GC8

An Ode To The Original

Once Jalopnik does one of their “buy this now” posts, it’s already too late. Earlier this year, it was classic 911s, then the E46 M3 and most recently the original Impreza GC.

It’s becoming ever more difficult to find an Impreza 2.5 RS in good shape. Most have been poorly modified, abused or a combination of the two. While most GC owners opt for more aggressive, WRC and track day looks, t3hWIT has gone a different route by channeling the original WRX STI RA.

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It’s a brilliant take on a classic and in many owner’s opinions, the true embodiment of the Impreza.

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A nod to Colin McRae on the rear wing.

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th3WIT’s car helps to explain why the Impreza is so unique. Unlike most other performance cars, the are 2 very distinctive camps in which it resides – rally and track. Having had great success in both arenas, Subaru owners have had a difficult decision when they arrive at the fork in the road of which route to take with their builds. Many GC owners in particular go the rally path. It’s what makes the Subaru community so unique in the way that one car is able to adopt so many different personalities. Go to any Subaru meet and you’re likely to find lifted off-road ready WRXs sharing the same space as their slammed, tucked, and caged counterparts.

However this particular car incapsulates something a bit different – heritage. There are no front lips, fancy forged wheels, wide fenders or aftermarket trim pieces, it’s just an honest representation of the best Subaru OEM had to offer at the time. As the GC continues to get older, the word classic will start getting thrown around more. These are the kind of builds that people will be gravitating towards at their local Saturday morning coffee meets.

Photos courtesy of th3WIT.

ZERO/SPORTS Legends

Things at ZERO/SPORTS are alive and well, which isn’t something I thought I’d be saying a few years ago.

The brand has carved out a nice piece of the 86/BRZ market and it’s helped keep their shop and retail operation very active lately. That being said, they haven’t forgotten their roots. Some of the shop’s most well known track monsters were proudly on display at a recent open house.

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Generations past and present. In the foreground, one of the company’s most recent Impreza demo cars sporting a more conservative street setup. Their GRB front bumper didn’t really do it for me at first, but as the Japanese tuning industry takes things to the extreme, it looks subtle and very clean by comparison.

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Further down, a couple of Tsukuba Super Battle veterans including the very reclusive BTZ007R2 GC. It’s astonishing just how well these cars have aged over the years. Both the GC and their more well known GD time attack racer would look right at home laying down lap times in 2014.

According to the ZERO/SPORTS website, aero kits for all 3 generations are still in production. That’s great news for the rare Subaru owner looking do something completely different.

Is it too soon to be referring to these 3 as classics? I certainly don’t think so.

Photos courtesy of ZERO/SPORTS.

Renner Motorsport GC Impreza

The GC from Renner Motorsport has to be one of the best looking (and performing) in North America. I know very little about this particular car, so please feel free to elaborate in the comments if you’re familiar with it.

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The 22B widebody kit should’ve come standard on all STi’s of the day. It looks stunning paired with a set of gold Advan RS.

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The YimiSport tuned GC has a full STi drivetrain swap, built motor and Renner Motorsport rotated turbo kit. The setup is putting down 501 whp at 25 psi – fantastic.

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I love a car this well built that gets driven in the real world as well as on the track.

Photos courtesy of subaroket & Renner Motorsport.

Identity Crisis: The Subaru Impreza

The current GVB STI really isn’t a good looking car. When it was first revealed I thought, “give it some time and it will age well”. It hasn’t. In fact it will probably be remembered as one of the least memorable Subarus ever and judging by the 2015 WRX, it’s only going to get worse.

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I email back and forth with my buddy Earl a lot and we often discuss the current state of Subaru, where the brand has been and where it’s headed. Not too long ago he sent me this article from The Truth About Cars. It primarily discusses the way automotive manufacturers are continually using less interesting power plants in their cars and the way competing brands are offering more similar products. One of the article’s more interesting points discusses the way manufacturers are using their brand’s heritage to sell cars and how that will become more important as time goes on.

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Take Subaru for example. They haven’t really raced in years. After pulling out of the WRC in 2008, the Impreza doesn’t have the motor sports tie-in it once did. As a result, Subaru have shifted the car’s focus and rather than building a road-going rally car, they’ve designed the Impreza to be more comfortable and more “luxurious” to compete with the Europeans. The change in direction can’t solely be blamed for its weight gain and stubborn styling. Heightened crash and pedestrian safety regulations are also a major factor. The interesting thing to consider is that the Europeans have to deal with the same kinds of regulations, but they’ve still managed to produce very good looking cars. In fact, 2014 is set to be a stellar year for European car design – the BMW M3, Alfa Romeo 4C, Volkswagen Golf GTI and the absolutely stunning Jaguar F-Type Coupe to name a few. There’s also a new golden age of hyper cars emerging with LaFerrari, McLaren’s P1, the Porsche 918 Spyder and anything Pagani are building at the moment. Consider that and Subaru, who had their best sales year in 2013 are sort of missing the mark.

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But wait, what about the WRX Concept you say? Well that was indeed a very good looking car and shows what Subaru are capable of building, but for whatever reason they’ve decided that the upcoming WRX is good enough. This harks back to the idea of manufactures selling heritage. As a consumer, when you buy the 2015 WRX, you’re buying over 20 years of rallying history and you’re buying a car that was “inspired” by the WRX Concept. In the eyes of the manufacturer it becomes more about everything tied to the car, rather than the car itself.

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You may remember when Subaru first debuted the 2015 WRX, they began producing special videos about past iterations of the Impreza, including the 22B. These were not only intended to showcase some truly great moments in the brand’s history, but to assure the consumer, “yes, this is where we came from and this is what you’re buying into”. While it’s nice in theory, the whole idea falls flat and instead leaves us wishing we could somehow buy a 22B, rather than the current, boring and frankly ugly new WRX.

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Rather than stepping back and recognizing the 22B as their peak, Subaru should be striving to outdo it. Since the WRX has become so similar to the STI, why not make the latter even more outlandish? As of 2015 all you’ll really be getting from buying an STI over the WRX are some big brakes, more aggressive bumpers and lots of badges. Subaru should give it the premium quality and performance it’s price tag warrants. Instead of doing a limited production, JDM-only tS Type RA, make that the standard STI! If they’re trying to emulate the 22B, why not make the new car a coupe, give it more horsepower and then it can truly compete with the M, AMG and S models of the world.

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The Impreza lineup has become complacent and it’s all for the simple fact that it has no competition. Not only is the Mitsubishi Evo extinct, but the brand itself may be in a few years time. The Impreza occupies a place in the Japanese market where it has no competition, so why would Subaru feel the need to actually put that WRX Concept into production? They’re doing just enough to keep enthusiasts on the hook and nothing more. I just hope we don’t see the STIs of the future suffer the same fate as their Mitsubishi counterparts.

Two Sides Of The Subaru Coin

This week’s episode of /TUNED was pretty interesting and did a great job of showing the two very distinctive halves of the Subaru community.

First, there’s the Slammed Society GC8 complete with ruined fenders and Rota wheels because that’s what all HellaFlush Subarus rock. Props to the owner for doing a clean EJ25 swap, which is rendered useless because the car is bordering on undrivable. This car is pretty representative of where the Subaru community has been headed for the last 3 years.

On the other side of the spectrum, the second car is much more my speed and apparently Matt Farrah’s as well. The owner gets bonus points for the JDM EJ207 swap and seems to have an eye for quality parts – I didn’t know the Tomei made an exhaust for the GC8. This car is more along the lines of what many of us would hope to do with a GC8 build. The instant power and tuned suspension take full advantage of the car’s compact size.

This is why videos are fantastic because they tell the story you’re not seeing in photos. Perhaps the stance car looks more interesting in the NASIOC gallery, but which car do you think will put the bigger smile on your face behind the wheel? My thoughts exactly.

Video courtesy of /DRIVE.

ZERO/SPORTS Anniversary Festival

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that we were watching the demise of ZERO/SPORTS. Back in 2011 the company filed for Chapter 11 – a time when it was the thing to do if you were part of the Japanese tuning industry. After some modest Tokyo Auto Salon appearances, the company appears to have found new life with the Subaru BRZ. Back in April, ZERO/SPORTS hosted a special Anniversary Festival at the company’s tuning facilities.

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Apart from the usual festivities which included food vendors and dyno pulls for customers, 3 generations of the brand’s famed demo cars made appearances.

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As you’re likely to find with most of Japan’s larger automotive brands, ZERO/SPORTS has an impressive retail, tuning and maintenance facility called ZEROMAX. The space allows customers to get a closer look at the company’s products and meet with consultants to discuss the various tuning options available.

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Out back, customers were invited to put their cars on the dyno.

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ZERO/SPORTS has always been known for their work with the Subaru Impreza. At one point they had the most dominant STi around Tsukuba Circuit. Today the brand’s attention has shifted towards a more street-tuned approach with their latest project the CZS Impreza.

While the CZS Type ZERO aero adds a certain elegance to the current crop of Imprezas, the brand will always be most famous for their GDB Time Attack car.

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Also on hand, the BTZ007R2 GC8 demo car.

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They just don’t make them like this anymore.

In recent years the future of Japanese tuning has looked at times bleak. However it’s great to see brands like ZERO/SPORTS carrying on. With their impressive retail and tuning facility ZEROMAX and a firm grip on the BRZ market, bankruptcy is hopefully a thing of the past.

Photos courtesy of ZERO/SPORTS.

Days Gone By

I communicate pretty regularly with a number of veteran Subaru owners – guys who have been in the game for upwards of a decade. One thing we all seem to agree on is that the community is dead. It’s a harsh statement but one that’s undeniably true. I base my views primarily on the parts market or lack thereof. It’s become harder than ever to buy new parts for the various iterations of the Impreza, especially the GC and GD. If you’re trying to do the JDM thing, good luck.

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As more Japanese companies pull out of the US, it’s a grim reminder that people have moved into other cars or out of the community entirely. The BRZ was a nice blip on the radar, especially for those seeking more aggressive wheel options for the unrelenting 5×100 bolt pattern. However the BRZ has in no way captured the market or the interests of Subaru aficionados, quite the same way the FR-S has.

The Impreza has become dated and with Subaru out of the WRC, it’s tuned variants are becoming increasingly irrelevant in this new era of paddle-shifters and energy recovery systems. Someday we can only hope that the Impreza will share a similar affinity to classics like the Hakosuka and S30 Z. In the meantime, I only see the car’s popularity dwindling.

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It’s a grim outlook, but in many ways an optimistic one because I still love my WRX as much as I did the day I got it in 2005. It’s a car that’s gotten so far under my skin that I may never be able to part ways with it. In the meantime there are still exciting Imprezas out there – granted their harder to find, but they still exist. There’s also the exciting news of the WRX Concept and Subaru’s desire to continually produce AWD rally-inspired cars. Maybe someday we’ll see a return to the Impreza’s former glory in the WRC. For now we hold onto the memories.

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