When you take your car to a dealership for factory servicing you kinda expect
everything to go smoothly. That’s exactly what Paul X, a dedicated young car
enthusiast, thought - until he took his Nissan 200SX for a routine 25,000km
It’s common practice for workshop technicians to take each car for a test
drive after servicing. But what isn’t common is when the third year
apprentice takes the car for a test drive at speeds of around 130 km/h - and
then loses control...
So while Paul toils away at work, his immaculate black S15 leaves the road and
impacts heavily with a pole. Sideways. The carnage extends from virtually bumper
to bumper - there was no possibility of repair for this machine.
We can only imagine what was said when the dealership phoned Paul to tell him
Twelve months of legal proceedings followed until, finally, Paul ended up
with a wad of cash. But what would he buy to
replace his beloved 200SX? Well, it definitely wasn’t going to be another Nissan,
so he returned to the marque that had served him in the past -
Paul signed on the dotted line for a 2003 Impreza STi with a limited edition
S20-SC pack. The S20-SC pack was offered only by Subaru Docklands (in Melbourne)
and comprises a short-shift mechanism, an exclusive gear knob, re-trimmed seats
and door trims, stickers and a numbered plaque - only 10 were built.
Having already owned a ‘99 WRX Club Spec and two door STi, Paul knew pretty
much what to expect from the later-model STi. The performance is familiar but
the 2003 STi is more refined, comfortable and has a substantial feel.
"Still, it was laggy like a dog," says Paul.
After just 3 days of ownership Paul invested in a Michael South dump pipe and
an A’PEXi GT cat-back exhaust. A prototype Hyperflow front-mount intercooler kit
was also installed - Paul had previous work performed by Hyperflow and was more
than willing to be a guinea pig. Once the big ‘cooler was installed, turbo boost
pressure was increased by a few psi. Paul says the standard ride height is also
way too high so a set of King Super Low springs went into the struts. Stray
birds have no chance diving underneath when this mighty STi is bearing down on
With this mechanical configuration Paul took the car to the magnificent new
Western Sydney drag strip and ran a best time of 12.64 seconds. We’re told this is
a time few people can match with similar mods but, then again, Paul doesn’t
display much mechanical sympathy...
Not coincidentally, the standard engine spun a bottom-end bearing with just
38,000km on the odometer. Paul didn’t bother trying to make a warranty claim
with this one - it was time to get serious and do things his way.
Keen to take the opportunity to improve the STi’s lack of bottom-end torque,
Paul ordered a 2.5 litre short block from the US and crammed it with forged
pistons (the compression ratio remains virtually stock). The new motor was
carefully assembled by Southern Motor Works in Wollongong. A GReddy oil catch
can and Process West engine oil cooler were also added.
Paul can now laugh about the original engine’s death - but a second
catastrophe wouldn’t be so humorous...
With a ‘big block’ motor as the platform, a set of TurboXS extractors serve
to conduct exhaust gas to a Garrett GT35 ball-bearing turbocharger. Mounted
together with a 48mm Turbosmart external wastegate, Paul says the 3 inch dump
pipe j-u-s-t clears the firewall. Note the XTR turbine jacket and exhaust
manifold heat wrap which reduce under-bonnet temperature and maximise turbine
Boost pressure is normally set to around 19 psi, but Paul has pushed it
further on the odd occasion. Thankfully, the latest-and-greatest Hyperflow
front-mount intercooler has also been bolted on - it’s a monstrous bar-and-plate
sucker measuring 720 x 250 x 114mm. Plumbing to the core is 2 ½ inch while the
outlet plumbing is 2 3/4 inch. An APS blow-off valve is fitted as part of the
system. The pre-turbo air intake comprises a Hyperflow aluminium airflow meter
housing, cold air induction and K&N pod filter.
At the time of writing, Paul relies on a UTEC interceptor module. The
injectors are 800cc Sard items teamed with MRT rails and a Bosch Motorsport
pump. Unfortunately, we’re told that the airflow meter signal is maxing out and
the interceptor is struggling under the conditions. Paul sounds keen to switch
to a new MoTeC M800 plug-in programmable ECU. The fuel system also needs to be
revised as it appears the 800cc Sard injectors are running flat-out – given
their quoted fuel flow, they should be running well within their
Paul says one of the biggest advantages of the late-model STi is the strength
of its 6 speed gearbox - it continues to operate when the previous generation 5
speed would be shattered into pieces. The clutch also remains standard but it
does slip when boost is cranked to around 23 psi. An aftermarket upgrade is on
the cards for the near future.
Paul says his STi sits brilliantly on the road - no doubt aided by its
downforce and grippy Falken Azenis RS 225/45 18s. It turns sharply, holds its
cornering line tenaciously and gets its power down from the apex for a
Aside from the King springs, the only other suspension mod is a Whiteline
24mm rear swaybar with heavy-duty links. The standard Brembo braking system is
capable of dislodging your eyeballs so not much has been needed here - only some
DBA replacement front discs and Pagid pads.
Open the door and you’ll find the standard STi S20-SC trim - with a couple of
eye-catching extras thrown in...
The first thing you’ll notice are the Defi electronic gauges for boost
pressure, oil pressure, fuel pressure, EGT and oil temperature. These are
distributed in an on-dash triple gauge pod, the driver’s and front passenger’s
air vents. Paul admits these gauges weren’t cheap but, hell, they look the biz -
and serve a useful function! Given the appeal of these gauges it’d be a bit
bizarre to whack in an el cheapo audio head unit so, again, Paul went all-out
and bought a top-line Sony minidisc unit.
Paul says he’s already invested a lot of money and effort in the car but
says, with a couple of minor tweaks, it should be completed. A MoTeC M800,
revised fuel system and beefier clutch will finish things off nicely.
Paul is not one to back away from a challenge and believes the car should run
an easy 11 second pass once the final spit and polished has been done. He knows
he’ll be up against it, though, because the close-ratio 6 speed requires so many
But that’s a concern for another day.
Now that Paul (finally) has a hot car back in his garage, he’s lost his
Paul now has some points back on his license and is returning the car to
standard for sale. He says he’ll be giving the whole go-fast scene a miss for a
Hyperflow +61 2 4283 2281
Southern Motor Works +61 2 4256 6429
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