Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pure Carbonium

We have a new 3M carbon fiber-look wrap material that we're selling. It's not really carbon fiber, but it looks very convincing. Unlike carbon fiber, it bends around tight corners and, with the application of a little heat, can stretch and cover convoluted surfaces. It's self-adhesive and pretty easy to apply. (There are other carbon-look materials that are fabric-based and require spray adhesive to put on. This is a lot easier.)

I took a couple of hours and applied the material to the dash of our WRX STI. For an amateur, I think I did a pretty decent job. I popped the silver dash inserts free of the dash, and wrapped them each in the carbon-look material.  I trimmed out the vent openings so the "open" and "closed" indicators show. I also removed and wrapped the steering wheel button inserts to match. Tools used: Heat gun (a hair dryer would do), Exacto knife.

Subaru makes a "carbon look" dash kit for the older WRX cars, although they don't make one for the current generation. I think this is far more convincing than any previous faux carbon I've seen.

Several customers have asked me about doing the roof of the car in this. It won't last forever (3M says 3-4 years in exterior application, and that's in a vertical mounting), but it should look pretty good. We can cut a large enough piece for that, too.

So far I've received mostly positive feedback about this particularly modification to the car, although a few have decried the fact that this is strictly cosmetic, and has no useful function. Well, that's true, but I'm in good company; I've seen similar dash treatments -- and this is factory-issue, not applied by the consumer -- on high-end Mercedes and BMW cars recently. What do you think, readers?

Friday, December 11, 2009

US Market Gets a Special Edition STI!

We're used to seeing the Japanese home-market special edition WRX STI models. There's been the S202, S203, S204, WRX STI Spec C, and even a WRX STI Spec C Type RA-R. All of those cars are factory hot rods, with all kinds of cool goodies like stiffer suspensions, different (usually larger) wheels and tires, better brakes, and more power. What do we ever get? Well...there was the "Limited" model that one year, that came with leather and a sunroof.

Perhaps there's been some kind of change in philosophy in Spring Hill, because Subaru has announced a special edition that sounds pretty good to me. Named (wait for it...) "WRX STI Special Edition," the car will gain some features and lose some. Gained: Revised suspension with stiffer front springs, stiffer rear shocks, stiffer rear subframe bushings, and a fatter rear sway bar; and special wheels from the Japan-market Spec C car that MUST be lighter than the 27-pound standard US wheels.

Lost: Six of the ten speakers, and five of the six CD slots in the stereo; HID headlamps; turn indicators on the side mirrors; auto climate control; and $2000 of price, bringing the MSRP down to $32,995 plus delivery fee.

The grumpy Subaru forum denizens didn't seem too thrilled about this car ("Give us the Spec C!"), but I like it. It's slightly lighter, I assume it handles better, and it's quite a bit cheaper. In fact, I'd like to see Subaru go FARTHER in this direction. I'd continue the de-contenting and remove the entire SI-Drive system, switch to 17" wheels and tires, and swap the spare tire for a can of flat-fixer. (I'm trying to think of what else you could remove, but I'm out of ideas.)

The other thing that would make a special edition car a little more special would be a few more horsepower. Call it ten more for a total of 315, and maybe 100 pounds off the standard car, getting the weight down to maybe 3150. Sounds like a fun ride to me.