Many brands have a way of evoking different memories or feelings when you hear their name. When I hear the name Subaru the only thing that leaps forward in my mind is rallying. Forgive me for getting all nostalgic, but the Impreza WRX STI in question here is a real slice of rallying history.
It may have been toward the tail-end of Subaru’s official WRC involvement as just four years after this car was built, Subaru decided that they had proved themselves enough on the World Rally stage and announced in 2008 that they would no longer be competing.
- READ MORE: 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX GC8 Review
Now, pause the tape and rewind 10 years prior. Picture a brown brick 1970’s Australian house, beige lounge room, a Sanyo CRT television, two young boys, a Sony Playstation with controllers trailing across the floor, and a copy of V-Rally: 97 Championship Edition.
When I hear the name Subaru, I am often transported back to this house, in this lounge room with my younger brother, tension running high as we barreled through the streets of Corsica.
This game gave me an introduction to the rally world. Excitement, speed, grit, man and machine on the limit – these are all words that surface in my mind when I hear the letters WRX.
Although Subaru had been involved in WRC since the early 1980’s with its Legacy RS, it wasn’t until it developed a smaller chassis vehicle that things really moved along.
In 1992, Subaru developed and sold the new Impreza WRX with Group A in mind – the Group A variant being the Impreza 555 with a 250hp 2.0-litre engine and beefed-up suspension to be more robust in rally settings.
Smaller and lighter than the Legacy, it could go up against the previously nimbler competition on the field at the time. The new platform saw an almost immediate success in the 1994 WRC season with
its first win in the Acropolis Rally in Greece, and the rally legend began to pick up momentum.
The same year saw the first WRX STI – a regular production Impreza taken off the line and run through a modification process to gain more engine output and improve chassis stiffness. This all lead to building the STI brand we know today.
This particular car you see here is a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Group N, and was driven by Australian Rally legends Cody Crocker and Dean Herridge, and prepared by the legendary team Possum Bourne Motorsport. Both the men and the team have extensive successes in the rally arena, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
These successes emanate out of this iconic car – an energetic aura is radiated from the vehicle even in its museum state. Cars like this have seen things.
Dust is embedded in its grooves, its paint is scratched, the livery is UV faded, and its interior has been imprinted upon by its human team – blood, sweat and tears have bonded with this car.
The car started as a left-hand drive Production World Rally car, and was the last new chariot built for the great man himself, Possum Bourne. It was the last car he ever competed in, too, at the 2003 Rally New Zealand.
Towards the end of 2003 it was converted to right-hand drive and handed to the Subaru Rally Team Australia for Cody to pilot. With Cody strapped in, it racked up its fair share of successes:
- 2004 PWRC – Rally of New Zealand 3rd Group N
- 2004 APRC – Rally of Canberra 4th Outright
- 2004 ARC – Rally of Queensland 2nd Outright
- 2004 ARC – Rally of Tasmania 2nd Outright
- 2004 ARC – Rally of South Australia 4th Outright
- 2004 ARC – Rally of New South Wales 4th Outright
- 2004 ARC – Rally of Melbourne 1st Outright
- 2004 PWRC – Rally Australia 3rd Group N
When you crack the door open and stick your head into the cramped cabin, you can almost hear the action this car must have seen. There is no doubt that the car has seen action too – it is evident on every surface, every switch and dial, and every lever and button.
The FT200 Peltor intercom lines are still zip tied to the Klippan six-point harnesses. There’s additional padding still taped to the PBMS eight-point roll cage.
Obvious wear marks adorn the Kevlar Recaro seats that are bolted in place above the scuffed-up alloy foot trays. A fair bit of the interior still looks familiar though – the dash and centre console are the factory items, albeit with custom infills for switches and embossed carbon fibre door cards.
Undoing the dedicated hood clips and lifting the aluminium bonnet reveals the Group N blueprinted STI engine that powered this rally weapon. On initial look, much of the engine bay looks stock, but you do gradually start to notice the changes – external reservoirs on the Proflex suspension, additional reinforcing and stiffening, and so on.
The 2.0-litre engine itself seems to have been tuned by miracle workers. Currently running a 36mm
restrictor (32mm was the Group N regulation of the day) to suit BP 98RON fuel, the dyno sheet reveals that the power plant produces 205kW.
These days, that’s perhaps a conservative figure for performance cars, but just look at the peak torque of 601Nm! Surely, a ride in this thing rearranges internal organs. This is all channeled through an STI clutch and pressure plate into a dog-change transmission.
The STI front LSD, electronic centre differential, and STI rear LSD divide the power evenly between the Pirelli Scorpions that shod its wheels, which no doubt tear asphalt and spray gravel similarly.
A standard fuel tank with auxiliary filler plugs quenches the thirst of the animal, although the tank is wrapped in Kevlar for added protection, along with other additional Kevlar underbody covers in case the ride gets extra bumpy.
While shooting this car, it was sat in the same room as an 2021 WRX STI EJ25 Final Edition. It was fitting to see something historical alongside its modern evolution, although the differences were stark.
The modern take sports a much larger body, with more tech and performance to hurtle the everyday drongo around corners. This museum piece, however, had a much rawer presence.
Don’t get me wrong here, the 2021 STI is one of the most fun cars I have driven, but patina is just something that can’t be built into a new car.
And now, as Subaru get ready to bring on another generation of WRX to us, we are all waiting to see how much of this rally heritage translates into this next chapter of the WRX. My anticipation and curiosity was whetted at an exclusive viewing of the pre-production cars a little while ago.
Although not all the details were revealed at the time, a presentation on the WRX sedan and Sportswagon was laid out by none other than Dean Herridge and the Subaru Australia team.
The FA generation WRX sounds like it will deliver the performance its fans expect, with particular attention addressing predictable handling and power delivery when the road gets twisty. I think it’s safe to say we are all holding our breath for just what could the last internal combustion-powered WRX will be like.
As cars like this MY04 Rally STI slip further back in time and the new generations with improved power and performance supersedes the classics, what do you feel? Am I just turning into an old fart who misses the hay-day, or is there benefit in getting all nostalgic and reminiscent? Let us know your thoughts…
- An historic 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Group N rally car - May 31, 2022