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Better Than Lego – 2000 Subaru WRX STI

13 October 2023

NZPC gets up close and personal with a largely self-built 370kw garage racer that is making all the right noises in the Wellington motorsport scene

Words: Warren Sare Photos: Danny Wood

When living in the capital city, there are a couple of ways to go about life. Assuming that you, dear reader, are the type of person who would choose to attack tight, windy roads with steep drop-offs and enjoy scenic harbourside drives at maximum speed rather than riding bicycles everywhere, we present proud Hutt Valley Motorsport Club member Eli Barrington. Over the past decade, Eli has been assembling a weapon that checks all the boxes for anyone who grew up in the homologation rally weapon era.

At the time, there were two possible paths, and Eli chose the burble over the bling, opting for triple diamonds instead of the boxer brand. Originally the proud owner of a Version (V) 5 STI, Eli’s love affair with the Subaru brand has only grown stronger over the years. The allure lies in the fact that “it’s like Lego, with many interchangeable parts between models”. It also helps to have like-minded friends who have those parts, making life a little more rapid. The key, Eli says, “is to make only a few small tweaks at a time, so that the benefits can be appraised. It’s a practical approach that allows more time in the seat to refine that important connection between the seat and steering wheel.” This statement suggests that Eli thoroughly enjoys driving this car, even the parts he didn’t personally install, as they are his inputs or designs.

Although we initially mentioned the V5, this particular car is actually a V7 STI that was discontinued in 2007. The EJ20 engine has been cracked open and transformed into a race engine, built with fine tolerances to deliver valuable 10ths of a lap speed with a constant risk of blowing up. Wiseco pistons and Eagle rods are the regular and reliable choice, held together with all the usual good components.

Although the intakes and piping in a Subaru engine bay usually draw the most attention, the most interesting and unique parts are hidden from sight in the form of a Tomei titanium manifold and Tomei Arms M8265 turbo. The presence of titanium on the spec list indicates the car’s race-bred DNA. As expected, anything non-essential has been removed, and everything remaining has been upgraded with custom components that are both functional and in line with the overall clean look. At one point during the build, partner Hayley spotted a small fire, resulting in the decision to banish exhaust wrap from the car, and Eli no longer reinstalls engines two days before an event.

This car is purpose-built for racing, with the aim of reaching its destination as fast as possible. It becomes even more enjoyable when, as Eli describes, “You drop the clutch, and all four wheels light up, then you bang through the gears” using the rarely seen KAPS sequential transmission. Hankook race rubber does its best to maintain grip as the g-force builds up around each corner, and the Cusco differentials send power exactly where it needs to go. This car evokes a feeling similar to playing a video game, where the driver hasn’t even come close to finding the limits yet.

As expected, the interior is focused on safety, with a full six-point cage with side intrusions and a Racetech seat that may make getting in feel like an acrobatic feat but which ensures safety on those aforementioned challenging roads. A carbon-fibre dash enhances the look and aids in weight reduction, along with full Lexan windows. The only sounds you’ll hear are the screaming boxer engine and tortured tyres. The AiM dash, which has become commonplace due to the technological advancements in modern cars, provides ample information, and a Link/MoTeC combo feeds all the necessary data to both the driver and tuner, keeping them informed at all times.

If there is a more suitable and classic colour combination for a Subaru than the 555-inspired blue and gold, we would be happily proven wrong. It looks fantastic here, with a modern twist. The custom widebody and suspension changes were made to accommodate large tyres, and every adjustable part from the suspension catalogue contributes to its menacing presence. This car doesn’t just excel in straight-line speed but aims to hit the apex and slingshot out the other side as quickly as possible. Whether equipped with race or street wheel combinations, it looks impressive, even when stationary on the height-adjustable XYZ coilovers.

So, how good is this package? Good enough to win its class last year, and hopefully by the time you read this, it will have secured an overall class season win this year. Like all self-builds, the vehicle known to its owner as ‘RexyJase’ continues to be refined in incremental steps whenever a new idea takes shape. It’s like Lego but better, because the only limit is your imagination.


This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 303