WRX

Prodrive’s Isle Of Man STI

The current (VA) STI has never really done it for me. A car that was cultivated after the relationship between Subaru and Toyota began and it appears too much of the latter seeped into its styling. AFTER /DRIVE described it as “corporate ugly” and I agree with them. The design-by-committee handbook has become the standard for Subaru’s entire lineup. If the new Toyota GT-86 (BRZ) and Impreza are any indicators, the future isn’t looking promising either.

The good news is we can always count on racing outfits and the performance market to show a car’s true potential. Prodrive is a name that’s become synonymous with Subaru and the two have teamed up to produce a car with one goal – set a new lap record at the Isle of Man.

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Road & Track were the first to show pictures of the car and it’s a stunning thing.

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Three parts WRC, GT and Time Attack, it shows the potential of the VA STI when the right people (Prodrive) get a hold of it.

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Driver Mark Higgins will attempt the lap record before this year’s Isle of Man TT. No performance figures have been released, but expect more details about the car in the coming months.

Now if Prodive could just put that aero kit into production, I may rethink my position on the VA STI.

Photos courtesy of James Gibson.

The S207 Is The Impreza We Need

Subaru have always had a knack for teasing foreign markets with limited production models. Since the days of the 22b and Spec C, the automotive industry has shifted towards making performance and exclusivity more accessible. With North America becoming Subaru’s largest sales market, the all new S207’s 400 unit production run makes little sense.

Set to hit the Japanese market on March 6 of next year, every unit will likely be sold within minutes and that’s kind of a shame. With a reported 328 horsepower and the very best off-the-shelf parts as standard, it’s the car the current STI should’ve been and the Impreza North America needs.

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The Impreza is a car that’s continued to gain weight and surface area since its inception. The current generation’s chunkier profile, designed by the most uncompromising of health and safety standards bares little resemblance to the World Rally Championship winning car that started the bloodline. With the addition of all new mesh wheels, a carbon front lip, rear diffuser and spoiler, the S207 wears its sportiness well.

Unlike S20X models of the past, the S207 will come with two different trim levels. 200 units will be available in standard trim while the remaining 200 will be sold with the NBR Challenge package (pictured above) and that’s the one you want.

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Why not make the NBR Challenge which includes the additional aero the only option?

Of the 200 NBR Challenge units, 100 will be painted Sunrise Yellow. Additional upgrades include everything you’ve come to expect from these models including fully adjustable suspension, upgraded ECU, turbocharger, 6-pot front brakes, exhaust and premium interior. The latter has always been a major selling point for these special edition Subaru models.

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A car with a racing pedigree, built for the backroads, at home on the track, turbocharged with 328 horsepower, AWD, a proper 6-speed manual and they’re building 400 units? It’s kind of a farce to be honest.

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Lets consider the price – the top of the line NBR Challenge model will run about $53000 and that’s not so bad considering your average BMW 435i costs about the same these days. The S207 is an enthusiast’s car and there’s little doubt if sold in North America it would be a massive hit even at that price.

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The sad reality is that a majority of the 400 will spend their lives tucked away in the garages and showrooms of Japanese car collectors. With STI putting their very best efforts on display, the S207 is a car that’s meant to be driven. Subaru are doing themselves a disservice by continuing to neglect the North American market when it comes to their special performance models. It’s a brand that unlike most, gained popularity through a rich and devoted enthusiast culture. Without petrolheads starting off in WRXs and eventually growing up into Foresters, Legacies, and STIs, Subaru wouldn’t be the fastest growing Japanese manufacturer in the market.

In a in more sheltered past it made sense for Japanese manufacturers to keep the very best for themselves. However in this growing global marketplace, making their very best accessible to the masses may be just what Japanese manufacturers need to be doing to regain relevance with consumers largely looking elsewhere.

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Photos courtesy of Subaru.

 

‘Fast & Furious’ Is To Thank

Furious 7 is out this weekend and it will likely be the last (good) entry in the Fast & Furious franchise.

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I’ve heard the departure of Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner is handled with particular care so it should be a fitting sendoff for the character and the actor. It seems with any film series, the longer it goes, the more nostalgic we all feel about its different entries. While I have my favorites and least favorites in the series, 2 Fast 2 Furious stands out in particular, not because of the film but because of what I encountered on my way into seeing it and how that has impacted everything since.

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I remember 2 Fast 2 Furious being a big deal because it was the sequel to a film many people considered a cult thing. Sure car people loved it, but the general masses had no interest in blow-off valves, nitrous or 10 second cars. The local movie theater was doing a special promotion for the film’s release and upon reaching the theater’s front doors, I was greeted by a silhouette which will be ingrained in my memory forever.

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I had only laid eyes on the Subaru Impreza WRX one other time before and it was at the Cincinnati Auto Show in 2001. The car hadn’t yet gone on sale in America but Subaru were beginning to take orders and promote the turbocharged, road going rally car. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat, steering wheel in my left hand, gear stick in my right, transfixed on the OEM boost gauge – an optional extra. I proudly told my dad I would have one and a year later I was once again greeted by the same World Rally Blue WRX headed into 2 Fast 2 Furious. The theater was raffling the car away to some lucky owner who has probably since ruined it, crashed it or both. I remember telling my friend Ben who is close friend to this day how much I wanted that car. Half an hour later as the Universal Pictures logo morphed into a gear stick to David Banner’s ‘Like A Pimp’, I was still thinking about the WRX outside.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Had I not seen 2 Fast 2 Furious at that theater on that night, I may have never cemented my love for the Subaru WRX. The Fast & Furious series is a generational benchmark. It’s shaped the way so many of us in our 20’s and 30’s think about cars and about action movies. The original is by far the most quoted movie in my social circle and amongst car enthusiasts everywhere. Say “I live my life a quarter mile at a time” or “no one likes the tuna here” and people are immediately in on the joke. Say what you will about the ridiculous plots or over the top characters, the Fast & Furious series is a commentary about how much cars can mean to people and how they can bring people together. Cars are where I found my closest friends and have been a constant source of happiness in my life.

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My love of cars has always been there but in so many ways it was the Fast & Furious series that made them a part of my life rather than an admiration from afar. 14 years later, I’ll be driving my WRX to see Furious 7.

Photos courtesy of Universal.

Nat’s GRB STI

The GRB is the most recent iteration of the STI that I actually like. The newer sedans just aren’t cutting it – not that you ever see them in the wild anyway. Has anyone actually seen a modified GVB driving down the street or at the local meet? The newer generation of STIs don’t seem to be getting the love from owners and one of the reasons could be a lack of decent parts from manufacturers. In recent years, the STI hasn’t really been a big hit with tuning shops in Japan. Most are still deferring to the Evo and many of done away with AWD sedans completely to focus on the 86 and GT-R. This lack of attention has left a hole in the aftermarket, add to it the fact that hatchbacks are a far more popular option in Japan and Europe (hence the GRB) and it really has been an uphill battle for new generation of STI sedans.

Luckily this problem is much less so for the model’s hatchback counterpart and the GRB remains the best looking of the new generation of STIs. My friend Nat’s car is definitely no exception.

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I love the car’s simplicity and the way it appeals to people who know, while remaining fairly anonymous to everyone else.

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Nat’s EQ tuned STI is putting out over 300whp on E85 with stock internals, turbo and drivetrain. The perfect setup for a daily driver.

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What really sets his car apart for me are the beautiful matte black Volk CE28Ns. While the wheels are certainly aggressive, it’s the tires that really finish off the looks, especially in person.

To drive, it’s a great street car. A bit of understeer in the corners (most Subarus are) and extremely responsive at the exit. Compared to my WRX with a VF34 and FMIC, there’s virtually no lag and excellent midrange torque. I can’t wait to drive it again with the new E85 tune.

Nat claims to be done with this build. I doubt it.

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.

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.

 

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.