circuit as it is on the track, with no shortage of attention to detail and mechanical grip.
Kendrick, who's an IT manager for a local construction company during the day, really went to school building the STI. "I learned how to read a Subaru wiring diagram first and foremost...no easy task. I learned how to weld, MIG weld, TIG weld. I learned how to compile measurements for CAD work, because we came into some design areas where the only way to come up with a solution was to build something that's never been built before."
He constructed the car to accommodate 295 tires and tubbed the front fenders and reworked the sheetmetal in the engine bay. The outer fenders are Karlton flares Kendrick widened by an inch. Inboard, a custom chromoly front subframe is home to JRZ RS Pro Sport coilovers, Whiteline sway bars, and a collection of solid polyurethane bushings. The coilovers feature external reservoirs—21 and 14 adjustments for rebound and compression damping, respectively—capped with monstrous Ground Control camber plates. The enlarged wheelwells are filled with 18x10.5 Gram Lights wrapped with Toyo R888 high-performance rubber. Stopping power comes courtesy of six-piston Brembo calipers that put the squeeze on 355mm discs up front while a two-piston setup is on duty out back. The brake system features Aeroquip lines and custom hard stainless tubing that is a signature feature of Kendrick's handiwork. "I did all the stainless steel lines on the car," he tells us. "I built every tube end and bent them all myself. It's really hard to learn that art from a lot of research online and a lot of practice...plain and simple trial and error. Tube work is one of my favorite things I learned how to do during the project."
The STI's balanced and blueprinted 2.5L flat four was built by Pacific Import Auto of Tacoma, Washington. The powerplant was assembled with lightweight Manley 2618 material pistons, Scat Pro Sport rods, and a stock forged Subaru crank. A set of ported heads, fitted with Inconel valves, Brian Crower valvesprings and retainers, and GSC Stage 2 cams were bolted to the short-block.
The Boxer is pressurized by a Garrett-based TiAL Sport GT35R turbo with a .82 A/R compressor housing and a 68mm, 84-trim turbine wheel contained in a stainless-steel V-band turbine housing. A Perrin boost controller regulates max pressure to 24.4 psi on E85, and a Bell intercooler core with custom end tanks by Flipside Customs chills the charge prior to combustion.
But Kendrick is quick to point to the intake system as the star of the show. "The airbox has to be the most uniquely misunderstood piece on the car," he reveals. "Most people walk up and ask, 'Why does he still have a top mount?' But it's really the air intake for the turbo. I thought with a bright red K&N filter on the top people would recognize it as an air intake, but I guess the lines make it look like an intercooler. I built it by hand on the kitchen table. It's welded, glued, press-brake formed... It's some of everything... made with billet, fine welding, CAD work on top of that. It's just kind of sums up the whole car—whatever it takes, whenever it needs it."
Another thing Kendrick loves about the car is how, despite all the modifications, it runs on a factory ECU. "Of course, I've pumped up the tune with a Cobb Accessport, but I've done all kinds wiring projects to keep as many factory pieces as possible," he explains. "For instance, the cooling fans are easy to overlook, but the ECU is set up to control them: high speed, low speed, primary fan, and secondary fan. There are no check engine lights. It's all about reliability...the EJ started on the very first try. The magic was there from the beginning, and it's just been phenomenally reliable. I've been really happy with the car." This combo was tuned by Tim Bailey and Lance Lucas of Cobb to 512 whp.
The bodywork didn't stop with the wheeltubs and fender flares. "The hood is really funny to me, because I got this idea when the car was sitting in my garage and I was looking at the WRC car—the S9 or WRC2003—and I really love the look and feel of that hood. I asked myself, 'How do I get those vents?' I couldn't source them, so I literally went out to the garage with a Sharpie and drew on the hood. I kept drawing and erasing and drawing and erasing until I got the placement and the look just right. And then I went for it, like a trapeze artist without a net...cutting the hood and making those vents. They are multipiece, they're all aluminum with some 3M material in there to make them, but that is totally hand-formed around a wood buck."
Kendrick continued the same theme of function, form, and attention to detail in the cabin. The seats are Sparco Pro 2000s with HANS-compatible Schroth belts. What you can't miss is the paint-matched rollbar that keeps him safe and the chassis stiff. Just like the exterior, the interior has the right balance of carbon-fiber in the custom WRC door panels. The backseat pan boasts a surgically precise array of stainless-steel tubing Kendrick bent to carry critical fluids from trunk to the engine bay. The rear seat delete boasts the largest and most technical CAD-designed pieces in the billet bulkhead plates made from 6061-T6. "The parts came off the CNC, but I still had to drill and tap the final pieces once I had everything fitted just perfect.
"I've done a lot of car shows with it, but we've really had the most fun doing our driving events over in Sun Valley, Idaho, and working with TheDrugCoalition.org over there, trying to help keep kids off drugs and bringing corporate sponsorship to that. It's kind of a passion of mine. Being out sharing my journey and the car with people has turned out to be the most fulfilling part of the build. Watching the kids climb all over it and really enjoy it while helping promote a quality cause makes it all worth it.
"The car has an amazing amount of mechanical grip. It runs a functional aero package that includes a carbon-fiber wing and splitter, there's no rubber bushings in the car; it's all Heim joint steering and suspension links, so you get a lot of response. It's very tactical and very responsive. The car likes to change directions when asked, but it's quite docile and stable at high speeds. In fact, it gets better at higher speeds." Kendrick put the car to work just recently during our 2019 Show Car Shootout event.
Kendrick says he plans to keep making additional modifications to the car to add more grip and power—and find more reasons to get out and drive it. Sounds like a great plan to us.
Here's what Kendrick's Subaru looked like after flipping seven times. Someone else was driving it on the track, and it went from race speed to lawn art in 12 seconds.