11/3/2015 Version 12.3 About the Author John Scott Lewinski has written hundreds of automobile reviews and features for more than 30 national magazines and news sites. He is the winner of the 2013 Excellence in Craft Award from the Texas Automotive Writers Association. Everlasting Love By John Scott Lewinski 11/3/2015 Version 12.3 Devoted Subaru WRX Owner Allisa Hiland Rings The Changes There’s a woman in Connecticut who bought herself a brand-new 2011 WRX, only to spend the next four years pouring thousands of dollars and countless hours of sweat and labor into it. For the average car buyer, that might sound like a nightmare. For Allisa Hiland, it has been a noisy, greasy love affair. “Before I bought my WRX in 2011, I always had friends who owned Subaru vehicles,” Hiland says in the kind of bright, upbeat voice you’d expect to hear from a happy 26-year-old gearhead while she’s clanging and banging under the hood. “My fiancé bought a 2011 WRX STI, and I just fell in love with them – the way they look, how they drive. “I jumped in and bought my WRX, a 5-speed, without even knowing how to drive a manual transmission,” Hiland says. “I had to learn in this very car, and I wanted to give up after a while. I remember being really nervous when I had to get it moving into first off hill starts,” she recalls, “so I was happy I had the built-in hill start assist system.” While Hiland credits her fiancé with introducing her to Subaru, she soon discovered her own love of getting her hands dirty with custom tuning. While friends offered the right tools and occasional advice, it’s her sweat that keeps her plasti-dipped WRX evolving. Too Many to Count Soon after buying her 2011 WRX, this deputy with the Orange County, New York, Sheriff’s Department began her endless automotive operations. Hiland’s exact memory on what new part went into the car first is hazy, and that’s easy to understand when you see the complete list of enhancements. Hands Off Hiland is reluctant to let another set of paws anywhere near her creation, so she’s installed everything herself. The only third-party work she had done was an official Protune. “I’m really lucky to have a friend who has put together a collection of most of the tools I need, so I can take the money that would’ve gone into stocking a garage and put it into the car.” A Hightlight of the Mods 2011 Subaru WRX Front-mount intercooler Cold air intake Uppipe Short-throw shifter Throttle body hose In-take fuel pump Shifter bushings Catless downpipe Accessport 1000cc injectors Muffler deletes Electronic boost control solenoid 38mm v-band external wastegate and blowoff valve A View from the Top From Hiland’s point of view inside her WRX cockpit, she oversees her Subaru all-weather floor mats and a red footwell illumination kit. She installed an STI 5-speed shift knob and the center console lid. The finishing touches include a dual-gauge pod, LED map lights, red LED dome light, and hard-wired boost gauges. To announce the car’s presence to the world, Hiland gladly slaved away on the exterior, painting it electric lime green before adding a vortex generator, a spoiler, and fog lights direct from the SPT and STI lines. To that mix she added a license plate relocation kit, super shorty antenna, upgraded horn kit with bracket and wiring, V-LED blinkers/hazards, DDM headlights, mud flaps, and a front lip. 48HRS of Tristate Charity Drive gives Subaru owners a way to share their passion for driving while raising money for childhood cancer research. “I just had to install a new front lip because I cracked the old one during the 48HRS of Tristate Charity Drive. We came across a bump buried under some snow. Let’s just say I had my car set up a little too low. We beat the poor thing to death during that event, but it finished. “After I replaced the lip, I decided to raise the suspension a bit. The 48HRS event was still a lot of fun, and I won a raffle for a free track day. I’m not sure which circuit we’ll choose around here. I’m interested in trying out Lime Rock Park, if they have room on their schedule.” No Plans to Slow Down A few years and many thousands of dollars into personalizing her dream ride, Allisa is showing no signs of giving up the automotive mad scientist routine. “I think I’m going to upgrade the turbo next,” she says wistfully. “And, I’ve been thinking about maybe putting in headers or camming it, but I know that can be a difficult job. I’m waiting on those a bit longer. I figure there will come a point when I might want to upgrade the engine or something major like that. I think that’ll be the time to try something more ambitious.” I’ll never give up tuning it, and I honestly don’t think I’d ever sell it and start working on something else. I bought this car brand new, and it’s the first car I can say that about in my life. Like they say, it’s my baby now. In the future, even once the tuned WRX is all paid off and Hiland can focus solely on the car’s continual tuning evolution as a track day or event ride, she can never see any model replacing it. Nothing is coming between Hiland and a vehicle carrying her blood and sweat into every mile.