5 September 2020

More than an old car #152: Subaru Impreza WRX

Subarus have always remained a hot favourite among enthusiasts, who more often than not go about modifying it to greater heights. Although it has been associated with the image of 'boy racers' here, it was not long ago that Subaru churned out rather nondescript vehicles until the advent of the Legacy. This 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX GC8 was a progenitor to the success of the brand worldwide and is a testament to how a breakthrough product could do so much for a company!

The Impreza was first introduced in 1992 and was intended to be part of Subaru's plan to target the global car market. Its name is based off 'impresa', which is an antiquated word that refers to an emblem. It featured a soft image with rounded corners and the chassis was adapted from the 1st-generation Legacy. As Subaru became heavily involved in the World Rally Championship (WRC), high-performance versions of the Impreza were given the designation WRX (World Rally eXperimental). 

The WRX cars differed from its regular brothers by featuring all-wheel drive, stiffened suspensions and turbocharged engines. On top of that, the more extreme WRX STi (Subaru Technica International) was also launched in 1994, where it remains a sought-after classic today. A facelift was done in 1996 and in 1998, with modifications done to the headlamps and the dashboard. All WRX cars feature the chassis code GC8 (for coupes and sedans) or GF (for 5-door hatchbacks), followed by a letter from A to G. Throughout its lifetime, many variants and 'special editions' have been released and it may be hard to keep track. 

This particular unit is more accurately known as a GC8F Impreza WRX Type RA 555 Limited: the 'F' indicates that it was made in 1999, the Type RA is a stripped-down version of the WRX in the Japanese market featuring reduced soundproofing, no air-conditioning, manual windows and more robust engines. '555' is a cigarette company that became an icon when it featured prominently in famous rally driver Colin McRae's Impreza in 1993. Incidentally, this is number 214 out of 1000 limited-edition cars spun off to celebrate Subaru's stellar performance in the WRC. It was equipped with a 1993 cc EJ20 H4 engine, allowing it to maintain an acceleration of 4.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4340 mm long and weighed 1240 kg.

Production of the GC8 Impreza ended in 2000, where it was replaced by the GD/GG series. I understand that there are around 10 GC8s that still exist here, although none of them are the 555 Limited edition. Impreza WRXs were sold here since 1994 and they have remained beloved over the years. It demands one's fullest attention on the road and handsomely rewards the owner with raw power, making it a favourite for performance-enhancing modifications. While finding a bone-stock unit is like finding a needle in a haystack, I am aware of a grey unit that is evidently well-travelled. 

The Sonic Blue paintwork with gold wheels is an iconic image associated with Imprezas, and I regret not taking more pictures of it back then. While such car meets are still a long way from materialising due to the current pandemic, it was really nice to come up close with a rare legend. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot it some day!

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