Words : René Vermeer Photos: Deven Solanki
There’s nothing that we enjoy seeing more than an enthusiast who’s a diehard fan of a particular car manufacturer. I’m guilty of owning all makes and models on my quest to sample the world’s goods, but Shahel Pratap is diehard Subaru, through and through — from the very beginning, he’s been pedalling a Subaru, and in particular, the GRB-shape platform. There’s something incredibly unique about a model of vehicle that only ever came in sedan, or wagon form, then all of a sudden they had a crack at the hatchback market.
At the time, Subaru WRX enthusiasts were outraged, as the Impreza cars have always had a rear conventional boot. The V11 hatchback was short lived and binned in favour of a sedan version a few years later. This short production adds to the uniqueness of the platform and in recent years, the GRB hatch platform has taken off. Why? Those gigantic front and rear arches lend themselves to wide wheels, the EJ207 engine platform is incredibly stout and easily tuned, the Brembo brakes are easily upgraded with pads and discs, and the factory-fitted six-speed manual gearbox is very strong… I could go on. One of the best things though, is the price point. The GRB has and will always be a bargain for the performance they offer.
“I’ve always been drawn to cars. I can’t remember when I got into them, but a moment from my childhood that sticks is when I watched 2 Fast 2 Furious. Seeing that Skyline for the first time changed my life — as cringe as that sounds. Growing up I was watching anything I could get my hands on,” Shahel reflects. After years of watching Ignition DVDs and other car tuning shows, it was time for Shahel to get his very first car — a decision that would shape his choice of tuning platform later in life. A 2008 basemodel 1500cc Impreza was purchased and although it was “the slowest car on earth”, Shahel was impressed with the chassis’ handling and wondered how the top spec model would perform. He explains, “The GRB was the odd one out in the Subaru world at the time.
Since I had owned a base model GRB, I had gotten a taste of what the platform was capable of so as I got closer to getting my full licence I just wanted the better version of the car I already had. I was also watching a YouTuber at the time called Evan Shanks who owned a GRB and watching him modify and enjoy his GRB really convinced me to get one.” With the previous Subaru long gone, Shahel set his sights on a Spark Silver 2007 GRB hatch and it wasn’t long before HKS parts were making their way into the engine bay.
“When I first set out to build a 300kW stock-block GRB, I encountered a lot of push back which was understandable, but at the time people really went diving into these newer Subarus which had much stronger engines, so with the right parts and tune I knew it would be achievable,” Shahel explained. As you can see on the spec sheet, the bottom end and cylinder heads are completely factory. In stock form, the GRB revs to a hair over 8000rpm and they’re craving a larger turbo.
The stock turbo is good for around 230kW at the wheels, so that was replaced. In its place is a Pulsar G35-900, with more than enough scope to crack into the 400kW area. With an uprated fuel system, Process West billet inlet manifold, and 26psi of boost, the GRB hatch outputs 320kW at the wheels — right about where you’d want to be with the factory bottom end. “The set-up has gone through so many changes and now I usually get questions on how I did it, as it has been four years now at this power level and the car has done 35,000kms in this time too. That has been filled with track events and street driving,” Shahel says with a glimmer of pride, then continues, “It always gets me home no matter what. Subarus have a bad rep, but I think it’s really down to the owner and how they maintain their car.”
Shahel’s hatch looks a touch more serious than your normal GRB build too, with a complete Varis kit enhancing its menacing appearance. TE37SL wheels shod in 265/35R18 fill the arches perfectly and Shahel tells us the biggest road hazard he’s concerned about these days are speed bumps.
“Driving a GRB at this power level isn’t too bad. The car is still streetable. I do need space to get on it — you just have to be wary of that when driving, otherwise it drives like factory. You wouldn’t even notice that it makes more than factory power until you hear the turbo spool,” Shahel explains. Reflecting on the build, Shahel thinks one of his main considerations for another build in the future is that he’d use quality parts the first time around. “I learned the hard way about buying cheaper parts, then having to spend more to replace them with the quality parts I should have opted for from the getgo.”
With that being said, parts are piling up in the shed again, as Shahel plans the next stage of the build. With an E85 fuel system capable of big numbers, Shahel has hinted that 500kW is the next target. On the stock block? Definitely not — the next engine will be closed deck with forged internals and we’re absolutely hanging out for it. If the GRB smells like corn juice the next time you see it out, think twice before giving it a run!
This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 304