Have you ever asked yourself what high school would have been like without a Sony PlayStation and a copy of Gran Turismo or an Xbox and the latest version of Forza loaded on it? It’s a question almost too deep to ponder because the alternative is, for us, at least, a more terrifying thought than that whack job running Iran developing a nuclear program.
Maryland native Alex Witkin can certainly relate, since he, too, is from the Gran Turismo generation and was greatly influenced by it during his formative years. Even now, as the CFO of an FDA regulatory consulting firm, he credits racing video games like GT3 along with the matchbox cars and Legos he played with at an even younger age as the basis for his car obsession.
As Alex explained, “In high school I got my ’02 WRX brand new and started modding it almost immediately. Within a week I had already installed an intake, exhaust, and the favorite first mod of all for turbo car owners: a blow-off valve. By the end of high school, the car was already getting to the point where I needed another car to daily drive.”
Then, as a high school graduation gift, Alex’s bug-eyed Rex blew its first turbo. This may not sound like much of a gift to some of you, but to Alex it meant it was officially time to go nuts with the mods. It also meant he officially needed a new daily driver. Rather than roughing it, he went to the other extreme and bought a BMW X5, to which he quickly bolted up a set of Volk TE37s, making him quite possibly the world’s first X5 owner to be rolling on these timeless Japanese forged rims.
It was around this time that Alex decided to ditch the murdered-out stealth-mode look he’d originally gone with on his WRX and develop more of a race-inspired look for it. As Alex put it, “As I got more into the show scene in 2006 and joined up with Team Emotion, I decided I would completely redo the car. It was during this time that it began to trend toward its current race style, receiving a rollcage, air jacks, crazy new paint, and basically a complete overhaul.”
From there Alex did the entire HIN national points tour with his WRX, winning best Subaru overall in 2007 and 2008 and also claiming the ’08 overall points championship. According to Alex, “At that point I really felt like I knew what I was doing and that this style was working. We had begun to change the misconceptions that a show car has to be full of monitors and speakers and fiberglass. In fact, the NCCA, HIN’s judging body, asked my partner and I to write next year’s rule book and travel as judges. We passed on that opportunity, but it was a good sign that we were helping to change the status quo. In the years since, a lot of more race/performance-oriented car builds have started to pop up at shows around the country.”
It’s this shift to a race-inspired look that really drew us to Alex’s trend-setting WRX, especially since the show scene is so often a reflection of broader trends within the industry. Sure, you may be saying to yourself, “I thought this mag was all about performance and this thing is all show and no go,” but you’d only be half right. We are all about performance here, but Alex’s WRX isn’t your typical trailer queen. As he told us, “It’s a show car that’s all put together like a race car that I actually drive on the street as my weekend toy! Everything on the car is completely functional. It’s registered, emissions exempt, and 100 percent legal for road use. I like to think of it as a JGTC car that the state of Maryland has agreed to let me drive down the street. What’s not to like about that?”
As a graduate of the University of Maryland, a CFO, and an MBA student, Alex has learned the fine art of surrounding himself with highly capable people. During college he started Brainchild Customs with his friend Andrew Williamson. They were mostly doing online sales at the time but are best known as the guys who were able to get an exclusive agreement for the first 10 Impreza Do-Luck trunks in the U.S. But when it came time to take his WRX to the next level and fully realize his JGTC vision for the car, he turned to AndrewTech Automotive Solutions and Piper Motorsport.
As Alex explains, “AndrewTech handled all the mechanical parts of the build, from the engine and transmission to the brake system, righthand drive conversion, and the electrical work. Andrew Yates is a Subaru genius with over 20 years of experience working on them, and he has surrounded himself with a strong team. Specifically with my build, they truly understood the sensitive nature of the project and how careful they needed to be. The level of commitment and knowledge I got from these guys was critical to the build’s success.”
Alex also got a lot of parts support from TurboXS, but it was Piper Motorsport that was responsible for all the custom metalwork. According to Alex, “Mitch Piper can make absolutely anything out of metal, including the intake manifold I sketched on a napkin one night at dinner. Robbie is excellent at getting this organized and planned so it gets done right. These guys are always going above and beyond. Their work exceeds expectation 10 times out of 10.”
For us it’s the engine bay that is the standout element on Alex’s WRX. The way the engine bay is shaved and tucked along with the custom Piper sheetmetal work to the fender tubs and strut towers (where all the hardware is flipped and thus hidden on the underside), the engine appears to be floating in space. Take a closer look at the engine itself and you’ll notice some pretty amazing details, too, like the way the throttle cable had to be routed to mate with the custom intake manifold and the upside-down throttle-body.
The interior is equally impressive, from the custom center tunnel cover to the fire bottle mount and fuel cell installation; it’s all artwork in metal. We shouldn’t overlook the complete JDM v7 STi RHD conversion, either, or the way the Prodrive WRC carbon-fiber door cards are molded to clear the rollcage door bars. Everywhere you look, you find attention to detail and perfectly executed work using the highest-quality parts and materials. Clearly Alex wasn’t messing around when he decided to live out his childhood dream.
As Alex put it, “Someone will inevitably start complaining about how stupid they think it is that all the parts on here don’t get ‘used how they were intended’ or that all the money into the car is a waste if I isn’t going to see track use. They’re entitled to their opinion, but I built this car for me to like first and foremost, and at the end of the day that’s what matters to me.”
Sure, we’d want to rip this thing around a racetrack if he were dumb enough to hand over the keys for the weekend, but we respect his vision for the car every bit as much as we respect the astronomically high level of workmanship put into it.
Specs & Details
’02 Subaru Impreza WRX
Engine Management TurboXS Delta EMS; remote ECU map selector; high-performance boost controller
Drivetrain PPG dog box gearset; billet shift forks; billet interlocker; brass speedo gear; DSS Level 5 axles (f/r) and lightweight 1-pc aluminum driveshaft; Energy Suspension shifter bushings; B&M short shifter; Cusco solid transmission mount; Exedy 3-puck racing clutch and flywheel
Wheels, Tires & Brakes BBS 18x9.5’’ +35 e88 racing wheels; Yokohama Advan 265/35R18 A048 semi-slick tires; ARP wheel studs; 5Zigen ProRacer+ lug nuts; StopTech 4-piston (f) and 2-piston (r) BBKs and brake fluid; ABS and brake booster delete; custom brake lines (f/r); Wilwood master cylinder and proportioning valve; Hawk HP+ brake pads
Suspension Tein Type Flex coilovers w/ EDFC; Beatrush 12-pt aluminum subframe and front compliance brackets; Cusco sway bars (f/r), front endlinks, lateral links (f/r), and trailing arms; Perrin rear sway bar end links; Energy Suspension master bushing kit; STi aluminum front control arms
Exterior Old School Enterprises custom Ferrari Rosso Corsa paint; shaved door sills, antenna, side markers, and rear door trim; Chargespeed D1 20mm wide-body front fenders (shaved markers); CWest v2 front bumper and v1 rear lip; Do-Luck carbon-fiber ducktail trunk lid; Prodrive WRC carbon-fiber side-view mirrors; Rays Gram Lights door trim, front bumper carbon ducts, and side skirts; JDM STi projector headlights; JDM door visors; Varis carbon hood; Tein hood dampers; Voltex Type V carbon wing; custom wing risers by Iparkharder Designs; Plastics4Performance polycarbonate window kit
Interior Piper Motorsport 9-point rollcage; aluminum battery box, fire bottle mounts, and aluminum trunk floor trim and fuel cell firewall; Bride Stradia II carbon Kevlar LowMax seats and sliders; Takata 4-pt harnesses; Stack ST81101sr digital dash and sensors; Defi Link gauge controller and EGT, FPR, and boost gauges; Blitz turbo timer; custom Milspec wiring; AP Racing air jack system custom install by Piper Motorsport; SpA Firesafe fire suppression system; Optima red top battery (in trunk); Sparco kill switch; JPM Coachworks Alcantara wrapped dashboard, glovebox, center dash, and gauge hood; AeroSpace Components billet aluminum nitrous bottle brackets; Beatrush shift knob; Carbon Concepts center gauge pod; Piper Motorsport aluminum center console w/ control switches and RHD floorpan; Prodrive WRC carbon-fiber door cards, rear bulkhead/firewall, rear parcel shelf, and rear seat trim panel; KEYS! Racing steering wheel; Works Bell hub adapter and Rapfix QR; ZeroSports shift boot
Numbers 403.9 whp and 340.1 wtq at 20 psi on 93-octane pump gas
Sponsors Brainchild Customs, Team Emotion, AndrewTech Automotive, Piper Motorsport, TurboXS, Boomba Racing, Congressional Bank FSB, IndigoBay Ventures LLC, Nitrous Express, Falken Tires, Brits Inc., MDR Productions, Old School Enterprises
Special Thanks My supportive wife, Marisa, my family, and my little pup, Korben Dallas
Engine Modifications EJ25 STi block; EJ20 cylinder heads; Kelford camshafts; Supertech valvesprings and retainers; custom Piper Motorsports aluminum inverted intake manifold w/ shaved TGV (reduced in height by 1”) and equal-length runners and internal velocity stacks; Brainchild Customs 3” turbo-back exhaust system; Boomba Racing 75mm TB; MSI solid billet lower engine mounts (20mm drop); HKS turbo velocity stack; Nitrous Express direct port kit w/ GenX2 upgrade; custom “Race Gas on the Fly” two-tank fueling system; custom 10-gallon ATL fuel cell and dual dry break; Weldon 1,000hp external fuel pump and dual in-line filters; modified 780cc Subaru fuel injectors; Russell braided lines and AN fittings; SARD FPR; Walbro 255-lph in-tank fuel pump (for pump gas system); Tial 38mm wastegate; TurboXS v2 up-pipe, downpipe, blow-through MAF conversion, fuel rails (modified to fit 2.5L motor), modified FMIC; racing bypass valve RFL and custom T04R turbo kit; Zero/Sports exhaust manifold; modified ARC radiator; FAL Slimline pusher fan; custom aluminum coolant overflow bottle and oil catch can; Cusco rad cap; Jet Hot coating (downpipe, turbo housing, wastegate, dump tube, and exhaust manifold); Process West oil cooler; Steeda oil cap; Piper Motorsport oil filler neck; custom engine coolant crossover and lower thermostat housing; GrimmSpeed crank pulley; Kartboy exhaust hangers; Prova brake and clutch fluid caps; AndrewTech custom MilSpec wiring harness; relocated alternator; enlarged wiper cowl (to accommodate RHD wiper assembly); replaced firewall (90% new); aluminum headlight boxes; shaved pitch stop mount and battery tray; shaved strut towers w/ inverted hardware; tubbed front wheelwells