Subaru has always had a thing for limited-edition models...and for only selling them in Japan. Hold court among any group of devoted Subie-philes and the '98 22B will be near the top of their unicorn list. The car is a birthday party on four wheels and a rolling championship celebration, as it honors the automaker's 40th anniversary and its WRC championship three-peat spanning 1995, 1996, and 1997.
In true Subaru fashion, the 22B was an exclusive engagement, with 400 JDM versions, 16 UK exports, five for the Land Down Under, and three prototypes for a total run of 424. The 22B featured a full wide-fender body, World Rally Blue paint, gold wheels, and a serious EJ series powerplant. We're talking about an EJ20 punched out to 2.2L and fitted with forged internals, a bigger, better-flowing turbo, and more aggressive tuning. This combo was rated at the gentlemen-agreed 280 hp, but the car's spirited 4.5-second 0-to-60-mph time doesn't jive...there were quite a few more ponies in the corral...more like 320.
Blair Davis likes unicorns, but since 22Bs are hard to come by in the wild, he built his own. Blair put authenticity above all else, and the results are stunning. His 22B journey began with a stripped-down, bare shell a friend had abandoned. "I wanted to do a little bit 22B and a little bit WRC-a smooth mixture of both of those worlds," Blair says.
Authenticity translates into ultra-rare parts, so Blair tapped into his inner bloodhound, channeled Sherlock Holmes, and mastered the Matrix to bring his unicorn to light. The rarest of the rare includes a pair of 204 seats. "These were extremely rare. Impossible-to-find rare...like finding a needle in a haystack of needles...and if you do find them, you're paying a pretty penny for them." Blair came upon his 204s in Malaysia and shelled out a staggering $3,600. Zikes.
A L'aunsport widebody kit is another extraordinary gem on his car. "This kit is the real deal," Blair says. "It came out of Japan. It had to be custom molded and fitted. The car's factory quarter panels were all cut out underneath to drop weight, and the fiberglass quarter panels were bonded to the rest of the car. From there, the engine, all the subframes, hubs, everything...dash, carpet, wiring, door switches, door panels, all came from Japan off an actual Type R GCA.
"Due to the L'aunsport widebody, I couldn't run the normal street version of the OZ Racing Superturismo, as it only came in 17-inch and a small offset. So, my good friend Brian George of NCM Imports was able to get in touch with OZ directly and order me a custom-spec set from overseas. The 18x8 was as close to the WRC-spec wheels as I could find, and it's amazing. So, until I can source an actual set of OZ Magnesium tarmac Super Ts, these will work perfectly!"
Sometimes tuning takes guts. Like when it comes to decapitating your pride and joy. "The car's carbon roof swap required a full measure of commitment to chop," Blair says. "There's that moment of truth you have to face." In the end, the fact that his USDM Impreza had a sunroof that needed to be deleted to match the overall look and vision of the 22B lessened the stakes, but a chop is a still a chop. Blair is quick to point out that a sunroof filler panel wouldn't cut it because his plan also called for running the OEM Type RA roof vent and STI Group N scoop. Blair decided to go with the insanely lightweight Aero Sim carbon roof that tips the scales at a scant 6 pounds. It's dry carbon, made from a mold formed from a WRC Impreza-two layers of carbon with a honeycomb in the middle-and it has a cutout for the Type RA roof vent.
While lacking the fear factor of slicing roof pillars, the creation of the hood was a challenge. "I started with a factory JDM aluminum hood. Since the U.S. model was steel, there's big weight savings right off the bat. You can pick it up with a couple of fingers. I went to the DirtFish Rally School and measured the WRC vents off their Burns race car that was on display. Everything had to be straight, perfect, exactly where it was meant to be. And then I had to Dremmel out the vents, which are about three times the size of the normal vent on the hood, and then custom bond it all." Blair proved to be steady handed, but subtlety was on its way out the door.
Blair reports the Subie will be getting a full WRC livery to match the Burns P2000 car from the 2000 season. From there, the motor is the next frontier. He plans to mirror the P2000 engine bay with all those carbon vents, a rotated turbo setup, and a custom intercooler. Guess there's no more need to look for that unicorn...