If we were to take 100 people and ask each one to describe their favorite type of motorsport, the likeliness that the words “parking lot” or “cones” would come up is pretty slim. That’s really a shame, though, because the “motorsport for the masses” is based around those two very things. On a core level, autocross sounds very simple, but if you’ve never been behind the wheel of a car trying to dodge cones, then you ought to put it on your to-do list.
The greatest thing about autocross is an adage that many experienced drivers live by: “10 percent car, 90 percent driver” pretty much sums it up, although having a good platform certainly won’t make your life more difficult. Michael Mercado knows this feeling very intimately, having been bitten by the autocross bug several years ago.
“I purchased my [current] ’04 Subaru WRX STI in the fall of 2008 after a brief stint with a Stage 2 ’07 STI,” Michael says. “One day while driving my ’07, an older guy with another STI saw me in town at a gas station and invited me to come out to some strange event they were having that weekend — he called it ‘autocross.’ My life was never the same!”
After blowing the original motor, the idea of simply dropping in an OEM replacement didn’t sit well with Michael. He wanted more. “I could think of only one shop I wanted to use to get my car back in working order and stronger than ever: EFI Logics in Bethel, Connecticut,” Michael says. “While I served [in the Army] overseas, the car was placed on a truck and shipped there. EFI Logics provided my baby with a built motor that includes forged internals, a Manley valvetrain with oversize valves, Kelford camshafts, a modified oil pump and a Blouch 18G-XT turbocharger.” With that much going on underneath the hood, it’s not a surprise that Michael enjoys tossing the car around any possible arrangement of cones the SCCA can put in his way. But as we all know, power without control is nothing, especially in a handling-based motorsport like autocross.
I’ve spent more money than I care to remember, had more fun than I can remember and met some of the best people I’ll ever know. This is what it’s all about!
“After flying out to pick [the car] up and making the 1,600-plus-mile drive back to North Dakota, I installed BC Racing adjustable coilovers, Whiteline sway bars, outer tie-rod ends and ball joints, a GrimmSpeed port-and-polished exhaust manifold and up-pipe with a TiAL external wastegate, Oswald Performance front subframe, lightweight Enkei PF01 wheels, and more, all with the help of some knowledgeable friends,” Michael says. “I now have a real autocross conqueror, I saw regular top-five placings in both the 2010 and 2011 autocross seasons and turned out the top PAX time at our biggest event of the 2011 year, Motor Magic in Minot, North Dakota. Last year I drove away from my wedding in it with a girl that will never forget her first ride and is still convinced I’m crazy. I’ve spent more money than I care to remember, had more fun than I can remember and met some of the best people I’ll ever know. This is what it’s all about!”
With this much love for a car, it’s easy to understand why Michael wants to keep it around forever. He says that he will never sell the car because it’s exactly what he wants out of a driver/autocross beast, and we can’t say we blame him.
Why We Picked It
Michael has done a great job of taking a capable platform and improving just the areas that needed attention. No outlandish bodywork or colors here, just pure, unadulterated Subaru performance. We’re sure the autocross-based scheme also makes for a really fun street car, with the low-end response and quick power delivery.
Specs & Details
'04 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Engine Subaru EJ257 2.5-liter DOHC longitudinally oriented 4-cylinder
Engine Modifications ’08 STI short-block w/ nitrated crankshaft; EFI Logics 99.5mm pistons & rings; new STI cylinder head casings; Manley oversize valves; titanium springs & retainers; Kelford R199-B performance camshafts; ARP head studs; ’08 STI oil pump & water pump; Gates Kevlar timing belt; Tomei aluminum timing belt guide; NGK 1 Step Colder spark plugs; KillerB Ultimate Oil Pickup; STI Group N motor mounts; Torque Solutions pitch stop; APS 70mm cold-air intake; GMS V2 turbo inlet & afterMAF hose; GrimmSpeed 8mm phenolic spacers, 3-port electronic boost control solenoid, PnP exhaust manifold w/ high-flow cross-pipe, EWG up-pipe & external dump; TGV deletes; Blouch TD05H 18G-XT turbocharger w/ 8cm turbine housing; APS DR525 front-mount intercooler; Synapse Engineering Synchronic blow-off valve; TiAL 38mm V-band external wastegate w/ GrimmSpeed dump tube; Kakumei Motorsports catless downpipe (w/ ThermoTec heatwrap), TurboXS RFL exhaust; Koyo aluminum radiator; Gates Racing silicone radiator hoses; SPT radiator cooling plate; Power Enterprise 850cc fuel injectors; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; Crawford Performance air-oil separator V2; GoFastBits alternator pulley; powdercoated intercooler piping & intake manifold; Carbing Craft carbon-fiber drive belt cover; STI 1.3-bar high pressure radiator caps
Engine Management Cobb AccessPORT w/ EFI Logics protune (maps for E85 & 91-octane fuels)
Drivetrain ACT Street Disk clutch w/ HD pressure plate; STI Group N transmission mount; Whiteline transmission crossmember bushings; Motul Gear300 transmission oil, 90PA differential oil
Suspension BC Racing Type-BR coilovers; Whiteline 27mm adjustable sway bar (f), 24mm adjustable sway bar (r), adjustable ball endlinks (f/r), polyurethane steering rack bushings, roll center adjusters, bumpsteer kit, subframe lockdown bolts (r), outrigger bushings; Perrin Positive Steering Response System; Oswald Performance lightweight front subframe; Litespeed Performance rear chassis bridge; Eibach rear camber bolts
Interior Defi Red Racer gauges (boost, oil pressure & EGT); PLX DM-5 wideband air/fuel ratio gauge; Zeitronix ethanol content analyzer; graphite-painted steering wheel centerpiece; Carbontrix carbon-fiber A-pillar gauge mount w/ matching passenger pillar; Auto Meter dash gauge cluster mount; Subaru carbon-fiber interior detailing kit; WC Lathe Werks shift knob; JDM red hazard light button; DIY rear shelf camera mount; Pioneer Premier MP3/DVD player w/ GPS navigation & Bluetooth; Rockford Fosgate speakers; Alpine 4-channel amplifier
Exterior V-Limited replica front lip; VIS Tracer carbon-fiber hood; Symms Racing replica rear wing; JNA Performance JDM-style rear apron; Varis carbon-fiber exhaust heat shield; Beatrush tow hook (r); 06/07 taillight conversion; Hella Supertone horns
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 17x8" +45mm Enkei PF01 wheels; Dunlop Direzza Z1 StarSpec tires 235/45R17; Hawk HPS brake pads (f/r); GrimmSpeed brake master cylinder brace