Chris Petruccio drove more than 10,000 miles on a coast-to-coast-to-coast road trip in a built-for-SEMA show car pushing 700 horsepower and riding on eight degrees of negative camber. Spoiler alert: Chris and his wildly modded Subaru survived the double continent crossing handily, though drama ensued at times.
Chris’s Subaru started out as a 2005 Legacy GT Wagon with a manual transmission painted Obsidian Black Pearl from the factory. Many of us would have been happy enough with this wagon as is, but in considering a project to boost its output to STI levels, Chris wondered, “Why not build a show car?”
So he lined up sponsors and learned firsthand what it takes to build such a machine. He takes no credit for the success of the finished product, instead praising the team of builders and tuners. The build was at least 80 percent sponsored, and it required nearly two dozen professionals, half of whom worked on the car simultaneously in a mad dash for its debut in the Toyo Tires Treadpass paddock at SEMA 2019.
By the time the wagon rolled onto a flatbed bound for Las Vegas, it shared very little with stock Legacy wagons. Its output had increased to 683 horsepower, from 253, courtesy of a new IAG Magnum engine block and a Garrett turbo. All of that power is channeled through a Spec B six-speed transmission and passed to Rotiform wheels wrapped with Toyo tires. The chassis rides on an Airlift WRX suspension, and stopping power comes from Yellow Speed Racing brakes.
The headlights and taillights are all custom; the bodywork includes carbon fiber throughout. Inside is a fully custom Alcantara interior with Recaro seats and LED lighting. Virtually everything in the car has been upgraded and/or replaced. From the drivetrain, the suspension, the cabin, the paint and lighting to the wheels and tires, this wagon was transformed into a thoroughbred performance machine.
“I travel around and I see locations where I’m like, ‘damn I wish I had a cool car, wish I knew somebody to shoot at this location,’ ” he said, referring to his video work. “So I built it to have a nice looking car to be able to do that. I just pull over and get that shot myself, because I have that car.”
You might think Chris would be loath to risk any damage to the wagon after all the effort it took to build it.
“We had [it] built for the purpose of, like, I wanna go to as many shows as I can,” he told me. “I wanna drive this thing on the weekends. I wanna daily this car as much as I can.“
So after its SEMA showing, Chris planned to take the wagon on the road. Once again, he arranged sponsors for the expenses and enlisted a support team that would follow in his own Chrysler Pacifica, which would carry tools and spare parts.
According to the travel log — yes, a trip this epic needs an itinerary, a log and maybe even a stardate — the trip took Chris and his team west from New York State, around the Great Lakes, on to Los Angeles, then back through the Southwest, the South, on to Florida and finally north back to New York.
Stops along the way included state parks and spots where Chris and friends could collaborate on video shoots they call “rollers.” Of course, it also included numerous stops for food, gas and hooning with other YouTubers.
When I asked how much gas was consumed in driving that far, he laughed and admitted that the Legacy needed twice as many fill-ups as the Pacifica.
And the trip also required Chris to adjust his driving. Until they hit the road, he hadn’t really driven the car, which meant he was unfamiliar with its handling. Such a drastic difference in the performance and suspension required a measured approach.
“I understand that I have — at ride height — I have negative eight degrees, give or take, of camber, so I understand that my contact patch…isn’t the best.”
But once Chris learned the nature of the wagon’s new capabilities, he was able to enjoy the driving, and his crew had a hard time getting him out of the driver’s seat. He noted that the slammed car mostly made out fine on the road. No, it didn’t scrape off its exhaust. It didn’t lose a bumper. Even the Rotiforms made it back unscathed, if a little dusty.
And of course there were one or two snags, such as early on in the drive when the power steering pulley bolt sheared off. Or later in the trip, when the car’s temperature climbed repeatedly because of air in the coolant lines, which required periodic stops to bleed the system. Y’know, the usual.
Oh, and the other problem, the big one, happened in LA — after the crew had literally made it to the other side of the country — when the Legacy’s engine started making what sounded like rod knock.
Chris was a little worried at first. He started scheming a way to get his engine builder on a flight to Los Angeles. Luckily, his builder had friends in the Golden State who diagnosed the issue: It ended up being related to the timing belt tensioner and was easily fixed the next morning. Crisis was averted, and Chris & Co. were back on the road.
There’s a big difference between knowing something would go wrong and actually having it go wrong, but Chris took it all in stride, as an inevitability.
“I knew it was going to happen,” he admitted, almost welcoming the breakdowns. “I’m glad it happened now, instead of in the middle of nowhere.”
I agree with Chris; there are much worse places to break down and need a tow than LA.
All told, the trip took the crew 31 days to complete and logged more than 20,000 miles — well, if you account for both the driving of both the Legacy and the Pacifica. It was not exactly the average long haul, but then again it’s not the average wagon either.
Few of us will get to build a machine of this caliber, so I asked Chris what he thought drivers need to enjoy a trip like his. All that’s required, he told me, is “a reliable car. A reliable set of tires. And obviously, definitely, 120 percent, a copilot or friends that you trust and wanna be around for a month, to not only drive for you and to keep you awake at night, but to keep you sane at the same time.”
It’s a huge credit to the quality of the Legacy’s build that it made the whole trip with so few interruptions. Point is, if you have a reliable car, some good tires — which really make all the difference — and a friend or two, you’re already equipped for your own odyssey. Chris may have built an incredible show car, but at the end of the day it’s still just a car. And cars belong on the road.