Kung-Fu Panda: Battling Pikes Peak in Scotty Molitor's 602-WHP "Panda Express" Impreza RS

Article by Rick Jensen (Turboguy). Photography by Corey Davis (iMPREZiONS).

You may know Scotty Molitor as a hillclimber, a NASA racer, a car builder and the owner of MoFab, the Denver-based JDM specialist and fabrication studio. What you may not know is that his "Panda Express” 2000 Impreza RS has helped shape Molitor into the wrencher, fabricator and racer that he is today.


Back in the day, Scotty was a die-hard street racer who always had an affinity for the older, two-door GC body style. He’d shared co-driving duties in a friend’s GC rally car, and that experience made him realize how strong the Subaru chassis was. However, he liked the RS’s factory look so much that his own car remained stock for a year after he bought it.

The mod bug bit when he was working for MAC Autosport. Molitor wanted to swap in a 2-liter WRX’s engine, interior and drivetrain, but it became a battle as the first two engines he found broke. He finally zeroed in on a good, low-mileage mill that made "240-something to the wheels,” and soon after he added wheels, suspension and even more mods to the 2.5. And Scotty’s skills improved every time he wrenched on his ride. "From dog boxes and six speeds, to stock-location turbos and designing my own rotated kit, this car has had it all,” Molitor explains. "And it has allowed me to expand my abilities, hone my skills and not only prove that I can build a solid vehicle, but show that I can drive it as well.”

It would take a book to explain all of the changes that Scotty made to this thing. A long book. So in the interest of keeping your attention, let’s cover the current 600-whp, Pikes Peak-whipping version of Panda Express.

Denver-based SUBA Performance built Scotty’s EJ-series short block with quality Cosworth bearings, a nitrided crank, forged Eagle rods and 9:1 CP pistons. An upgraded oiling system—including a 2010 STi pump, Cosworth baffle, Moroso pan and MoFab air-oil separator and catch can—circulate old-school Schaeffer’s oil to protect the block’s high-tech rotating assembly.

ARP head studs put the clamp on ported and bowled heads from Heads by Drew, which take orders from the stock camshaft. The intake manifold is also still stock; but it’s fed extra airflow from ported tumblers.

Speaking of extra airflow, a MoFab-rotated GTX3582 turbo with a Tial .63 turbine housing helps the EJ ingest tons of it. Filtered intake air is controlled by an HKS BOV, and then compressed by the Garrett turbo. Whatever the engine doesn’t want is bled off by a Tial MVS wastegate. That boost travels through a front-mount MoFab intercooler, before heading for the cylinder heads. Spent fumes travel through HKS headers, through the Garrett’s hot side, and then out via a MoFab downpipe and exhaust system. DEI heat wrap and blanket drop exhaust system temps, and a JDM STi Spec C intercooler spray tank helps the ’coolers efficiency.

As you might guess, an upgraded fuel system complements that massive dose of cooled, compressed atmosphere. Radium Engineering’s Dual 255lph Surge Tank assists the stock pump in keeping the 6AN fuel lines and MoFab rails full, and the ID1000 injectors spraying. And this Subie cools its upgraded bullet with a MoFab radiator wearing a 21-pound cap, and a MoFab coolant pressure and overflow tank mounted where the compressor used to sit. A factory water pump… pumps the coolant. At a normal rate. Moving on…

Of course, you gotta check it before you wreck it with a crapload of boost. Scotty did said checking of his vastly more powerful engine, and decided that a built, 2004 STi 6-speed trans with an Exedy twin-disc clutch and Cusco’s engine/trans mounts were necessary to handle the extra power. And though he left both the stock driveshaft and the stock axles, Molitor bolted in a big ’ol R180 diff in to provide STi-like durability.

As the saying goes, hot, nasty, turbocharged power is nothing without control. And so, a serious suspension was needed. So the RS was loaded with aluminum STi control arms, BC inverted monotube coilovers with front and rear caster camber plates, 10k front and 12k rear springs, MoFab end links and Cusco front and Whiteline rear swaybars. Upgraded hubs from an ’05 STi got ARP extended studs, and Brembo calipers cause mad friction between the stock rotors and Carbotech brake pads. Murdered-out 18-inch Enkei RPF1s framed by riveted Carbon flares complement the MoFab brake ducts, and add a sinister look to the white exterior. Advan 285/35/18 tires grip hard.

With big power and bigger g-forces, Scotty needed both a supportive and a connected office to work in. So with the help of Mark McMahan of McMahan Autosport, Molitor designed and build the NASA/SCCA log booked 8-point DOM roll cage. That gave Panda Express both stiffness and safety, and RaceQuip harnesses keep him secured to a Racetech seat and his passenger to a Momo chair. There’s also a SPA Fire Sense suppression system, just in case things ever really start to hit the fan.

While facing his WRX-swap dashboard, Molitor relies on a full suite of gauges and a Sym cluster to monitor the EJ’s inner workings. In addition to the stock boost dial, AEM, Autometer and Buddy Club gauges provide coolant temp, wideband O2, boost, fuel pressure and oil pressure readings.

And all that info comes in handy, because once it was tuned at MAC Autosport, Panda Express put down a stout 602 horses and 530 lb-ft of torque! Factoring in driveline loss means that Scotty wrestles with around 700 ponies when the pedal goes down. That would be tough on straight, level pavement—but Scotty manhandles this beast up mountains. During the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Panda Express turned in a 12:06 time, good for a sixth place finish! "It’s a handful to drive, but not many people can say they have raced up Pikes Peak, then driven the same car to a local car show and won awards,” he beams.

Future plans call for some aero work, including a splitter, diffuser and flat bottom, and he’d like to get his wife in the driver’s seat too. But while his partnership with the RS has been rocky at times—like when he blew an engine and trans at the track after adding the flares and grippy wheels—Scotty wouldn’t change it for the world. "This thing has done it all. I’m glad I learned from my previous mistakes and took my time with this build. It’s allowed me to express my abilities in many ways. The RS is now a rolling example of what I stand for with my business, and I’m glad it brings a smile to so many people’s faces.”

Scotty wants to thank his wife, "with her by my side I can do anything,” and his sponsors for all their support: MAC Autosport, Radium Engineering, Suba Performance, Heads By Drew, Central Motive Power, Tial, Phenix Industries, Odyssey Batteries, CL Photography, Impact Wraps, Exedy USA, and the biggest sponsor of all: God, for blessing him with the talents and the abilities to obtain his goals.


2000 Impreza RS
Built by MoFab
Short Block by SUBA Performance

Engine Performance
CP Pistons
Eagle Rods
Cosworth Bearings
Nitrided Crank
Heads by Heads by Drew
Factory Subaru Gaskets
ARP Head Studs
Cusco Engine Mount
Ported and Polished Tumblers
HKS Exhaust Headers
MoFab Exhaust System
DEI Heat Wrap and Blanket 
MoFab 4-Inch Intake
MoFab Rotated GTX3582 Kit With .63 Tial Hot Side
MoFab Front Mount Intercooler 
JDM STi Spec C Intercooler Spray Tank
Tial MVS Wastegate
MoFab Radiator
Injector Dynamics 1000cc Injectors
MoFab Custom Fuel Rails
Radium Dual 255lph Surge Tank
6 AN Supply and Return Line
MoFab Motorsport Air-Oil Separator / Catch-Can
MoFab Custom Coolant Pressure & Overflow Tank
Moroso Motorsports Oil Pan
Cosworth Oil Baffle
Phenix Industries AN Fittings/Plumbing

Transmission Performance
Built 2004 STi 6-Speed 
Exedy Twin-Disc Clutch
R180 Differential
Cusco Transmission Mount

Autometer Liquid-Filled Fuel Pressure Gauge
AEM Coolant Temp, Oil Pressure, Wideband AFR, Boost Gauges
SYM Gauge Cluster
8-Point DOM Roll Cage
Racetech Driver Seat
Momo Passenger Seat
RaceQuip Harnesses
SPA Fire Sense Suppression System
Lexan Corner Windows

Full Exterior Wrap by Impact Wraps & Graphics
Carbon Fender Flares
MoFab Carbon Fiber Roof
MoFab Brake Ducts

Advan A048 285/35/18 Tires
Enkei RPF1 18x10.5 +15 Wheels
BC Inverted Monotube Coilovers W/Caster Camber Plates Front /Rear
STI Aluminum Suspension Arms 
Cusco Front Swaybar
Whiteline Rear Swaybar
MoFab End Links
10k Front, 12k Rear Springs
Brembo Calipers
Carbotech Brake Pads
2005 STi 5x114.3 Hubs
ARP Extended Studs


Rickjensen's Profile Image

Rick Jensen (Turboguy)

Rick's a Turbo Buick and EFI GM nut who was born in Nebraska, then reborn on the mean streets of Queens, NYC. Spent high school and college wrenching and racing before moving to NYC and spending 13 years as the editor-in-chief, editor, and writer for some of America's best automotive magazines, websites, and ad agencies. Favorite moments include running low 10s in my Turbo Buick, Exposing GM's weak-assed early CTS-V drivetrains, road racing Corvettes and Camaros, and doing high-boost launches to make my kid laugh.
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Rockysds's Profile Image

Scotty MoFab is a master of the arts. Amazing work all around. Great feature to complement!