What do you do when you have two Subaru WRX STi 22Bs?
We find a tuning shop that has two of the rarest WRXs you can get and then discover even more drool-inducing builds...
Principal photography for this article is by the legendary Mike Amarico from Northborders (link to his BTS video of this shoot is at the end of the article)
So in little Ol' Adelaide, it turns out we have two legendary 22Bs owned by a local tuning shop that has built a reputation just as legendary in our city. S&J Automotive have been tuning, building, developing and racing the boxer engine for almost 30 years. If discovering the two cars wasn't enough to blow my socks off, unearthing some of their other projects surely finished the job. We will be taking a glimpse of four of their cars in this article and hopefully a deeper dive in future articles.
The first car of S&J I actually came across was this fully built, competition-focused WRX STi 22b. When I was lucky enough to shoot it many months ago for Drivesection.com I had no idea they had another (almost stock) vehicle.
The stock car (#065) will take more of a spotlight here. The decision to find a 22b came about in S&J's 10th year and as they moved into their new workshop. Sourced from Japan with a trusted local buyer, S&J were able to acquire #065 by 2006. It was always the hope to create a tarmac rally car but it was such an immaculate example of the car. The dedicated competition build (SJ22B) was later made possible by tracking down #047.
All that has been done to #065 is an MRT stainless steel dump pipe mated to a Trust/Greddy cat-back exhaust. When acquired in 2006 it only had 11,000km on the clock, getting up to a mere 19,000km today. The car holds significant sentimental value to the S&J family, representing three decades of determination, striving to exceed expectations and continually improve.
I was fortunate enough to snag some of Sean Day's (the “S” from “S&J”) time to ask a bit more about what the car means to him and his family:
What are some of the emotions attached to the car, was it a bit of a milestone?
“Definitely a milestone for us as a family and a business, we had already owned 2 x 2 door STI’s and like many enthusiasts have always been taken back by wide-body versions of mass produced road cars, like the E30 M3 and 930 Turbo etc. This car, despite its value, will never leave the S&J/Day family!”
What is your opinion on an STi from 1998 and its differences to the 22b of the same year?
“Honestly a JDM MY98 STI Type-R with DCCD is somewhat similar to drive to the 22B with the exception of the increased engine torque and twin plate clutch in the 22B. The gear ratios of this era JDM STI are really something else, probably my favourite part of the car outside of its appearance and condition!”
What do you take from Subaru's progression to the last Gen Sti (was it progression or did some things get lost?)
“We at S&J consider ourselves very fortunate that Subaru and in turn Subaru Australia have provided us with a constant flow of ever evolving STI’s to service and enhance for our clients from 1999 to 2021. Every model is an improvement on its predecessor, but not in such ways that any of the beauty, performance, prestige or enjoyment is robbed from any of the earlier models, they all have their own elements that make them what they are and always will be!”
If you could breakdown your businesses ethos to 3 or 4 pillars you have built it on?
“S&J Automotive from its humble beginnings has been about customer service, first and foremost, as cliché as that sounds, it’s a thing! Our successes have come from meeting and exceeding expectations and putting the hours in. From a more selfish aspect, we have and still continually offer and provide only services, only on vehicles that we enjoy, and again Subaru has been the source of the bulk of this for us at S&J. Likewise Subaru owners are typically working class family people who, with us live in the real world, which makes all of this easy on the grand scale of things. The S&J group (I refer the them as a group, because we are all good friends) consists not only of hard workers with decades of experience, but also the basis of what would be one the friendliest workplaces on the planet! Jo and I started our business almost 29 years ago when our eldest son Dan was seven months old, Matty has been with us for twenty three years, Reece for fifteen, Dan for twelve, Zoe for seven, Liam for two and Bryce is a recent welcomed addition to our crew. Dan at 29 years old will buy S&J from Jo and I during 2023 to proudly take the legacy of this brilliant family business onwards and upwards 😊”
So, with a bit of the story explained and a brief background on the business, what else does S&J do after acquiring not one but two ultra-rare pieces of automotive history? Make some other crazy cars…that’s what!!
First up… boom! *slaps this photo down.
Absolutely epic shot by Mike - this is a 600hp road car produced by S&J for one of their customers, Tom. It's at the other end of the STi lineage which I thought was a fitting tie-in for the article. This MY16 WRX STI was bought by Tom in 2020. The car was stock other than the previous owner having it tuned, and Tom knew it wasn't going to stay that way for long.
Although easing into it slowly, Tom was always interested in high-powered EJs and the process they go through to be able to produce some high KW figures. At first, the usual bolt-on modifications were added to achieve 250kw at the wheels. Then wheels and handling were next in line. The aim here was to slightly enhance the already proven chassis a bit more.
The Subie had Tom well and truly down the rabbit hole now, and he decided to look into the “big power build” he was always fascinated with. With the great S&J team at his side, he began to plan the next steps. Sean helped educate him on the “feel” of the intended build as he explained that achieving high numbers was simple enough but having usable power across a rev range would probably be more desirable - and tricky.
High power builds can feel sluggish as all the power comes on in the top end. So several months of a bit of backwards and forwards planning, they had it all nutted out. Sean's eldest son, Dan, built the engine flawlessly and, combined with decades of S&Js tuning, they had the desired outcome.
A super healthy mid range gives real speed and usable power but it doesn't run out of puff at the top end either. In Tom's words:
“I can say it’s pretty much finished, since you’ve seen it I’ve added full brake upgrade (rotors, pads and lines)”
Are you comfortable with the power and handling?
“Now the brakes are up to standard it’s a lot easy to be confident with the power. But when I don’t drive it for a while and get back behind the wheel it definitely still shocks me”
How would you describe the overall tune?
“Tune is fantastic, like I mentioned earlier it’s got very good healthy mid-range so its feels obscenely fast on the street and in the later rev range, it just keeps pulling.”
“Very drivable and manageable on the street just top a while to get use to the twin plate clutch, sometimes still catches me out haha”
How does the car make you feel when driving it?
“Smile from ear to ear mate, absolutely love getting behind the wheel.”
Now, Dan Day has been mentioned here a couple of times in this piece. Not only is he responsible for assembling S&J’s crazy engines but he is an accomplished driver too.
Over the years, S&J have been involved in plenty of motorsports - and it seems, it has been passed down from Sean and flows in Dan’s veins too.
Bam! *Slaps this photo down.
A sneak-peak of Dan’s competition car. This is the SJ1000. I won’t say too much about it here, as I would like to do an in depth feature of this car in the future. This thing is capable of handling 1000hp and has been piloted by Dan to victory after victory. I can’t wait to share more of its story later down the track.
Focus, dedication, passion, expression. When you pour 30 years of these qualities into your speciality, the fruits of your labour have the potential to be world renowned, top-class and influential. All of these things are common to our favourite specialist tuning garages from around the globe and their creations are a form of art.
They may not sculpt marble, paint on canvas or write symphonies - but to me, tuning shops like S&J are just as magnificent as the artists up in our museums around the world. And us, the hunters of speed, seek out their creations to share with the world. Searching the globe for such gems has opened up amazing opportunities for so many! Just this article alone has put me in touch with some amazing creators, friends and locations; not to mention the cars themselves.
The past few years of my life I have changed my mentality; I have decided to follow more of what brings me joy, pursue such creations of passion and be involved with similar-minded people. That has led me to many wholesome experiences, such as setting up the shoot for this article. Although a photographer myself, I wanted to connect with another photographer for the main shoot, one who has inspired me over the years - Mike from Northborders. I am so pleased we finally did a project together on this fairly unique experience provided by S&J.
S&J Automotive and Tom Tierney for allowing us to shoot their cars and tell us a bit of their story.
Photographers Mike and Faye for enduring 40+ degrees and still being in great spirits. Both Mike and Faye are brilliant creators! I highly recommend watching Northborders’ “behind the scenes” video of this shoot
Watch it Here!
Emotional Support and onsite assistance - Castle Car Media for your mentorship and inspiration. A stand-up photographer who has taught me heaps!
Caffeine hits provided by Boss Coffee - accompanying us on almost every shoot.
Location #1 - Access and location provided by The Clipper Ship “City of Adelaide” Ltd. The restoration of the 157 year old Clipper Ship is being undertake by volunteers and supporters and is open 7 days a week. The Ship is the oldest surviving Composite Clipper Ship.
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