What Lies Beneath



There’s more to Forrest Spears’ 2012 WRX STI than meets the eye.

A sleeper is a car defined as having high performance, but with an exterior that flies under the radar. It could be as simple as a stock performance car with the badging stripped off via heat gun. But in the case of Forrest Spears’ 2012 Subaru WRX STI, the concept translates to a 918-hp beast with a nearly stock exterior. 

Spears’ passion for cars dates back to when he was a lad of 5. Later, when he moved to California, he was exposed to off-road cars, Baja cars, bugs and dirt bikes, further firing his performance obsession.  

“It was 2002-2003 when the WRX was introduced to the States,” says Spears, recalling how he was bit by the Subaru bug. “We went to the X Games and we saw the first driver roll one over and land on all four wheels. I was hooked.” The driver, of course, was legendary rally star Colin McRae in 2006. After witnessing the feat, Spears decided that, from that point on, no matter what cars he had in his collection, he would always have at least one Subaru.

Spears bought his WRX STI in 2012 and went to work on it within a week. Early mods included a methanol injection and bolt-on components. “I blew up the stock clutch and put it back in the shop,” he says. He installed a professional-level roll cage for safety – and then things got serious. “I pulled the motor and sent it off to be built with new heads.” From there, he built a weapons-grade suspension to bring the handling up to par with the power.

The mods, he says, were inspired by the vehicles helmed by his favorite rally drivers, including Travis Pastrana and Bucky Lasek. In fact, he based his roll cage off the rally-spec SRTUSA WRX. “I also mimicked fuel systems, oil pans, return fuel system and more.”

The results are astounding. 

The interior is gutted of any unnecessary comforts, in favor of light weight.
The roll cage is based on the SRTUSA WRX, welded to the rear suspension and engine bay.

“Right now, it makes 918 hp,” says Spears. “We did over 50 pulls on the dyno, and the last number it read was 918.” According to Spears, the car out-accelerates a couple of his friends’ V-8-powered, low-production domestic supercars.

As for cornering? Spears compares his sleeper to the best-handling German sports cars.

This car is built for speed, and Spears intends to push it to its limits. “I wouldn’t mind SEMA, or entering it in half-mile events,” he says. There are lots of opportunities to do so near his new home of San Antonio, Texas. These include the wannaGOFAST and Texas Mile, both straight-line drags. “I’d have no problem doing a track day, but I’d want to change the boost settings.”

There were a few times guys took out their dads’ sports cars. I flew by ’em.

Despite all his mods, Spears kept the appearance relatively stock, including an old set of factory BBS wheels. This has, he says, lured in the occasional naive challenger. “There were a few times guys took out their dads’ sports cars. I flew by ’em.” And once, the driver of a new supercar repeatedly pulled up beside him at lights, revving his engine. Spears didn’t want to race, but he wanted to let the other driver know the score. He downshifted to crank up the boost. “Whenever the wastegate opens up, fire comes out,” he says. “There was a look of disbelief on his face.”

The stock hood hides a massive Precision 6870 turbo, helping this WRX reach a staggering 918 hp.
The stock hood hides a massive Precision 6870 turbo, helping this WRX reach a staggering 918 hp. Photos: @Drake1910

If Spears’ story inspires you to want to build up your own STI, he has some advice. “Do what works,” he says. “That definitely applies when it comes to cooling, oil pickup and oil capacity. Supply the main components that keep the engine healthy. Before you slap on a big turbo, build your foundation up.”

Spears says that if you’re going to follow his route, with a 2012 body year, he recommends starting with an STI. “[That’s] because of the driveline and computer,” he says. “It’s stronger than non-STI models.”

As for his WRX STI, he still has some work to do. “I need to do a carbon driveshaft,” he says. “Change the gears, different diffs for different mile-an-hour setting. I won’t do anything to my car that won’t make it perform better.”

When the sleeper is finally complete, he’d love to celebrate by going head-to-head with another relatively staid-looking high performance car – a well-known, electric media darling. “I know down low [that car] would have me,” he says. “But higher, my car would beat it up.”

From the exterior, Spears’ WRX looks nearly box stock, down to the 18-inch BBS wheels.
From the exterior, Spears’ WRX looks nearly box stock, down to the 18-inch BBS wheels. Photo: Adam Delgadillo Photography

Spears’ Full Build List 

*All done by Tirado Custom Coatings (TCC)

Powder coating ceramic coating* Interior Suspension/Tires ECU/ Tuning Fabrication Safety
Turbo Full cage Fortune Auto 510 racing coil over with Swift springs upgrade COBB Tuning Accessport Custom forward-facing hood scoop turbo kit Full custom cage
Intake manifold Sparco steering wheel Cusco control arms  e-Boost 2 boost controller Manifold, up pipe, wastegate tubes Sparco wheel, hub and adapter
Intercooler piping DJ Safety harnesses Whiteline links 4 port solenoid Full 4-inch exhaust DJ Safety 5-point harnesses
Strut bars Radium surge tank Cusco front, rear strut bars  Speed density airflow system Oil catch can  
Exhaust manifold AEM gauges Toyo Tires® R888R Factory ECU Full intercooler piping  
Up pipe e-Boost2 gauges 18-inch BBS factory wheels   ETS intercooler core  
Wastegate Zeitronix ethanol tester ARP wheel studs   Full Vibrant Performance materials  
Blowoff valve Carbon radio plate     Vibrant clamps  
Oil catch can       Roll cage  
Coolant tank          
Koyorad radiator          
Vibrant clamps          


Turbo Engine Oiling/Cooling Heads Fueling
Precision 6870 Outfront Motorsports V4 closed deck block Cosworth high-flow pump GSC S3 cams Radium Engineering fuel surge tank
TiAL® Sport wastegate CP-Carrillo pistons Killer B oil pan, pickup tube, baffle Race porting done by Kotzur Racing Heads Walbro 255 fuel pump  
TiAL Sport blow-off valve Manley Pro Series I-beam connecting rods Setrab oil cooler GSC +1 valves Walbro 450 E85 fuel pump
Cosworth intake manifold Manley billet crankshaft Koyorad radiator GSC seats, guides -8 AN fuel lines
IAG TGV deletes Torque Solution engine mounts, pitch stop and air pump deletes   Ferrea dual valve springs Radium Engineering fuel rails
Boomba Racing throttle body     BC cam gears Injector Dynamics 2000cc injectors
      1/2-inch ARP head studs Fore Innovations Fuel Pressure Regulator


All Subaru vehicles sold by Subaru of America are designed and built for normal driving conditions. The Subaru Limited Warranty, as well as the Subaru Added Security program, may exclude damage or failure resulting from modifications or participation in competition or racing events. See the Subaru Warranty and Maintenance booklet for further details.

Forrest Spears’ modded-out, 918-hp 2012 WRX STI
Forrest Spears’ modded-out, 918-hp 2012 WRX STI