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East Meets West In A Wide-Body WRX Hatch

Air Lift Performance

East Meets West In A Wide-Body WRX Hatch

Down The Varis Rabbit Hole

To car enthusiasts, automobiles are so much more than simple devices to transport us from point A to point B; they’re something truly special.

Our cars become a part of us and we become a part of them. We take care of them as if they are a living entity, while spending unimaginable amounts of money on them just like we would if they were our very own child. Our cars transcend the textbook definition of an ‘automobile’ and become something we dream about. Following our passion may seem irrational to most, but to us it makes total sense.

Before the sun was even thinking about peeking over the horizon to signal the start of the new day in Texas, I found myself spurred by passion. I made a fresh cup of coffee, gathered up my camera equipment, and readied myself for a shoot with Ernest and his third-gen Subaru WRX.


Enthusiasts find themselves drawn to certain makes and models for different reasons, and for Ernest the WRX ticked all the boxes. It had distinct lines and styling, a 5-speed manual gearbox, and the added functionality of a hatchback.

After finding a suitable example, the original plan was to do just a few select modifications and not go overboard spending too much money on it. But as you can see, that thinking went right out the window.


Ernest’s plans became a lot more substantial after he saw a WRX hatch on Instagram running a full Varis wide-body kit. That car made such an impression on him that all hopes of not falling down the modifying rabbit hole quickly diminished.

The wide-body kit added so much drama and character to the car without altering its original lines too much. In Ernest’s eyes it was just right, although he did wonder why Varis didn’t go more extreme.


It seems that nowadays simple and understated is out; it’s all about the big fenders and over-the-top bumpers, side steps and wings. Surely Varis could sell more kits if they followed the trend, right?

Full of curiosity, Ernest, who travels to Japan quite regularly, decided to make a special trip out to the Varis workshop and find out why they do what they do.


Watching the parts being made firsthand, and talking to Naohiro-san about the vision and purpose behind Varis’s designs had a big influence on Ernest and the way his build has turned out.


The goal evolved; not only did Ernest want to end up with car he could be proud of, but it needed to be built in a way that if shipped to Japan, it would be right at home.

Living in Japan has real advantages when you’re building a JDM-spec car, one of the big things is being able to pick up parts straight from the source. Where possible, Ernest would do just that, squeezing as many items into his luggage before heading back to the US. Of course, some parts just had to be shipped stateside, including the carbon fiber hood and the Voltex H2S GT wing.

Authentic Varis kits come with either a black or newer gold logo badge, but during one of Ernest’s many visit to the warehouse, he spotted a special blue plaque and knew he had to have it as a way to differentiate his car from others. It’s a nice little detail.

Sticking with JDM styling, 18×11-inch Work Emotions CR2Ps with a flat black finish contrast nicely against the white bodywork and carbon accents. Brembo brakes from a newer model STI provide the necessary stopping power.

Wanting an ultra-low right height when parked but not at the expensive of drivability when the WRX is on the move, Ernest chose an Air Lift Performance suspension setup with 3H management. Further enhancing the setup are lower control arms, a strut bar, and front H brace all from the Cusco catalog.

For the time being, things remain civilized under the hood, Ernest just sticking with the basics in enhancing the factory-fitted EJ25. There’s a Cobb intake and air box, Invida down-pipe running into a Perrin cat-back exhaust system, and a Stage 2 OTS tune.


There are plans for more though, and in anticipation of upping the performance ante in the future, the driveline has seen a little more work. The WRX’s original 5-speed is gone, in its place a 6-speed transmission from a 2011 STI, and the factory clutch was swapped out for an ACT 6-puk heavy-duty unit. There’s also aftermarket rear diff mount inserts and upgraded pivot and linkage bushings in the mix.

Details, Details, Details

All around Ernest’s car are little details that you’d easily miss unless you knew what you were looking for.


One of my favorites is the custom carbon holder for the Air Lift Performance 3H system controller. It does do away with the cupholders, but it’s a sacrifice Ernest is willing to make.


Also suspension-related, in keeping with all the carbon details throughout the interior, Ernest was able to get his hands on a carbon fiber air tank from RS Carbon. The tank integrates nicely with the custom, fully-welded 4-point roll-cage from Apex Auto Works that sits behind Bride EDIRB 023 seats flanked with Bulletproof Automotive harnesses.

The attention to detail extends even to the weave direction of the carbon fiber. For the driver’s side, the direction is right for JDM carbon fiber pieces, whereas the USDM faces left. This meant that a lot of the interior trim also had to be custom made to fit the car.


It’s the sum of all its parts that makes Ernest’s WRX special. It’s plain to see that it’s now well beyond the original desire to make a few changes here and there, and not go too wild. However, when you are following your passion nothing will get in your way.


It’s amazing how something as simple as a car build can change your life. The experiences gained, the friends made, and the feeling of purpose – these are just some of the reasons why to us, the enthusiasts, the car will always be something more than a simple mode of transport. So, what does your car mean you?

Ron Celestine
Instagram: celestinephotography

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