If you pay attention to automotive news, you know that most of it is pretty saddening these days for enthusiasts. Across nearly every industry, the manic obsession to go green has mutated into a plague that’s eating everyone’s brains… while stifling the world’s color, soul, & spirit. The way I see it, if you’re boring with bad taste, just say that. Don’t drag Captain Planet into it. Because at the beginning, middle, & end of the day… a lot of this environmental masquerade is a straight-up lie to SELL YOU SOMETHING. 

Simplicity often equals green. Overcomplication RARELY equals green. And overcomplication is ALSO where corporate-capitalism & government-intervention often meet to manipulate your future for their profit. Hi – you are here.

Forester STI

Now the point isn’t to get all political/environmental on this man Art Petrakov’s Forester XT feature lol. 

But – I opened by mentioning ‘automotive news’, because if you pay attention to it, you probably know that Subaru is killing-off manual transmissions in every one of their new (North American) vehicles aside from the WRX. And that’s just more bummer news for automotive enthusiasts. Because… 

I honestly do feel like Subaru was ahead of the curve with cars like the Forester XT. 

The Forester XT was a pure, performance-minded AWD crossover with a spirited turbocharged engine AND a manual transmission. With just the right amount of quirk & utility. I feel like at the time… the ‘tuner generation’ of car enthusiasts wasn’t quite ‘there yet’. They weren’t having kids yet… so to speak. But now a lot of them are in that place of building families… and what happened to the Forester? It got bloated, boring, ugly, and monotonous. It’s a damn mess… kind of like looking at a dog eat its own vomit. See how I worked ‘a dog’ into that the example? You’re welcome Subaru.

built EJ25

But if you’ve got some mechanical ability, this is your time to rise & shine honestly. 

Because while the world is losing fun & affordable options for transportation, you’re gaining them. What’s in front of you here is a 2004 Subaru Forester XT. This generation/model Forester is a sweet-spot & a tremendous value. As previously mentioned, it provides utility, versatility, agility, performance, AWD, a manual trans, and a hands-on driving experience. All of which – makes the Forest XT a genuinely fun & spontaneous vehicle to modify. And this one, Art’s car, is kind of a ‘model example’ of where a Forester XT could go with aftermarket mods. 

The Forester XT comes with the turbocharged EJ25 engine. It’s quick out-the-box like a WRX, but (like a WRX) if you want serious horsepower, you’re gonna have to build it. Art fully built his engine with…

A Garrett GT3076 stock-location turbo

Darton sleeves

Manley billet crankshaft, rods, and platinum series pistons

ACL rod bearings

GSC Power-Division S2 cams, valves, springs, and spring seats

ARP studs

Cosworth head gasket & oil pump

FIC 1650 injectors

Modified GrimmSpeed intake

GrimmSpeed custom FMIC & piping

Rotated/Shaved OEM Manifold 

Custom 3” exhaust with GrimmSpeed muffler

Drift Forester

What’s unique about this particular Forester XT… 

Is that it’s been RWD converted, from the original all-wheel-drive. Art has 2 automotive loves: 1) Drifting & 2) Subarus. Typically, the two don’t mix much. But Art was willing to sacrifice AWD grip for more RWD slip & fun factor. But in doing so, he didn’t cut corners. Art wanted this Forester to be up to the rigors of clutch-kicking fun… even at higher horsepower levels. The stock transmission in Forester XTs & WRXs of this area are known to be a weak link. So Art swapped-in a more durable 6-speed transmission from an STI. He then upgraded it with an ACT clutch. And to longterm beef-up the drivetrain, he added a…

STI R180 rear differential

PPG rear wheel drive spool

Driveshaft Shop carbon fiber driveshaft & rear drag axles

Cadillac brakes

The front brakes have been swapped to Cadillac ATS Brembo calipers.

And the rear calipers are sourced from a WRX Limited. Both front & rear are using DBA rotors. Suspension-wise, the Forester XT sits on Fortune coilovers with 16 & 14k Swift springs. There is also an arsenal of Whiteline suspension components, like the…

Front/Rear swaybars 

Strut bars 

Ball joints, tie rod ends, and alignment pieces

(This XT has OEM STI control arms)

Forester STI

To make the Forester XT pop aesthetically… 

Art added a JDM Forester Cross Sports front bumper, along with the grille & headlight trim. The new bumper has a custom M-Sports style lower lip. To complete the frontend, Art put a D-Max style vent on an NA hood. 

Forester STI

On the sides of the Forester…

You’ll find modified Zero Sports style side skirts, along with 06-08 flat-side exterior panels & Gander style 180sx mirrors. The roof rails have been deleted. 

Come around back, and you’ll see the JDM Forester Cross Sports rear bumper (matching to the front), along with a HD Tuning upper wing & a custom-molded JDM mid-spoiler. 

The wheels are Work VSKFs, sized in 18×9 +18.


Inside the XT, you’ll find… 

Seibon Carbon seats with a stripped/deleted backseats. There’s an STI gauge cluster & steering wheel for a little OEM+ accenting. And all the gauges come from either AEM or Zeitronix. 

Art took his love for drifting & JDM styling… and threw it all at his love for Subarus.

The car’s got no real plans for formal drift competition or anything like that. It was just built with pure intentions of doing hoodrat/hotrod sh¡t with friends lol. A Subaru that wants to get squirrelly & sideways, with twice as much power as you’d expect (420hp on a conservative tune)… all in the form of a slammed-out hippy-hauler. Because why not?

Forester STI

Photos by:  ebphoto651 / northernflowmedia / walleyemance1

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