Updated: Aug 29
Building a Widebody Subaru
We’ve all thought about doing something crazy with our builds, but the sad truth is very few people have the time, effort, money, or perhaps even the skills to undertake these challenges in any form. Timelines play the biggest roles in any of these builds. Christopher’s wagon took 3 years to start rolling on its own, Jeff’s strawberry got a return to glory after 6 months and a mismatch of parts. So, what if it was possible to do an entire custom, one of one, widebody project in just over 14 weeks, by yourself, with a budget all things considered on $4500? Sounds impossible right? Well not entirely…
Like you all, I had this same dream and wondered in the almost Jeremy Clarkson sense of the idea “…How hard can it be?”, you could almost hear my family and friends roll their eyes with the “Don’t you dare David Mennie!” mentality. But long since the days of Need For Speed Underground blessing our world, I have always dreamed of this build idea. Forgetting the idea of high horsepower numbers, and instead pushing the boundaries with a high tyre width number. My old 04’ Blobeye was supposed to be this build, but life, circumstances, and a whole host of other things prohibited me from doing this. So, I went searching for another car that I could transform into ‘Loudmouth 2.0’. My canvas for this venture was perhaps the fastest growing second hand Japanese car to buy in the Canberra scene… a 2010 Widebody G3 Subaru Impreza WRX. At this point your probably very confused as to how you widebody an already factory widebody car…well the answer is quite comprehensive to say the least.
Step 1: Google is the Answer
Like people researching for a biology paper on answers about mitosis I spent much of my free time in between university classes and the fleet of online lectures researching how in gods name I planned to fit tyres with more width than Jupiter under this car. Forum posts from 2012 with expired image links told of the struggle people had when they were only beginning to experiment with these cars. The idea that a 265 tyre was the biggest you could fit quickly changed to a 295 in just over 2 years, followed by a 315 with severe modifications to alter the car in irreversible ways. The methods too, changed more than covid numbers; full bolt on replacement panels, 100mm fender flares, and the list was long and winding and had no clear end. Suspension too was a mystery with a mix of stock suspension nomads (myself included for a period of the build) to air suspension and full static 30kg spring sets. This kind of research, despite the complicated manner of it all, helped to quickly form an idea in my head about what this build should be and how it should go about being made. The biggest developmental hurdle was seeing how to create a daily driven, wide-bodied, static G3 WRX than adhered to rules and regulations set in place by the ACT. ADR rulings and RTA guidelines have been a thorn in the side of car enthusiasts since the invention of the wheel, but maybe it was possible to build something extreme that met all the legal words on paper.
Step 2: Don’t Skip the Design Phase
From an industrial design background, I can tell you that market research and concept development are some of the most critical stages when it comes to product design. Hence for this build many hours were spent messing around with the scrap cardboard and the masking tape. An approximate 50mm increase was due for each side of the car, with the original plan to be to reuse as much of the factory OEM aero components as possible to assist in the development. Design, planning, cost calculations, quotes, and even more trips to the forums of our elders finally resulted in a final formulated plan…. I was just going to cut whatever looked cool and work it out later.
Step 3: Playing ‘Operation’ but your car is the patient
Cutting anything up on a car is a scary process, especially when the resultant cutting could end up with your car rusting from the inside out never to be the same again. Everything that wasn’t needed or could be sold to fund the build was stripped off and cleaned. Fog lights, front garnishes, grille inserts, guard liners; all were removed and chucked straight onto the internet for sale immediately. As more and more parts came off; the car looked more junkyard wrecker part-out than the daily driver it was. But with all the excess removed, the tape in place, and sharpie marks made the cutting began!
Step 4: A few cutting disks were harmed in the making of this build…
Much like a song or dance, it was important to get a good flow going with cuts, starting with the simplest to get the eye adjusted to the design and the muscles moving to adjust to the cutter. The rear bar took the first hits, making way for an enormous diffuser and rear pods. The side skirt followed suit and so too the front bumper for the second time in 6 months. The rear guards and front guards however were saved for the special occasion of workshop antics. Cutting the rears was up there with the most panic inducing moments of my entire life, probably more panic felt by me than Plaz spilling auto transmission fluid all over Mother Earth. But a few smooths with a flappy disk later, a hit with the welder from the real Jim Mennie, and for good measures a dabbling of weather seal on inside and outside, the chops were complete.
Step 5: A loving but gentle 240 Grit
Post cutting leads into what was undoubtedly the most boring 4 weeks of the build… Sanding. Now I’ll admit that I’ve done my fair share of sanding of car parts before. But going through the motions of plastic weld, sand, reweld, sand some more, bog over this, sand back over that does take its toll on a man and his hands. But sanding is one of the best ways to mark progress in a build. The advancement to 600 grit marking well and truly the end of the building process and the race now to prep for paint. Paint at this point was a long way off, before anything else could occur it was time for the aero fit ups!
Step 6: Aero-Spacer Engineering
With some questionable aero choices planned for this car, the real power usage of cardboard-aided-design came into its own. Planning and mocking up of all the designs and aero pieces from a combination of scrap, packaging materials from part outs, and the occasional dab of hot glue meant that all the CNC turret punched 3mm aluminium aero fitted up without an issue. Brackets and secondary mounts were fabricated on the fly to assist in body panel stability but with most of the aero being structural as well as functional, there wasn’t issues in the way of flapping around at speed. Then we come to the big question…why in the name of all that is holy is that wing on there for? Style points? Compensation? Actual downforce? All of the above? Yeah! Look it really is all about flexing what you can do that is as close to rule breaking as possible. I will be the first to admit the wing itself was taller than ADR standards allow but it does get the cleanest airflow and biggest neck breaks possible. Aero test fits took over 2 days in total. This included adjusting mounting holes, attaching fixing points and setting nutserts in place. The end result was a multi-coloured, multi-materialled car that looked destined for the scrap heap or to end up on Canberra Notice board as a dangerous driving charge.
Step 7: 800 grit and chill?
All said and done; the final steps was a lot more sanding. With paint booked in, University classes returning to session, and the 14-week build timeline coming to a close there was no time to stop and clean the primer dust filled wounds. Sanding was problematic as all hell, due to previous bad efforts by me on the front bar and some other previous owner gremlins on the STI rear wing. With all pieces ready on Thursday night, it was off to paint on Friday. Brett did a mega job on the painting and the Auto Paint Supplies 5L mix up was a spot-on colour match thanks to numerous sources to check from. Everything was delivered and slapped back onto the car for Monday while the aero was off getting powder coated. While black texture wasn’t my first choice of colour for the aero it was the quickest, easiest, and also best scratch resistant finish I could get for the aero pieces themselves.
Step 8: The End
Aero returned on Friday night, and it went all on for Saturday evening. A late night surge of energy to finish the build was tinged with a touch of sadness I will admit. The thought that this build was effectively coming to an end was a sad and scary thought. I had poured so much time, effort, heart and soul into this build. Now realising there wasn’t much to fill the void left by it. I remember sitting there and admiring the car at midnight wondering if this pursuit of unquestionable uniquity; all was worth destroying what this car once was. But we do crazy things in our lives every so often, and this was mine. Sunday came around and I was joined by Joey who began capturing build footage for the upcoming J-Films feature video. The final canard went on, the bumper clipped in, and I reversed it out onto the road. The onrush of emotions set in, and your boy here cried a bit at the monstrosity that had been created. My childhood dream of a widebody build had just been achieved, and it was glorious…
So, there you have it kiddos. A simple and relatively straight-forward good read on how you can be a looney like me and build widebody car yourself. Remember too that stiff suspension and wheels that fit is the name of the game and the best way to make sure your build looks extra tuff. To all the involved parties (and you know who you are) thank you for following and supporting me in this journey of insanity of me building the car of my dreams. I make no mistakes or lies in that a build like this helps you learn more about you and who you are as a person than anything else I’ve experienced in my short time on this earth. It gives you a changed perspective on a few things in life that you really didn’t realise were problems or issues. I regret saying that I would sell this car and move on after I finished it cause the truth is now, I can’t sell this thing. I gave it my heart and gave it my soul; it took me on one hell of journey and gave me a purpose…and for that I am eternally grateful.
Written by: David Mennie
Photography: Justin Gomez, David Mennie