GDB

The Journey, Not The Destination

It’s not about the destination, but the journey we take to get there. No truer words could be said about Chris Fontecchio’s 2006 WRX Limited.

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Something has been happening the last few years in the Subaru community. What was once bought solely for a lack of other options has now taken on a legendary status amongst Impreza owners. The GDA was the first iteration of the WRX to be sold in America and for many, the car’s love-hate looks were a point of heated debate. Now however, the car has aged like a fine wine and the bugeye has become one of the most sought after Imprezas. As newer models have gotten chunkier and more cumbersome, the aggressive rally styling of the GDA has put it in the discussion of becoming a future classic. The thought of owning a bugeye is easy enough, but finding one that hasn’t been used and abused is another matter entirely.

What if you didn’t need to find one though, what if you just built your own? That’s exactly what Chris set out to do.

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What started life as a daily driven 2006 WRX Limited has become a track car in the making and the passion project of an owner who does things the old school way. By day, Chris is an engine tech and he’s put all of his knowledge and skill to use building the car himself.

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It’s hard work and the drive to produce a truly unique Impreza that has seen Chris’ car with 2 engine builds and a complete JDM bugeye front end conversion.

What we have here could be the ideal GD Impreza – bugeye looks with an updated interior and all the benefits of a built (2006) STI EJ257.

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Under the hood lies an EFI Logics tuned EJ257 short block with 255 heads and 257 cams. A Garrett GTX3076R aids the car in achieving 341 whp and 326 tq at 19 psi.

The attention to detail on Chris’ Impreza is truly stunning and the selection of parts even more so. It’s a conversation we’ve had time and time again on ACLASS and in this age of knockoffs, taking the time to source the real deal deserves proper admiration.

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For now the interior remains fully intact with some upgrades including a very plush Prova alcantara steering wheel which Chris calls the best mod, hands down. The alcantara trimmed, full interior may eventually give way to a roll cage as the car takes on more track day duties.

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As nice as the interior is, it’s the exterior that really sets off this Impreza’s looks. The car has been repainted with 3 coats of European WRB for a shine that’s a slightly darker than standard. To protect the new paint job, Chris has had 70% of the exterior wrapped in clear bra to prevent rock chips. Up front an STI V2 front lip has been custom molded to be seamless, while JDM side spats round off the new look. At the back, a Do-Luck carbon trunk adds subtle sportiness.

It’s the kind of exterior I love because it’s a car that truly appeals to enthusiasts. To the untrained eye, Chris’ Impreza could be just another sports sedan, but to those who know, the car is full of details waiting to be discovered.

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So where does the journey go from here? It continues forever of course. Chris will never sell the car and probably never finish it. The exterior is on pause for now while he focuses on power and handling. Despite it’s flawless condition, this is a car that gets used both on the street and at the track.

I’m always going on about the complete build – a car that perfectly blends looks with performance because one cannot exist without the other. Chris continues to succeed with this in a way few other Subaru owners are. This is a project both old and new Subaru owners can be excited about for many years to come because like wine, it will only keep getting better with age.

A big thank you to Chris Fontecchio for reaching out over Instagram and sharing his car with me! Check out the comments section for the full parts list.

Photos courtesy of Serg Rangel.

jal723’s ZERO/SPORTS Impreza

Last year I featured an S203 owned by NASIOC member jal723. I had also mentioned that he previously owned a particularly nice GDB kitted in some very rare ZERO/SPORTS aero. Well here it is.

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ZERO/SPORTS are probably best known for their striking aero kit designed for the hawkeye Impreza. A kit that was widely seen on their time attack car in the mid-2000s. However the brand has a long history of aero and performance modifications that date back to the GC and this particular look is one of my all time favorites. When paired with a retrofitted STI V-Limited lip, the ZERO/SPORTS front bumper takes on a whole new character.

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When compared to the likes of Varis and Voltex, ZERO/SPORTS comes off a little tame, which wouldn’t be something we said 10 years ago. Times change however and this aero has only gotten better with age. Looks are very important, but ZERO/SPORTS have always been very concerned with functionality. That gaping front opening is ideal for the largest of intercoolers and the brake ducts provide a constant stream of fresh, cool air for maximum performance. While these aren’t typical needs of your average street car, it’s nice to know your modifications are up to the challenge if and when it comes.

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The rear of the STI is significantly more tame with some OEM side spats and a very rare Genome exhaust. Tasteful execution is found all throughout the build. Even the Prodrive GC-010E wheels are a unique choice that perfectly accompanies the aero and WRB finish.

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Nowadays buzz words like “fitment” and “stance” are held in higher regard that a properly finished exterior which makes cars like jal723’s old STI even more special.

Sadly the car has long been sold, but he’s upgraded to something even more interesting with the S203.

Photos courtesy of jal723.

 

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.

Subarus Of Instagram

My apologies for the lack of updates lately. It’s been a very busy few weeks at work, but as things settle down and the Formula 1 season gets underway, I should have a lot of new topics to discuss. Blogs seem to have taken a backseat to Instagram lately and there are certainly lots of great cars to be found on there. Here a couple Subarus I’ve been meaning to post for a while.

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@twelveam’s GDB sporting an all-black theme. I believe the car has gotten some wide fenders installed on the front since this photo was taken. Definitely one of the better looking Bay Area Subarus.

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@ih8vermont’s GDB with a bugeye front end swap and some aggressive NT03s.

Hit me up on Instagram @aclass which has been getting a lot more updates than the blog and as usual, thanks for the support!

Photos courtesy of twelveam, ih8vermont & 247 Media.

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.

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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alcoolaid’s 2007 STi

It’s impossible not to be impressed by alcoolaid’s 2007 STi. It’s another build I’ve been following for a number and years and like so many Subarus on A Class, this car has seen quite an evolution.

For most the experience of modifying a street car can be plenty rewarding. However making the jump to building a track car is another level entirely. It’s a point when every detail truly comes into consideration, with function being of the upmost importance. Luckily what’s functional can also be beautiful and this STi is no exception.

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To summarize this build into a few short sentences would be doing the car and its owner a disservice. If you’re interested in everything that’s gone into alcoolaid’s STi, be sure to check out his build thread.

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There’s also a YouTube channel with plenty of videos of the car in action both on the street and at the track.

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A special thanks to Matt Kwok, an automotive photographer based in Canada. I’ve featured his work with Subarus a number of times over the years and he’s certainly got a great eye for photography. Matt takes pictures of all kinds of cars, so make sure to check out his website.

While this STi looks fantastic, the best part about this car is the fact that it gets driven! I know so many car guys who build amazing creations, only to leave them in the protected confines of their garages. Cars like these are most definitely meant to be enjoyed.

Photos courtesy of Matt Kwok.