Last summer around the time masks became a mandatory thing, I was getting ready to make a poor financial decision. Dipping into the ol’ bank account and stamping a draft for a 2004 Subaru Impreza STI. It was late August, I was changing jobs, the pandemic was becoming more and more ridiculous, and an opportunity to buy my friend Steven’s hidden gem presented itself. I say hidden because it had made a home in his garage for the previous 3 years and had only really been fired up and moved a couple times. Steven had purchased a new project of his own and well, we all know how that goes. It was time for him to make some room in his garage and time for me to cross “Blob eye STI” off the automotive bucket list. So cheers to making trilogies because this is the 3 part series about buying, driving, and selling a slammed, loud, and beautiful all wheel drive sensation.
2 years in the making
Steven and I met in 2018 after I began my 2 year stint at Porsche Langley. We always talked about JDM stuff and Subaru’s in particular because he has owned 4, (He’ll correct me if I’m wrong just check the comments) and I had always wanted to double dip my toes into the all wheel drive turbo boxer lake of fire. I say double dip because I did own a 2018 WRX. A fantastic car all around but it just didn’t quite have the personality of an early 2000’s Subie. At one point we had talked about a trade, my WRX for his 04 STI with cash on top, we were sort of kidding around but the long pondering faces we both made has me thinking back that we both probably considered it heavily. Every now and again we would talk about cool cars we see at the dealership or on marketplace and the inside joke was “You should just buy my car” with me responding along the lines of “nah I don’t really need another car” or “I should just change my wheel setup”. Finally August of 2020 rolls around and Steven had picked up and was nearing completion of his BMW 540i revival. With a few choice repairs and a newer motor the project bill was adding up. He was looking to sell the STI for real this time and gave me first crack before he listed it and got a thousand flakey craigslisters emailing him. It was time to go see the car that we had joked about for two years in person,
I just loved the colour
You know how they say never buy a car at night, or never buy one sight unseen. My advice is this; if it has a metallic paint job don’t buy it in direct sunlight, because you’ll fall in love and not give two hot shits about anything else. If you’re not handy with a wrench that buying process could get you into hot water BUT, I got lucky. Of course the first thing I noticed was the Java Black paint shimmering in the sunset glow. Stiffany was low, had great wheel fitment and sounded like a monster. The blue STI bucket seats and interior had me drooling with a childish swoon. The body was in good shape with minimal flaws for a 16 year old car and the interior was completely intact with only a small wear area on the drivers side seat bolster. We hopped into the STI and rolled through the hills outside of Port Moody for a test drive. The clutch was easy, the suspension was a disaster and the sound was nothing short of something that the best bands in the world could not match in a glorious symphony. I showed tremendous restraint and didn’t rip into full boost right away, I was polite and reserved. Shifting was pretty smooth and the heel toe action was right in my sweet spot for a snappy downshift. After a good warm up I gave the car a pull from 3000rpm, and it really did not disappoint. The boxer growled its way into boost and scooted the STI up to speed with ease only to give us a tasteful turbo flutter off throttle. I was sold, aside from some wispy smoke from the right side of the engine bay nothing seemed to be horrendously wrong. I chalked up the smoke to a common oil line issue near the turbo and brushed it off. Everything seemed to be in good standing or at least at a point that I could spend time tinkering in the garage with a six pack and the radio playing. Steven and I left the car and went out to fill our guts with Coquitlams best chinese food and talk turkey.
I’m just gonna see what happens
A few days and sleepless nights of excitement had passed and I hitched a ride from my wife back to Steven’s house to pick up the car. We had made the exchange of money and insurance info at work, an easy process given we both worked at a dealership. Of course we did it on our personal time and not at all during a mundane and slow weekday (eyes shift).
I hopped out of wifeys SUV with a bag of emergency tools, zipties, and my license plates in hand ready to baby the Subaru back to Maple Ridge. Not really an epic distance to go by newer car standards but the white smoke had not subsided, and I wasn’t calling a tow truck for a little excess carbon expulsion. A few instagram stories later(you can check out the highlights here:https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17878082956817928/) Steven and I shook hands, he wished me luck and I rumbled my way down the hill and into the clutches of my new project. A few Kilometers away the smoke began to subside but was quickly replaced by the encroaching smell of coolant. A brief moment of “did I lose a head gasket” washed over my psyche, I took a breath and pulled off to a gas station. As I popped the hood I could hear the overflow tank receiving a liquid shipment of hot coolant from the radiator, then it puked onto the pavement. “Well that didn’t take long, now what?” was all I could really say to myself. I gave the car a couple minutes to cool down before popping the lid on the reservoir to see if there was anything left, there wasn’t. I squeezed the upper radiator hose and some coolant did push back into the reservoir so that was a good sign, a small feeling of relief began to settle my nerves. An Ice cold bottle of “Smart Water” quenched both myself and the STI’s thirst as I proceeded to top up the coolant reservoir and start the car to see if any air bubbles wanted to belch out of the system. After about 10 minutes idling the coolant level stayed up and the temp gauge was reading normal, just as I went to shut the hood the smoke had re appeared, from what I could now smell was oil. Again I brushed off the light white smoke until I could get back to the garage, shut the hood, and continued towards home.
Once I left the gas station I bounced my way down lougheed highway from Coquitlam to Maple Ridge. The smoking had stopped and the temps seemed fine, I immediately convinced myself that the car had healed itself. What better way to test my new found reliability than hit a few extra PSI of turbine whirly wind through 2nd and 3rd gear (legally of course). After a quick pull I found a spot to pull off again and just give the car one more look, a couple minutes and a photo op and everything seemed fine. The smoking had subsided again and aside from some nasty suspension noises the car drove home and left my extremely happy and excited to feed my Subaru addiction, I now had 3 of them in the driveway.
What’s the plan
What are you gonna do with 3 Subaru’s? Are you selling one? Are you selling 2? Can I buy one? Where’s the Mustang?….the questions rolled in fast than you could spell head gasket. I didn’t really have a plan for the car when I bought it except to just drive it, fix whatever it needed and enjoy it whatever may come. The first few hours with it even though nerve racking were sublime, none of the issues mattered I still got home with a smile on my face. There were a couple times that night that I walked down to the driveway just to stare. I had obtained a car that I once thought would only ever be a dream and I would never have. It was a surreal feeling and it was coming at a time when we were making some changes in our lives which only pushed me to move forward with some decisions and stop worrying about unknowns so much. Now I just had to make a list, order some new parts and make this STI the beautiful and functional street machine it once was. It wouldn’t all go to plan, but it was only a matter of time until it was one of my favorite experiences behind the wheel.
There’s a lot more to this story than just getting the car home, and you can look forward to some more of my Stiffany adventures (that sounds just wrong). Until I get a few hours to put words on the screen, I’ll see you on the road.