Atte Taivainen‘s interest in cars started at an early age. He grew up in the Eastern Finland countryside, where there was plenty of room to play and tinker with toys. This led to Atte learning how to repair and do all sorts of maintenance work by himself.
Atte bought this two-door 1998 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Type R back in late 2017. The performance-packed four-wheel-drive coupe guaranteed smiles and power slides on the snowy Finnish winter roads. This was Atte’s third Subaru, and the one he decided would go under the knife for a major performance and visual overhaul after its initial winter beater duties. As you do, or at least, as you did before these cars became so much more valuable – I’m not sure how many are being used as beaters anymore…
The initial plan was to simply source and fit a wide-body kit to the GC8. Replica STI 22B fenders looked promising, but then Atte laid his eyes on an even wider kit – the WRC version. This replica kit would widen the car by 50mm per side, so Atte would also need a fatter wheel and tire combo to fill the fenders. A set of used 18×7.5-inch SSR Professor SP1 3Ps provided their centres, with new wide lips and barrels ordered to bring them up to the desired spec.
The test fit wasn’t what Atte expected though, so a big decision was made: the kit was cut into pieces and stretched out with fiberglass until they measured +100mm per side. The reshaping took a few months, but Atte worked the fibreglass panels to perfection before fitting them.
Suspension was next on the list, and for this aspect of the build Atte installed BC Racing custom coilovers with shorter shocks in order to achieve his desired low ride height with improved handling.
As the WRC fender arch line was 50mm higher than standard to accommodate gravel-spec suspension travel, everything on the chassis had to align accordingly with the fully adjustable arms also fitted. The wheels sit straight with minimal camber, offering maximum grip from the semi-slick tires.
Now that his Subaru was sitting right, Atte turned his attention back to the bodywork. The minor damage accumulated over a Finnish winter’s worth of snow-laden track days was straightened out and prepped for paint by Atte’s friend Jussi Svenn. But this was just the start.
The bonnet lost its trademark hood scoop after the intercooler was relocated to the front of the engine bay, the slightly modified front bumper received air ram scoops to deliver fresh air to the filter, and the bottom of the bumper got a new front lip – all custom of course.
Next, the rear bumper was modified to allow the exhaust – a full custom 2.5-inch stainless steel system built by Antti at Luisu’s Garage – to exit through the center of the car.
The night before the Subaru was due at the paint shop, Atte was still figuring out the color. Ultimately he decided on a toned-down mocca latte brown for the exterior, while the engine bay would be a mint green color to match the Project Mµ brakes. Anything else in the engine bay that could be coated matte black was.
While all the bodywork was being taken care of, Atte had left the Subaru’s running gear in the trusted hands of Keit from Keitmotorsport, who was tasked with rebuilding it. The process started with the transmission, where the 6-speed DCCD (Driver’s Control Centre Differential) gearbox went through a basic overhaul before being mated to a 6-pad sintered clutch to ensure it could handle the new power levels. The DCCD allows the center differential locking to be adjusted from the cabin, which Atte says is very handy for track days.
The EJ20 CDB engine was rebuilt to handle high RPM and the high compression that bigger boost would bring. The cylinders were bored to house new Mahle 2618 forged pistons which attach to Manley H-beam connecting rods with ARP 2000 bolts. Fitting a nitrided, later-model 79mm crank required the end bearing – one of the full suite from ACL’s Race catalog – to be relocated and modified to suit the configuration. Finally, newer STI Version 5 cylinder heads were secured to the block via ARP studs, with an RCM 1.5mm head gasket sandwiched in between.
The end result was a 2.1L boxer ready for action.
And there’s plenty of action thanks to the modified Holset Super HX40 turbocharger, with boost control from a KKD 60mm wastegate and intake charge cooling courtesy of the custom front-mount intercooler. AN8 Teflon fuel lines are used to deliver ethanol from a Walbro 450lph fuel pump to 1,500cc injectors.
Tuned through an Autronic engine management system, the EJ produces 450whp and more than 600Nm of torque, which Atte says is a good amount for street and track use.
Inside, Atte fitted the front half of a Cusco roll cage and custom made the rear section, rendering the Subaru strictly a two-seater. It’s not stripped back to metal as you might expect though. Atte was playing around with car audio before he got to modifying cars themselves, so a decent sound system was always in the plan.
The interior panels and seats are wrapped in dark brown Alcantara with a custom diamond pattern in silver stitching. When looking closer, you realize that each diamond has an even amount of stitches, with the line starting and ending in the same stitch hole. It’s not an easy thing to do.
Inside, you’ll also find TAKATA Racing harnesses and a QSP steering wheel on a Sparco quick-release hub.
The aforementioned sound system is built around an Alpine CDE-178BT head unit, with a DD Audio 5-channel amplifier to boost the signals. The door cards are custom, housing 3-way active Ground Zero Competition 6.5-inch mid-range speakers, while the tweeters are mounted to the roll cage’s front pillars with their wiring hidden inside the tubing. For the all-important bass, Atte runs a single 8-inch DD Audio 608 subwoofer in a 20-liter reflex-style enclosure.
In 2019, the finished product looked like this. Atte named the car ‘SubieMonster’, with the Sesame Street-inspired graphics incorporating 22 cookies per side to pay homage to the STI 22B. Yes, Atte likes cookies.
As you would have noticed, the Subaru looks quite a bit different now though.
Over the long 2020-2021 Covid winter in Finland, Atte was bitten by a carbon-Kevlar bug. He decided to take molds off his modified WRC replica kit, and remake it Kevlar aramid. The mold-making process required a lot of fiberglass and the right type of epoxy to ensure they were rigid enough. Atte then carefully prepped and waxed the Kevlar in the molds and infused them under a vacuum. This procedure was used for the front fenders, rear fenders, bonnet and side skirts. A new Kevlar rear diffuser was also custom-made, along with new side splitters, front canards and mirror housings.
Prior to fitting the new lightweight carbon-Kevlar kit, Atte removed all the excess metal from the bodywork he could, resulting in the car dropping estimated 150kg (330lb) all told.
One of standout aspects of the exterior is mounted out back. Atte sourced a WRC Prodrive S6/P2000 wing, the same version that was used on Petter Solberg’s 2000 Impreza WRC car. This pulls this tarmac-spec race look together very well.
Since ‘completing’ the car for the second time, Atte has run his Subaru at a number of summer track days. The engine has proven to be reliable, and quicker lap times have come with the decreased weight.
That was last summer. Atte says the build will always be evolving, and his Subaru is currently back under the knife over the cold winter months. We’ll just have to wait and see what 2023 brings for the SubieMonster…
Special thanks to Henri Kemppinen for the detailed information and text input.