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The Boosted Lego Wagon or, Why I Hate Press Cars

 

Here are two cars: one of which I like, one of which I love. Now obviously, the car on the right is superior in every conceivable way. It’s a boulevard-strafer when it needs to be, a relaxing cruiser when it does not. It’s a 400-horsepower rocket with a comfy seats, a nice stereo and air-conditioning.

Just one problem: it ain’t mine.

This one is.

 

 Don’t get me wrong, reviewing cars is a fun gig. I don’t do it full-time, mind you, but were someone to tempt me away from my day-job with a reasonable pay-scale, I’d leap at the opportunity. You get to drive such a wide variety of stuff – it’s pretty much every gearhead’s dream job.

 There are good weeks and bad weeks, from six-speed five-oh Mustang to automatic Scion tC. I drive all this stuff, poke around with the on-board entertainment and then try to write something that’ll appeal to Joe Corolla while still not leaving Biff Project-Car bored to tears. I pick my cars up on Monday, get a sense of them by Wednesday, love ‘em or hate ‘em by Friday, spend the weekend shooting a few pictures, and then off they go back on Monday morning.

 And, as I only take two-to-three press cars on in a month, back I go into my car. Every time, it takes just a few kilometres – oh yeah, that’s better.

She’s an ’02 WRX Sportwagon – a Bugeye. By the standards of Hooniverse, pretty tame stuff: all y’all seem to have fearsome wrenching skills and big garages filled with plenty of spare parts. I don’t… have those things.

 But that doesn’t mean she isn’t special, at least to me. After all, I picked her up on Valentine’s Day.

 

She’s never been quite as clean as she was on that first day, flanks as-yet undimpled by dents (Subaru cellulite), bone-stock with 227hp and a somewhat roly-poly suspension. Quick though, and I’d been watching the below advertisements on repeat:

YouTube Preview Image

 

Naturally, I kept the car stock for about three days. Whiteline swaybars were ordered and it went up to Rocket Rally in Squamish (builder of Subaru’s rally cars) for some new exhaust parts and a re-tune. After struggling with the zero-aftermarket support of my old MX-6 GT, the wealth of stuff available to set up a WRX was a revelation. And a chronic addiction.

 

Three suspensions. Four exhausts. Three dyno-tuning sessions. Finally, I got it right, and here she sits with Konis and RCE springs, sways and end-links front and rear, poly bushings everywhere and the ubiquitous Anti-Lift-Kit: a subframe modification that adds a degree of positive caster.

 Underhood there’s a V7 intercooler and “pinks” for injectors – both off a JDM Subaru. A slightly-rare VF-35 turbo off an Australian STI (better spool) rams in air through an APS proper cold-air-intake – more for the sound than anything. Rocket Rally provides the exhaust piping and a Maddad Whisper turns the noise into something approaching a tune.

 

Lots of other stuff too: some cheap ’04 STi BBS rims I inexpertly re-sprayed myself, strut-bars front and rear – the back one is quick-release for cargo – cowl stiffening from TiC, shifter-linkage all replaced with poly (worth doing and better than a short-shifter), rear subframe lockdowns, 3/16” aluminum skidplates, etc, etc.

 Tuning may have been given a bad name over the years, but to me, it’s like buying your clothes off the rack and having them tailored. I might not have the scratch to spec a custom-built 911, but I can certainly get my WRX altered to fit: more boost, but not at the expense of spool, stiffer, but not too low.

 The result is a sort of Swiss Army Knife of cars; a jack-of-all-trades. It can haul ridiculous amounts of cargo, or chase down an E46 at the track. It’s phenomenal in the snow, but equally great on a twisty desert road.

 

Of course, there are drawbacks. The fuel economy is pathetic and it only drinks 94. The turbo lag is a bit silly. The interior has more rattles than a baby convention, and at speed on the highway wind noise levels range from Sopwith Camel to Oops I Fell Out Of My Dirigible.

 Still, I love the thing, and here’s perhaps the biggest problem with press cars. It’s not just that they’re sometimes spec’d in funny colours, or nearly always with the automatic, or with some other option (*cough* glassroofMustang *cough*) that I’d never choose. It’s more that you’re having a week’s fling and then passing on marriage advice to other folks based on it; a true connection with an automobile only comes with time.

 

Climbing back into the Subaru feels like coming home after a week in a hotel. It feels like slipping on a hoodie after spending all day in a too-tight shirt collar. It feels like picking up your battered old guitar after trying everything on the wall at Long and McQuade.

It feels like picking up your pooch from doggie daycare after you’ve spent all week walking somebody else’s mutt.

C’mon, girl…

 

Let’s go play fetch.

 

 

Currently there are "22 comments" on this Article:

  1. Timpleton says:

    Nice little write up. I had an 02 myself with an ej207 and FP Red (around 450hp) and the 6 speed. She was more than reliable, never a problem with the mechanical or electrical just always taking my daily 8500 rpm beatings. I miss it quite a bit. I still think the first generation WRX will always be the best, I remember how strange it looked when it was first released and now it's pretty much an icon for being a performance car. Wish the newer ones still had that quirky was of the older ones.

  2. Deartháir says:

    +1 for the Long and McQuade reference. Another place I could spend hours, wishing and dreaming.

    You could replace most of your Subaru references with "Corrado" and you'd have much the same story for me. In pretty much every measurable way except handling, the Lincoln is the better car. Roomier, more comfortable, more technology, quieter, and more powerful. The Lincoln will powerslide at will with the push of the traction control button and a slap of the shifter into manual mode, while the Corrado just grabs and goes without much excitement or drama. The Corrado is the least reliable car Volkswagen ever made — well, in the running with the W12 Phaeton, but that has a lot to do with the costs involved, and owners just not bothering to do maintenance — but it's proven relatively easy to wrench on and fun to work with, and I daily-drove it for over 200,000 kms. And still, every other car I drive gets compared to that, and usually found wanting.

    I completely understand your love for your Boosted Lego Wagon. While not a Subaru fan, I have a ton of respect for them, and can completely sympathize with the loyalty their owners feel.

  3. skitter says:

    This is such a great article, I might have to start a physical Hooniverse archive so I can leaf through and re-read on tired days like today.

  4. Number_Six says:

    Boosted, put a comment here so we can all spend the rest of the week giving it +1

  5. Van_Sarockin says:

    Well said, for that is why we like what we like.

  6. boostedlegowgn says:

    Thanks for the kind words guys. Man, this car needs a Hooniverse sticker, no?

    • chrystlubitshi says:

      I was reading this on my phone and tried to give you a thumbs up….. my "tiny" phone screen caused me to give it a thumbs down.. This prompted me to pull out my laptop and type this apology

      I love wagons, I love Scoobies. it does need a hooniverse sticker though.

      Keep the faith.

      • jeepjeff says:

        Ok, I have figured out a way to deal with this.

        Step 1: Zoom in so you can move the screen around
        Step 2: Slide the screen so the thumbs down button is just off the screen.
        Step 3: Hit the thumbs up button.
        Step 4: ??????
        Step 5: Profit!

  7. CptSevere says:

    I love it. Most people just drive something, it gets them someplace, and they're there, and that's fine. Then, they get back in the whatever and it gets them someplace else. No problem at all. Hoons like us, well, it's whatever it is that you use to get from that one place to the other, is what matters. Not the bus, not the (insert beige car reference here), not an appliance. We all have some way of getting around that suits each of us just fine, and most likely it doesn't appeal to the general public, nor would we want it to. I hereby drink a toast to the Boosted Lego Wagon, to my Ford F100, to the ZomBee Racer, to the OLRF Waldo Jeep (and his Charles Barrett Special), the Coupe Z600 and all of our unique rides. To hell with being conventional.

  8. AutoTempest says:

    I'm going to hazard a guess that you and I share an Island my friend! Not everyday you see a Tofitian sticker while scrolling through Google Reader. Awesome article man!

  9. owlman says:

    Great read. Mine wasn't a wagon and was an STI with 305hp but it was silver and I have good memories. Thanks for rekindling them!

  10. lilwillie says:

    Good choice of mods, nice ride. It looks like it could rock the hell out of any situation!

  11. EmbracingEntropy says:

    Great article– hits the nail on the head for the true enthusiast. For me the car was a beat up old E30 four-door, and it was much like a favorite pair of old jeans. It just felt right.
    My interest in the topic also stems from the fact that the Bugeye WRX wagon has been on my short list of "cars I must buy" for years. Yes, it must be a wagon, and yes, it must be a Bugeye. Part of the problem, however, is finding a good used one that hasn't been "tailored" already. It's both the bane and beauty of the snarly little Subaru– the options to make it your own are limitless, so long as someone hasn't already gone there first. Wearing jeans that are shaped to someone else's ass just doesn't cut it.

  12. Mad_Science says:

    Despite the fact that you've sent us a million emails and stuff…I just connected the dots.

    So true, and in my case it was an '06 WRXagon against which all press cars were benchmarked.

    You spend a week with something trying to find the point of it, when you've got most of the performance (that you'll use, anyway) for 1/2 the price sitting in your driveway.

  13. HycoSpeed says:

    "…noise levels range from Sopwith Camel to Oops I Fell Out Of My Dirigible."

    I freaking love this, and plan to steal it and try to insert it into as many conversations as possible.

  14. Jeb says:

    Now and again I miss my old modded Ford Contours (yep, plural): the autobox '95 with the lux interior and the everything-but-engine mods that sounded (at least in my imagination) a little like a McMerc SLR when I stood on the gas, and the '97SE with the 5-speed that I never did get around to doing the engine swap on. Most people in the US didn't ever know that this platform was full of UK and German DNA; it was brought to the US almost as an afterthought. They were my Alfa Romeos; brilliant to drive, just practical enough to be daily drivers, and never quite reliable enough for me to think that I didn't have some disaster waiting to befall me. The SVT model got the laurels, but the '95-'97s were the best.

    • Clashtastic says:

      I never drove a '95-'97, but I really liked my Contour SVT (which was my first car), and my current 164S always brings up memories of the SVT Contour (except the Alfa is better!).

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