While most Formula 1 drivers are enjoying a holiday over their off-season, Kiwi star Liam Lawson has been busy transforming an aging Subaru Forester into a very unique car that he’s donated for a charity auction.
The Oracle Red Bull Racing official Reserve driver became well known in car circles internationally last year and a YouTube hit after he built himself a very unique Toyota Supra at his home base in the UK. Now he’s put his magic into a Forester while back home in New Zealand and gifted the vehicle to raise money for the I AM HOPE foundation.
Ironically, this will go to auction as the first car Lawson has ever owned and registered in New Zealand and could well catch the eye of a collector.
Lawson says the original idea was to buy a couple of cars with his friends and use them for fun challenges, ‘Top Gear’ style, and film these for Liam’s own recently launched YouTube channel. But after inspecting the Subaru Forester they realised the car was in such good condition they decided instead to turn it into something “really cool.”
And so, for the past six weeks, Liam and his sidekick Matt Stevens have been transforming the 2000 Subaru with 234,000kms on the clock into something very special. Now completed, the pair offered it for a charity car auction, with proceeds going to the I AM HOPE.
“We wanted to really push the project and make the car as cool as we can and then auction it for I AM HOPE, which a lot of people have a connection to, or have some experience with, myself included,” said Lawson.
“Mike King and his organisation do a fantastic job spreading their messages and support into schools and communities, and I’m 100 per cent behind them. I’m very pleased we could not only support I AM HOPE but continue to raise awareness with a project like this.”
The project also turned out to be bigger than they thought, with plenty of challenges along the way in transforming an older car into a performance machine.
“These kinds of projects are never as easy as when you set out, but it’s been a cool project, and it’s definitely come further than we expected it to. We initially only planned on doing a few little things, but in the end, a lot of people have come on board to make it a really cool project.
“I can even say with confidence that we haven’t done this on a low-end scale; everything is a high performance, high-quality parts that have gone into this car.”
The mods to the Subaru tally into the tens of thousands of dollars in value, and Lawson was delighted when one of his longtime racing sponsors, Porter Group, decided to join him as his I AM HOPE partner to really make this project car into something special. The car is truly ‘one of a kind.’
“The Porter Group has been supporting me since I was very young and started racing internationally and for them to now further help us with more of a personal project, not related to my racing but a great cause like this is quite special,” added Lawson.
“We’ve gone in deep on this car, so to have Porter’s support is a massive relief.”
The Porter Group were more than happy to help out with the project car, which Robin Porter, Director of Porter Group, says is supporting a very worthy cause.
“We are pleased to be involved in such a special charity which benefits so many Kiwis and their families. Kudos to Liam for this unique initiative,” said Porter. “And the Porter Group wish him all the best for his very promising future ahead.”
Lawson and Stevens wanted the Subaru to be unique with their build different to what other people have done with their Foresters.
For the car buffs, among the list of makeover improvements are adjustable coilover suspension, new Whiteline sway bars and strut brace, new exhaust system, turbo, a standalone ECU from Link ECU, intercooler, clutch, new wheels and tyres from BGW, the car has been completely wrapped in a gun-metal grey and given a complete replacement engine makeover by Possum Bourne Motorsport with it now producing 300hp.
Lawson says the biggest disappointment is now that it’s complete he won’t get to drive it.
“Technically, it’s the first car I’ve owned and registered in New Zealand, and now it’s done, I really enjoy driving it, and I don’t want to sell it! “
“The one thing I’ve learnt with car modifying is there’s always more to do. What started with a few mods at the beginning just grew as we’ve continued to come up with new ideas to make it even better. I have a similar process going with my Supra in the UK as well, you just get hooked and want to continue to keep doing stuff and that’s what’s ended up happening with the Forester. I want to make it as cool as possible for when we let it go.”
And when the car goes to auction the bidding will start with a gold coin. Lawson explains. “We’ve set the reserve at $1 – it’s a bit risky, but we’re hoping to create lots of interest and raise plenty for I AM HOPE.”
The car will be sold in an online auction through Turners Cars, another of Liam’s longtime sponsors. The auction will be dual listed on Turners and TradeMe and will run from Saturday, 17th February, and close on 24th February. Interested viewers will be able to both view and bid on either turners.co.nz or trademe.co.nz. The car itself will be available for people to come and see at Turners’ Otahuhu Branch in Auckland.
When Lawson offered the car to I AM HOPE, founder Mike King didn’t quite believe it and asked whether this was from the real Liam Lawson or Liam Lawson from Linwood.
“Liam’s decision to sup-up a car with his mate for auction in support of I AM HOPE truly reflects his character and compassion as a young man. We’re incredibly thankful for Liam’s dedication, generosity, and the resources he’s invested in this project to help our kids in need.
“Mental health struggles touch all of us at some stage in life, whether it’s ourselves or through our friends and family, and it’s inspiring to witness someone like Liam, who is looked up to by many, stepping up to make a difference and offer hope to others,” said King.
Lawson leaves the country early next week to prepare for the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season. He has already been away in Italy testing in between building the I AM HOPE Subaru Forester.