I’ve been watching Kings of Restoration a lot lately and it I one of my favorite show in the History Channel. Just seeing the process n how Rick’s team does things gives great ideas on the how they did it, the techniques and finesse.

And lately we have been seeing quite a few “restorations” in the shop. By restoration, I don’t mean the paint, body and making it pretty kind, but rather fixing up the mechanical bits from the brakes, to the suspension, to the engine, and of course with that comes upgraded performance.

This 97 Subaru GC8 Impreza WRX wagon is such a car

The B plate tells everyone that this is a converted RHD import from Japan, with the conversion being one of the items on the list to be fixed and corrected.

The plan is to fix all the mechanical greasy parts, check up everything and get it running well, then bolt on the performance modifications since the owner, an nice English chap, tells us that he misses the grunt of a similar WRX he owns back in the UK.

And grunt is what we will give him.


1. As far as converted cars go, this one is actually in pretty decent condition. The original paint is still there, with no major damages or rust. The interior conversion is one of the better jobs we have seen.

 


2. Among the list of to-dos is to replace the leaking camshaft, crankshaft seals, timing belt and head gaskets. For that, it’s a lot easier just to pull the engine out of the car.

 


3. With the engine out, another to-do item is to replace the converted steering rack with one form an original LHD car. And also a good detailing job.

 


4. Ahhhh EJ20. This is actually casted into the block, unlike modern engines which are engraved.

 


5.  The brake rotors are also pulled and can undergo one more reface before being too thin to be used.

 


6.  We pulled out and cleaned the aluminum intake manifold in preparation for some bling.

 


7. VHT wrinkle red paint is used to give this old timer the updated engine look of newer model Subarus with the red intake manifold found on STIs.

 


8. A new Cosworth timing belt, oil seals are now installed on the engine.

 


9. The rotors are now shiny once again after being refaced. These will be mated to a set of Bendix ceramic pads.

 

10. With the engine work done, it’s time to drop it back into the car along with our new shiny red intake manifold.

 


11. A set of Iridium sparkplugs are also installed.

 


12. On to the performance aspect. A HotPipes 3” stainless steel downpipe is lined up against the smaller stock downpipe, and will be installed in its place.

 


13. A set of high flow HotPipes headers will also replace the restrictive stock header and up pipe.

 


14. One thing nice about Subarus is that the EJ engine hasn’t really changed much ever since it’s introduction. In fact, this same set of headers will fit on all turbo models up to the present.

 


15. Same goes for the downpipe. The flange of the turbo outlet has remained essentially unchanged throughout the subsequent model years.

 


16. We elected to go with an HKS Hi Power muffler with a 3” inlet because this muffler gives a nice and throaty roar when floored and low but quiet burble at idle.

 


17. We position the muffler in order to see where the exhaust hangers will be placed.

 


18. Full 3” stainless piping is used to connect the end of the downpipe to the muffler. Notice that we don’t have a resonator. Our reason for doing this is because some people want the car louder than stock. Should the final setup be too loud, it’s easy to add a resonator in the future.

 


19. Our big and shiny muffler is now installed.

 


20. We also recommended a front mount intercooler setup. In fact we highly and strongly recommend it for all Subarus because we have seen significant gains on the dyno, not to mention that we live in a hot country and every bit of additional cooling helps tremendously.

 


21. The custom aluminum piping is also painted in wrinkle red to match the manifold.

 

22. It’s a tight fit but we managed. The GC8s don’t have a lot of room to work with beneath the bumper.

 


23. Both left and right tie rods were also replaced with new pieces.

 


24. Here’s the completed engine. Bright and very red!

 


25. With the tight engine bay of the GC8, only an HKS mushroom filter will fit.

 


26. We reuse the stock blow off valve and plumb it back into the intake. Automatic transmission Subarus have a chance of the engine dying when the BOV vents to the atmosphere.

 


27. The last step is on the dyno and to get tuned using the Unichip.

 


28. Since this is a JDM model,  and an automatic at that, there’s not a lot of information online, and the stock power range varies from 180hp to 210hp. Our baseline dyno of 132whp (with modifications)  confirms that we got one on the lower end of the scale (the 4WD system typically loses 60-65hp). Our final power reading is a more respectable 161whp, which is what new WRXs and Foresters are making. So all in all, not bad for a 15+ year old high mileage car. Consider this oldie restored.