It’s estimated that there are nearly 1 billion cars roaming around the world today. Of that, about 200 million cars are zipping around the streets of the United States right now at this very minute. And of those 200 million passenger cars, only one looks like the widened, aggressive, shaved, tucked, and boosted Subaru you see before you, forever immortalized on these pages. Is it possible to make the most perfect Subaru Impreza? Do unicorns really exist?
Likewise, the same can be said of the car’s owner, Joy Abdalla, a young, down-to-earth girl from Maryland, whose hard work and determination to bring her Subie to the level it’s at now shines brilliantly with its fresh coat of BASF IAG Gold Candy. I first met Joy through a random friend request I sent on the book of faces, exactly one year ago. Intrigued by the photos of what seemed to be a major project car, I admittedly (and stupidly) assumed the car belonged to a boyfriend and even left her a message saying that there was no way that was her car. Either that or she wasn’t real and I had become friends with a spambot. A hot girl who’s into cars with actually good taste in modifications really exists? The Impreza just looked too good to be true, so I had to investigate.
Through many text exchanges and phone calls, Joy gave me the story of what many of us have gone through with our own cars. She had bought the car brand spanking new back in 2005 as a lowly Subaru Impreza WRX in Crystal Gray Metallic after receiving a quick ride from a friend’s stock WRX just some time before. It wasn’t long before she started to tinker with the car by adding a few bolt-on power parts and some suspension pieces. “Brace it before you race it,” is one of her favorite mottos. After playing around with a hybrid kit with a 20G turbo, Joy quickly added a custom ’cage and later upgraded to a rotated turbo kit, all done by the tuning masters at IAG Performance in Westminster, MD, a unique, all-in-one shop that specializes in Subaru-specific builds. It was here that Joy chose to do all of her next modifications after long nights of extensive research for parts. The result was completely tearing down the motor and fully building it for maximum usable power in the Subie.
All of the parts and labor up to this point were paid for by Joy herself, where working 60-plus hours a week as a salon manager helped her dump large amounts of greenbacks to fund her new addiction of making the Impreza faster. But, it wasn’t enough. Yes, the car was pumping out some serious power with over half a grand of horsepower at the wheels, but somehow, something was missing. The car needed some bark to match its bite. After being introduced to the world of shaved and tucked engine bays by fellow Emotion teammate Kiet Hong, who also owns a rad Acura RSX, it was something she wanted done without a shadow of a doubt. “I didn’t know exactly what the process was for shaving and wire tucking an engine bay, but I knew I wanted it.” Enter J.J. Jabaji, owner and HDC of IAG Performance, who not only ran with her idea of shaving and wire tucking the engine and completing the feat, he also straight up kicked everyone in the balls with the amount of insane detail to the already fully built motor, leaving absolutely nothing untouched. Jabaji did his homework, and it shows. The engine bay definitely sets this Subie apart from the rest with its custom shaved and polished reverse intake manifold and polished GTX 3582R turbo taking center stage. In fact, once you’re done gazing at all the shiny polished bits and custom pieces from IAG’s in-house CNC machine, you may even notice the engine bay itself. Sprayed the same color as the exterior of Joy’s WRX, the flawless, and I mean absolutely immaculate, paint rests on the Bondo-free and shaved engine bay.
With the motor work figured out, Joy had her sights set on a particular widebody kit from J-land in the form of a drift car, no less. Kumakubo-san’s Team Orange ’05 STI sporting Msports aero was the missing link to set her car apart from all other Imprezas. Personally not a fan of widebody kits that distort the OEM lines of cars, Joy visualized underneath all of Kumakubo’s vinyl graphics, GT-style wing, and orange paint laid an aero kit that accentuated the Subaru’s lines and slightly exaggerated them, not take them away. To anyone who isn’t familiar with Imprezas, it may not be that obvious that it’s wider because the lines mimic the OEM factory ones, but there’s no mistaking the car’s now meatier, more pronounced stance with a custom enlarged front air dam to swallow up unsuspecting roadkill and small children. Getting the aero to actually fit was a whole different story. Jabaji claims that the Msports aero just plain didn’t match up with the car and that everything had to be altered. It wasn’t a walk in the park, but the guys at IAG’s body shop weren’t going to throw in the towel just yet. After spending over 900 man-hours on the body, chassis, and engine fabrications, Joy picked the color after looking at a few custom mixes of gold from BASF, resulting in a beautiful and dramatically color-changing spectrum of gold hues.
Despite the ever growing, popular trend of dumping your car and stretching tires on Subarus, Joy is a big fan of meaty tires on functional cars, so it didn’t take long for her to figure out what type of wheel setup she wanted to run on her now much wider car. Ditching her old 18-inch Volk Racing TE-37’s in 5x100, she opted for, you guessed it, another set of 18-inch Volk Racing TE-37’s, her all-time favorite wheel. “TE-37’s will always be classic, and its timeless design will never go out of style, so I had to get them again, but this time in 5x114.3 and much wider.” Don’t let the white color fool you, these are actually TE-37 SL’s but painted white. “I love TE’s so much I bought them twice.” Indeed, the white Volks look right at home, contrasting from the IAG Gold Candy paint with the anodized blue Endless big brake kit resting underneath.
After getting to know both Joy and her car (and her pit bull Turbo) over the phone, I paid her a visit to see the progress on her car before it was finished in her hometown of Maryland and eventually met her again when her car officially debuted at last year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas. The car was definitely a showstopper, but in a street car kind of way—which is exactly how she intended to make it. With her main influences in Japanese car culture, she wanted the car to remain fun and functional, but more importantly, she wanted the car to have a Japanese street car appeal, meaning total tuning balance. She didn’t want her WRX to be too heavy on one side of tuning, so she spread to other areas evenly, such as wheels, suspension, body, engine, interior, brakes, and so forth, just like how the cars did it in Option videos that she watches on her computer late at night. Her firm belief of “do it right the first time” is echoed throughout the Impreza, and the results speak for themselves. As of this writing, the car has been cleaning up with Best of Show trophies in every event it’s competed in on the East Coast with many more to come.
Joy and I have become the best of friends since that initial wall post one year ago, and since then, she’s come with me to a few West Coast car shows such as Wekfest San Francisco and Los Angeles. She says that in order to become the best, you have to bring that ass to the West, and since then she’s opened up her eyes to the other types of car cultures, namely, the West Coast Honda scene spearheaded by the likes of Joey Lee, David Andrade, Anh Truong, Chris Sakai, Ryan Basseri, and Ryan Der to name a few. Joy’s plans are to finish cleaning up house on the East Coast, take the car to the opposite coast next year, and at some point taking the car to Japan where it all started. Joy says she’s still not done, and she would like to focus more on the interior soon to complete her seven-year labor of love.
So the question remains, do unicorns exist? If such a creature exists based on the sheer number of Best of Show trophies one can obtain, then yes, they do. However, if we are to acknowledge their existence based on how one girl can conceptualize and execute building a near perfect car—all while being able to drive the piss out of one and drink a beer afterward and still stay cute—then it’s probably time to buy a saddle in Bride gradient fabric and get ready for good times.
Behind the Build
“Hanging out with the two best pit bulls in the world, Turbo and Takata, anything outdoors, and reading Option and Drift Tengoku magazines while getting my nails done.”
“I built this car because it simply makes me happy. Growing up, I was kind of a tomboy, and cars were always an interest of mine.”
2005 Subaru WRX
608 whp / 542 lb-ft
Engine ’08 STI EJ25 2.5L; IAG Performance Stage 5 heads, connecting rods, velocity stack, turbo manifold, exhaust, billet fuel rail, downpipe, up-pipe, and intercooler; Kelford cams; Manley +1mm valves, valvesprings, retainers, and 8.5:1 pistons; ARP head studs and rod bolts; Gates Racing timing belt; 5-angle Sirdi valve job; 99.75mm bore; ’09 STI nitrite-coated crankshaft; Cusco engine mounts; Kartboy Dogbone mount; Aeromotive fuel pump and pressure regulator; DeatschWerks 1,100cc injectors; Tial blow-off valve; AEM boost controller; Garrett GTX3582R turbo with Tial V-band housing; Purolator Pure One oil filter; Motul engine oil and antifreeze; Mishimoto radiator, fans, and hoses; Zero Sports low temp thermostat; custom IAG wire tuck with Rachem connectors and mil-spec main connector; AEM Engine Management System
Drivetrain ’07 STI six-speed transmission; Cusco transmission mount; Exedy twin disc clutch; Kartboy shifter; Go Extra S transmission fluid
Chassis/Suspension Cusco Zero 2 coilovers, strut tower bar; Whiteline sway bars, endlinks, bushings, and control arms; STI aluminum front control arms; IAG four-point chromoly rollbar
Wheels/Tires 18x10.5 +22 Rays Engineering Volk Racing TE-37SL and lug nuts; Toyo Proxes R888 295/30-18 tires
Brakes Endless 6-piston front calipers, four-piston rear calipers, pads, and rotors; Wilwood proportioning valve and master cylinder; ATE Super Blue brake fluid; Chase Bays booster delete; custom brake line tuck
Exterior Msports widebody body kit; Do-Luck trunk; BASF Gold Candy paint; Ganador mirrors
Interior Bride Zeta III seats and rails; Rallytech carbon-fiber rear seat delete; Takata harnesses; Personal Pole Position steering wheel; Works Bell quick release and steering hub; Defi-Link boost, exhaust, oil temp, oil pressure, and water temp gauges
Gratitude “First and foremost, all the glory goes to Jesus Christ, through whom everything is possible. I’d like to thank my friend, J.J. Jabaji, the guys at his shop IAG Performance, and especially Joe Freyman for his hard work and dedication. Thanks to my inspiration, Kiet Hong, aka Sunshine. Thanks to my biggest supporter, David Do: You have been the biggest inspiration in my life and truly taught me the meaning of YOLO. Special thanks to Luke Munnell for doing what he does best! Huge thanks to all my sponsors for their generosity: IAG, BASF, Whiteline, Toyo Tires, Bulletproof Automotive, and Mishimoto. Thanks to Jorge Carrillo, Khris Uybengkee, Brian at Mackin Industries, Mayday Garage, Joey Lee at The Chronicles, Andy Bui, TofuWreck Films, and the guys at Brainchild Customs who first showed me the JDM light.”