Kristin Justus doesn’t ride shotgun. That’s just one of the rules the 31-year-old from Asheville, North Carolina, has made since her love affair with all things motorized took root. “I’ve always been really fond of cars and motorcycles,” she says. “I put a body kit on an old car for my senior project in high school.”
Justus’ latest mod is a 2016 Subaru WRX she named Red Bottoms, and it follows all her rules. A manual transmission is mandatory (read: more fun), and since she insists on driving her creation often, it must remain street legal. Above all, Justus wants her car to reflect her passion for fashion: Red Bottoms refers to the red-soled heels of designer Christian Louboutin. “I try to incorporate my love of shoes and fashion into my cars,” she says. “As a shoe lover, the name’s a perfect fit!”
It takes a team to build a show car. When Justus went looking for a partner in grime, she found not just that, but also love. His name is Brandon Burrell. A photographer by trade, Burrell has also done a couple of custom pickup-truck builds for SEMA.
“Brandon built two trucks for SEMA, in 2014 and 2015,” says Justus. “And the opportunity presented itself for me to show a car in 2016.”
To start, Burrell helped her decide on a make and model. “She had to have a manual transmission car, and she wanted a 4-door instead of a coupe,” he says. “There’s really not that many manual shift 4-door cars you can buy now. We looked at several different options, then we came across the WRX. She test-drove a couple of them and found out they’re a blast.”
With Burrell on board, Justus got busy planning. Because this WRX would do double duty as a show car and a daily driver, she wanted to leave the engine as Subaru designed it. All of the driveline modifications are bolt-ons.
“We installed a cold air intake, charge pipe, top-mount intercooler and 3-inch cat-back exhaust, all from Mishimoto™,” says Justus. “We also selected a Go Fast Bits blow-off valve. The only thing that we haven’t changed are the downpipes. Then we finished the engine with a standard re-flash using a Cobb Tuning Accessport.”
Much of the work on Red Bottoms is visual. Justus stuck with the standard Subaru Dark Gray Metallic color but added some impressive flourishes: a Grillcraft® three-part grille, JNA Performance front-lip spoiler, SubiSpeed carbon-fiber emblems on both ends and a set of Diode Dynamics lights, including a 6-inch light bar hidden behind the grille.
Inside, the red-leather seat covers are accented with black carbon-fiber print leather and red suede. The headliner is all red suede, and tunes come courtesy of a Kenwood head unit playing through Memphis Audio amps and speakers.
“One of my favorite mods is the HornBlasters train horn,” says Justus. “If we’re at a truck meet with all these lifted trucks and that sound comes from my car, it’s very funny.”
Justus and Burrell also installed an NEO Motorsport 14-inch brake kit with 6-piston calipers. The brakes are tucked behind 20-inch Rotiform™ wheels with brushed candy-red faces and gray outer hoops.
Riding on Air
The last step of the project was crucial for Justus’ plan to create a dual-purpose car. She and Burrell set up the suspension with Air Lift Performance®, featuring a powder-coated and color-matched pressure tank. “We decided to make it fast, make it fun and make it functional with the air ride,” says Burrell.
The suspension allows Justus to show the car with a low stance but also to raise it to a road-worthy height for comfortable and damage-free driving. “We need to be able to show it and drive it,” she says. “It’s nothing for us to hop in and drive 16 hours to a show.” Sometimes, she’ll bring home awards such as “Best Female Ride” or “Best Import Car” – then hop back in and drive 16 hours home. It’s not necessarily a rule, Justus says – but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
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