Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, were we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars, this week it’s Andrew Johnson’s stunning tuned Subaru Impreza WRX Wagon from 2015.
Nothing about Andrew Johnson’s stunning stanced Subaru is quite what you’d expect at first glance. It’s surprising, this motor, both in concept and execution. You see, we’ve featured quite a few insanely low Scoobys from the US over the years. I’d go so far as to say that nowadays we’re used to seeing these tarmac-scraping show-stunners all over the web. I’m not sure if it’s the beautifully smooth roads, the impeccable home-grown modifying skills or just the stance-obsessed culture across the pond, but no one seems to chassis-drop the Impreza quite like the Americans.
So, as awesome as it is, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Andrew’s creation here is just another one of these bagged, flushed and styled super-saloons. It’s not. Shit, strictly speaking, this one hasn’t even got a boot lid. It’s a hatch – something of a controversial choice for a start.
Andrew’s Wagon is as different as it is striking and, apart from the fact he’s opted to build a super-menacing estate over the more popular sedan, there’s plenty of other details that make this one more than a little offbeat on the streets of North Carolina.
Take the reassuringly fat tyres. There’s not a sniff of the stretching we’ve become accustomed to on such aggressively stanced animals. As if those 11.5-inch wide Rotiform TMBs aren’t crazy enough, Andrew has chosen to wrap ’em in whopping 295/30 Toyo 888R rubber straight from the track. He’s done it the old fashioned way. No wonder he needs those Karlton fender flares to keep them under the arches!
You’ll also notice the drop in height is particularly immense, so you may be expecting a spot of air-ride trickery. I was too, but no, there’s not a bag in sight. Well, not anymore anyway.
In truth, there’s been a few incarnations to get the chassis how you see it today. Andrew started with coilovers and super-wide Work XD9 wheels. Somewhere along the line he swapped that lot out for Rotiforms, stretched rubber and a hybrid Air Lift and AccuAir system, and more recently he turned back to the hard-slammed hardcore with a static drop on some seriously racy Fortune 500 coilovers – chiefly to get those meaty Toyos on.
That’s right, he’s gone from coilovers to air and back to coilovers. Which is unusual to say the least, even if those particular bags and hoops have found a good home on his other love – a certain 300-odd bhp Subaru Forester daily. He certainly seems to like his AWD Jap estates eh?
For the time being though it’s the perfect, no-nonsense setup for the Scooby. It works and works well, so what more do you need? But, then again, Andrew admits there’s not a day goes by that he’s not fiddling with the bugger. By the time you read this he may well have some weird cutting-edge magnetic suspension or some sort of F1-inspired push-rod setup – stranger things have happened in the modified car world.
I guess the key thing about Andrew’s motor is there’s no pretence, bullshit or any of the old fanny you tend to associate with such stunning show cars. This one’s the whole truth, proof of the modernist premise that when form follows function an underlying beauty is the fundamental result. Even those super-sweet anodised Project Mu brakes are there for a reason other than to make jaws hit the floor. They’re needed, and more than you might imagine. You see, what also makes this monster a significant cut above the norm is all that Time Attack-inspired goodness isn’t just for show – this car is precisely as fast as it looks.
It could be said that the tuning has been a massive part of the journey. The whole package hasn’t been there from the start – it’s come from motorsport inspiration and tragedy in equal measure.
Even as standard, the WRX has always been something of a rapid motor, but upping the power is right where Andrew started. In fact, with the help of his first uprated turbo setup he managed to destroy it’s five-speed box pretty soon after owning it. With the replacement (and thoroughly bulletproof) STI box in place all was well for a while, until he was involved in a heavy-duty front-ender which killed just about everything in front of the windscreen, including the engine.
Most people would have walked away at this point, pockets bulging from insurance company payouts and a cheeky tickle from Claims Direct. But that’s not how Andrew rolls. Instead he took the decision to completely rebuild his wagon to a standard that even the factory couldn’t have achieved – and that’s something you can’t help but admire.
Of course, the small motoring mishap may also explain the Hawkeye Saloon front-end conversion, but the biggest outcome has to be the new engine spec. Balls-out is one way of describing it. Mental is another. But, either way, this one really does have the lot. The blown-boxer lump is a masterpiece in metal. Fully fixed, forged and fettled, it’s kicking out a mammoth 556bhp – and that’s by the time it gets through the AWD system to the wheels. Like the rest of the car it was done the hard way too, with a full strip down and meticulous attention to the finer details. It really is more than the sum of its parts. And apparently there’s plenty more tuning to come.
There’s an almost clinical approach to the engine that’s mirrored in the rest of the car. When it comes to the styling, it’s all there for a reason. A well-thought-out combination of splitters, diffusers and practical aero shenanigans, plus a distinct lack of the iconic Impreza bonnet scoop – it’s just not needed.
And then there’s the stripped out (but somehow still suitably plush) interior. Those Status seats, the four-point cage, even a choice of two Grip-Royal steering wheels (one for show, the other for go) it all finds beauty in simple functionality. In fact, the only item you might call decorative is the amazing hand painted headlining. Ironic that’s this piece of artistic flair is actually Andrew’s favourite mod. I guess he’s not totally utilitarian after all.
It’s hard to characterise this car and maybe that’s the point…
In many ways it is an out-and-out show car. In others, it’s every bit the Time Attack-style monster it appears to be. There’s enough power to rip your face off, but a sleekness and beauty that will always make you want to come back for a second look. The reality is it’s a rare thing in the modified car world, it’s form and function at the same time. No tricks, no illusions, just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
SUBARU IMPREZA WRX WAGON TECH SPEC
Manley Performance forged rods, pistons, valve springs and retainers, ACL race bearings, STI Oil pump, Ferrea valves, Brian Crower 272 Cams, Killer B oil pick up, TS AirPump Delete, Perrin 3inch turbo inlet, fuel rail and equal length manifold, Grimmspeed external gate up pipe, Tial MVS wastegate, Blouch Performance Dominator 3.5 XT-R Turbo 58lbmin, APS intercooler piping, Tial Q BOV, ETS 4inch custom intercooler core, APS coolant overflow, Crawford Performance oil/air separator, Gates Racing Kevlar timing belt, STI 6-speed swap, Exedy Stage 1 heavy duty clutch, ACT Streetlite fly wheel, DSS aluminium drive shaft, tuned and mapped by Motion Lab Tuning.
18×11.5 Rotiform forged Race TMB, 295/30×18 Toyo R888 tyres, Fortune Auto 500 coilovers, Project Mu Super Lock 7 lug nuts, Perrin Anti-Lift kit, Whiteline rear lateral links and roll centre adjuster
Project Mu 355mm big brake kit with SCR-Pro front rotors and Bforce pads, rear STI Brembo calipers.
Sedan front end conversion, Karlton fender flares, HTautos side skirt extensions, carbon canards, Mature rear diffuser, RS scoop-less bonnet, shaved roof, STi front lip, APR splitter, Morimoto 55W HID kit.
Status Racing GT-X carbon seats, Takata 4-point harnesses, Grip Royal hand painted wheel (or black leather Grip Royal wheel), hand painted mural headliner, STI transmission surround, PBM shifter, Delfi gauges, Autopower race 4-point cage, Audio Integrations 12inch enclosure, Pioneer AVH-X4500bt.
Big thanks to Jonathan Stamper and Alex Goodwin for helping me save the car. The guys at Motion Lab Tuning for their continued support. Stan C at Toyo Tires, Scott A at Grip Royal, The guys at Rotiform & everyone who has supported and helped through this build.
Words Midge Photos Mike Kuhn