Badges, they can say plenty of things about a car and what it’s capable of. Whether it’s as simple as an indication of engine displacement or a trim model, commonly we use them to attribute a car’s potential in some way or another. But what if a badge can do something more than that? What if you have a brand so strong, that the mere sight of your badge reminds people of crazy stories?
Think of a badge that brings about images of rally cars flying past hills, drifting sideways through a dirt road, or drivers being seen at the top step of the podium. These are among the strong images that any car enthusiast would associate to the pink STI badge once they see it. Since 1994 Subaru Tecnica International has proven itself as one of the top competitors in the World Rally Championship in the mid to late 90’s and they have a showroom in Mitaka, Tokyo dedicated to the machines and drivers that have helped them with their accolades.
While this showroom doesn’t have much in quantity of cars (There are only 6 displayed in total) each of them have played a pivotal part in STI’s history with motorsports, namely in Rally and in Endurance Racing. We’ll start off with the car furthest from the camera from this photo, one that is considered a legend in its own right.
Like many items that we put on our cars, the badge can say a thousand words or nothing at all. To the uninitiated this would be two numbers and a letter that mean little else, but for those who have a keen eye for special models from STI this signifies the holy grail of them all. Pretty much an ode to the car in its reflection, the Impreza 22B STI was built in very limited numbers (400 units for Japan, and several more for UK and Australia) to commemorate Subaru’s 40th anniversary as a car manufacturer as well as its three-year consecutive victory in the WRC from 1995 to 1997.
(Trivia: Did you know that ‘22B’ is also a hex translation for ‘555’, A fitting tribute to the championing rally cars bearing State Express 555 logos over its sides… albeit one that can only be understood by the computer savvy! Count on Subaru to be quirky like that.)
The 22B distinguishes itself from the rest of the STIs in its generation by way of its 2.2L motor, a stroked version of the 2.0L EJ20 boxer engine commonly found in Imprezas of varying generations. This was done as a means to improve midrange torque for the boxer motor and thereby improving overall response around tight bends.
Externally, the main differences of the 22B from a standard Impreza coupe are the pumped front and rear fenders that, along with its bright Sonic Blue hue, give the 22B that much more overbearing presence over cars around it.
With the 22B easily becoming a runaway hit and a surefire collectible, it’s safe to assume that the 22B represented the car that we’ve seen fly through countless crests and dirt roads. Something like…
…This 1998 Impreza WRC rally car! This particular car was campaigned in WRC by the late great Colin McRae and his co-driver Nicky Grist in 1998. While McRae didn’t go on to win the Driver’s and Manufacturer’s championship for that year, this car holds significance as it was the last car to be driven by the late rally legend for Subaru in WRC.
Despite looking very similar to their road-going counterparts, these rally cars have much more sophisticated equipment beneath their skin. How much more would we have to pay to have AP Racing 4-pots and floating rotors as standard on street cars huh? Well, I suppose this is a fairly good idea of how far factories will go for that championship!
Up next we have the WRC2006 Impreza driven by Petter Solberg and Phil Mills. This was one of two cars fielded by the Subaru World Rally Team during the season, and with it they finished third in the 2006 Manufacturer’s standings.
Here we’ll find more of the intricacies of the parts that go into Subaru’s rally cars. While this wing looks ‘somewhat’ similar to the stock item, you’ll find that it’s built in full carbon fiber with fins in the middle for better aerodynamics. Spot that jungle gym of a roll cage in the cabin too, something that proves all too convenient when you find yourself upside down in a ditch!
Last among the rally cars, we have the WRC2008 Hatchback. This is the last iteration of Subaru’s exploits in WRC as soon after this car has been unveiled they pulled out their efforts in WRC. While everyone wishes they (and Mitsubishi for that matter) would return someday to duke it out on dirt, gravel, and tarmac once again, currently Subaru is focusing on something equally as tough as rally, albeit in a totally different discipline. A quick stroll down the hall would bring us to the section where their current efforts lie…
Any discerning racing fan would identify this track’s silhouette in a heartbeat. The world’s longest circuit, the Nürburgring Nordschliefe in Germany has long since been a test bed for car manufacturers to develop performance vehicles. Standing at 20.8km, the North Loop circles around several towns and a mountain with Nürburg castle standing in the middle and has long since been known as a treacherous race track with varying weather conditions and corners.
That said, the ‘ring becomes host to one of the world’s most difficult endurance races annually. The 24 Hours of Nürburgring is just that, 200+ cars in various classes from various manufacturers and teams duking in out in a span of 24 hours in a race of endurance. Subaru regularly enters the SPT3 Class and has regularly been finishing on the podium and becoming class winners in 2011 and 2012. The cars displayed here are ones they’ve campaigned in 2009 (GRB Hatch) and 2012 (GVB Sedan).
It’s one thing to see clean race cars, but a race car displayed with all its dirt and battle scars? That’s something a true racing aficionado will give a nod of respect to. Racing is not all about finishing as clean as possible; it’s about finishing to win. The cars on display here have signs of wear and dirt all over them, and that just adds more character and detail to the stories they have to tell. You know what they say; a knight in shining armor is a man whose armor has never seen battle.
Beside the Nürburgring Challenge display, there are several shelves that showcase various items of importance to STI. This particular shelf holds three trophies, each won by the rally team’s various drivers. From Left to Right: 1993 WRC New Zealand Rally Champion Trophy by Colin McRae and Derek Ringer, 1999 WRC Rally Acropolis Champion Trophy by Richard Burns and Robert Reid, and 2002 WRC Rally Great Britain Champion Trophy by Petter Solberg and Phil Mills.
Among all the items on display, it’s rather fitting to end with this small excerpt from one of the shelves showing STI parts to sum it all up. Having driven my fair share of STIs, I’ve always wondered how Subaru came up with a well-sorted performance vehicle like the Impreza STI. What’s their philosophy behind building a machine for the streets derived from their rally heritage? It appears then, that this short trip to the STI Showroom has answered my question.
We would like to extend our thanks to JP Carino for providing us with directions to get to the showroom