The 16th annual Toronto Subaru Club HyperMeeting was held at Subaru Canada’s head office in Mississauga this weekend. And if those words immediately found you forming a preconception in your mind of what sorts of people might turn up at such an event, you might consider shelving them.
This gathering of the brand’s most ardent enthusiasts, which is free and raises money to support Ronald McDonald House, attracts people from all walks of life. Some are life-long importers and tuners, while others bought their cars first and only later stumbled into the diverse and dedicated world that is Subie fandom.
Out of the several hundred cars parked in every available space at Subaru Canada and its adjacent parking lots, there are a few that can’t help but stand out from the crowd.
Mike Pateras of Toronto started eight years ago with a stock 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STi before having a World Rally Championship conversion kit shipped from Europe, originally just because he liked the look of it. Over time, he became inspired by Gymkhana and added a carbon-fibre body, Cusco suspension, a custom exhaust, and an engine swap that gives him a power output of 650 horsepower at the wheels. At some point, his Instagram channel started blowing up. “I got completely carried away with it,” he says, adding that he’s planning to compete with this car at time attack, autocross, and other competitive events.
Miroslaw Kaczala of Mississauga says that his 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i is nothing fancy – he’s done a few simple modifications to it like some light decaling. But the standout feature is the addition of an awning that gives him a shaded place to sit no matter where he seeks adventure. So far, he’s used it in Bracebridge, Tobermory, and Ottawa, and he’s planning to head to the Subie Festival in Quebec with it in a couple of weeks. “It’s different,” he says. “The majority of people who have Outbacks don’t do anything to them. I wanted to change it up.”
Travis Bennett of Mississauga brought his 2017 WRX to the HyperMeeting and started popping in a custom grille and fog light bezels right there in the parking lot with the help of his little friend Michael, who’s two and a half years old, and Michael’s dad Shane, a coworker and friend. They love working on their cars together, but life gets in the way sometimes. The HyperMeeting gives them an excuse and a place to hang out and spend some time together. “What better place to do it than right in front of Subaru?” Bennet says.
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One look at Jaleesa Thibeault’s car and you’d assume that the Brantford native is the flamboyant type, but that’s not the case at all. “I made the car stand out, but I’m more shy,” she says. She’s not a huge fan of posing for a photo next to her 2017 Crosstrek Sport, though she admits it garners a lot of attention since she replaced her initial shooting-star wrap with this very sparkly purple. She’s looking forward to taking it to the Subie Festival in Quebec because the event will give her plenty of opportunity to take her Crosstrek off-roading.
There’s a small contingent vying for the Dirtiest Subaru award, which is a real thing at some meets but here in Toronto appears to be for bragging rights only. Regardless, Devin Doyle is the clear winner in his 2005 Impreza that he brought from London. He’s done all of his modifications himself, including installing a turbo WRX motor and adding what he estimates is roughly 6.5 inches of lift to the suspension. “I live in the country where there are lots of farmers’ streets I can drive around on,” he says. “It’s built to be actually used, not just a show car.”
When Ryan Romanoski of Hamilton bought this 1989 Subaru Legacy sedan last October, he was delighted to find a car in this body style that he was able to keep it mostly stock – but he wasn’t too hot on the tan interior. He sourced parts from Australia and Japan, molded closely matched carpeting from a 1950s Dodge, and dyed the remaining parts by himself, all in the name of turning the interior black. He also converted it from a front-wheel-drive automatic to an all-wheel-drive manual, a process that cost him a portion of his index finger. “There’s so much work that’s gone into this,” he says. “I’m hoping to take home (a prize), maybe second place.”
After I showed interest in his car, Romanoski pointed me toward Kevin Blair while admitting that his car is even cooler. Blair, who lives in Burlington, also owns a pre-facelift first-generation Legacy sedan: his is a 1990 RS Type RA, a “holy grail” that he bought from someone who’d had it exported from Japan for just $4,600 back in 2011. “I stole it from him,” Blair says. The car is still right-hand drive and is stock “as much as humanly possible, bumper to bumper, apart from the battery.” Blair estimates that his car is one of no more than 200 examples of this model that exists worldwide.
When Hiro Maeda went car shopping, he didn’t actively seek out a Subaru. But after he bought his 2008 Impreza, he fell in love with it. He and his girlfriend Sherry Majid, along with their Shih Tzu, Mickey, came out to their first HyperMeeting along with some other friends. Maeda has added some wrapping to his car, including a carbon-fibre finish on the hood and gloss black on the bumpers and side skirts, and has upgraded the exhaust as well. “I’ve always had a thing for cars,” he says. “My goal was to be in a position to have a car I could do whatever I wanted with.”
Elliott Albernaz of Mississauga is a mechanic who bought his first car, a 1999 Impreza, eight years ago. Since then, he’s had it down to a shell and has completely rebuilt it, from adding a bored and stroked 2.2-litre engine with a rotated Borg Warner turbocharger to installing a six-speed manual transmission, putting Brembos on all four wheels, and custom-building fibreglass fender flares and side skirts. But why is there Uncle Ben’s sitting in a rice cooker pot where the battery should be? “I put a wing on the car, and one of the guys at work called me a ricer,” he says. “American muscle car guys think any mod is a ricer, so I went with it.” Albernaz even relocated the battery to the trunk to make space for his rice pot. That’s some serious dedication to a theme.