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Liberties Taken

This is the fastest Subaru Liberty RS in Australia and probably the world. And just take a look at it - it's a real eyeball burner!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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Modifying a late model turbo car is all so easy isn't it? Especially if it's a four wheel drive. Just fit a 3-inch system, cold air intake, up the boost and maybe sling in a better intercooler and you've got a real stormer on your hands. It's so wonderfully cheap and easy. But, unfortunately, that's the level of modification most people chose to leave their cars at - along with, perhaps, some tasty wheels and a suspension drop. Bit of a pity really. Hardly anyone wants to up the ante. On the other hand, one turbocar that definitely won't slide through traffic unnoticed is David Khoury's spectacular (and outrageously fast!) Liberty RS. This showstopper distracts drivers like a roadside flasher!

Nailing the Right Image

David is a beater/painter by trade (he runs Paint Works Inc), which helps explain the startling paint scheme that converts the car. We say "converts" because you'd hardly pick this thing as a Liberty RS - they aren't usually seen as the wildest looking body in the world. However, this one sparkles and twinkles in the sunlight like an expensive pearl. At night, David says the usually hidden red tinge comes out in streetlights and it looks absolutely wicked.

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But to get this kind of spectacular result, David first had to remove all the panels, strip back the factory charcoal paint and expose the Liberty's bare metal. Preparations then included applying Debeer primers before four layers of gold and four layers of red pearl could be carefully sprayed inside and out. David also deemed a full colour coding a goer, so the wiper arms, mirrors and rear trim panel were also tackled with the spray gun.

And if the wild custom colour mix isn't enough to grab you, the flickering stick-on side strips certainly will! They're always in a visual state of change. Colours switch from red, orange, green, blue - and all the colours of the rainbow! On top of this, those contrasting dark tinted windows, rear lights and front indicators just about double the impact of the bright colours.

Like it really needs it...

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Contemporary style Zepter 17s (wearing 215/40 Falkens) strengthen the overall gleam and sparkle further, and conspire with 2?-inch lowered King springs to fill the guards right out. This Liberty really looks sleek an' wide now. But to accommodate this combo, the front and rear guards asked to be lipped and pumped slightly.

The Liberty RS's usually all black and grey interior is no less eye catching either. After unsuccessfully searching automotive fabrics, David stumbled across this classy woven jaquard material - complete with winner's wreath stamped into it. How appropriate. After David snapped up several square metres of the stuff, Greg's Auto Trim tailored it into the seats and the door inserts - and the result is brilliant. And what's more, it didn't cost that much.

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The factory instrumentation is supplemented by an Autometer Monster tacho and boost gauge hung off the A-pillar, while there's also an aluminium gear knob and pedals. The standard leather Momo wheel now looks like an aftermarket unit too, since David yanked off the centre cover.

And if you can handle looking at even more colour, he's also managed to squeeze in 'coded dashboard bits'n'pieces.

Aaaaahh, my eyes!

And Power to Push Low 11s!

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After previously owning a couple of Liberty RSs (with the usual exhaust and boost etc), David now wanted a much larger speed buzz. He loved the Subaru's boxer engine; he simply needed more power.

Heaps more...

But what would you do if we told you this car runs the same mechanical set-up as Dominic Rigoli's record-breaking 443hp (at all four wheels!) WRX? Well, we hope it's nothing too drastic - coz it does! That means it carries such goodies as a US-sourced BPM Motorsport 2.2 litre stroker kit (complete with forged pistons, billet rods, stronger bolts, rings and bearings), a massive Turbonetics T60/T70 roller bearing turbocharger and a 42mm external wastegate. The Liberty's factory water-to-air intercooler has also been replaced by a shining Mick's Metalcraft air-to-air intercooler, which is tucked into the front bumper air dam. However - unlike the Rigoli WRX - David's Liberty retains its rearward-facing factory placed throttle body. One up-shot of this, though, is David can still enjoy the comfort of air-conditioning.

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Those strikingly coloured mandrel bent intercooler pipes are held in place by silicone hi-temp hoses and heavy-duty clamps, and a PBR blow-off valve is located just prior to the throttle butterfly. The unusual bursting radiator overflow reservoir phenomenon (which is reputedly brought about by high boost) was fixed with a custom aluminium tank, and there's also an external blow-by canister to catch the darker coloured stuff. And - like the Rigoli WRX - the heads and cams are completely standard. The engine build, of course, was performed at Dominic's father's workshop - Tony Rigoli Performance.

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Electronic gizmology includes a Microtech MT8 programmable ECU (which means the factory airflow meter could be omitted) and a rev limit enforced at around 8500 rpm. Boost pressure is usually set to 20 psi with a tap style bleed. A set of four Mazda RX-7 600cc injectors teamed with a Malpassi rising rate regulator fire in the appropriate PULP/octane boost mix. This is pushed to the front via a Bosch Motorsport pump that drinks from a custom surge tank. Note that a plump 27 psi boost can be run when Dominic's set of 800cc injectors are installed. Already set up for direct-fire ignition, the EJ series Subie motor is sparked by four Bosch high-energy coils, Magnecore leads and platinum plugs. In short, the job gets done quietly and effectively.

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All this good stuff gets together to generate a muscle man 350 horsepower at all four wheels (on only 20 psi)! With well over twice the factory power output, this is undoubtedly, the most powerful Liberty in Australia. An 11.4 second quarter mile (run on street tyres and in complete road trim) is testament to that. Dominic's own title-holding WRX only makes its extra power thanks to his willingness to put in 35 psi boost. However, since David's more inclined to keep the motor together, he prefers to keep boost "mild".

Note that all the twinkle and shine isn't spent on the outside. No sir. Under the bonnet, David has spent hours detailing and splashing around silver, purple and gold paint. The result is a look that we've never seen before - and it works! It gives the common-looking EJ20 donk a real identity.

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The Sam's gearbox is very similar to Dominic Rigoli's WRX too, although this one is a bit more road friendly to use. Unlike the Rigoli WRX, David's Liberty uses dog engagement on only first and second gears - however, at the time of writing, it had recently come time to upgrade to a full dog box. For some reason, third gear now has less teeth on it than it's supposed to... Working further through the driveline, the standard diff ratios are replaced by 4.11:1 RS-R gears. This helps it get up onto boost, but David also added that it's a little too short in first - given there's so much torque. Oh, and it can no longer do 140km/h in second gear either!

A Jim Berry clutch is fitted, using a standard clutch plate and a 3600lb pressure plate. Like Dominic's car, you can launch this sucker at high revs (about 6000) and jump off the line strongly with just a bit of wheelspin. But try it with any more revs on board and all you'll get is four-wheel-spin through first and second gear!

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David says it's good on the street too - "it doesn't idle funny and there's not that much lag". Anything over 4000 rpm and it really wants to go - all the way to an easy 8000 revs. Yet, he drives it every day and it's already toured from Sydney to Queensland and back. Another amazing thing about this car are the relatively few dollars that've been spent on it. All up, the whole shooting match has totalled around $25,000. This takes on-board the $13,000 purchase price (from a friend), mostly trade prices and doing the whole of the panel and paint work himself. As David readily admits, "It's a pretty special thing".

And would he ever sell it? Well, he could be tempted if someone made an offer around the $30,000 mark - but judging by the cries of "you're not selling it!" from his young daughter, there might be some fairly intense family discussions and tears first...

A big thanks goes out to David's wife, kids and friends and Dominic Rigoli.

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Tony Rigoli (Gold Coast)
+61 7 5528 4666

+61 7 3349 9511

Mick's Metalcraft
+61 2 9755 7137

Jim Berry Clutch
+61 7 3891 6114

(Australian Competition Clutch Supplies)

BPM Motorsports

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