For Sale: Subaru WRX Right-Hand-Drive Conversion Built to Prove the Haters Wrong
When others doubt, build it out.
Like many wrenching stories, it all began with an "unused" rented garage. Kwesi Peters, the mad-scientist whose 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX you're about to meet, had stored his car in the spot but felt like the space had more to offer than just parking. After all, a rented garage that lets you wrench is a coveted find, and I don't blame him for feeling guilty for its idleness.
The solution was to take on a truly unique project and he just so happened to have the perfect idea: swapping his WRX to right-hand drive. It's the only logical conclusion.
"I wouldn't say it's too pointless," Peters explains in one video on YouTube. "I wanted to do something that was pretty crazy, out of the ordinary. I had the garage space, so I figured 'why not?'" If that isn't the perfect reason to take on an uphill battle of a build, I don't know what is.
Peters knew he didn't need the engine or body panels, those remain the same or very similar between the two layouts, but he did need the JDM subframe to bolt everything up to. So, the first item sourced was an entire front clip of a right-hand drive car—everything from the front doors forward—from eBay.
This is when it got tricky. If you think the only parts that need to come out are from the steering wheel forward, surprise!
"I pulled the motor and drilled out a ton of spot welds that held the pedals as well as the brackets for the ECU, removed EVERYTHING from the interior (scary as hell), and removed the subframe to put in the JDM subframe," Peters explained to The Drive via email.
"I went with this route vs removing the entire firewall because I was afraid that having the JDM firewall with a different VIN number would be an issue," he continued. From there, it was time to drill some fresh holes through the USDM firewall for the steering shaft, brake booster, and clutch master cylinder.
That's when the toughest part of the build came up for the first time: wiring. The right-hand drive WRX front clip he bought didn't come with an interior wiring harness, so Peters went through the laborious process of labeling all of the wires on his existing harness as he cut those wires from the car's fuse box.
"Looking back, I would definitely source [the matching RHD wiring harness] instead of doing what I did which was cut all the wires from the fuse box, and extend them," Peters explained. With such an exhausting process, and knowing the WRX's fanbase, he started documenting his right-hand drive build adventure in a quasi YouTube show, hilariously named the "Pointless Series."
The first video opens with "WHY BOTHER" in all-caps across the thumbnail, and it's the funniest build series I've watched to date—and I've watched a lot of those. I'd argue that you'd bother "because it's fun," but I'm also a vehicular masochist, so what do I know?
"Basically the whole premise of this build is to finish what you started," Peters explains. "You know, a lot of people start their build and start pursuing something with their car, and then it gets too crazy. And then they end up putting it on Craigslist, unfinished, trying to get top-dollar price for it." (More on that irony in a second.)
After the teardown and wiring nightmare, the WRX's 2-liter four-cylinder boxer engine went back into the engine bay, ready to be wired up. The misery spaghetti of wiring, though, continued to be the bane of Peters' existence.
"The thing is, I really don't know the specific voltage of some of the components," Peters explains. "Granted, it's not going to be a crazy amount of wiring that I'm adding to the point where there's going to be that [much] difference in resistance, but I can't always be sure. I guess we'll see when I start it up for the first time."
Things you might take for granted in a car like the fuse box, HVAC, and window controls flip sides for the right-hand drive version, and every single one had to be figured out to make the swap work. At one point, Peters cut some sixty different wires just to make the mishmash of JDM and USDM electrical components mate up to each other properly. Even then, he still had occasional problems getting everything to match up, telling The Drive through email, "The toughest and most nerve-wracking [part] would be cutting over 60 wires from the fuse box, and extending them. Finding similar wire gauge and learning about wire resistance and wiring in general. Then extending them all."
Dreams of rallycross and snow hoonage kept him going, though.
To complicate things further, Peters later decided he wanted Subaru's "hawkeye" front end to replace the stock "blobeye" look. It's a little more aggressive and it looks cool, so like everything else on this build, why not?
This meant the project once again went back to a nearby JDM parts importer to get another front end from a 2006-2007 WRX and swapping it out for the previously swapped clip. More spot-welds for the front radiator support were drilled out to get the hawkeye front end to mate up, and though the new front end wasn't perfect with a small dent on the hood, it still looked pretty cool.
When all the mechanical bits were back together, a couple of issues with a coolant leak and a boost issue derailed the first test drive, but after those were sorted, all the work seemed to pay off with the car starting and driving.
There were still issues going forward but those were mostly confined to ironing out pesky details. The wiring for the front end had to be tweaked to work with the new lights, and the engine and wiring harness came out one more time to repurpose metal from the extra front clip parts to weld up the left-hand-drive holes in the firewall. After that, he painted the engine bay to match the rest of the car.
Regular, run-of-the-mill issues with the turbo, valve cover gasket, and an oil leak had to be fixed before it was really ready to drive. Then the entire silver front end got a fresh coat of Obsidian Black Pearl paint to match the rest of the car, finally.
"I did a terrible job [with the paint], but we're learning!" Peters says, "It's been a while, but it's gonna get better." JDM climate controls went in to fix the HVAC issue, for one. Then the interior went back in, and the car was finally ready for the road after two years of work on the swap.
That brings us to the finished-ish car now up for sale for $5,000 on Craigslist. Peters has owned the WRX for a while, taking it from 14,000 miles when he bought it up to 180,000 miles as it sits now. Unlike those unfinished cars Peters spoke about and their ludicrous asking prices, Peters is a rare seller who knows the car isn't worth $1 million, listing out the known problems with the car on the ad:
With this swap, there were a ton of maintenance things that were neglected which resulted in the car having some issues. Currently...
The windshield shield is cracked.
The gas tank leaks from the filler neck.
The car misfires when engaging the clutch right at the very top of engagement but runs fine when engaged.
The Hawkeye swapped paint job is trash.
The gas gauge is finicky.
The brakes and rotors are in need of replacing.
There is a very small engine leak.
At 3k RPM, there is a slight rattle from the engine but it goes away once past 3k rpm.
The only other modifications on the car are an Injen cold air intake and a Borla exhaust. Peters knows he's not going to recoup the cost of all the parts that made this swap work, so he's very flexible on that $5,000 price, writing on Craigslist:
Car is up for $5000 or best offer. Really or best offer because I wouldn't feel comfortable selling this car as it is for $5000. Just throwing that number out there if someone is generous. Like I'd appreciate you for $5k, but I'd also pray for you as well. The car has had a bunch done to it, but also needs some work as mentioned above.
Peters also knows that it may look funny to outsiders saying he's selling a similarly unfinished project car after scope-creep settled in, but that isn't exactly true. Peters told The Drive that he's selling it to focus on building his personal business and supporting his growing family to be in a better place financially. He also mentioned something about tackling even bigger projects in the future.
"It sat for the past 10 months and my focus just hasn't been towards the car, and would rather someone else be able to enjoy it," Peters wrote.
Still, the coolest part is that he pulled it off, despite all reason and sense. If you think your next project car is impossible, just remember this crazy Subaru.
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