It's crazy to imagine how the import tuning community looked a little over a decade ago. Before the new millennium hit, a Lancer Evolution was a car we could only acquire in a video game, and nobody would even think to touch a Subaru Impreza. The ones that did were often looked at oddly by guys who were busy building kitted-out front-wheel drive vehicles or starting to get into the whole drifting thing. Modifying cars like the Lancer and WRX has really become quite the popular item in the last couple of years. It would be incredibly difficult to even look outside nowadays without seeing at least one WRX with a rumbling exhaust cruising down your street but what many of you newer generation of guys and gals may not know is that Subaru existed in the U.S. long before the WRX.
You don't see many of the older Subarus nowadays because they weren't the most eye-catching cars. There was the Impreza of course, but not in STI form, and before that was a very bland, boxy-looking Subaru known as the "Loyale"-a name that's equally as mundane as the outside appearance of the car. They had the Legacy as well, but it was nothing to rave about and there was even a small compact called "Justy" (we have no idea what the name means but it looked a bit like a Yugo, which was probably one of the worst cars in existence during that time period, so it's easy to see why the Justy wasn't terribly popular). The only model that Subaru had which resembled anything remotely stylish was the Alcyone SVX. Many contend that the styling of the SVX was ahead of its time and that seems about right because it's 2011 and we still aren't ready for it yet.
The second generation Impreza WRX hit the market at the perfect time and it basically made Subaru a household name within the ranks of the tuning community. Its introduction made such a big impact that it lured Mitsubishi into bringing the Lancer Evolution into the U.S. market a couple years later. Today, these cars are popular as ever because of the abundance of quality aftermarket parts available for them. From engine parts to suspension and aero, any and everything you could ever want to do to these cars you can get with a click of a mouse. Businesses even exist just to make these parts available to consumers and that is where Garagespec Motorsports comes into play. Garagespec is a small company whose sole purpose was to provide the best Japanese aftermarket parts for the Subaru WRX market. They've developed relationships with many aftermarket companies in Japan and that has helped them to expand into a broader market, enabling them to get parts for almost all Japanese vehicles.
John Shea is not only the co-founder of Garagespec Motorsports but he's also an avid Subaru enthusiast himself. He wanted to show others what his company was able to provide, while also building his own dream STI in the process and what's laid out on these pages before you is the end result of that. "I think that it's all too easy to just open a copy of Hyper Rev and say 'I'll take that, a little of this and voilà: JDM superstar status'. I think I would have been able to finish my build in a quarter of the time had I chose that route," John explains, "Instead, I took months searching for parts and visualizing them as a complete package. Some items look great on their own but mixed with others, not so much."
"I started out with just the standard mods until I decided to open Garagespec in 2006. Everyone at that time was just copying one another with the basic body kit and lips. I really didn't think I was going to find something I really wanted until Voltex released their kit. I knew immediately at that point that I had to have it. The kit was very uncommon to have at the time and is still pretty rare today. I ended up purchasing a set of Stage21 FRP front fenders as well as a Rocket Dancer hood to complete the exterior. I love all things that are rare so I knew that the combination of parts would help separate myself from the rest of the crowd. The Carbing cage was another must-have item that was uncommon. I always loved the quality, fit, and finish of the cage so I spared no expense in acquiring one."
Though a myriad of rare aero pieces adorn this STI, aesthetically speaking, the absolute rarest component on John's Subaru would have to be the wheels. At a glance, any Work wheel fanatic may instantly recognize these as a Work Rozest wheel but closer inspection would indicate otherwise. The wheel, though still originally made by Work Wheels Japan, bears the Dunlop Rozest SS-01 Competition namesake. Much like the classic Sprint Hart and Dunlop Formula CP-R, both shared the exact same design but were sold using two different labels. The two wheels existed because Dunlop Japan once and currently still does carry its own line of wheels. At varying times throughout the line's existence, Dunlop commissioned different wheel manufacturers to re-badge their designs to be sold under the Dunlop brand. Though the Rozest SS-01 Competition has been discontinued for a good ten years now, the Rozest name itself is still used today as Dunlop Japan's line of wheels. The Competition segment no longer exists and has been replaced by more luxury-oriented rolling stock. This leads one to wonder if the "Rozest" name was created by Work exclusively for Dunlop.
"What makes these wheels even rarer is that I bought these brand new in unopened boxes. It's crazy to think that these still existed brand new considering when they were discontinued. It took me over a month to decide whether or not these wheels were for me. I'm extremely picky but the color, sizing, and material construction ultimately helped me make my decision. The rarity of the wheel is what really sold me," John says, "It also didn't hurt that it was a spun-forged wheel that weighed only 13lbs."
Lurking beneath the Rocket Dancer FRP hood is a slew of top shelf parts from Tomei, ARC and HKS. All this, in combination with the exterior and uber rare wheels, make for a cornucopia of the best Japanese aftermarket components available for the Subaru WRX platform. As a businessman and co-owner of a shop, he has a rolling catalog at his disposal every time someone inquires about a part and has first-hand experience with their functionality. As an enthusiast, he has one of the best Subaru builds in the country.
2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Owner John Shea
Hometown Huntington Beach, CA
Occupation Co-owner of garage spec motorsports/architect
Engine 2.5L Subaru EJ250; ARP head studs; Tomei ARMS M7760 turbo, equal length turbo manifold, up-pipe, wastegate, 850cc fuel injectors, timing belt, oil pan; ARC air intake, blow-off valve, intercooler and intercooler piping; ported OEM throttle-body, intake manifold; Garage Spec prototype down pipe; HKS Carbon Ti/FGK RM01A exhaust system; Denso spark plugs, OEM Toyota Supra fuel pump; Koyo radiatior; Samco Sport cooling hoses; Zerosports thermostat; Carbing oil/coolant combination coolant tank; Motul 5W-40 motor oil; OEM Toyota anti-freeze
Drivetrain Kartboy short-shifter, Outrigger differential bushings; Garage Spec shifter extender; OS Giken STR clutch and Super Lock LSD
Engine Management COBB Tuning Accessport
Footwork & Chassis TEIN Monoflex coilovers w/EDFC; Cusco 21 front sway bar, 22 rear sway bar, front H-brace; Carbing aluminum front strut bar w/MBC bracket; Whiteline roll center adjusters, steering rack bushings; Carbing 11-point polished rollcage
Brakes Project Mu B-Force front pads (street), Level Max 900 front pads (track); Technafit stainless front/rear brake lines; Motul RBF600 brake fluid
Wheels & Tires 17x8.5" Dunlop Rozest SS-01 Competition +35 offset; 235/40-17 Bridgestone Potenza S03 (street); 18x8.5" Work Meister S1 3-piece +38 offset; 235/35-18 Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R (track); Project KICS Neo Chro R46 lug nuts; ARP extended wheel studs; H&R 10mm hub-centric wheel spacers
Exterior Voltex front bumper, front under spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser, Type 5 1500m wet carbon rear spoiler, trunk wing delete, headlight velocity intake funnel; Stage21 FRP 20mm front fenders; Rocket Dancer FRP vented hood; Garage Spec graphics; rolled/pulled fenders
Interior Bride GIAS seats and Type LR seat rails; Willans 6-point safety harnesses; Nardi Sport Rally steering wheel; Works Bell steering hub, quick release; ARC TI/Prodrive Delrin shift knob; A'PEXi 60mm boost, EGT and oil pressure gauges; Carbing aluminum rear bulk head cover
Props I want to thank my extremely patient and tolerant girlfriend Flora; Eggman aka Charles Trieu for spreading his infinite knowledge onto me and helping me keep my "eye on the prize"; Sean for the awesome photos; Rajeet for the hook-ups; Chris for the vinyl work; Mark at OS Giken; Matt at Surf City Garage; Scott and the Garagespec crew for helping me get the build to where it is