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 |   |  2005 Subaru WRX STI - Bow in the Presence of Greatness
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2005 Subaru WRX STI - Bow in the Presence of Greatness

Good things come to those who wait ... and work their asses off

Jonathan Wong
May 15, 2019
Photographer: Viet Nguyen

Twelve years is a long time to own and build a project car. In a day and age when many projects are built and flipped as soon as they're completed, one has to wonder: Why wouldn't you enjoy what time (aside from money) has afforded you to enjoy? It took Tony Lee 12 long years to get his STI to this level of greatness. What was once simply a daily driver is now the culmination of collecting the rarest of parts and using hard work and effort to build this ultimate project car.

  |   2005 Subaru WRX STI - Bow in the Presence of Greatness

An avid car enthusiast since the mid-'90s, Tony admired the Japanese supercars of those days (like the Mk4 Supra and FD RX-7) from a distance but could only afford to modify an Accord his parents helped get for him. "I religiously watched Hot Version, JDM Option, and Revspeed on DVD," he says. "But my subscriptions to Super Street, Import Tuner, and Modified made me want to really dream big and work hard so that one day I would be able to afford and build a car of my own." Those golden-era import years taught him that nothing was going to just land in his lap; he had to create his own opportunity and put in the work if he was going to get what he wanted.

It wasn't until late 2004 that Tony was finally able to purchase his own car, a brand-new '05 WRX STI, which, in his eyes, was an iconic step forward. "I played a lot of Gran Turismo," he explains. "The game's rally tracks are fun when you play with the STI. But the Team Orange GDB built by Nobushige Kumakubo is what really pushed me to start my Subi build." Tony tried to keep it stock for as long as he could, but we all know what happens next... Old habits die hard, and soon he was modifying it, albeit slowly since he was going to school part time. The simple mods only whet his appetite for more performance and parts that wouldn't be easily attainable (affordably anyway), which meant he needed to make a career move. Once he found the financial freedom, Tony continued working on his passions.

  |   2005 Subaru WRX STI - Bow in the Presence of Greatness

With a goal to have a street-driven STI that was both powerful and reliable, Tony focused on mods centered around cooling, fuel efficiency, and the exhaust. An ATP GTX3071R turbo replaced the factory unit and was mated to a Full Race 1.5 scroll up-pipe and header. Chris "Chinky" Chao helped customize his entire fueling and cooling system and fabricated pieces that were powdercoated and anodized in matching Candy Violet paint to give it a show car "wow" vibe. For two years, Tony's STI was garaged, with parts being installed back to back—to the point where he was unsure if he would ever get his car running again. What made up for it in the end? Church Automotive Testing being able to tune it to a reliable 413 whp and 416 lb-ft of torque on E85 at 21 psi ("I was thrilled about that!" he says).

Over the next few years, Tony shifted his attention to enhancing the looks of his STI. Before the 2017 SEMA Show, he found the inspiration to take his car to another level he didn't think would've been possible. With a set of one-off ADVAN wheels ordered through Mackin Industries and aero pieces from M-Sports, he was able to widen the vehicle while still respecting the factory's body lines. "LTMW massaged and molded the rear fenders into the OEM body to create a seamless flow," he adds. "I also stuck with the factory Aspen White to create a look only true enthusiasts could identify." As a way to pay homage to the Team Orange GDB, Tony added carbon Chargespeed brake ducts, Varis side skirts, and one really trick part: a custom double-stacked HKS Kansai Service/Voltex rear diffuser.

  |   2005 Subaru WRX STI - Bow in the Presence of Greatness

As fate would have it, the first time he brought out his STI with the new widebody, Tony ran into Kumakubo at a local event while preparing it for SEMA. "What are the chances I'd run into my childhood hero at an event he wasn't even competing in?" he laughs. Life is full of surprises, and it just goes to show that when you put in the work, you can make any dream come true.

By Jonathan Wong
502 Articles
2005 Subaru WRX STI - Bow in the Presence of Greatness
Tuning Menu
Owner: Tony Lee
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Occupation: Ninja (wink, wink)
Instagram: @speedmasterlee
Power: 365/413 whp, 386/416 lb-ft of torque (91 octane/E85)
Engine: 1,000cc Injector Dynamics T1 top-feed conversion kit; Brown & Miller fuel lines with -AN fittings; APS 525 front mount intercooler, 70mm cold-air intake, turbo inlet (powdercoated Candy Violet); ATP GTX3071R turbo; Deatschwerks 300-lph fuel pump; Earl's front-mount Temp-A-Cure oil cooler with B&M PTFE lines; Full-Race 1.5 scroll up-pipe and header (titanium coated); Gates Racing timing belt and accessory kit; Grimmspeed 8mm phenolic spacers; Invidia V3 downpipe with race cat; Fujitsubo Legalis Super R one-piece exhaust with 3-inch piping; Killer B oil pickup/windage tray, Ultimate oil pickup, V2 performance oil pan; Kinsler 25-micron fuel filter; Koyo radiator; Moroso aluminum coolant expansion tank, dual billet aluminum air/oil separator tank (anodized purple and modified with -AN fittings); Odyssey Extreme battery; port and polished stock intake manifold by Portflow; PTP T3/T4 turbo blanket; Samco radiator hoses; Sun Auto Hyper Force ignition and Hyper voltage system; TGV deletes; TiAL 44mm MV-R external wastegate and QR recirculating blow-off valve; Tomei timing belt guide; Weldon fuel pressure regulator
Drivetrain: Cusco motor and transmission mounts, rear diff cover; Earl's stainless clutch line; Kartboy front shifter stay bushing, limited-edition STI pink exhaust hanger bushings, rear shifter stay bushing, short shifter, pitch mount; Southbend Stage 3 clutch; TiC '05 STI shift linkage bushings, 6MT pivot bushings, Botox rear subframe lock bolts, transmission crossmember bushings; Whiteline steering rack and gearbox selector bushings
Engine Management: COBB Accessport V3; Grimmspeed electronic boost controller; Innovative MTX-L wideband AFR gauge
Footwork & Chassis: Cusco rear strut bar, V-brace, Safety 21 five-point rollcage; Kartboy endlinks, rear subframe outrigger bushings; M1 chromoly 12-point subframe brace; Moton Clubsport two-way coilovers, CNC external reservoir brackets, adjustable camber plates, front/rear quick releases; MSI rear trailing arms; TiC fender braces, front trailing arm, lateral link and rear diff mount bushings; Whiteline 24mm front and rear adjustable sway bars, adjustable rear lateral links, anti-lift kit, heavy-duty rear sway bar mounts, roll center adjusters; corner balanced and aligned by West End Alignment
Brakes: Brembo 350x34 Type-3 rotors, CNC billet caliper adapters, custom GT HD six-piston calipers; Brembo/Ferrodo front pads; DBA 4000 slotted rear rotors with Ferrodo DS2500 pads; Earl's stainless brake lines; Motul RBF600 fluid; TiC brake master cylinder brace
Wheels & Tires: 18x10.5 +15 ADVAN GT Premium wheels; 275/35R18 Toyo Proxes Sport tires; Project Kics +10mm extended wheel studs, hub centric rings, R40 iCONIX Neo Chrome lug nuts
Exterior: Chargespeed carbon brake ducts; Craft Square anti-glare lens and F-Type Touring carbon mirrors; Feynlab Self Heal ceramic coating; HKS Kansai Service carbon rear diffuser; Ings+1 Z-Power GT wing; M-Sports carbon canards, front lip, widebody fenders, front bumper; Varis carbon side skirts; VIS Demon carbon trunk; Voltex and HKS rear diffusers installed by AQ Motorsports
Interior: Bride Stradia II Special Edition Japan carbon seats, bolster protectors, gradation door cards, rear seat bench, floor mats, leather knee, RO seat rails; HPI four-point harnesses; Brightside Performance 1-inch CNC seat risers; Prodrive steering wheel; Baller Bolts titanium burnt blue steering wheel bolts; Blitz Power Meter; Defi Control Unit II, meter hood, gauges; ROVi Dashcam Prime; custom suede armrest, center console, glovebox, pillars, upper door cards; WC Lathewerks titanium burnt blue shift knob, reverse lockout, shift collar, HVAC dials; Works Bell Rapfix II, Rapfix Flipper, short hub; Pioneer GM-D9605 amp, ND-BC8 rear backup camera, TS-D65C front speakers, MVH-2300NEX head unit, TS-D65F rear speakers, TS-D10D4 sub
Thanks: Chris "Chinky" Chao at Brightside Performance; Adan at AQ Motorsports; Brian Yuen and Steve Lim at Mackin Industries; Bun at Lot-USA/Bride; KJ at MyJapanDirect; Stan at Toyo Tires; Long and Phuong at LTMW; Danni at Race Technologies/Brembo; Johan at Moton Suspension; Erick at Whiteline; Kenji at Cusco; Muang at Propel Fuels; Tom at Subaru of America; Sam at Wicked-Protection; Nolan at Feynab; Kimble at G5 Tint; Odyssey Battery; Pioneer Car Audio; my family; Mochi the Poochi; Jade Motorsports Crew; Nom Nom Squad; last, but not least, my beautiful wife, Wan

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