Anyone who grew up as a rally fan in the millennium will no doubt have a thing for STIs. The Subaru kind, that is. At a time where Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg where drifting triple-five branded Imprezas through the rally of a thousand lakes, you could pop into your local dealer and buy a WRX that wasn’t too far off from the machines competing in the WRC.
With Subaru racking up the wins during the late 90s and early 2000s, a series of special editions were launched to mark, well, pretty much any time a car turned a wheel. There’s the Series McRae to commemorate Colin McRae’s championship in 1995, the RB5 to celebrate Burns’ return to the Subaru WRC team in 1999 and Prodrive's WR1 for Solberg’s title in 2003. That’s only scratching the surface of what was available in the UK - but the truly exceptional Subarus of the era were sold exclusively in Japan.
For some reason - though not unexpectedly - Subaru Japan decided to build its cars a little differently to what it sent out to the rest of the world. Each generation is a little different, but the general rule of thumb is that the bodies were stiffer, a mechanical differential was standard and they typically produce a bit more power. You also get equal length headers on JDM machines, so you lose the distinct burble of the UK cars. This, for some, is a bit of a deal breaker. But if you can look past it you’ll open yourself up to a world of hot STIs. Again, the Subaru kind.
Japanese Subaru fans were treated to the Type RA-R, which is essentially the rally equivalent of a GT3 RS, plus there were more touring-focused cars such as the S203 and S204. Most of these were built in the hundreds and are therefore tricky to find. Wind back the clock to a time before covid and these imports could be picked up between £20,000-£30,000. But in 2022 investing in a JDM-spec STI has apparently become trendier than putting your life savings into bitcoin, so prices have skyrocketed.
You haven’t missed the boat - not yet anyway – as this Spec C has all the best bits of what Japanese cars had to offer without the lofty price tag. Built for Group N rally homologation, the Spec C featured thinner body panels to strip out weight, closer gear ratios, new dampers and a rear strut brace. A new central differential was fitted, too, helping transfer the car’s ‘official’ 280hp to the road and you also get the JDM-specific automatic water spray for the intercooler.
Like most Subarus of the era, the cabin is somewhat basic but there’s a lot of rally blue carpet to jazz things up a bit and the world rally team logos embroidered onto the headrests are a neat touch. Thankfully, the Spec C still retains basic luxuries like a radio and air conditioning. But if you really want to feel like Petter Solberg, there’s a rally-style roof scoop that manually pops up to let fresh air into the cabin. Is there anything cooler than a Subaru with a roof scoop?
So, you get some of the edge of Subaru’s hardcore models without the, er, compromises you find on the track-honed RA-R cars. It’s also priced at a very reasonable £24,995 with only 33,000 miles on the clock, complete with a cambelt change. That’s about a third of the price of an RA-R and only a slight increase on a low mileage UK car – and that won’t come with the all-important auto water spray feature for the intercooler, either.
SPECIFICATION | SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI SPEC C
Engine: 1,994, four-cylinder boxer
Transmission: six-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 291@4,400rpm
Year registered: 2004
Recorded miles: 33,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £24,995
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