Shawn’s STI swapped Subaru Impreza

    Old dog, new tricks...and bones...and engine.


    I met Shawn in 2018, but his name has floated around my friend group for as long as I can remember. There was one thing I knew about him and that was he had a sweet Subaru Impreza. After many attempts to line up schedules, we finally worked out a photoshoot. Here is Shawn’s story of his 1997 Subaru Impreza in his own words.

    My First Love:

    My first crush was an FC RX-7 back in the 90s. However when my friends mom purchased her brand new 1998 2.5 RS at the end of 1997, that’s when I found out what true love was. It quickly became an obsession of mine and I promised myself I would build what Japan seemed to think we didn’t deserve.

    My First Build (Sarah):

    My first build was many years later, in my late 20s and I learned a lot. The main thing I learned was that Subaru’s American designated engines are crap and that a rusty chassis wasn’t worth the time. On my 30th birthday I crashed that car and that was it for my first build.  While trying to get it back together, I found out the EJ255 did what any EJ255/EJ257 likes to do and cracked a ring-land and that was it for my first build.

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    After many years of re-prioritizing and getting over my heartache, I found myself working at Subaru’s advertising agency. This all reminded me what I loved about Subaru and that I needed to prioritize building my dream car.

    Shawn 1997 GC8 Subaru STI - Short Shift-11

    Starbuck (Kara):

    I found a local 1997 Impreza L for sale that had already been swapped and went to look at it. The car had been around the block and had been swapped since the early 00’s. The original “swapper” had put in an EJ20G closed deck block, but it was an absolute mess. The 86F “steel blue mica” paint job was beautiful but after 10 years of southern heat it was flaking and in terrible condition. The wiring harness had two harnesses vaguely spliced together and there were many fluid leaks.

    I decided this was the chassis, it was a coupe, it wasn’t rusty and it had a great history.  I tore the entire chassis down to the frame and got rid of everything. Over time I used my connections at Subaru to get some JDM part numbers and some of those sourced. I even went to Up Garage in Japan to get a few parts. Over time the car started to take form. With the build I had four main goals and it was pieced together bit by bit over 3 build phases one part at a time:

    • Make the car as light as possible, which is easy on a 90s Subaru.
    • Make the car feel like a modern Subaru inside and comfortable.
    • Make the car unique, but also pay respect to the JDM roots that I had fallen in love with in the 90s.
    • Make the car reliable enough I could jump in it and drive to California if I wanted to.

    Some of the mods that supported these needs:

    • V8 EJ207
    • Custom Type RA 5 Speed, cryo-treated gears, front Quaife LSD, DCCD upgrade
    • Comp lightened flywheel
    • Carbon fiber Driveshaft Shop driveshaft
    • Basically all bushings replaced/upgraded
    • TSSFab front and rear tubular sub frames
    • Blouche XTR 1.5 twinscroll stock location turbo
    • Tomei ceramic coated headers
    • Tomioka Downpipe
    • SPT Intake
    • Borla Hush Exhaust
    • Grimmspeed TMIC
    • Custom Fuel setup to accommodate the bigger turbo and E85
    • Defi Advance BF gauges, AEM gauge on a custom designed 3D printed ashtray gauge mount.
    • 2014 Forester Homelink rear view mirror (much bigger than the stock mirror)
    • Carberry Flexfuel 16bit ECU tune (one of the first in the nation) 340AWHP on 93 and 435AWHP on E85 tuned by Graham at Boosted Performance.
    • Stoptech front brake upgrade mated with JDM 2 pot rear calipers
    • BBS “electra” (22b) style wheels powder coated grey.
    • 2005-2007 STi interior with S203 bits
    • 2014 STi steering wheel with working controls
    • 2015 13:1 STi steering rack
    • Evo IX seats, because Subaru seats suck (sorry)
    • V7 “rainbow” JDM fog lights
    • Custom headlights, I was one of the first to do the all too popular “mean eye” conversion that you see now.  I have, however, 2015 Toyota corolla projector LED headlights coupled with the popular 2015+ WRX DRL conversion.
    • 86F Paint job refreshed.
    • S201 replica hood scoop
    • 22b replica hood vents
    • Too many JDM parts to list out, many custom parts, etc.

    Mods waiting to be installed:

    • Aerosim carbon fiber roof
    • Aerosim carbon fiber rally wide body replica kit
    • Illumaesthetic brake light kit
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    Steve Miller
    Steve Miller
    I am a sarcastic, honest, fanatical car guy who tells it like it is. I have a passion for how things work and no patience for stupidity. My dream car is a Koenigsegg Agera R because the engineering behind it is superb.



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