Super Street Network

 |   |  1995 Subaru Impreza L - The Ljuba-ru
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

1995 Subaru Impreza L - The Ljuba-ru

Looks like a Subaru, goes like a Ford

Aaron Bonk
Jul 6, 2017
Photographer: Patrick Lauder

Subaru's early-'90s Impreza L is the perfect drift car. Except for the underpowered and naturally aspirated lump underneath its hood, its limited steering angle, and its pair of toothpick axles tied up to an AWD layout that louses up everything that has to do with any sort of premeditated slide. It's the ultimate drift car, except when you realize that it isn't.

1995 subaru impreza l abw design duckbill spoiler Photo 2/28   |   1995 Subaru Impreza L Abw Design Duckbill Spoiler

To want to drift anything at all like an Impreza L, you've got to either be hopelessly infatuated with the car or be incredibly naive. Robert Ljuba, as it turns out, knows every single one of the Subaru coupe's shortcomings and went about having it all chopped, cut, and welded into submission to make the Impreza do everything he thought it should've done to begin with. Naive, he is not.

2017 Subaru Impreza
$18,395 Base Model (MSRP) 24/32 MPG Fuel Economy

Not being naive doesn't mean Ljuba isn't utterly eccentric, though. It's a prerequisite for wanting to drift something that physics says you shouldn't and for wanting to do it with an engine that the Impreza's never even heard of. We're talking about Ford's 5.0L V-8, which was really just a stand-in for the SR20DET Ljuba had initially stuck underneath that hood and that blew itself up in a hurry (not that Nissan's SR was any more orthodox). That Nissan-Subaru merger was the original arrangement until a dented-up oil pan that seemed harmless enough had its way with the oil pick-up tube that's responsible for all sorts of important things, like lubricating just about every moving part and keeping the whole assembly from seizing up. For Ljuba, the choice between an engine rebuild worth more than the car or that V-8 engine swap all of a sudden was an easy one.

1995 subaru impreza l extrude honed intake manifold Photo 6/28   |   1995 Subaru Impreza L Extrude Honed Intake Manifold

You think getting anything from Ford to fire up inside of a Subaru that's native to half as many cylinders isn't easy and you don't know half the story. Were it not for Ljuba's friend and chief fabricator, Christ "Crick" Filippi, who already had the old Windsor block in the back of his shop and was familiar with its workings, all signs point to another Nissan engine going into place. Thank goodness for Crick and that V-8 of his, though, because it's a big part of what's earned Ljuba's semi-daily-driven and part-time race car the sort of recognition that, if we're being honest, cars like the Impreza L just don't normally deserve.

Today, the car's known as the "Ljuba-ru," and that's all very fitting because this Subaru Impreza is nothing at all like a Subaru Impreza. Never mind all of that business underneath the hood that's got anything to do with Detroit and the Ljuba-ru's still unique. "A classic challenge with modifying [a] Subaru [for] drifting is pulling more angle out of its front wheels," Ljuba says about one of the car's most important mods you'll probably never notice but that had to be made. "[We built] a custom set of front lower control arms, modified the knuckles, and built a custom bumpsteer kit that pairs up with a front-wheel-drive Impreza rack and pinion." Turns out that if you want to drift an Impreza, this is where you've got to start.

1995 subaru impreza l pro grip aluminum steering wheel Photo 10/28   |   1995 Subaru Impreza L Pro Grip Aluminum Steering Wheel

And by "we" Ljuba means Crick, who's responsible for sorting out anything that landed within the realm of fabrication. "[I had] a close-knit group of friends who helped me build this car, and who had extensive knowledge with not only Ford engines, but Ford chassis," he says, explaining who's responsible for what. "I was basically just the installer when new parts came in that were suspension-related," Ljuba says, almost underestimating his contributions but for the sake of not forgetting guys like Crick as well as Trent Mussler, who made things work electrically, and Daniel Bordeau, who got a WRX instrument cluster to play nicely with the V-8.

The list of cars Ljuba's gone through isn't an obvious one and yet it hints at the inevitability of something like a RWD-converted and V-8-swapped Impreza. Ljuba doesn't reminisce about the almost requisite K20-swapped Civic hatchback that you think he should've had but instead reflects on the semi-obscure, like an SC300, an old 510, and even a Celica All-Trac. There was a time, Ljuba says, that he'd cycle through new cars about every other month, mostly because something more special than whatever it is he was driving happened to catch his attention. None compare to the Ljuba-ru, though, and he'll be the first to make sure you know why.

1995 subaru impreza l abw design duckbill spoiler Photo 14/28   |   1995 Subaru Impreza L Abw Design Duckbill Spoiler

Ljuba's proud of what he and his crew's put together, but he doesn't need you to think he's any sort of Subaru mastermind or that everything went exactly as planned. "I'm by no means a well-experienced Subaru enthusiast...and I've had no prior experience with Ford engines," he says in an up-front sort of way. "I'm just a fan of the [Impreza's] exterior styling." He also happens to have the right kind of friends.

Ljuba isn't trying to sell you on the fact that the Impreza L is the perfect drift car. He knows it isn't. A V-8 engine swap, a one-off suspension, a firewall that's been cut, a transmission tunnel that's been added, and an STI differential that's been bolted into place all just to be able to make those controlled slides happen do the talking for him. No, the Subaru Impreza L is not the perfect drift car. But maybe the Ljuba-ru is.

1995 subaru impreza l ht auto front lip Photo 21/28   |   1995 Subaru Impreza L Ht Auto Front Lip
1995 subaru impreza l recaro profi driver seat Photo 25/28   |   1995 Subaru Impreza L Recaro Profi Driver Seat
By Aaron Bonk
385 Articles
1995 Subaru Impreza L - The Ljuba-ru
Tuning Menu
Owner: Robert Ljuba
Hometown: Vallejo, CA
Occupation: public works maintenance; Burn The Most drift team manager
Engine: Ford 5.0L V-8 engine swap; custom engine and transmission mounts, 2.25" exhaust piping, radiator hoses, radiator fan shroud, oil pan; Extrude Honed intake manifold; JBA Firecone Shorty headers; Borla Mustang GT500 muffler; Denso Supra fuel pump; Nissan 300ZX fuel filter; BBK fuel pressure regulator; Aeromotive fuel pressure gauge; Howe Racing radiator; 16" Spal cooling fan; 3-quart Canton Racing Accusump; Phenix Industries power steering fittings and line; Ford Racing spark plug wires; Bee R rev limiter; MSD 6AL ignition system; Braille battery
Drivetrain: Ford T5 transmission; Ram Clutches hydraulic throw-out bearing; Exedy Stage 2 clutch; Fidanza lightweight flywheel; Pro 5.0 shifter; Hurst shifter and shifter handle; custom one-piece driveshaft; WRX STI R180 rear differential; Driveshaft Shop axles
Engine Management: Mustang ECU; custom engine and chassis wiring harness
Footwork & Chassis: Fortune Auto 500 Series coilovers; Perrin Positive Steering Response System kit; custom roll center/bumpsteer kit; Whiteline steering rack bushings, polyurethane differential mounts; front-wheel-drive Impreza steering rack; custom front lower control arms, front crossmember, steering shaft, adjustable rear lateral links, front bash bar; WRX STI modified front knuckles, rear subframe; plated frame rails
Wheels & Tires: 17x8.25" +20 front, 18x9.75" +20 rear XXR 530 wheels; 225/45R17 front Falken Azenis RT615K, 245/40R18 rear Triangle TR968 tires; ARP extended wheel studs; Muteki lug nuts
Brakes: WRX STI Brembo conversion; Power Slot rotors; StopTech pads and steel-braided lines; CNC hydraulic handbrake; Tilton 600 Series pedals and 75 Series master cylinders
Exterior: '99+ Impreza front-end conversion; Depo headlights; Lamin-X tint; JDM front grille and rear spats; tubbed rear wheel wells; HT-Auto side skirts and front lip; ABW Design duckbill spoiler; B-Magic over-fenders; GrimmSpeed antenna delete
Interior: eight-point rollcage; '02+ WRX dashboard and gauge cluster; custom switch panel; AutoMeter Ultra-Lite gauges; custom transmission tunnel; Sparco kill switch; DPI steering hub and quick-release adapter; Pro-Grip aluminum steering wheel; Longacre rear view mirror and steering wheel hook; Recaro Profi driver seat; WRX STI passenger seat; Sabelt five-point driver and four-point passenger harnesses
Thanks You: my mom, Linda, grandmother, Lisa, and my girlfriend, Jaime, for having the patience, support, and confidence in me that helped push me to finish this car and not give up when times got tough or I began to doubt myself; my friend, mentor, and teammate Chris "Crick" Filippi for taking this project on and single-handedly fabricating each piece of custom work to make this build a reality; Trent Musser and Daniel "Gadget" Bordeau for using their vast knowledge in the field of electronics to make everything work as it's supposed to; the entirety of TBTM: Elijah Wright, Joe Tardiff, and Crystal Hooks; Filip Trojanek at CorteX Racing for assisting in any and all engineering necessary to make the car work and handle; Glen Southard for giving me free spray booth time as well as paint; Victor Tallent and Joe Garay for spraying the car; Paul at XXR Wheels; Belinda, Bill, and Steve at Phenix Industries; Jeff at Canton Racing Products; JJ Wright at Wright Wraps and Design; Proper RWD Subarus Facebook group; my good friends Jared K., Greg L., Alex S., Jordan M., and Tommy W. who have been there since day one

BROWSE CARS BY MARKET

MORE FEATURES

The 2020 Tesla Roadster goes from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, has a top speed of 250-plus mph, and can go 620 miles on one charge. Find out more here!
Alex NishimotoNov 17, 2017
What it took to prep the Super Street 2018 Toyota C-HR for the 2017 SEMA Show
Sam DuNov 16, 2017
Preview the January 2018 issue of Super Street, featuring SE*KI Motorsports’ 580HP 180SX; Michael Baghdadi’s Evo VIII; Will Tetro’s 1,100HP FC RX-7; Scotty G’s K20 911; and much more!
Bob HernandezNov 16, 2017
Whether you're into rotary powered vehicles or the more polarizing non-rotary builds, all of these RX-7s are insanely good.
Jofel TolosaNov 16, 2017
Set to arrive in 2020, the Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro receives more power and additional aerodynamic updates compared to the road car.
Kelly PleskotNov 16, 2017
Sponsored Links

SEARCH ARTICLES BY MAKE/MODEL

Search
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP