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Heavy Metal Affliction-Rumble Wagon

John Schommer
Thursday, August 29, 2013

“My goal with this car has always been to make it the epitome of a clean and well put together street car. I’ve always kept performance in mind with everything I’ve done, despite the stance. So it’s also set up for spirited driving and performs beautifully on the track.”


It is my pleasure to introduce you to “Rumble Wagon”, and its owner Katie Smith of Bothell, WA. This 2004 Subaru WRX wagon has seen its time as a pepped-up daily driver, before undergoing a transformation into a killer street car. Now it is just as capable of turning judge’s heads at car shows as it is slicing its way through the turns of autocross events.


Over the last three years, “Rumble Wagon” has won nine awards—including Best of Show—and has become a prominent fixture in the Pacific Northwest car scene. Recently, the car and its owners were selected to participate in the IMSCC (Import Meet Street Car Competition), a competition among ten hand-picked Northwest street cars. The cars were evaluated in several categories including dyno, drag, autocross, and show. “Rumble Wagon” took fourth after the final round of the event. Not bad when you consider the competition: a Nissan GTR, a 700-hp Supra, an LS1 swapped RX-7, and several other unique, high horsepower, highly-modified rides. Check out the IMSCC Facebook page for the full list of competitors and details of the event.


Don’t let the stance fool you; this is a variable ride height suspension on coil-overs with an aluminum air-chamber above the spring, also known as a cup kit and on the track it is all business. “Rumble Wagon” wins the hearts of fans and judges not only for its clean presentation, but for its perfect balance between function and form. Nearly all the work including research, planning and the actual build—save for a couple of dyno pulls and alignments—has been done by the Smiths.


Ryan and Katie share an obsession for cars. While Katie spends all of her allotted funds on “Rumble Wagon,” Ryan has several projects and is a tool freak as well. Their home garage is well-equipped, including a lift and tire-changing machine. No, the Smiths aren’t some rich corporate couple, they are hard-working middle-classers like most of us. Katie works in HR and Ryan is in concrete construction.



Katie has always been a gearhead and is a member of a local ladies only car club—the Import Chicks. Her dad was a mechanic and her mom was into motorcycles. Of her car obsessions origins, Katie says, “I think things with wheels just always were in my life, and as I got older, the interest grew. Once I met my husband, who is heavily into modifying cars and anything that goes fast, my obsession grew even more.” The couple met on a 4X4 trail years ago when Katie was driving a Ford Explorer with a six-inch lift and 37-inch tires. Their mutual love of cars makes for a beautiful bond that is evident when you are in their company. It also makes for a rare partnership that shares similar tastes in modifications and, as Katy states, “We take great pride in doing everything ourselves and learning.”


The results of their hard work and well-researched mod choices have led to more than awards and recognition. Partnerships with IAG Performance and Whiteline-Engineered Performance Suspension began this year and have helped Katie get started in autocross. So far, she has competed in nine events—placing in several in the novice class--with three more to go. Every weekend, “Rumble Wagon” and the Smiths are at a car show or autocross event, sometimes both in the same day.


This is “Rumble Wagon” and Katie in their introduction video for the IMSCC.



Here are couple other YouTube videos of Katie competing in autocross. In-car and from the sidelines.


“Rumble Wagon” could be classified as a stage-three street car due to its larger turbo and intercooler, bigger injectors, re-flashed ECU, highly-tuned suspension, big brakes, and an extensive list of other modifications. Is the car finished? No way; in the off-season this year the Smiths have plans to further upgrade the engine. The goal is not to be an extreme HP build, but to achieve around 400 WHP. Katie sums up the plan like this: “The build will be centered around making boost faster with a slightly larger, ball-bearing turbo. A quick-spooling car is a fun car.” Retaining the reliability and drivability are also primary to any engine mods and, as Katie reminded me, “Even now it has very usable power and is a blast to drive.” Current horsepower is around 300, depending on the dyno used. They have gotten readings as low as 279 and as high as 340.


The Smiths shared a memory that exemplifies the kind of across-the-board respect “Rumble Wagon” receives:


Rolling along a two-lane highway one day, an older guy in a classic Dodge Charger pulled alongside and kept looking over. Ryan told Katie, “Get ready to downshift, this guy is going to hit it.” Ryan read the other driver and told Katie to “drop a gear and punch it.” The Charger had a bit of a jump on them, but quickly Rumble’s turbo spooled up, they pulled past the Charger, and he was unable to catch them until the next stoplight. Here, the older muscle car driver yelled “Damn, what do you have under the hood?” Ryan smiled and said, “Just a flat-four with a turbo.” The Charger owner gave them two-thumbs up and they exchanged smiles. As Katie remembers, “it was pretty cool to get appreciation from another type of crowd.”


Now check out the HMA spec sheet, it’s definitely the longest-ever for a street car.



Now check out how all those mods translate in this gallery.



Photo credits to Patrick McGehee, Media Artist from the Turn 10 Cinematics team.


If you want to see more pictures of Rumble Wagon, check out the flickr album.


Your comments about “Rumble Wagon” are appreciated in the HMA thread. Unicorns will be given to those who “like” the story and share it in their Facebook news feed. Tell me you did so in your thread comments (and don’t lie, I’ll know).


You can also like “Rumble Wagon” on his own Facebook page to keep up with the ongoing updates, pictures and videos.


If you know someone with a sweet ride and an obsession with cars—maybe it’s you—post about your car in the request for community rides thread. Maybe you will get your chance in the Heavy Metal Affliction spotlight.