NZ Performance Car - - Con­tents - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: ADAM CROY

here was a late en­try into the mid­size sedan field nearly three decades ago, in 1988. Back then, mod­els were of­ten tarred with the mun­dane brush in terms of both func­tion and form, and while this era also saw rogue de­sign teams within Ja­panese automakers pro­duce, on oc­ca­sion, ver­sions of these cars that were pumped full of per­for­mance good­ness and techno-wiz­ardry, those tended to be more spo­radic fits of pas­sion, ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cials, or technological show­cases than ul­ti­mate driver’s cars.

By con­trast, the sub­ject of this fea­ture was al­most the op­po­site. The model was plunged into a deadly se­ri­ous ral­ly­ing cam­paign straight out of the womb, got over­hauled as the premier model for one of the most revered fac­tory rac­ing-de­vel­op­ment de­part­ments of the time, and saw more per­for­mance de­vel­op­ment through­out its short life­span than its com­peti­tors en­joyed over the course of decades. Bet­ter yet, be­yond all the fac­tory hype and ral­ly­ing pres­tige, it forged a strong and now eter­nal presence in our lo­cal scene. Yep, we’re talk­ing about the hum­ble Subaru Legacy RS.

Dun­can Wiseman sal­vaged this par­tic­u­lar RS from the in­evitable scrap heap it was destined for by its pre­vi­ous owner over 10 years ago. “I bought it for 500 bucks, so that should tell you what con­di­tion it was in at the time, as it was rot­ting away in a stor­age yard. Its only mod­i­fi­ca­tion was a badly fit­ted BOV and no air fil­ter, and it wasn’t run­ning,” he says. “A bit of head-scratch­ing later, and we fig­ured out [that] it had jumped a few teeth. Once I re­set that, it jumped into life.”

Al­though it was now a run­ner, things in­ter­nally were not healthy. Shortly af­ter buy­ing it, Dun­can dis­cov­ered that it was low on com­pres­sion. He has now spent the bet­ter part of a decade pro­gres­sively pump­ing more power into the EJ20 heart, with things kicked off with a mo­tor re­build by Brad Far­row at JMR Au­to­mo­tive De­vel­op­ments.

The same JE forged pis­tons and forged rods can be found in it to­day, al­though the rest of that combo — which con­sisted of a new top-mount in­ter­cooler and TD05, with a Gizmo Group A chip — are long gone. The sec­ond it­er­a­tion, with an M&H T3/T4 and front-mount looked af­ter by a Link G1, made 220kW on 20psi. By this point, Dun­can had linked up with Kent at Speed Source in Wark­worth, and the pair were putting in the hours on the dyno. Each time, they’d run it un­til it maxed out some­thing like the in­jec­tors, fuel pump, or spark, af­ter which Dun­can would take it away to up­grade what­ever had proven to be the weak­est point. And then they’d do it all over again — and again, and again. “First, the car ran out of fuel, so I up­graded the in­jec­tors to a set of 850cc Lu­cas top feeds with

af­ter­mar­ket rails, twin Bosch ex­ter­nal pumps, and a surge tank,” Dun­can says. “That made the 220kW be­fore run­ning out of puff on the turbo. A switch out to a Gar­rett GT3582R saw the car jump to 260kW, and then it ran out of spark.”

Boost was blow­ing the can­dle out. To counter this, a combo of four Bosch coils and 10mm leads with a D1 ig­ni­tion booster was fit­ted be­fore wind­ing the boost up to 24psi, which saw power grow from 260kW to 280kW on 95 oc­tane.

“I kind of just drove and tried to en­joy it af­ter that … un­til I got bored about three years ago and started pulling bits off again,” Dun­can says.

The RS was stripped back to a blank can­vas with the en­tirety of the run­ning gear yanked, along with the brakes, sus­pen­sion, and in­te­rior with it. “The in­ten­tion was to do things a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to what ev­ery­one else had done in terms of where I mounted the turbo and waste­gate — to the very short in­ter­cooler pipes us­ing a V-mount style in­ter­cooler that I got cus­tom made along with the ra­di­a­tor, so the cooler pipes would clear with­out cut­ting up the front bar, etc.”

The ba­sics were re­freshed in the form of ACL Race Series bear­ings and ARP head studs, with a flipped and mod­i­fied V5 in­take plenum that now ac­cepts a 60mm throt­tle body, and the turbo was once again re­placed.

Dun­can ex­plains that, on the cur­rent set-up, with the GT35, the en­gine would get knock at 310kW at 29psi, so he could only run the car safely at 280kW on 24psi. Switch­ing the unit for a GTX3582R Gen II stopped the knock and al­lowed the tim­ing to be ad­vanced while run­ning 29psi safely. That, and a MoTeC M48, meant power was up to 350kW. “The M48 is an older style, but the tech is all there. MoTeC was do­ing things 10 years ago that other brands are only just start­ing to do now,” Dun­can says. “And I put all the gains down to good friend Arnie Nguyen’s tun­ing and knowl­edge of MoTeC ECUs. He was the driv­ing force be­hind me mod­i­fy­ing the car even more to find more power over the last year. Rest in peace, lit­tle bro.”

It wasn’t just the mo­tor that re­ceived a re­work, with the fac­tory five-speed be­ing switched out for the stronger V7 STi six-speed, while a set of Cusco coilovers was in­stalled along­side V7 STi Brembo four-pot front and two-pot rear calipers for the now-much-needed stop­ping power. The sub­frames re­ceived a dose of seam weld­ing, while White­line front and rear sway bars now take care of body roll, and the car’s braced to the max with a front un­der­body K-brace, STi front strut brace, and ad­justable in-car cen­tre brace.

The fac­tory steel­ies have been re­placed with a set of

Find­ing the lim­its of any build can be ex­haust­ing, es­pe­cially when you’re putting in the work on the dyno to max out and re­place weak points — but Dun­can’s ef­forts have seen the hum­ble EJ20 go from 220kW to its cur­rent 350kW

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