RE: Shed of the Week: Subaru Impreza Turbo Estate

RE: Shed of the Week: Subaru Impreza Turbo Estate

Friday 12th January

Shed of the Week: Subaru Impreza Turbo Estate

Shed spots an increasingly rare chance to buy back into Subaru's halcyon days...



Messing about with things seems to be part of human nature. Mrs Shed will occasionally mess about with Shed's favourite snack of crackers and cheese. She knows full well that he wants chutney with that, but in her contrary way she will still attempt to palm him off with relish.

While the dwindling supply of Samantha-style double entendres is perhaps something to be welcomed, the reduction in the numbers of unmessed-with classic Japanese cars is more worrying. Nobody in their right mind would go about modifying properly old stuff like Chippendale furniture, Michelangelo sculptures or Gutenberg bibles, but cars from the last twenty years or so remain constantly vulnerable to the serial messer's clumsy attempts at 'improvement'.

So it's very nice to see this lovely first-gen Impreza Turbo estate still looking more or less the same as it looked when it rolled off the Gunma line in 1996. With not a single 'I Love My Scooby' or 'Hoonigan' sticker to be seen, only the replacement of the fog lights with PIAA spots might bring a slight frown to a concours judge's brow. But that's being uber picky.


Of course, Shed isn't suggesting that this car is concours in the literal sense, and neither is the vendor: indeed, he is refreshingly honest about the car's flaws, which fall into the 'it's been like this for years and it doesn't seem to matter' category. Basically these are a small engine oil leak (not the first Subaru to have that - it could be a poor seal between head and block) and non-functioning aircon (who cares).

Shed has tried to pick out the 'scrape down one side' that is meant to be visible in the pictures, but all he's managed to come up with are a couple of marks to the middle of the offside rear door. Less ancient PHers with better eyesight may find something else.

Generally speaking though, this is a very presentable car with a remarkably fresh interior. The leather upholstery looks nicely worn-in and non-baggy, and the period-appropriate acreage of hard grey plastic is all present and correct. It even sports the towbar that is so useful for speedy touch-parking.

Although the PH ad puts it at 155hp, the EJ20 2.0-litre flat four turbo in this wagon should actually be running with something over 200hp, plus 214lb ft of torque. That's a nice mix for an engaging drive. Considering the performance it has, not to mention the four-wheel drive, mpg figures in the mid to high 20s aren't so bad. You might want to stick to the dear juice though.


This isn't the sort of car that will insulate you from the outside world. Quite the opposite: you'll be hearing rattles. But you'll mainly be hearing the glorious burble of the boxer motor. While we're in that department, you will want to satisfy yourself on the state of the radiator, and on the absence (you hope) of any head-gasket-fail mayo around the oil filler cap. The assumption is that this car has its original turbo, as nothing is mentioned in the honest-sounding ad. Blue smoke on revving could be a wonky turbo oil seal or a damaged piston.

The sills and arches will need regular monitoring - rust never sleeps, and old Japanese metal is one of its favourite delicacies - but they seem to be OK just now. The MOT, which was done slightly before Christmas, mentions the oil leak plus some brake binding and tyre tread distortion on the nearside rear wheel. A couple of years ago there was a much longer list of advisories, some of which related to odd tyre wear and tracking, a common bugbear with Imprezas. Others were related to front suspension wear which, again, is a familiar issue for owners.

More hearteningly, the 2015 advisories that were to do with heavy corrosion across the entire bottom of the car - from the sills and floor pans to the steering and braking components - didn't crop up on the subsequent (2016) MOT, and haven't since.


Subaru has always moved in the backwaters of motoring. The difference between 1996 and 2017, or 2018 as they are now calling it, is that the company is showing signs of distress in those backwaters, and starting to flap about a bit. The rallying heritage that was once the marque's motherlode is now being seen more as a mother-in-law - the unpopular kind that you hope you'll never see again - and the brand is sadly losing its identity.

Our Shed is pure old school Subaru, and as such is not only a reminder of better times but also a desirable machine in its own right, especially in this original state. Grab one while you can, because when they're gone, they're gone - and they ain't coming back.

Here's the ad.

1996 Subaru Impreza 2000 Turbo, UK car.
208bhp and 4 wheel drive.
118k miles
MOT December 2018
Good Service history, last oil change in June 2017
I have a lot of paperwork, most MOT certificates and service receipts
Service book with plenty of stamps
4 previous owners.
Unmodified car, with exception of fog light change to driving lights by a previous owner, to provide more light on full beam. I changed these to new PIAA ones last year as one of the original brackets had broken.
Mechanicals have never been modified or chipped as far as I know.
New back box exhaust and front tyres fitted last year.

I purchased this car from a friend in 2016, who'd owned the car for the previous 15 years. I intended to use as a stop-gap only but have kept it longer than expected. I've put on about 8k miles in the past year and it drives well but could do with some TLC. This car is almost 22 years old, cosmetically it is showing some small areas of rust, the door has a scrap on one side (visable in pictures). Electrics all work, including windows and mirrors. Car is fitted with air conditioning but has never worked in my ownership. Small oil leak from the engine since I've had it but never been an issue. Increasingly rare car, not many of these pre facelift "classic" Imprezas left anymore.

Car is available to view in Fleet Hampshire, just off junction 4A of the M3. Test drives available providing documented evidence showing coverage to drive other cars.

Author
Discussion

Howrare

Original Poster:

147 posts

138 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
This looks promising. Morning Shed

samoht

745 posts

78 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
That sort of performance, handling and practicality for £1.5k makes other Sheds look a poor deal.

The original GC Impreza will surely go down as a classic soon, although I guess I'd expect the JDM models to be the ones that actually go up in price.

Interestingly, while Subaru UK may be in distress, they're selling (crossovers) like hot cakes in the much larger US market - well over half a million cars in 2017. So I suspect they're not worrying too much about redundancies in Gunma.

https://www.autoblog.com/2018/01/03/best-year-ever...

Cambs_Stuart

277 posts

16 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Superb shed.
Oil leak likely to be rocker cover gaskets, 90 minutes labour and a gasket set that costs about £80 for both sides from import car parts.
It's rust around the rear arches that kills most of these. While it can look minor it does spread to structural parts.
If only I had the time, space and money for another car. But then, I say that most weeks.

Brompty

133 posts

76 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Cracking shed this morning. Worth buying and sorting as the price for these seems to be on the up.

rastapasta

364 posts

70 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Losing their identity?? Sales in the states would strongly suggest otherwise. They never sold in big numbers in the UK. Only in the US, Aus, Japan and Switzerland. They don't enter rallying as the regulations don't suit them to do so, I think they will come back when the regs change.

As for this car, this is a very nice shed. Keep the rust off and it has another 20,000 miles in it easily.
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stuckmojo

1,921 posts

120 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Lovely car. Almost tempted

Fetchez la vache

5,064 posts

146 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Lovely.
Had a 4-door m-reg in the same colour when new and always regretted not having the estate. Cracking cars - this also has leather which mine didn't, which seems to lift the interior somewhat - mine was always let down by the dowdy interior.

Not seen one of these in quite a while, and still have the Subaru itch to scratch but would probably go for a forester sti in all honesty, though that wouldn't happen for that £1500!

soad

28,946 posts

108 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Good pick, would make a perfect daily.

tomsugden

1,449 posts

160 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
I had one identical to that. Cracking shed.

graham22

3,022 posts

137 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
samoht said:


The original GC Impreza will surely go down as a classic soon, although I guess I'd expect the JDM models to be the ones that actually go up in price.
I often thought this as well as Mcrae, Catalunya and RB5 as well as good early Pro-drive spec'd models (not sure about the Terzo model despite having a standard Turbo of that year - '98).

However, see this ad there's something about this small wheel, no roof bars standard car which makes it look so rare & subtle as they were at the time - it's just living with that interior, the reason so many of us bought later models, for the wingback seats, leather steering wheel and non-haphazard dash.

Can still picture a local newspaper article in '95 where one of these early cars had been involved in an armed robbery & was cornered by police in a Dartmoor village - the photo was a square on, head on shot of an early Impreza Turbo wedged between a lamp post & wall.

rallycross

9,045 posts

169 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Great choice possibly the best ever sotw for me (very tempting to buy as it's just up the road from me).

You hardly see these anymore let alone finding one in nice standard non messed about condition like this with 15" alloys - just looks like a shopping car.

When these cars came out they were in many ways a game changer. The Subaru Impreza was reported at the time as being a bargain priced Escort Cosworth alternative - one that was more usable as a daily driver with subtle looks that gave no indication of its performance abilities.

2 GKC

417 posts

37 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
That dashboard; my eyes!

Appealing though the later ones looked much better with the mesh grill

suffolk009

3,803 posts

97 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
I recently started teaching my eldest child to drive. Back when she was a baby my wife reasonably decided that hauling the car seat in and out of the back seat of a Saab 900T 16V 3 door was too difficult. I was instructed to sell it and buy a sensible estate car for her to drive. "What do you want?" I asked. "I don't care, just an estate with rear doors". Enter the first of four Subaru estates. Two imported Impreza turbo wagons then two Legacy GTBs. Loved them all.

The Imprezas will need the front discs replacing if you're doing any sort of spirited driving or track work. I once towed my Caterham to the Nurburgring behind the first Impreza. An instructor then drove the Subaru around the Nordschleife - the brakes were cooked after the first three corners! It was a long lap and a longer drive home with wobbly discs. Other than that I never fiddled with the cars at all.

In the end three of the four boxers suffered Head Gasket Failure. They felt impossibly fast at the time, I wonder if they still do now.

The NVH levels were astounding - like being inside a biscuit tin as it gets thrown down the road.


Blackpuddin

8,026 posts

137 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
rastapasta said:
They never sold in big numbers in the UK. Only in the US, Aus, Japan and Switzerland.
I read somewhere that many Americans buy them because they think they're made in Sweden.

Filibuster

1,022 posts

147 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
rastapasta said:
They never sold in big numbers in the UK. Only in the US, Aus, Japan and Switzerland.
We Swiss certainly like our Subarus. Although mostly in rural areas. We call them "Farmer's Porsche" over here.
Audi and Porsches for the city, Subarus in the countryside. biggrin

AC43

6,188 posts

140 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
I loved these back in the day and nearly got one - went for the RWD option in the end and got an S14 200SX.

But I remember drooling over one just like that that mate bought - it had had the Prodrive treatment - zorst, induction, springs and dampers.

Another mate had a standard saloon and it was funny in that non-petrolheads had no idea what they were. Looked just like a Proton.

And I want as far as going for a very long test drive in an import. It was running 280-odd bhp and had a very long name - WRX STI Spec C or something. You could squirt water onto the vast intercooler which made me laugh. And it was seriously quick.

givablondabone

2,546 posts

87 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Surprised no-one has mentioned the advisory from a couple of years ago. 'Heavy corrosion' doesn't just go away.

I understand the appeal of these but this one's not for me.

Blackpuddin

8,026 posts

137 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
givablondabone said:
Surprised no-one has mentioned the advisory from a couple of years ago. 'Heavy corrosion' doesn't just go away.
I imagine it would if you loved your car and threw money at it.

m1dg3

113 posts

86 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
Blackpuddin said:
I read somewhere that many Americans buy them because they think they're made in Sweden.
Saab sold a badge-engineered Impreza Wagon in the US called a 9-2x.

culpz

3,893 posts

44 months

Friday 12th January
quotequote all
I have recently spotted how cheap these have become. Probably not the cheapest things to run but, for the money, they're a proper performance bargain. I think they also look cracking in estate form. Love a fast wagon!

Great Shed thumbup