IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER: 15 Reader Project Cars

With the 2020 SEMA Show canned, at the beginning of October we asked you, the Speedhunters readers, to show us the real-world projects you’re working on.

We had an amazing response through the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program, and our thanks go out to everyone that submitted their project car – we looked at them all. Of course, there was no way they could all be included here, so we’ve selected 15 projects to share with you.

Les Tuck – Nissan ‘Tsujigiri’ Leaf


First up, we have a Nissan Leaf from Rusty Speedwerks – a name that might be familiar to Speedhunters readers. We’ve featured a couple of Rusty builds in the past, but none quite like this one.

Les Tuck explains: “Rusty Speedwerks has partnered with High Voltage Garage Canada to explore the Leaf platform and its potential to become more mainstream in tuner car culture. While the Leaf stands in stark contrast to our last build [a 500hp Fargo Farm Truck], it does represent a desire to look at what hot rodding and tuner car culture is becoming.”


“Stage One of the ‘Tsujigiri’ Leaf has focussed on the basic first mods any enthusiast would make – suspension, wheels and tires. With the cosmetics, we have drawn cues from and pay homage to the shakotan/bosozuku practice of mounting an oil cooler out front and a train handle in the rear. The front air dam, modest wing and livery draw on more traditional race car inspiration. Being an outsider, the Tsujigiri Leaf also pokes fun at some of these traditions. Mounting a fuse out front rather than an oil cooler (who needs one of those anyway?), replacing the train handle with a vintage electrical cord, and running the kanji characters sideways, mixing the layout of Japanese and English.”

“Stage Two will involve brake upgrades, and already available battery upgrades. Stage Three will involve performance modifications to the motor and controllers. The beauty of the Leaf platform is that it shares many components with its non-electric counterparts from Nissan.”

We are not surprised to hear that Les and the Rusty team have had a lot of interest in this build, and we look forward to seeing (and featuring) the finished product.

Will Stromquist – Subaru WRX Wagon


Like many other builds we see, Will’s 2005 WRX wagon started out as his daily driver, but two years after the initial purchase it’s now a dedicated project car. There’s a laundry list of parts for this one – highlights include a custom TD06-16G turbo, STI top-mount intercooler, Cobb SF intake, HKS Hi-Power cat-back exhaust, Cobb Accessport V3, Tein Flex Z coilovers, 18×8.5-inch Fifteen52 Integrale wheels, a StopTech brake upgrade, STI front seats, and a full audio system – but Will isn’t finished yet.

“It’s currently running a stock EJ205 block and heads with what is pretty much a full bolt-on big turbo setup [good for 286whp and 254lb-ft at 15psi boost], but I am saving up for a fully-forged hybrid build, and maybe even a beefed-up trans,” he says. The latter definitely sounds like a good idea.

Andy Horn – Audi S4 Avant


Some of the cleanest builds we see on Speedhunters are those modified with restraint and subtlety, so Andy’s 2001.5 Audi S4 Avant project – reputedly one of around 85 cars this particular spec (Imola Yellow and 6-speed manual) for the year – is one we’re right on board with.

“I picked this up a year ago in extremely rough shape with a blown turbo and engine that had basically been stripped for parts,” says Andy. “I have slowly been bringing it back to life and it’s been one heck of a project just getting it running again. No crazy ‘Stage 3′ mods here, just an OEM+ build that I can drive every day and smile at all the people that think I’m a weirdo for wanting a bright yellow station wagon (my girlfriend included).”

Andrew Adams – BMW 2002 ‘American Diana’


When BMW race driver Hubert Hahn settled on a wedding gift for his actress wife Diana Körner in 1970, it wasn’t something expected like jewellery. Instead, he built her an ultra high-spec, one-off BMW 2000Ti, complete with a six-cylinder engine swap from a 3.0CS. Ultimately, that car led to 12 exclusive BMW 2002 ‘Diana’ models being built by Baur in Stuttgart. Identifiable by their unique quad headlights, each car was a different colour and featured a leather interior, but unlike Hahn’s car, the engine remained stock 2002 Ti spec.

Andrew’s project, which he’s dubbed ‘Diana V.2′ pays homage to the original 2002 Diana cars, of which only three are known to still exist.


Speaking about the build, Andrew says: “At the outset I lacked a lot of the skills needed to do a full hotrod restoration, therefore, this car has been very kind in putting up with my slow learning curve. However, it ended up serving as the test mule for dozens of parts I got to design while working at Ireland Engineering. It also put up with being stuck on a chassis dolly while working at CoupeKing, and even now it sits contentedly in my garage while I am back in school for a degree in Astronautical Engineering from CalPolyPomona.

The spec includes a 2.9L stroker M20 engine swap with triple Weber 40DCOE carbs, KW custom coilovers, vintage Brembo brakes, Taiga Green paint, a tan/black interior, and Diana-specific trim details including custom-cast aluminum badging and 13-inch wheels. We’re keeping a close eye on this one and hope to bring you a full feature once it’s completed.

Gary Burkholder – 1928 Ford Tudor Sedan


Calling this build a 1928 Ford Tudor Sedan is a little misleading, because the only thing ‘1928 Tudor’ about it is the body – which has been chopped 3.5-inches in the front and 2.5-inches out back. Gary says his project is a “not-quite-period-correct hot rod, inspired by the ‘Fuel Altered’ drag cars of the mid-1960s,” and it’s definitely kept him busy. The required rust repairs, top chop, floors, headers, exhaust, air intake and stainless steel hard lines are all Gary’s own work.

As it sits, there’s a ’32 Ford frame under the body, and a ’58 Chrysler Hemi 354ci V8, with a ’92 Chevy Turbo 700R4 trans and a Track-Lock-equipped ’78 Ford 9-inch rear end to get it down the road quickly.

Ric McLaughlin – Subaru Impreza WRX STI Version 6 Type RA

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Ric used to own an immaculate V5 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Type R, but after a few years of cleaning it more than driving it, he decided to buy something better suited for the track – a rally-spec V6 WRX STI Type RA.

“With tarmac-spec coilovers and running an Alcatec ECU it was terrifying on anything but a race track, and when a wheel fell off on the drive home from a track day I’d finally had enough and made the decision that I would sell it,” says Ric. “Then COVID happened and I was faced with holding on to the car for a while. As a life-long GC8 and rally fan, the car I always wanted was the V2 Type RA, but prices are now creeping up and originality is coveted. Then it hit me that I could convert my car into a Group A replica – but for the road. So the rabbit-hole of Impreza nerd overload began.”

“The car is night and day more fun than it used to be to drive, mainly thanks to KW coilovers and a Link ECU. I’m currently assembling the parts to do a V1/2 dash conversion complete with some carbon fibre Group A pieces, and saving up to paint it.”

Andy Nisbet – Datsun 240Z


We love a good Datsun Z build, and this ’72 240Z affectionately dubbed ‘Banshee’ is truly epic. Its owner Andy picks up the story…

“It was originally built in the ’90s by Scott Performance in Santa Clara (Greg Scott owns the famed Green Hornet 240Z) where it was given its one-off bodywork and built L28 with Don Potter ported E31 head and triple Weber 48mm DCO/SP carbs (The motor would later be re-worked by Lamborghini legend Al Burtoni of Milano Imports, receiving his proprietary camshaft and valvetrain).

“When I got the car it did run and drive, but was very tired. All the bushings were cracked and shot, the tires were down to the cords, the orange gradient Recaros were all torn up, and we would later find out the cam spray bar was completely clogged with sludge. I daily drove it that summer and wrenched on it incrementally after work so I could still drive it home. When it came time to return to school, I brought the strut housings with me in my suitcase so I could section them for Ground Control coilovers in the FSAE lab and turn custom gland nuts and spacers for the Mitsubishi 3000GT Bilstein dampers. I brought the sectioned struts back to CA in my suitcase again (TSA was not thrilled) then put everything back together with new wheel bearings and cut-in DP Racing camber plates. As luck would have it, when I returned to school again, I found a set of 16-inch 3-piece Panasport C8S wheels with multiple sets of original Panasport lips on Craigslist. Somehow they were the exact width and offset needed for my Z, so after a quick rebuild by MemoryFab they were ready to go.”

“I’ve now been out of school for a couple of years and work as a mechanical engineer at Lucid Motors. The car sits on jack stands for a good part of the year, but I always get it back together in time for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca.”

“2018 was a big year; I completely rebuilt the Webers, installed a 123ignition programmable distributor, re-did all of the fuel lines, added new seats and harnesses, DP Racing adjustable tie-rod ends, Sebring Tuning exhaust, all in time for Nissan/Datsun to be the featured marque at RMMR. A year later in 2019 I got married and the Z was the wedding car (in 100°F heat!).”

“Currently, it’s on jack stands for another suspension refresh and revision two of the 3000GT Bilstein conversion, with CNC’d gland nuts and threaded spacers I designed in CATIA. Up next will be rust repairs and composite bodywork. I did a lot of composites work in school and I have molds for S30 hood, fenders, and air dam – I just need time to make them.”

Sergey Ananic – BMW E39 Touring


BMW never built an E39 M5 Touring, but Sergey didn’t let that fact stand in the way of creating his dream machine.

“My childhood dream car was the E39 M5, but I love 5 Series Tourings and also being individual,” he says. “So, I decided to build an E39 M5 Touring.”

The main underpinnings of the build are all E39 M5 fare, from the 400hp S62B50 V8, to the Getrag 420G manual gearbox, differential and other parts that Sergey spent 18 months collecting. The OEM+ upgrades are one thing, but there’s a whole lot more to this build including a metal wide-body, air suspension, and Work VS-XX wheels. Sergey isn’t done yet, either. “In 2021, I will do a new setup with a wider wide-body, sleeved engine block, ESS supercharger, interior modifications, and also some further suspension tuning so it can ride fast.”

Valerijs Ozols – Porsche 944


Some people build cars with clear intentions from the very start, but others prefer to evolve their ideas as they go. Valerijs falls squarely into the latter category with his 1983 Porsche 944 project, which was bought on a whim in 2018.

According to Valerijs, “the body was in terrible shape,” requiring the heavily rusted sills and floor to be rectified before the 944 could receive a fresh coat of paint. As you can see though, the body is now not stock. “I knew that the car needed to look different from the original, so I went all-in and cut the fenders so I could fit custom flares made from carbon fiber,” he says.


While this was happening, the engine was removed and sent off for a full performance rebuild with forged pistons and rods. This performance mindset continued with the suspension, which now features wider aluminum arms from a later-model 944, and will soon feature GAZ coilovers with adjustable camber plates. As Valerijs plans to track the Porsche, he’s also fitted a big brake kit with Lindsey racing adapters for rotors and calipers on the front and Brembos on the back.

“As I’m working alone on my project car and doing everything I can by myself, it’s taking time,” he says. “But hopefully I can soon start the engine.”

Jake Seifer – Subaru Impreza ‘RSTI’


Jake’s 2002 Subaru Impreza RSTI has been his project car, weekend racer, and learning tool for the past 16 years.What’s an ‘RSTI’ you might be wondering? Jake explains: “It originally started out as an automatic RS (US non-turbo) car, but after the motor went I couldn’t part with it, so I did the next best thing – I turned it into the car I always wanted. I bought a wrecked 2004 Impreza WRX STI and swapped all the running gear into my RS. It was my education into building cars.”

“Over the years I’ve collected a number of Prodrive parts and tried to keep the exterior OEM+. Now the car is fully built to take the abuses of being tracked regularly.”

Bill MacKenzie – Ford Focus 

iamthespeedhunter Bill MacKenzie Focus 4

How cool would it have been if Ford had released a sedan version of the Mk3 Focus ST? That’s a question that Bill asked and answered with his almost-entirely-converted 2012 Focus SE. It has a full ST exterior conversion, full powertrain conversion (engine, transmission, cooling system, computer, etc), ST suspension and interior components. On top of that, Bill has added aftermarket front flares, full engine bolt-ons, a big brake kit, coilovers and more.

“The powertrain was pulled from my best friend’s former Focus ST [the red one in the photo above] after another driver ran a red light and totaled it – he was thankfully okay,” says Bill. “We’d been looking for a donor for a while, so when the car was declared a total loss we immediately bought it back and were happy to be able to let part of it live on.”

Brian J – BMW 325

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There are a number of ways you can approach a build, and Brian found one that really worked for his BMW 325, “AKA the US base model.”

“Like most college students, I have to budget carefully when it comes to cars. However, I decided to budget with time rather than money. I worked in a machine shop for my first couple years of school (and a full year before starting), and have been funneling money into the car the entire time. At this point, I’m well past the monetary limits for budget, and could have actually bought an E46 M3 by now. But I’ve never gone into debt over the car, as I’ve spent nearly four years building it, with lots of work yet to be done. Additionally, budgeting time means the car doesn’t have much down time, as I can tackle smaller projects and piece the car together.”

Brian has competed in autocross and the occasional track event with this BMW, and says that it’s always ready for a long drive, including a nearly 8,000 mile road trip. Highlight modifications include Turner pulleys and ECU flash, LSD, a Kirk Racing half cage, Bride Zeta III seat, BC Racing coilovers, and Kosei K1 wheels with Michelin PS4S tires.

“It’s not the wildest build, but it shows how patient and careful spending can result in a fun, durable car.”

Vincent Auger – Plymouth Neon ACR

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It’s hard to believe now, but Vincent’s 1995 Plymouth Neon ACR (competition package) coupe was once nothing much more than a rolling shell destined for the crusher. The then owner had ruined the OEM+/Euro look that one of Vincent’s friends had completed as previous owner, so when he heard that the Neon’s life was almost over, he jumped in to save it.

“It had an engine that ended up blowing its rod bearings on me when we started it up, an improperly assembled transmission, poorly modified wiring harnesses for an SRT-4 swap that did not happen, and most of the interior missing,” says Vincent.

“In 2013, with help from my friends at BMG Performance (and a lot of parts from friends and Modern Performance), we proceeded to get it back on the road. Since then I’ve slowly upgraded it for road/car show/lapping duties.”

The ACR coupes came with a number of performance upgrades over the base car, and on top of this Vincent has added a huge number of modifications – more than we could ever list here. This appears to be a very well-sorted example of a largely under-appreciated and these days quite rare car.

Marshall Jung – Porsche 944


Our second 944 was purchased with a salvage title, and its owner Marshall originally planned to build it up into a spec racer. “Unfortunately, the cost of Porsche parts was beyond my wallet at the time, but as it sat next to a co-workers Corvette I noticed the wheelbase was essentially the same,” he says. “After sourcing a Corvette frame and suspension, I designed an FEA tube frame, rebuilt a small block Chevy, and built the entire thing in my own garage. CFD aero was designed and built from epoxy-infused marine plywood, the suspension design was modeled on zero-droop F1 concepts, and mechanical grip was ensured with 295/315-width tires front and rear respectively.”

As far as projects go, this one is essentially complete, and Marshall says that it’s done well at the racetrack so far, with zero mechanical issues to speak of – impressive considering this is a home-build through and through. “It’s loud, fast, and gets lots of thumbs up.”

Hassen Hossenbaccus  – Subaru Impreza WRX SL


Our final IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER project is also our third Impreza, proving just how popular Subarus are among Speedhunters readers. Of his build, Hassen says: “I bought this 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX SL wagon four years ago with no intention of modifying it. I grew up as a child of the ’90s and watched Colin McRae tearing it up in the rally stages with the iconic blue Subaru Impreza. Given that I had two young children at the time and the car would be a daily driver for all sorts of purposes, I decided that I needed the wagon variant.”

Amazingly, Hassen managed to go a whole six months before purchasing his first aftermarket part, a K&N air filter. But that was just the start; now the Impreza is something special thanks to an EJ207 STI engine with direct-port water/methanol injection coupled with a Haltech 2500 standalone ECU, and a 6-speed DCCD swap. “It’s currently at AP Performance in Galway awaiting its time on the dyno, and we will hopefully have a running car at the end of it,” says Hassen.

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How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.