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Forest Burner

A high-end Japanese-spec Forester with WRX-kicking performance and plenty of style!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • Japanese market Forester T/tb
  • VF23 turbo and UniChip for WRX-beating acceleration
  • Individual style, practicality and performance
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We’ve heard the scenario a thousand times. Car enthusiast settles down, has a family and, due to practical requirements, is forced to buy something in a ‘plain brown wrapper’ – a Commodore wagon for example.

But when Brendan Moffatt went on the search for a car that could comfortably accommodate his wife, young son and a pram he didn’t see any need to forgo his desire for something with a bit of speed and appeal.

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His search came to an end when, while scouring the web for Subaru Forester GTs, he found a rare Japanese import Forester T/tb. The Japanese-spec T/tb is far superior to the locally delivered GT having a 240ps (177kW) 2-litre turbo engine that runs a TD04 turbocharger (the local GT makes just 125kW and uses a TF035 turbo). The luxury T/tb also offers woodgrain trim, front and rear fold-down armrests, central display pod, eight speaker audio system, climate control and a few other goodies. A 4-speed automatic transmission and electronic controlled AWD system are also standard.

Brendan says the guy selling the Forester T/tb didn’t really understand what he had on his hands so Brendan picked up a bargain – you’ve gotta be lucky sometimes! The car was in immaculate condition with around 48,000km on the odometer and came with a 3 inch exhaust, K&N panel filter and Mine’s ECU.

With an output somewhere around 200kW, the lightly tweaked Forester T/tb was an absolute ball of fun on the road – but Brendan was aware that there was a lot more yet to be unlocked (he knows this coz he’s a major moderator of a site dedicated to the Forester).

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The previous mods were left in place and Brendan enlisted C-N-J Motorsport to fit and tune a UniChip interceptor module. In addition to altering fuel and ignition timing, the UniChip is also configured to control boost pressure – Brendan has max boost set to 18 psi.

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The TD04 turbo (which is a popular upgrade for local Forester GTs) was removed by Brendan to make way for a bigger STi VF23 ball-bearing unit. This blows through the standard Forester air-to-air intercooler which is equipped with a Samco high-flow hose and Y-pipe kit.

With a high-flow fuel pump keeping pace with the engine’s airflow, Brendan’s imported Forester has made some impressive numbers on the chassis dyno. At full-bore on a Dyno Dynamics dyno the Subie has put out 160kW at all fours (and, remember, that’s driving through an auto transmission). Brendan says the 1420kg car should be good for a 13 second pass given it previously ran a 14.6 ET with the standard turbo set to 13 psi.

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On the street, Brendan has great fun giving WRXs a hiding.

According to Brendan there’s an effective launch process that sees the Forester leaving the line with all four wheels spinning. Simply hold the brake, apply about half throttle and the turbocharger will spool up to around 18 psi boost. Get the timing right when you release the brake and – wham – you’re off in a flurry of wheelspin!

And the car is no less impressive in normal driving. The engine’s 9:1 static compression ratio and torque converter flare combine to deliver better driveability than any manual gearbox Rex. Interestingly, Brendan’s Forester will also run to 8000 rpm before the limiter steps in (probably thanks to the Mine’s ECU) - this works very well with the upsized VF23 turbocharger which is a bit laggier and softer at the bottom-end compared to the stock turbo.

Brendan has also detailed the under-bonnet of his Forester with a comprehensive array of red highlights – replacement hoses, spark plug leads and painted trim pieces. It’s certainly eye-catching, just like the newly applied graphics.

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Look closely and you’ll notice the stick-on graphics integrate the styled ‘F’ badge on the Japanese-spec grille. These red graphics have great impact against the factory black mica paint and dark tinted windows. Brendan has also installed a set of Kaizer Spade 2 polished 18s teamed with 245/40 rubber. Big tyres? You bet! Brendan says that’s one of the advantages of the Forester – you can fit some serious rubber compared to a WRX.

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The elevated ride height of the Forester has been substantially slammed with fitment of King Super Low springs and handling is further tightened with an aftermarket front tower brace. Brakes are stock apart from RDA slotted front discs, braided lines and Race Brakes pads.

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Inside, Brendan hasn’t made many alterations to the already cosy T/tb trim (which includes the optional power sunroof). The T/tb comes with a luxury spec cabin which has been enhanced with a Pioneer MP3 head unit, 6 inch front door splits and a 12 inch Alpine sub boosted by a Jaycar amp. An AutoMeter boost gauge has also been installed at the base of the A pillar and Momo pedals have been slipped in – a match for the factory Momo leather wheel.

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At the time of writing Brendan says he has a few tweaks left to execute. A front-mount intercooler will step in to replace the factory top-mount, a STi body kit will go on and a Whiteline 20mm adjustable rear swaybar will help balance the handling. He might also go for adjustable airbag suspension so that the ride height can be raised when required.

Over the top? Maybe - but at least you can’t call it plain brown wrapper!


C-N-J Motorsport
+617 3290 3966

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