720 WHP @ 32 PSIVictor Caputis is one of those larger than life personalities who brings next-level excitement and passion into this hobby. Residing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Victor, known as "Big Valley" in the Subaru Internet community, has taken the U.S. tuning scene by storm with his Big Valley STi. While his efforts have culminated with a most impressive victory at Englishtown's Evo vs. WRX Street Wars event, its beginnings are far more humble.
Big Valley is the name of Victor's chain of used car dealerships in Puerto Rico. Before his now famous journey into the world of Subarus, Victor throttled a Dodge Viper GTS with nitrous collecting high 10-second timeslips and a Ferrari 360 Modena Spyder. When the Evo craze hit American and, later, Puerto Rican shores Victor noticed the rivalry between the STi and Evo starting to heat up on the strip and decided to get involved in the import drag racing scene. At first he was torn between the two cars and could not make up his mind on which one to buy. In the end the good looks and stylish interior of the STi won out over the more spartan Lancer-based Evo.
In the summer of 2004 Victor jumped into the fray. At that time, the fastest STis in the States were running mid 12s. Victor decided he wanted to go fast, real fast with his STi while maintaining its daily driver status. He had no idea of what to do or how to do it so he started asking around to find a tuner to help him reach his goal.
Word was starting spread around the island about a young tuner named Gadiel who was at the tip of the tuning spear when it came to four-cylinder all-wheel drive vehicles. Victor called Gadiel and the two hashed out a plan that would take the STi into uncharted territory. At the time, tuning the STi's EJ25 engine was in its infancy. Some of the problems were due to Subaru's decision to use a drive-by-wire throttle and cast pistons for the USDM STi. Up until then, only Easy Street Motorsports was able to make the STi fast. They did it by utilizing a JDM-spec 2.0-liter engine and an automatic drag transmission.
Gadiel relates the state of the scene in Puerto Rico at the time. "At that moment everybody preferred the Evolution because it had huge aftermarket support. But I have always liked to rise to the challenge and I know that the extra displacement of the EJ25 carried with it great potential. I decided to drive both cars to see which one I liked for everyday driving. At that moment, I decided to buy an STi and started testing every single part available. Only five weeks after we received the first STi in Puerto Rico, I had the first USDM STi to run 12s. For months I waited for any plug-and-play style ECU for this car. Finally after 10 months I got my hands on an UTEC for the STi. Four weeks later we went 11.8 at 119 mph with the Big Valley car. That next week we reached 504 whp on the stock motor and a few weeks later we improved to 11.2 at 128 mph on the stock motor without NOS."
When the STi came out there were many so-called "guidelines" being floated about in the U.S. STi community about how much power the stock STi engine could hold. Many people were saying 400 whp was the limit. Gadiel used his engineering background to work out the limits on his own and paid no attention to the Internet gossip.
Ultimately, after reaching 500 whp on the stock internals, Victor's hunger for power was still not satiated and Gadiel decided to seek the advice of Crawford Performance who has a reputation for building indestructible Subaru engines.
To fortify the boxer four for big boost Gadiel chose the Crawford 2.65-liter short block (R3) package which consists of Crawford Performance replaceable wet cylinder sleeves, Crawford-spec pistons, Crawford-spec billet 4340 rods, a 2.65-liter closed deck short block, forged stroker crank and piston squirters. Bill Craddock Engineering (BCE) reworked the cylinder heads with a CNC port and polish regimen and custom valve job.
Gadiel was not satisfied with STi aftermarket turbo kits available at the time so he designed his own setup which utilizes a special-trim GT35R turbo and HKS 50mm wastegate. The intercooler is an off-the-shelf Precision Turbo & Engine core which Gadiel custom mounted by fabricating his own end tanks and mounting tabs.
A simple fuel system consisting of twin Bosch fuel pumps, Weldon fuel pressure regulator and a trick Perrin billet fuel rail generates the volume to support big power. The system feeds C-16 go-juice to the four Power Enterprises 850cc injectors. A Nitrous Express 75-hp wet shot helps spool the turbo and get the car off the line. A custom four-inch exhaust by Keith "Bean" Laforte of TurboTrix Racing and upgraded PWR radiator complete the package.
Gadiel's tuning magic was performed on a totally stock ECU and the TurboXS UTEC engine management system. The Subaru came out swinging. "We hit 10.2 at 140 mph and drove the car one hour each way with radio, A/C, power steering and four people inside on the round trip," says Gadiel. "Real street driving and fast times at the track are how we do things here in Puerto Rico."
The engine has a built bottom end but the number of stock parts still on the EJ25 is amazing. The A/C is fully functional, the cams, transmission, interior and ECU are all stock. The Big Valley STi is a road-going, daily driver that looks like any other modified STi on the road.
One of the stranger aspects of the car is that the stock gearing has been maintained with the large stroker engine, which has a lazy rev limit of 7000 rpm. This requires the car to run through all six forward gears to reach its lofty quarter-mile trap speeds. The driver, Rolly, shifts a Subaru transmission so quickly you can barely hear the engine speed drop. There is no doubt that some of the Big Valley success at the track is attributed to the amazing driving skills of Rolly.
Another member of the Big Valley team is Georgie, of Georgie Performance. He installed all the mechanical hard parts and fabricated the roll cage. I will never forget the first time I saw the Big Valley STi at Georgie Performance in San Juan. Georgie is an old-fashioned mechanic who gets by with a lot of talent and experience in lieu of fancy equipment and a big shop. His facility, jam packed with some of the fastest Subarus in Puerto Rico, consists of a tin-roofed structure with a dirt floor. There is no lift. The sight of the Big Valley car sitting in 1,000 pieces in that primitive facility really stood out in my mind. Much like the tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant that has been serving the best food in town for years, Georgie's shop is known as the best Subaru shop in Puerto Rico and is the home of the world's fastest street Subie, the Big Valley STi.
The Big Valley team of Victor, Gadiel, Rolly, Georgie, Jorge and Quirt Crawford are more like a band of brothers than something so official like a race team. Best of friends and a team, these guys conquered the Subaru world on a shoestring budget and did it in a fun and classy way.
Since the Big Valley car went 10.2 its progress has been in arrested development while the car was shipped to the recent WRX vs. Evo Shootout in Englishtown, New Jersey. (See coverage elsewhere in this issue.) With all three of the only Evo VIIIs to ever run 9-second passes in attendance the event would prove to be highly competitive with the Subarus clearly in the role as underdogs.
Gadiel, with the tact of a four-star general, worked the Big Valley STi through a long day of racing to reach the final round of competition. In the finals he beat me in my Dynoflash Evo. Perhaps the most incredible part of the Big Valley STi's American debut was how the car was driven to the event from Vermont the day before the race; over 500 miles on public roads. This got the car to the track in time for the Turbo mag photo shoot while also allowing the proper break-in miles for the new engine.
The Big Valley car is back in Puerto Rico and Team Big Valley has a lot more in store for this amazing machine. The biggest problem they must confront is the clutch setup. Currently all the setups they have tried have either withered under the pressure of 720 whp or have been so harsh in engagement that the Subaru leaves a trail of driveline parts in its wake. When something in the middle ground is found the 9s will be close behind. We'll check back and see how Big Valley fares over the warm Puerto Rican winter.
EngineCrawford Performance R3 2.65-Liter Short BlockBCE CNC Port And Polish HeadsGT35R TurbochargerHKS 50mm WastegateHKS SS BOVPower Enterprise 850cc InjectorsPerrin Fuel RailsWeldon Fuel Pressure RegulatorTwin Bosch Fuel PumpsPrecision Turbo IntercoolerNX 75-Shot Wet SystemPWR Aluminum RadiatorCrucial ThermostatARC Radiator Cap
DrivetrainStock Sti 6-Speed TransmissionTilton ClutchThe Driveshaft Shop Axles (Front And Rear)
ExhaustZerosport HeaderTechno Tool DownpipeCustom Turbotrix 4-Inch Exhaust
ElectronicsDefi Black Face Amber Boost, Egt, Fuel Pressure GaugesGreddy Profec E-01 Boost ControllerTurboxs UtecMotec Plm Wideband ControllerHks Turbo Timer
InteriorSparco Stering Wheel6-Point Roll CageSimpson Harness
SuspensionTein Flex Coil-OversTein Edfc
WheelsVolk Le28 Gold 18x8.5 With Kumho Tire (Street)Volk Ce28n Bronze 16x8 With Hoosier (Drag)
ExteriorVis Carbon Fiber Hood