JDM

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.

Pleasure Racing Service GRB Impreza

Pleasure Racing Service may not be one of the most well known Japanese tuning shops, but they’re certainly one of the most impressive. Where so many shops have shifted their focus towards marketability and the industry’s latest hype, PRS have stuck to their roots and remain heavily involved in motor sports. From time attack to rallying, they cater to the group of enthusiasts more interested in driving their cars than looking at them. It’s one of the reasons why this shop maintains a successful business while so many of their competitors have faded into obscurity.

With footholds in the Impreza and Evo markets, PRS has more recently experienced success in the BRZ market. The shop’s exceedingly large lineup of demo cars is fronted by their GRB Impreza.

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While the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, I never was an INGS fan myself, you can be sure this car lays it down on the track.

With an over saturation of ridiculous aero kits and an all show, no go mantra flooding the industry, there’s something to be said for proper driver’s cars standing their ground.

Photo courtesy of PRS.

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.

 

I Still Prefer The IX

It feels like the Evo X has been around longer than any iteration of any car ever. It’s definitely grown on me over the years, especially with all of the great things Ryan Gates has been doing with the 311RS project. However, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to cars and in most cases, new doesn’t mean better. The Evo IX will always been one of those historically great looking Japanese sedans, especially when it’s wearing Voltex aero and built by Import Racing.

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Photo courtesy of Alok Paleri, Import Racing & Speedhunters.

Bozz Speed Nostalgia

A little bit of a flashback today with the Bozz Speed Impreza at Tokyo Auto Salon.

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It’s been over 10 years since this car drove Tsukuba Circuit for the first time – it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.

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The Bozz Speed GD comes from an era where most tuning shops were still learning and experimenting with aerodynamics. Most of today’s time attack cars look to be perfectly suited for FIA GT racing and DTM, but not so long ago crazy aero was far less common. The custom front splitter on this car was pretty extreme for the time – it also looked great.

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Originally based on an STi Spec C, it became more extreme in both performance and looks throughout its evolution. The iteration pictured here sported a Varis rear wing and diffuser.

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic for Japanese demo cars of the last 15 years. In many ways they were my entry point into motor sports and would eventually lead me to Formula 1 and sports car racing. The reason Japanese demo cars are so appealing is because they’re the perfect blend of grassroots motoring and new technology. Despite the enormous development costs in terms of performance and aero, they still feel attainable and unlike most other race cars, something you could actually own.

Like so many of its counterparts, the Bozz Speed Impreza is a definite classic.

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.

Kansai Service GVB

It will probably be a few more months before we start seeing the aftermarket’s interpretation of the 2015 STI. In the meantime, the Kansai Service GVB STI.

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I’m a big fan of the Advan RSIIs and the Impreza wears them very well. Kansai Service has always had a soft spot for Subaru and they’re one of the few tuning outlets still giving the Impreza some much needed attention. They’re also responsible for producing one of the best and certainly most popular rear diffusers for the GD chassis.

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A Voltex GT wing replaces the standard STI wing and definitely improves the looks of the car. I’ve always felt the GVB’s rear was too chunky and tall. The GT wing helps to give it a bit more contrast compared to the standard.

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The front lip is Kansai Service’s own design and is a nice alternative to the more popular V-Limited lip. You’ll also notice the not so exciting Seibon decal in the top right and there’s an interesting theory about that…

I’m sure many of you have become aware of Seibon’s presence on Kansai Service builds over the last few years. Apparently this boils down to the hierarchy of power in the Japanese tuning industry. Rays Engineering and Option basically run the show in Japan and Rays’ collaboration with Seibon a few years back is presumed to be the cause of more of their products popping up on Japanese demo cars. Small tuning outfits rely heavily on their exposure through Option (who has a tight relationship with Rays) and as a sign of good faith, they like to ruffle feathers as little as possible with the top brass. I would in no way claim this as fact, but it’s a theory that’s been floating around for a few years and it all seems a little too convenient to not have elements of truth. The Japanese are obsessed with quality and innovation, neither of which are things that Seibon represents, so it would be odd for respected Japanese tuning shop use their products without some kind of ulterior motive.

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Performance-wise the Kansai Service STI features the usual combination of intake and exhaust upgrades from HKS and one of the shop’s own carbon air boxes – a nice piece of kit.

Sstay tuned for more frequent Subaru and Japanese car-related mischief.

Photos courtesy of Yokohama.

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.