Words: René Vermeer Photos: Glen McNamara
At first glance — much like when we first saw the photos of Mitchell Lowe’s 1995 Subaru WRX STi — you’d be thinking that some bloke had gone and done himself a bit of a period-correct restomod, with no inkling as to the pure savagery lurking beneath the lightweight, alloy bonnet. Sure, we’re used to the sleeper concept here in New Zealand, but not often are ’90s WRXs modified in the engine compartment to an extent at which only a Group B rally driver from the ’80s would be mad enough to jump behind the wheel.
That’s what is exciting about the performance car scene here in New Zealand, though — we’re an incredibly mad bunch at times, with Mitchell being no exception to the rule. How did the build begin? Well, in classic Subaru fashion: a blown head gasket.
“I started tinkering with Hondas in high school, but quickly got bored of how little power they had from the factory. When my mate let me drive his Subaru WRX for the first time, I was hooked!” Mitchell told us when we asked how his Subaru obsession started, and continued; “I’ve always had Subarus because of my great relationship with Matt from Mattchanics — we know them inside and out now.”
Matt Hull from Mattchanics entered the equation right at the beginning, with Mitchell hearing around the Subaru scene that Mattchanics were the best Subaru mechanics around. So, with a blown head gasket, he made contact with Matt.
“I took the car there, told him what I wanted to do with it, and the rest is history.”
Initially, the plan was for a rebuild and a mild increase in power but Mitchell and Matt got along like a house on fire, and soon schemes were hatched and spanners were swung in an irate fashion. This was to be nothing of a simple rebuild, but rather a destroked closed-deck 2350cc EJ25 engine with forged rods, pistons, modified crank, 272-degree cams, and basically anything else the duo could throw at it to handle big power and boost.
An SSI exhaust manifold was chosen to mount a Garrett GTX3584RS turbo to — these are rated to 1000 engine horsepower — with twin 40mm Turbosmart CompGates to control boost. We know what you’re thinking: that turbo is gigantic and commonly seen on 2JZ-GTE and RB30 competition engines. With the engine combination Matt and Mitchell put together, it ran a 10.9-second quarter-mile pass on an estimated 370kW at the wheels with the initial road tune. Now, with E85 fuel and 32psi of boost and a proper dyno tune, it makes a staggering 500kW at the wheels — period-correct, restomod sleeper in full effect!
When asked what it’s like to drive, Mitchell replied, “The power is great — it comes on strong from 3000rpm, builds 30psi by 4500rpm, and holds all the way to 8500rpm. It’s still a very light car — even with full interior and cage — weighing approximately 1300kg with half a tank, so it sets you in your seat for sure. You have to be prepared before you plant it. With the front LSD there’s a fair bit of torque steer, so it’s hard to keep it in a straight line under full boost!”
Long gone is the factory five-speed. That fragile piece of equipment would have lasted one half pull before it turned itself inside out and into a pile of scrap metal. In its place is the newer generation six-speed gearbox, which commonly sees power figures north of where Mitchell currently is. However, the WRX does have custom rear axles and hubs to take on the load.
“I’m not personally into flashy body kits or ‘slammed’ cars. I wanted to build a really clean, stock-looking, unsuspecting, functional car that was a monster on the street and the track,” Mitchell said.
With the GC8 body now more than 20 years old, Mitchell had the team at Prestige Auto Body repaint it in the factory colour. Aesthetically, there’s very little to indicate anything serious is going on, besides, perhaps, the Speedline 2013C wheels, wrapped in semi-slicks, and the unmistakable rumble and lumpy idle the Kelford 272-degree cams present. Inside the ’95 WRX there’s a bit more to suggest its rabid nature. A six-point roll cage to keep occupants safe, a Sparco race seat, and a Haltech IC-7 display mounted in the factory gauge cluster position thanks to the Mako Motorsport dash surround.
With the goal being to run nine-second passes, Mitchell tells us the wick must be turned up until the turbo isn’t capable of pushing anything more.
“I want to get the car tech inspected and retuned with more boost. We’ll push this turbo until it won’t make any more power and potentially put a bigger turbo on it. Seeing 1000hp on the dyno would be cool. I want to run at least consistent nine-second passes down the quarter-mile.”
A true Subaru fanatic at heart, Mitchell also owns a WRX STi Type R coupe, but LOLGTR remains and, will always be, the street weapon. That being said, if you do pull up at the lights next to LOLGTR, you better think twice about indicating any sort of challenge; MItchell is not one to back down, and, with 500kW on top in a stock-looking Subaru WRX, why would he?
This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 296