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East Coast Swappers

Breathe new life in your older Subaru with a turbo motor swap from ECS!

Because they are a smaller car company, without the resources to develop a wide range of chassis’, subarus are built off unusually similar platforms. The interchangeability of Subarus has been compared to Legos. Nearly any modern Subaru (1990+) motor can be transplanted into another modern Subaru. Transmissions, brakes and interiors are also equally swappable. This means it’s possible to drive a 2.5 RS with an STi motor, or a Legacy GT with a WRX dashboard.

The various configurations of factory Subaru shells and drivetrain components are virtually limitless.

At ECS, we believe that swapping an older car is a better alternative than buying a newer Subaru, or an aftermarket turbo setup.

Our swaps offer factory reliability, upgradeability as well as performance superior to factory turbo Subarus at a fraction of the cost. Why buy a factory STi for over $30,000 – when you could have an STi driveline for a third of the price? A brand new 2.5L WRX lists around $22,000 - while the motor and transmission can be had for around $10,000. A swapped car is quicker than its factory counterpart because older chassis’ weigh less and typically feature sharper gearing. In addition, swapped cars are cheaper to insure, less likely to be theft targets, and truly each one of a kind. How many people can say they drive a hand-built performance car?

As opposed to aftermarket turbo setups, swapped cars are just as reliable as a factory Subaru. You can bring your swap through emissions testing, or to a dealer for service. Replacement and upgrade parts are readily available, while many aftermarket turbo kits run dangerous, maxed-out tunes.

While high-output Subaru engines can be found in many model year ’02 and up US vehicles and a wide variety of older, oversea-market cars the performance mainstay of the Subaru lineup has always been the Impreza WRX, and its tuner cousin, the Impreza WRX STi. Nearly all our motor swaps come from donor WRXs and STis. The WRX first hit US soil in 2002, with a 227hp, turbocharged 2.0L model. For 2006, the WRX received a bump in displacement to 2.5L, and in power to 235. The 300hp, 2.5L WRX STi was introduced as a 2004 year model and is further distinguished from the standard WRX by a beefy, 6spd gearbox, massive Brembo brakes on all four corners and a unique interior treatment. All the turbo Impreza models respond well to mild aftermarket bolt-ons – gains of 70hp or so from an exhaust and ECU reflash are typical.
Of course, the WRX and STi were in production long before they were legal imported to the states. The motors from these original WRXs, often referred to as JDM (for Japanese domestic market) Imprezas, are also popular for swaps. The original WRX debuted with 240 crank horsepower, bumped up to 260 in the handbuilt STi cars. These original turbo Imprezas are often referred to as versions (ie, version 1/2, or v1/2 rather than their model years, MY94-MY96). Subsequent turbo Imprezas saw power increases to 260/280 (WRX/STi) crank horsepower before the WRX was introduced in the United States. In addition, an even earlier turbo’d EJ20 made its way into the Japanese-Market Legacy, and these 220 horsepower motors still surface occasionally for stateside swaps.

While these early motors are often cheaper and more powerful than their US equivalents, they are not without pitfalls. Most JDM motors are difficult to tune with US parts – you can’t for example, put a USDM WRX top mount intercooler or turbo on your JDM v2 WRX. Finding replacement parts like coil packs or igniters can be a challenge too, although for most parts Subaru interchangeability means there is a US equivalent part available. The biggest handicap of the early JDM motors is that there are no good US-market engine management options compatible with older JDM ECUs – so it’s difficult to get maximum power and reliability from bolt-on modifications. Newer JDM motors (v7, or MY01 and newer) don’t face these same issues – they are very similar to the US market WRX 2.0 motor, so there are plenty of tuning and maintenance options.

Need more info? Try our Subaru Swap FAQ Section.
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