Glancing through a copy of our sister publication European Car the other day, as I often do to keep up with office water-cooler conversation (I have no real interest in overpriced status symbols that fall second-tier to Japanese imports in all areas of vehicle performance that actually matter), I stumbled across a press release announcing the release of the '10 Brabus E V12. For those not familiar, let me enlighten: It's a $650,000 Mercedes Benz E-class Coupe. That's it. Well . . . one that's got an obnoxiously large V-12, some suspension improvements, bigger brakes, a minimal aero package, and a few carbon fiber odds and ends. For a mere 13 and a half times the E-class Coupe's base price of $48,000-or about the cost of three brand-new '10 Lamborghini LP560s-one could double their E-coupe's power output, shave a few feet off its braking distance, and ride around town decked out in about a hundred Brabus logos per square centimeter. Here's another reason not to see anything special about such price-gouged pomp: Chris Dunbar's '06 STI does it all better for a fraction of the price.
The term "fraction" is used lightly here. Chris estimates the total cost of his build-his cost, complete with some sponsored parts and labor-at just under $110,000. We hope you took in all the low-budget glory of the Civic feature on page 30, because there'll be none of that here. For as cool as it is with such little invested, you'd have to be stark-raving mad to compare a Civic to refined, high-dollar European craftsmanship. But we'd back Chris' STI against the bunco Brabus in a heartbeat. Customers of prestigious tuning outfits like Brabus (and Dinan, AMG, GMG, etc.) will be quick to point out that their inflated prices ensure reliability alongside performance. After all, one need only look as far as our May, '10 issue to be reminded of how easily fast Subarus seem to catch fire and/or blow-up. But along with the comparatively high cost of Chris' build comes the high reliability of including only parts and tuning from the most reputable-and most exclusive-companies in the business.
For brevity's sake, we'll keep Chris' back story short: He's owned and built many cars throughout the years (a badass JDM-converted Integra GS-R, an SVT Focus, a handful of high-hp Civics), and originally bought this STI to drive daily to school and work. Once he established his reputation in the tuning community, and-we suspect-came into some money along the way, he set out to transform that daily into the most well-built and unique performance car in the country, and drew up plans to make it happen. He offered to represent the industry's top manufacturers and shops in trade for product, and even if they declined (his build spanned the previous two recessionary years), he paid for their products out of pocket.
His first purchase was a complete Cosworth High Performance Long Block assembly, in which the renowned Formula 1 supplier takes a factory-fresh EJ257 block and cylinder heads, machines them fully, fits them with their own custom-spec schwag, and adjusts/balances/blueprints all moving components for turn-key installation. All for $16,500, in Chris' case [see sidebar].
To the intake side of those new heads, Chris mated a $2,600 Corsa Veloce Track Version rotated intake manifold and fuel-rail setup, and to the exhaust side, a Full-Race twin-scroll manifold and Garrett GT4088R turbocharger, which bleeds out into twin Tial V44 wastegates and a custom Full-Race four-inch titanium exhaust. We're guessing $6K could buy all this, factoring in a healthy "homie" discount.
Subarus are notoriously hot cars when their limits are pushed. Debates rage on as to whether front- or top-mount intercooling systems do the best jobs of cooling, but the guys at Process West are staying out of it. At $2,500, their signature Vmount intercooler/radiator system has proven well worth its price, and Chris was quick to toss it in, along with the included intercooler piping, before his prototype Hypertech drive-by-wire throttle body (a priceless item, in case you were wondering). Fuel delivery is slightly less exotic, but every bit as dependable: Injector Dynamics 1,000cc squirters, an Aeromotive pressure regulator, a trusty Walbro in-tank 255Lph pump, two Bosch in-line pumps, a custom surge tank, and an AEM EMS tuned by Cobb Surgeline founder and president Tim Bailey. $3,500, by our math.
Connected to that Cosworth crankshaft is even more high-dollar goodness. Planning to more than double stock power levels, Chris doubled gripping power with a Carbonetic twin-disc carbon clutch and flywheel, and connected it to a $5,000 PPG helical gearbox with all the fixins. After that it's Cusco all the way, with a 1.5-way rear differential and one-way unit up front.
Behind those $6,400 18x10-inch HRE 590Rs and ultra-rare $8,600 billet Mov It brakes, one might be surprised to find comparatively under-priced Stance coilovers. Don't be. These are GR+3, Stance's top-of-the-line, three-way adjustable (four-level high-speed bump, 15-level low-speed bump, rebound), remote-reservoir units, incorporating custom cold-wound springs, camber-adjustable upper pillowball mounts, and an inverted monotube design. Their $3,900 MSRP is a comparative bargain against similar competition-spec alternatives, and left coin over (in Chris' pockets, anyway) for a full Whiteline bushing and sway bar retrofit, and Prodrive bracing.
While amassing all this artillery, Chris stripped his STI and sent it down south to SoCal's Mobworks for its exterior effects: a full Zero/Sports Time Attack kit, Seibon carbon fiber hood, trunk and front fenders, APR carbon fiber side mirrors, and a L'aunsport carbon fiber roof-a cool $5,300 by our math, not counting trans-oceanic freight, and whatever Ortiz charged to render bodywork and apply the car's custom Corvette ZR-1 blue hues with teal-flop fade. We're guessing upwards of $12K all said and done. And that's not counting the interior.
A third reason we like tuned Japanese imports better than aftermarket Euro offerings: We're purists. We like driving and all the "rough edges" of tuned vehicles: the rush of turbos spooling, wastegates cracking open under full boost, exhausts roaring at stratospheric rpm, the unimpeded tale of the road as told by semi-compliant bushings, stiff springs and aggressive damper valving. NVH is its own reward in our circle, not something to be drowned out by heavy sound deadening material, over-stuffed leather upholstery, noise-cancelling stereo systems, and power-everything. And it seems we're not the only ones; you won't find any of this frill in Chris' STI. What you will find is a chassis-stiffening, NASA-legal, fully gusseted chromoly rollcage fabricated by the creators of the Ultimate Aero, a pair of Bride Vorgas and Takata harnesses to provide support to you and your passenger, and carbon fiber paneling replacing factory front and rear door panels, seats, the rear decklid, and trunk partition (the door panels are the only known set in the U.S., and didn't come cheap). Seated, you'll notice the flip-up Keys Racing wheel and Zero/Sports gauge panel behind it, the custom weighted carbon fiber shift knob in front of the carbon-enclosed SPA fire suppression system, and Turbosmart and Defi gauges serving as the only in-car entertainment. Aside from that 700whp Cosworth mill and PPG box, that is.
"We rushed to get the whole thing together for SEMA," Chris says about the build of his STI. "We only had a few months to get it done once all the parts arrived. I was actually wrenching on it in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center the first day of the show." The planning stages took two years, and Chris won't disclose what, if any, offers of free parts and labor were turned down along the way. But he will proudly say that he stands behind what went into his car 100 percent. "I set a goal and made sure not to compromise it for any reason," he says.
With everything torqued down, tuned and troubleshot, the car's earned undefeated status in seven straight major shows, alongside teammates at Team Sunworks and TWCompetition. After spending the rest of 2010 on the show circuit, Chris's next endeavor will be taking the STI to the track. "Mike Spec is a good friend, so I'd like to get him behind the wheel to show the world how potent a properly built 'show car' can perform in real life." Let's add another reason why we like Imports so much: legitimacy. We doubt we'll be seeing any Brabus E V12 owners do all that anytime soon.
Behind The Build
Build Time. 11 months
Car shows/meets, computers, clubbing with friends
To have the most unique, appealing and competitive show Subaru in the country.
'06 Subaru WRX
Output: 618 whp; 551 lb-ft of torque
Engine Cosworth EJ257 longblock (#099): pistons, connecting rods, billet crankshaft, complete blueprinting/10,500 rpm balancing, +1mm stainless intake valves, +1mm sodium-filled inconel exhaust valves, valve springs, titanium retainers, 278/278 10.7mm camshafts, billet timing belt guide, oil pump; Tomei oil pan; Corsa Veloce Track Edition rotated intake manifold, billet fuel rails; Full-Race intake, twin-scroll turbo manifold, custom four-inch exhaust; custom Hypertech drive-by-wire throttle body; Roger Clark Motorsports adjustable cam gears; Garrett GT4088R turbocharger; polished Tial Q blow-off valve, 44 wastegates (x2); Process West Vmount intercooler/radiator, piping; Mishimoto radiator hoses; dual SPAL radiator fans; Turbosmart Eboost 2 boost controller; custom mirror-polished valve covers, turbo compressor housing; Injector Dynamics ID1000 fuel injectors; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; Walbro 255Lph in-tank fuel pump; Bosch 044 external fuel pumps (x2); custom surge tank; AEM EMS, tuned by Tim Bailey; custom titanium fasteners
Driveline PPG helical-cut gearbox, billet shift selectors, shift fork, synchros; Carbonetics twin-disc carbon clutch, flywheel; Kartboy short-throw shifter; Cusco 1.5-way rear limited slip differential, one-way front differential
Suspension Stance GR+3 three-way adjustable remote-reservoir coilovers, 8kg/mm front springs, 10kg/mm rear springs; Whiteline 27mm front and rear sway bars, chassis bushings; Group-N chassis bushings; Prodrive front strut tower brace; Ice Welds/Badger Canyon Racing full NASA-legal roll cage; OEM Subaru hardware
Wheels/Tires 18x10 HRE 590R wheels (+30mm front offset, +25mm rear); 265/35-18 Yokohama Advan A048 tires
Brakes Mov It billet six-piston calipers and 380mm rotors (front), four-piston calipers and 380mm rotors (rear); Pacific Import Auto stainless brake lines (front and rear)
Exterior Zero/Sports Time Attack front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, front lip splitter; Mobworks custom widebody modification; Seibon carbon fiber hood, front fenders, trunk; L'aunsport carbon fiber roof; custom aluminum under tray; McCullough HID lighting; custom fender pull/flare, shaving; OEM GM Corvette ZR-1 blue paint and fade, applied by Miguel Ortiz of Mobworks
Interior Bride Vorga custom carbon fiber seats; custom black Alcantara/flocking upholstery; Rallytech carbon fiber rear seat delete, decklid, shelf, rear firewall; ARAI motorsports carbon fiber door panels; Ice Welds polished aluminum center console; Keys Racing steering wheel; custom carbon fiber weighted shift knob; SPA Techniques Extreme fire suppression system
Electronics SPA Techniques gauges (EGT, boost, oil pressure, intercooler air temperature in and out); Stack dash; Zero/Sports gauge cluster
Gratitude Family and friends; mom and Jennie; Tom Frederico of Mov It; Mark Reavis; Curtis and Dereck Stangeland; Yvette Brown of VegasVipHottieHosting; Rob at NV Jets; Greg Lilly from Underground Graphix; Josh Mackey of Mackey Designs; Mike, Steve, Dave, and the crew of Pacific Import Auto; Tim Bailey at Cobb-Surgeline; Geoff from Full-Race; John Wallace at HRE; Mobworks; Adam at Z1; Team Sunworks; TWCompetition; Dmoney, Izzy, and Carl for the great cage; Everyone involved with helping make this dream come true!
Just what exactly does $16K get you from a world-famous manufacturer of Formula 1 componentry? Beginning with a brand-new EJ257 block, Cosworth machines each of their High Performance blocks to spec, and adds their own forged pistons (choice of compression), H-beam connecting rods, bearings, 11mm head studs, a new crankshaft (Chris opted for the optional steel billet unit), and blueprinting and balancing to 10.5K rpm. To the block's sides, brand-new OEM cylinder heads are CNC ported and honed, machined to accept +1mm oversized Cosworth stainless intake and +1mm oversized sodium/inconel exhaust valves, fitted with dual valve springs and titanium retainers, given Cosworth S2 camshafts to match, and buttoned down with Cosworth steel headgaskets. Cosworth even goes so far as to include a blueprinted high-flow oil pump and fine-tune timing and valve lash on each individual engine before it gets crated up and shipped out. Cosworth EJ blocks retain their native open-deck design for optimum cooling, but we suspect closed-deck machining can be arranged . . . for a modest upcharge.