1994 Subaru Impreza WRX – The Traitor

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Over the years, many people have claimed to own the fastest WRX in New Zealand. But timeslips don’t lie, and Matt Locke happens to be holding one that reads 9.98 at 228kph. Anyone think they can do better? Thought not.

For the better part of a decade, loyal drag racing fanboys of the triple diamond mark had much to cheer about. On the other hand, followers of Subarus had only a handful of mediocre achievements to be proud of. It was an odd state of affairs; in rallying and on the track, both makes were evenly matched. But when it came to drag racing, Subarus could never really get it together — they were always breaking down.

“I was tired of seeing Mitsi after Mitsi at the strip,” says Matt. “Someone needed to build a serious Subaru in New Zealand.” At the time, Andre Simon’s DOCILE Evo was destroying all and sundry in the 4WD drag racing world. Matt decided that if he were ever to build a fast Subaru, there would be no one better to enlist than Andre. The pair chatted over a few beers and a plan was hatched, and it was also here that the plate TRAITR was conceived.

What started as a bit of a joke turned into reality when Holden fan Matt came across a Subaru shell for a price he couldn’t refuse. “I knew a guy selling a WRX shell and it had everything minus the gearbox and motor,” he recalls. It was the perfect starting point, since the motor and gearbox were components Matt would’ve replaced anyway. 

Initially, Matt wanted that car streetable, but when the motor was sent to Andre in Wellington, plans changed. The goal was now to build a full-on drag weapon. The shell stayed in Auckland and was sent to Jono Climo at Performance Metalworks with a dummy motor installed so the fabrication could get underway.

Matt wondered what he had got himself into when Jono let him in on the idea for his custom manifold, which he described as looking like “a baby trying to crawl over the engine”. If he was worried that Jono had lost the plot, once Matt saw the actual design he realised that it didn’t really look like a baby at all — unless you really squint your eyes and have a vivid imagination, that is.

From that point the project picked up momentum, and veterans of the drag scene Steve Hayes, Brent Lucas and Te Ariki Gardener (ADD Steve, Beanbag and Tux to everyone who knows them) came on board to lend a hand. Little did they know they were to become the Elite Axle Replacement team at every meet, more on that later…

Over the course of the next year the build took shape, with the fabrication done in Auckland and the engine built in Wellington, until it was time to finally bring the two parts of the build together. Matt loaded the trailer and strapped the car down with a strop front and back, thinking this would be enough since the car was quite light.

Not so much. On his way to the capital, Matt had to perform an emergency stop. The braking force led to one of the strops failing and the car was propelled forward. Luckily, the trailer had a tyre rack at the front, which caught the WRX and meant it suffered only minimal damage. Lesson learnt: always fasten  your vehicle securely — and it doesn’t hurt to overdo it with back-up strops.

In Wellington, Andre’s Speedtech team had the engine ready, and when the shell turned up it was time to decide on a drivetrain. A few options were thrown around, including a 5-speed PPG straight-cut gearbox and a 6-speed manual STI box. The latter option was a risk; it was unproven with the types of power figures Matt planned on, however it was the cheaper option by a fair margin. Decision made.

You can churn power out of an EJ series engine without too many dramas, but actually putting down the grunt is where many have failed. The problem is that Subaru’s old factory 5-speed was never designed to take a sudden load. It would go all day if you slammed it through the gears in mid to high rpm, but launch it off the line and you were always dancing with danger. The problem was fixed by the time the version seven STI came out equipped with a stock 6-speed that seems to be over engineered.

Matt ran his quickest time with a stock STI 6-speed manual gearbox.

Although everyone thought the gearbox would be the problem, it has actually been the axles that have proved troublesome time and time again. The axles break so regularly that the pit crew can now change three in fewer than six minutes. When the axles have managed to hold together, Matt has piloted the car into the NZPC 9-Second Club. The car has made more than 500kW at all four wheels, a figure achieved at 29psi.

“We would love to run more power,” Matt says. “The end goal for the car is an eight-second pass, but if that doesn’t happen and I end up in the mid-nines, I’ll be happy.”

Matt and the Elite Axle Replacement team will be back this season and, if the budget allows, they will be running custom-made axles mated to a PPG straight-cut gearbox. Add some more boost and if the plan comes together, this traitor will be crossing the line for all the right reasons — in nine seconds or less.

1994 Subaru Impreza WRX – Specifications

Engine: 2.5-litre block, custom Darton ductile iron sleeves, solid filled block,  14mm H13 custom head studs, custom 11.5:1 JE forged pistons, Carrillo conrods, 2.6-litre billet crank, late-model STI heads, ACL engine bearings, custom main case bolts, billet drag-spec cams, competition double valve springs, adjustable cam gears Tomei high-strength cambelt with mechanical tensioner mechanism, HKS FCON V Pro computer, Turbosmart Eboost 2 boost controller, M&W Pro Drag 4 CDI with 4x Mercury CDI coils, 12-litre fuel cell, Magnafuel electric fuel pump, 8x Bosch 1600 cc injectors, Turbosmart fuel pressure regulator, HKS T51R KAI turbocharger, 60mm Turbosmart external wastegate, Turbosmart Raceport BOV, custom Motorsport Fabrications alloy plenum with 100mm throttle body
Driveline: Standard 6-speed V7 STI Subaru gearbox, locked centre diff, twin-plate Exedy clutch, R180 diff
Suspension: D2 coil-overs front and rear Brakes: Subaru twin-pot front and rear Wheels and Tyres: 16×8-inch Volk TE37 forged alloys, 225x50x16 Hoosier drag radials
Exterior: Ferrari Viola Asprey Metallic respray, Brown Brothas graphics, DJ safety parachute, Lexan windows, tube chassis front end
Interior: Full MANZ roll cage, Cobra Evolution bucket seat, Momo steering wheel, Willans 6-point harness, Willans arm restraint
Performance: Dyno power – 516kW at the wheels @ 6500RPM and 29psi boost, 0-400m: 9.98 @ 228kph

Matt Locke – Driver Profile

Age: 28
Occupation: Transport manager/supervisor
Previously Owned Cars: Toyota Corolla GT, Subaru Legacy RS Mitsubishi Evolution IV, Holden HSV Senator, VK Group A Brock Commodore
Length of ownership: 6 Years
Build time: 4 Years
Thanks: Andre, Bam & Ben @ STM, Shane & Susan @ Kumeu Car Painters, Mike & Gina @ HD2, Jono Climo @ PMW, Jeremy @ Brown Brothas, Cookie & Ben @ NZ Car Parts Auckland, Beanbag, Tux & ADD Steve (my axle bitches), the Midgley family for the trailer, Ricky @ Revolution Racegear, my parents, my awesome wife Melaina, everyone else who got their hands dirty on the late nights and long trips

Words: Falgoon Patel Photos: Dan Wakelin

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  • sick!
  • Ben says
    Every self respecting boy racer (let's face it, this guy is no car enthusiast) knows that the first gen WRX was and always will be the best Subbie ever - relative to the technology available at the time. Great to see that this platform is still leading the charge over the newer versions. How fun would it be to take this one for a spin around the block!
  • Doug says
    Would like to drive this!!

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