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2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI - Modern Muscle

Al Castorino’s blacked-out STI has the tough looks and big power you’d expect from a modern day Japanese muscle car.

David Pratte
Aug 1, 2008
Photographer: Eric Tong

Referring to a Japanese sedan as a "muscle car" would no doubt make most traditionalists in the muscle car scene either laugh or cringe. But for the more progressive and open-minded enthusiasts out there, the comparison makes a lot of sense. Take an economy car chassis, throw a more powerful engine in it, stuff some bigger wheels and tires under it, give it some tough looking exterior trim like hood scoops and flared fenders, and you’ve got an affordable go-fast formula. This is exact formula Detroit used in the 1960’s and 1970’s when building machines like the Pontiac GTO and Dodge Charger, and Subaru and Mitsubishi followed and improved on this recipe by adding the goodness of all-wheel-drive and the ability to turn as well as go stupid-fast in a straight line.

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Just ask Al Castorino. This New Jersey native may have grown up on classic muscle cars, given that his love for big horsepower and high speed mischief started when his older brother bought a 1970 Dodge Charger RT and he later bought and restored a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner at the ripe old age of 16 (in 1984). But Al’s taste in high performance machinery covers the full spectrum, from lifted pickup trucks to a lightly modded Lexus SC400 to dirt and road bikes and even a 500-hp drag boat. Getting married and having a son meant his motorcycle racing days were over, so to satisfy his well-established need for speed Al stepped up and built this truly bad ass blacked-out 2005 Subaru Impreza STI.

"One of the things that drew me to the STI, oddly enough, is its similarities to the muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s", says Al. "The big hood scoop is reminiscent of the old 440 Dart scoop. It’s got big power without too many frills. And for the price tag, it can’t be beat. The STI, and EVO for that matter, are today’s modern muscle cars." And with four door practicality, Al knew he’d be able to lay the smack down on just about anyone on the streets or at the track once the car was built to his standards, but he’d still be able to comfortably (and quickly) drive the kids to school.

After buying this Obsidian Black Pearl Subie, Al went to the internet in search of information on the best available go-fast goodies. That’s when he found NASIOC and IWSTI.com. "I thoroughly enjoyed them both, but IWSTI.com had me obsessed. This site is what spurred most of my ideas for the car. The information that can be found on these boards is priceless."

Tough to disagree, given the awesomely powerful and super clean STI our man Al managed to put together with the info he found online and the help he found from Rich at Precision Tuning and Chris at XX Tuning. It all started innocently enough with a dead pedal mod, but soon after boxes started arriving in the mail almost daily and Al was doing most of the wrenching himself until he started to get in deeper and deeper. That’s when Rich at Precision Tuning stepped in to do the Turbo XS front mount intercooler install. As Al said, "His workmanship was impeccable and his shop is one of the few that actually has people who car about what they are doing, treats their customers with total respect, and sets them on the right path with loads of good advice."

The right path for Al meant a Deadbolt SZ49 turbo, fully upgraded fuel delivery, SMC meth injection, a 50 shot of nitrous via a NX EFI wet kit, an Invidia downpipe, Skunk2 catback, and a Cobb Street Tuner to control it all. But after having been to four different tuners and through many different iterations of hardware, Al was never really satisfied with the way his STI ran. Sure 400whp and 400wtq might sound like plenty, but as Al said, "It just did not idle well and was not very smooth, mostly because of bad ECU tuning". And as you might expect with poor tuning, eventually the engine took a dump, in this case meaning failed ring lands on pistons two and four. That’s when Rich from Precision Tuning really stepped up and built Al a bulletproof EJ block with all the forged trimmings including JE pistons, Manley rods, ARP head studs, and Power Enterprise timing belt. They also threw in SZ55 turbo, Perrin equal length header and V2 fuel rail, APS turbo inlet, JDM TGV deletes, and some Stage 1 head porting for good measure.

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This is when Al met Chris from XX Tuning. "I will tell you, this guy in my opinion, is the best tuner on the east coast right now. He keeps you informed as he is doing the tuning, tells you where the issues were, gives good advice about what hardware to use, and tunes the car for safety. Too many tuners are out there just trying to make numbers to impress everyone. Not Chris. He made 455whp and 492wtq on a very safe tune and the car runs like a top."

To put all this finely-tuned power to the ground, Al dumped the JDM STI "pink" springs he originally installed for a KW Variant 3 full coilover setup, along with some RCE Camber plates up front, Cobb front and rear sway bars, and a bunch of Whiteline goodies and an assortement of braces. The driveline was also fortified with an Exedy twin disc clutch kit and a ACPT carbon fiber driveshaft, along with Cusco engine and tranny mounts and TiC Outrigger and tranny cross-member bushings.

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Both the interior and exterior of Al’s black beauty of an STI are equally all-business. The lighting on this STI is particularly cool, thanks to the S2000 retrofit HID’s and angle eyes, and the carbon fiber on the Syms replica rear wing, front lip, Ureshi rear window spoiler and Varis rear bumper exhaust shield give the exterior a bit of subtle flare. The RAYS 57F Time Attack 18-inch rims and Falken RT-615 235/40-18 rubber are the perfect compliment to the blacked out exterior, the understated red lip being picked up in the clean vinyl Al’s dressed his STI up with. Inside it’s the Bride Gias Low Max seats that immediately draw you in, but the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, S204 blacked-out interior dash kit, DEFI BF gauges and Lathe Werks black Copolymer Sphere shift knob complete the look in a fittingly understated and mature way.

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"My goal from the get-go was to build the perfect balance of weekend track car with enough balls to walk most anyone, and still put my son in his car seat on Monday morning and drive to work without an issue". With the help of Rich from Precision Tuning and Chris from XX Tuning, that’s exactly what he’s got. From a 1970 Road Runner to a 2005 Subaru Impreza STI, Al Castorino is a man who knows his cars and appreciates all the advantages of a modern day muscle car like his souped-up Subie.


Vehicle: 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Engine: EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four

Engine Modifications: JE pistons, Manley rods, ARP head studs, Performance bearings, Stage 1 ported heads, Deadbolt SZ55 Fatboy ("limited edition" 18G compressor cover), JDM TGV deletes, APS turbo inlet, Power Enterprise timing belt and 850cc fuel injectors; Perrin V2 fuel rails, equal length header, Up-pipe, and radiator hoses; TiAL 44mm wastegate and BOV; TurboXS FMIC and SR intake; SMC Meth injection kit, NX EFI wet nitrous kit (50 shot), Invidia downpipe, Skunk2 cat-back exhaust, Cobb turbo heat shield and battery tie-down; Aeromotive FPR and CHM gauge; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump, Statix grounding kit, Element Tuning oil catch can and air/oil separator; AR Fab harmonic balancer, Samco ancillary hoses, Braille lightweight battery, custom aluminum rad cooling plate, Mocal oil cooler.

Engine Management: Cobb Street Tuner (tuned by XX Tuning), Blitz SBC ID3 boost controller, AEM AFR gauge, TurboXS knockLite, SMC Meth controller.

Drivetrain: Exedy Twin disc D-Core clutch kit, ACPT carbon fiber driveshaft, steel braided clutch line, Kartboy short-throw and bushings; Cusco engine and transmission mounts, solid aluminum pitch stop, TiC Outrigger & transmission crossmember bushings.

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Wheels, Tires & Brakes: RAYS 57F Time Attack 18x8.5 wheels and Falken RT-615 235/40-18 tires (street), stock BBS wheels painted in Time Attack style with Kumho V710 245/45-17 tires (track), Ferrodo DS2500 pads (street) and Carbotech XP8 pads (track), Goodridge SS lines, ATE super blue fluid.

Suspension: KW Variant 3 coilovers, RCE camber plates, Cobb front and rear anti-sway bars, Whiteline Sport ALK kit, subframe locking bolts, adjustable front endlinks and balljoint extenders; Perrin rear endlinks, TheCarLabs X-Brace, Offensive Power front fender braces, JDM titanium front strut bar, Cusco Version 2 subframe brace, Project Sologear 1/8" aluminum skid plate.

Interior: Bride Gias Low Max front seats, Alacantra-wrapped steering wheel, S204 Blacked out interior dash kit, DEFI BF amber Boost, Oil Pressure, and EGT gauges, Control Unit II, and Triple Meter Hood; HVAC Redlight mod, Auto-dimming mirror/compass, Lathe Werks black Copolymer Sphere shift knob, polished STi shifter surround, JDM carbon shift pattern decal, Autospeed Dead Pedal, Kendwood DDX-7015 head unit, Passport 8500 X50.

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Exterior: Syms Replica wing, S2000 Retrofit HID headlights with angels eyes custom painted (Lightwerks), WRX sideskirts, Black Spline lugs, rear 35% tinted windows, debadged rear, Black “I” front badge, Black STI billet aluminum front bumper trim, carbon fiber front lip, NRG polished hood dampers, Varis carbon fiber rear bumper exhaust shield, 06’ taillights and rear diffuser; Ureshi carbon fiber rear window spoiler.

Numbers: 455whp and 492wtq on XX Tuning’s Dyno Dynamics dyno.

By David Pratte
216 Articles

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