The WRX turns 25 next year, and we’re starting the celebrations early. We found this original WRX RA, a perfect example of a modern classic.
Back in the good old days of Group A, manufacturers had to make their racers from the cars they actually sold in the showroom. And so in the eighties and nineties we had a good stock of great homologation specials. And these, now the best part of 25 years old, can be considered classics. Well, modern classics at least. But such cars are becoming rarer, and more desirable, especially the European models; E30 M3s, Sierra RS500s and Lancia Integrales are all becoming rather expensive, and harder to find as plucky enthusiasts snap them up. Of no lesser interest are those from the Japanese makers, the Skylines, Lancers, Celicas and the Imprezas, like this 1995 GC8 Impreza WRX RA.
The WRX celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, having debuted back in October of 1992 (for the record I was in Form 2, favourite car; Porsche 959). The Impreza effectively replaced the Leone in the showroom, but in WRX form would become the company’s new WRC warrior, gaining a 2.0-litre turbo and AWD layout similar to the Legacy before it. With plenty of wheel travel in mind, the Impreza featured struts all round, with trailing arms and transverse links at the rear. The WRX gained aluminium lower arms, stiffer springs, bushes and thicker roll bars with ball joint links on the front bar while uprated dampers came with linear control valves. The 1994cc EJ20 flat four made 179kW and 300Nm and was a development of the engine that proved itself in the Legacy with a few tweaks, including a revised valvetrain.
The WRX weighed 1200kg, (the front-drive base model was a mere 990kg) and Subaru produced a made-to-go-rallying RA (Rally groupA) version late in 1992. It was around 30kg lighter thanks to the purging of sound insulation, deleting the air-con, radio, power windows and even the clock. The car rolled without fog lights, got black door handles and mirrors, and white and red were the only colour choices. The WRX had a close ratio five-speed manual compared with the regular Impreza’s tranny, while the RA’s ’box was even tighter, second through to fifth all lower. The RA also added an intercooler water sprayer.
The all-wheel drive system used a bevel-gear centre diff with a nominal 50:50 torque split but with its viscous coupling, could change the flow as wheels slipped. While there was an LSD on the rear, the front diff was open. The WRX came with four-channel ABS but was deleted from the RA while rolling stock consisted of 205/55R15s.
Late in 1994 the cars were tweaked, boost pressure raised to net 191kW at 6500rpm and 308Nm at 5000rpm, and the RA also gained a stiffer, closed deck block while the valvetrain was further improved to raise the rev limit to 7500rpm. The same gear ratios were retained but the final drive was changed to 3.90:1.
Once a common sight on road, the WRXs of this era have been abused over the years, subjected to chrome alloys and boosted to destruction; it’s hard to find an unmolested example or something that hasn’t travelled around the globe five times. However, cars of this era are starting to filter back through to the New Zealand market from Japan thanks to being 20 years old and therefore exempt from the import laws surrounding frontal impact and emissions standards. And these tend to be well looked after examples too. This Impreza, from Autospot on Auckland’s North Shore, is mint, with just 53,000km, and even an owner’s book with service stamps present. Pretty much everything has been kept stock, even its original airbox is intact and its exhaust with its wee pea shooter pipes. The RA looks a little unfinished around the rear but that’s how they rolled from the factory, missing the rear bumper skirts and sans any spoilers. The alloys look to have been added at some point, but this is pretty much how she rolled back in 1995.
A quick drive to our photoshoot location confirmed its closely stacked ratios, helping keep the EJ20 up on boost, buzzing along at 3500rpm in top at 100km/h. But it delivers quick acceleration, and it still feels reasonably sprightly for a 20-year-old car. Good to hear all the mechanical whirring of gears and plenty of engine noises too that all need to be digitally synthesized these days. It’s all very mechanical; proper steering feel, a firm clutch pedal, and Subaru’s notchy yet positive gearchange.
The car is in fine condition, and would be a great buy for anyone with a fondness for rally cars of the era and who is looking from something a bit special with a price tag that’s exceptionally reasonable; this car was for sale at $14,990. Hopefully it doesn’t end up in the hands of a tuner itching to wind up the boost and fit a three-inch exhaust, and a blow-off valve.
Thanks to Autospot for supplying the WRX – click HERE
to visit their website
Win the chance to thrash your WRX up the famous Leadfoot driveway!
As part of the WRX’s 25th anniversary milestone, Subaru of New Zealand will kick off the celebrations early at next year’s Leadfoot Festival in Hahei, happening over Waitangi weekend. Subaru of New Zealand will have the top 25 WRXs in the country on display to mark the occasion. And if you’re in possession of a WRX, you have the opportunity to enter it in a competition and become one of the 25 chosen. Click HERE to (www.subaru.co.nz/wrx25) upload an image of your Rex, and then spread the word via social media to get people voting for your car. Public votes will account for 50 per cent of a car’s score, while the remainder will be decided upon by a trio of judges. They comprise 2015 NZ National Rally Champion and Subaru Brand Ambassador Ben Hunt, Leadfoot Ranch owner Rod Millen and Subaru of New Zealand’s MD Wallis Dumper.
The competition closes mid-November, and those selected will have their vehicle on display in the Subaru WRX 25 Years tent at the festival, as well as enjoying Subaru hospitality. The judging panel will also select five owners who will get the rare chance to hoon up the famous Leadfoot Ranch driveway in their own car, an opportunity usually only reserved for the competitive racers over the weekend. See the Subaru website for all the terms and conditions. Good luck y’all.