Joseph Cruz’s 2002 Wrx Goes From Track To Showroom Without Skipping A Beat
writer: RC Faderoga
photographer: Eric Kieu
The year 2002 saw an automotive market saturated with cars aimed to fulfill the needs of the teen and young adult demographic; cars were produced ready for modification and marketed as “cool, independent and fun.”
Though the industry was finally on the right track, giving dues to its young consumers, it was a hard sell, what with a failing economy and an all-out war. That year would’ve been one of the bleakest for the industry if it weren’t for Subaru finally entering its WRX into the U.S. market. The idea of having a turbocharged four-door sedan powered equally on all four wheels not only put the market in general on notice, but also placed the tuning industry on its knees begging for more.
One of the many caught up in the Dub-Rex mix was young Joseph Cruz, who immediately fell in love with the four-wheel-drive monster the same way everyone who purchased it did: Through the World Rally Championship (WRC). After watching the WRX race on the banks of the most dangerous terrains in Europe, fly through the air and land on a sea of shallow mud to slide across a turn inches away from screaming fans of the WRC, Joseph went straight into the Subaru dealership and picked out an ’02 WRX that suited his tastes.
The ’02 Impreza WRX ran an impressive 227 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque out of the production lines, which more or less beat every competitor in its class. Its closest threat, the Acura Integra Type-R, didn’t even come close to what the last generation WRX featured in almost every aspect. With the EJ20 engine powered by a Mitsubishi TD04-13T turbocharger unit-which was only on the U.S. spec versions-the WRX was boosting a healthy 13.5psi andfeatures 16-inch wheels, 2-piston/1-piston front and rear brakes and a viscous coupling type LSD. It weighed an average 3,085 pounds and boasted a 45-to-55 power ratio between the front and rear axles. All in all, the WRX was something the U.S. market had never seen before and became a mainstay in almost every list of Top 10 Cars of that year.
That’s why when Joseph finally decided to modify his WRX, he made sure he did it correctly. For one, he didn’t want to disappoint his teammates at Team Sadistic, and he ultimately didn’t want to sully the pride behind owning a WRX. He knew the importance of properly fixing up cars; having modifying them since he was 16 years old. It began with his first car, a ’62 Chevy Nova, and then moved onto putting together a Kaminari-inspired Toyota Celica GTS in later years. When he first purchased the WRX, his main goal was to build it for road racing, which is why the first parts he installed, with the help of his father, were a set of Cusco Zero-1 coilovers and camber plates for alignment adjusting.
With a simple combination of minor tuning and a quality suspension system, he took his ride to a few track events, which essentially pushed him in to an all-out addiction with road racing. But like most addictions, there were serious drawbacks. In his case, the cost of replacing tires and brakes added up quickly, so he focused on the show aspect of tuning instead. During his first stints in the car-show circuit, his competitiveness from racing naturally transferred over to the showroom floor. When he lost a few trophies to what he thought were lesser cars, he immediately stepped up his game and created the WRX we see today.
Underhood, he replaced the stock turbo with a Blouch TD05-18G, featuring an HKS V2 SSQV blow-off valve, a Turbo XS front-mount intercooler and Turbo XS intercooler piping. To add more efficient fuel and air into the mix, he installed Power Enterprise 800cc fuel injectors and a Turbo XS shorty intake with a K&N cone filter. Handling the exhaust duties is an A’PEXi cat-back exhaust system and GT-spec stainless steel manifold. The engine is made to look sexy with Samco radiator hoses, a GReddy oil cap, a Koyo racing radiator and a Nitrous Express N-tercooler system.
“The feeling of knowing that someone considered my car worthy of winning increased my addiction to continue upgrading my car,” Joseph explained. “That’s why after the engine work, I focused solely on the appearance of my vehicle and pursued a clean but distinguished look.”
His first major change was a customized body kit to get the flared look similar to that of the actual WRC car. He then added on Chargespeed carbon-fiber air brake ducts, C-West side skirts and a ZeroSports grille. He also changed the color from black to a two-tone approach, using a House of Kolor gold all over with a midnight black pearl on the roof. Of course, tuning wouldn’t be complete without the necessary JDM accessories. Joseph added a JDM v2 STi two-piece carbon-fiber lip, JDM STi projector headlights, a S202 rear wing and JDM Subaru vent visors. Under the chassis is a set of quality-choice Rays Engineering G-games Wolf 77 wheels, measuring 18×8.5 in the front and 18×9.5 in the rear, wrapped up by Dunlop Direzza Z101 tires that give that car the oh-so-fresh look.
“So far this year has been great,” Joseph smiled “I had the opportunity to have EDO Performance sponsor my car and I’ve solidified a future for my ride, starting with a hybrid motor swap and upgraded transmission components to ensure the life of my vehicle.” And with 327 hp to the wheels under his helm and first place wins at the 2007 Las Vegas Hot Import Nights, Joseph has more to smile about than the future plans of his WRX. He made sure he not to tarnish the cars reputation by installing inferior parts; instead he created a masterpiece that also made him proud to be a tuner.