Cars are like people. Most of them live pretty normal lives, but there are always the exceptions. Some go into show business, others go into sport. A few sport stars even go into show business as a second career, but going in the other direction is virtually unheard of. Then there are race cars that become museum pieces (it's show business of a sort). But how many machines go from being a show car to a race car?
Here's one. Possibly the only one. It's Takahiro Nakamura's '00 Subaru Impreza WRX. Nakamura, 35, lives in Shiki City, in the Saitama Prefecture, about 20 minutes from Tokyo by train. He had his dreams-a childhood ambition to become a professional racing driver. And just like this Impreza has had a second career, it's also helped Nakamura make the same journey.
Since being a professional driver takes a ton of cash, even for the supremely talented, Nakamura decided to get a business together first. Naturally, one that would involve cars. And so the CS Hiro (CS standing for Car Service) Body Shop came about. With a thriving operation, he could build a car and fund his desire to tear up the track.
Cut to the year 2000. Nakamura takes a call from Subaru. Could he help create a custom Impreza WRX for a car show, one that would involve chopping the roof down by a couple of inches, painting the whole thing red and installing a killer sound system? Hey, work is work, and it's hard to say no when Subaru comes knocking. So Nakamura flexed his building chops and the Impreza embarked on a stint as eye candy for car geeks.
Then the new (current generation) Impreza came out in 2007. The old show car was history. If it was lucky, a bit part in a Fast and Furious film was the most it could look forward to. Nakamura wanted to restore its dignity. And despite having previously owned two Mazdas (an RX-7 and a Miata), two Nissans (Skyline R31 and 300ZX), a Toyota Altezza (best known in the States as a Lexus IS300) and a Mitsubishi GTO, he needed a racing machine. None of his current garage fillers-a BMW 540i, a VW Golf/Rabbit and a Honda Step Wagon-would fit that bill.
A deal was struck and Subaru sold him the show car. With the chop job, the car would look like nothing else on the track. Now it just had to move like nothing else on the track. OK, imagine one of those film montages, where time is condensed into a couple of minutes to the tune of some rousing rock anthem and we see something gradually take shape. That's kind of what happened, only it didn't take that long; the whole transformation was completed in two weeks.
Two. Weeks.This seems to suggest that the Japanese make their coffee with espresso beans and rocket fuel. What follows is a laundry list of the rare and esoteric, mixed in with the mundane and universal. The former in the guise of custom-made parts; the latter by hours spent working instead of sleeping and good old honest toil.
The 2.5-liter flat-four engine known and loved as the EJ25 was taken apart. The crankshaft was given the WPC treatment, a friction-reducing process first developed for the Le Mans 24-hour race. Mahle forged pistons went in, to run a low compression ratio of 8.5:1. JUN 272-degree, high-lift camshafts now grace both the intake and exhaust sides, while 1mm metal head gaskets replace the originals. Oil is cooled by a Trust 15-core item.
An Avo turbo kit supersedes the factory system, managed by a Blitz boost controller and forcing induction to the tune of 24.2 psi - not for the fainthearted. Air comes via an ARC V-mount intercooler, filtered through an HKS Super Power Flow unit; a Bosch fuel pump feeds new SARD 800cc/min. injectors, and the whole combustion ballet is choreographed by a Motec ECU to produce 480 hp.
Fitting the V-mount intercooler proved to be the trickiest and most time-consuming aspect of the build. Nakamura had to fabricate certain sections to make it sit right.
Spent gases are whisked into a Brova exhaust manifold, then a catalytic converter and muffler custom-made by CS Hiro. Other creations include a radiator and the body kit.
Before the kit went on, Nakamura had the shell strengthened by a combination of spot and stitch welds. The aero appendage program starts at the front bumper and front lip, then takes in the hood, trunk and front fenders. The rear doors are now made from fiber reinforced plastic. Signal Auto, suppliers to the JDM motorsport world, were approached for a set of side skirts and the acrylic windows have been sourced from HPI.
The driver's seat (the only seat) and four-point harness are also bespoke, sharing the stripped-out interior with a Maruyoshi Sports six-point roll cage. Nakamura doesn't say where the steering wheel comes from, chances are that it's also a Shiki City special, but the six-speed gearbox comes courtesy of the Subaru factory.
Not so the clutch, which is an ORC twin-plate setup connecting torque to front and rear Cusco limited-slip differentials. It speaks volumes about the Impreza's braking system that it's been kept pretty much stock in this instance, with four-piston calipers up front and two-piston calipers at the rear, packed with Performance Friction Carbon (PFC) metallic pads.
In front of the brakes are wide SSR wheels, sized 18x10, rolling on 265/35 Yokohama Advan tires. Keeping them all in shape is a chassis comprised of fully adjustable Koni coilovers, with spring rates set at 22kg (front) and 16kg (rear), plus a combination of Cusco/Full Pilot upper and lower control arms at the front, and Ikeya Formula/Full Pilot equivalents at the other end.
Now this WRX (still classed as a street car; Nakamura used to take it on touge runs) is the fifth fastest of its kind in Japan, completing the time attack layout of the Tsukuba Circuit in 59 seconds. The total build cost runs to something in the region of $250,000 (hope the body shop is still doing well) and Nakamura values the car at $100,000.
The next project looks like a Nissan 350Z with "a big single turbo," says Nakamura with a grin. But whether it's day-to-day work or building something special, his philosophy is always: "Do your best." And as well as taking great pride from what he's done here, Nakamura learned this lesson: "Take my time, and my dreams will eventually come true if I put my mind to it."
If the racing thing doesn't work out, it looks like he could always go on Oprah. It's show business, of a sort.
'00 Subaru Impreza WRX
Behind The Build
Head to the message boards at
To chat about this feature vehicle
Shiki City, Saitama, Japan
Painter, Race Car Driver
"The front end swap was difficult. i didn't sleep much"
WPC-treated crankshaft; Mahle forged pistons; JUN 272-degree, high-lift intake/exhaust camshafts; 1mm metal head gaskets; Trust 15-core oil cooler; Avo turbo kit; Blitz boost controller; ARC V-mount intercooler; HKS Super Power Flow air filter; Bosch fuel pump; SARD 800cc/min. fuel injectors; Motec ECU; Brova exhaust manifold; catalytic converter, muffler and radiator custom-made by CS Hiro
ORC twin-plate clutch; Cusco limited-slip differentials (F & R)
Koni coilovers (F & R); Cusco/Full Pilot upper and lower control arms (F); Ikeya Formula/Full Pilot upper and lower control arms (R)
SSR wheels, 18x10; Yokohama Advan tires, 265/35-18
Performance Friction Carbon metallic pads
Custom chop top; CS Hiro front bumper, lip, hood, trunk, fenders; fiber reinforced plastic rear doors; Signal Auto side skirts; HPI acrylic windows
CS Hiro driver's seat; four-point seat belt; Maruyoshi Sports six-point roll cage