On the outskirts of Chicago, in a large brick building, is a company most people have never heard of. The small white sign above the main entrance details their name utilizing just two letters separated by an ampersand and the name of their passion. Inconspicuous to the unknowing, this building is home to numerous power builds using the Subaru platform. Since 2001, P&L Motorsports has been ardently making sure the Subaru community gets the products they need to keep improving. I was honored to not only visit the shop but receive a full tour of the facilities.
A large white trailer with the P&L banner plastered to its side is blocking the main parking spots, so I find myself parking near the side of the building. The warm showroom is welcome as outside temperatures are beginning to drop. The walls are coated with aftermarket parts suspended from a wire rack. Pictures of shop race cars and framed full length articles decorate the upper walls from the likes of Super Street Online, Modified, and Import Tuner. The central attraction is the built boxer motor that draws your attention to the prowess of power. Four gold Brian Crower camshaft gears point directly at you. The P&L exhaust manifold swiftly wraps around the sump. Port matched TGV deletes mate with a Process West intake manifold. A K&N filter extends past the intake piping from the Garrett turbo. It’s difficult to steer my eyes from the workmanship on the motor.
Owner Paul Szuba is friendly and calls Josh Lindner from the back to give me a tour. Lindner comes forward and we begin to talk. His knowledge on the products, the operation and the Subaru market is superb. He leads me from the showroom back to the work area. The open air facility is apparently only sectioned off by the collage of world rally blue Subarus blended with royal blue Bendpak 4 post lifts.
As any car enthusiast would be, I’m immediately drawn to the Subaru powered Saker sports car. Its battleship grey, white and red paint job is dwarfed by the full size Impreza STI lurking behind with matching grey paint. The STI is far from incognito with 26” Mickey Thompson slicks poking out from each wheel arch, a large bumper exit exhaust and drag race aero dams ensuring zero lift. Opening the hood reveals a catalog assortment of P&L research and development. This last year the car clicked off an 8.3 at 165mph through a manual transmission. The last car in the line-up is cloaked with a dusty cover, its silhouette slightly confusing as the rear body lines drop down and then levels off after the trunk lid. Lindner peels back the grimy cover and the original P&L drag car is revealed. Its blue paint with yellow logos identifies it as the one from the showroom. The rear drag wing shields the parachute mount from above. I’m told the car ran an 8.3 in 2003, nearly 15 years ago.
We make our way to the Rottler and HAAS industrial machinery where stacks of freshly made CNC parts are sitting. A pallet of polished Tumble Generator Valve (TGV) deletes deflects from the shop’s light rays directly towards us. On a mobile shelf sits egg crates full of block-off plates. One tier down, a set of Wilwood calipers and rotors are combined with P&L brackets for a lightweight front brake option. The lightweight brake option shaves nearly 40 pounds from the car. Sitting nearby a bare engine block sits on a stand as a test dummy for new products, including 3D printed fuel rails for test fitment testing before being cut on the 4 axis. On display is the newest release, a two piece TGV delete for the 2015+ Subaru’s machined for Injector Dynamic injectors.
After the flood gates of my questions regarding design, production and improvement are answered, we allow the machinist to get back to work. A walking corridor towards the dyno room is created between shop vehicles and a wall of moribund stock engine blocks that met their demise at the fault of weak factory rods. We enter the glass-encased dyno room. The cinderblock walls are painted in the traditional P&L motorsports tricolor livery. The exhaust fumes still remain stagnant in the air from previous pulls. A female owned BRZ is strapped to the DynoJet all-wheel drive dyno. The engine bay open displays a turbo nestled directly in front of the motor. Unlike most builds, the P&L turbo kit routes the intake and cold side piping away from the downpipe avoiding heat soak. This car doubles as a test bed for P&L on the latest boxer platform and as a street and track driver.
We venture towards the front of my building when my peripheral vision is blinded. The flash of light comes from one of the two welding stations situated against the wall. My vision caught in a state of positive phototaxis is attracted towards the pupil searing light. I try to avoid direct eye contact with the fused metals as we navigate me towards their stations. One station is covered with 1” square tubing jigs that allow precise duplication of exhaust manifolds to be produced. This one in particular is labeled BRZ/FRS and is in the starting stages of a rollercoaster of piping. Station two is lined with Garret intercooler cores as the end tanks are being assembled. A stringer bead is laid on the outer edge of the precut plates. On either side of the fabricator’s work station is a cloaked off room. One room acts as the clean room for drivetrain assembly. The other room allows for the dirty work of tear downs to be performed.
P&L is not the quote unquote one stop shop. They are more than that. They are the pioneers in a field that has all but been forgotten by the industry. They are one of the few shops that continue to push the limits of the Subaru drivetrain and chassis. P&L strives to design, test and produce parts that far out meet the customer’s goals. Their family mentality has allowed them to not just keep up with others, but to set the curve.
Literature and Photography: James Elkins
Edited: Kate Callard