The first gen Subaru Impreza is often overlooked in America. It narrowly avoided being named the “Loyale” when it was first introduced here in 1993, and just never really took off as a tuning platform. The second generation GD-chassis really exploded when it was introduced and made Subaru a major player in the American automotive tuner community. The Impreza WRX was all-wheel drive, turbocharged and a rival to the famed Mitsubishi Evolution family. Unlike the second coming of the Impreza, the first generation model in North America was limited to a naturally-aspirated engine, which was never intended to be a performance platform. There are a few select fans of the chassis but only because they knew of its Japanese counterpart. Those familiar with the JDM Impreza should know the WRX STI model and read of its exploits in the World Rally Championships. Subaru of America teased us first with the 2.5RX demo car, which was basically the Japanese WRX outfitted for America, but it was never released to the public. Instead, they released the 2.5RS model Impreza in 1998, which carried some of the styling cues of the better Japanese version but without the stout turbocharged engine. To make things even more unfair, Subaru of Japan released the 22B STI model that same year. The 22B model was a limited production vehicle that trumped even the WRX STI overseas. We, of course, had a nice nearly decade long run of mundane naturally-aspirated mediocrity with the (almost) Subaru Loyale.
The 22B is the stuff all-wheel-drive dreams are made of, featuring a 2.2L turbocharged engine that made 280hp, Bilstein suspension and a unique blue hue taken from the Peter Stevens WRC car. Perhaps its best and most identifiable feature is its flared widebody exterior. Only 400 were made for the Japanese market and sold within hours of release. Less than 25 others were exported and none of them landed on North American shores. Every Subaru enthusiast took notice of the 22B and wanted a piece of Japanese automotive history. It seemed like an impossibility until companies like L’aunsport released a widebody kit that resembled the limited edition WRX. Subie-heads like Andy Rodi not only wanted “the look” of the 22B but also the power to match. Instead of groveling over what he couldn’t have, Andy set out to build his own interpretation of the 22B STi.
Getting hold of the L’aunsport aero wasn’t an issue. It was expensive but attainable. The problems that Andy ran into weren’t cosmetic; he had to figure out ways to incorporate WRX parts onto his GC chassis, and companies carrying these products were few and far between. Everybody was working on the second generation WRXs and anything that was available for the GC was predominantly found overseas. The suspension and brake components are all from a GD (2nd gen.) chassis and adapted to fit his 2.5RS. Every aftermarket component holding his suspension together is either an OEM STI piece or meant for a STI model. Seated over the OEM GD-specific Brembo brakes are a set of 18" ADVAN TCIIIs, 9-inches wide to fill the flared L’aunsport aero. A JDM hood, taillights, corner lights and STI badges have been added to rival the look of the Japanese 22B, and the entire car has been resprayed a Rally Blue Pearl tone. One notable aesthetic feature is a fully-adjustable rear spoiler taken from an actual 22B WRX.
While he doesn’t have the 22B’s 2.2-liter motor, he was able to acquire a smaller displacement, 2.0-liter EJ207 swap. It’s smaller in size compared to the EJ22G found in the 22B but packs a similar punch. Andy’s motor is also newer and found on the late model WRX with plenty of aftermarket support. Dropping a newer, turbocharged EJ20 into a GC chassis sounds simple enough, but it isn’t as easy as dropping a B-series Honda motor into a Civic. Andy advises, “Do lots of research because you will need it. Buy a complete front clip (if you can get a hold of one) so it comes with all the little things you’ll need along the way. Learning Japanese would also be really helpful.” To a casual enthusiast, this 22B replica may not mean much because there isn’t much information about it. You could even say that the GC-chassis was never popular enough for people to care. Andy Rodi may never realize his dreams of owning a true 22B but what he has created is about as close as it gets. It’s simple yet aggressive in nature and a build that true Subie nerds could study for days.
1999 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS
Occupation Everyday Solutions Customer Service
Engine ‘01 2.0L EJ207 engine; MXP equal-length manifold; Gram Lights 57Dragon titanium exhaust; STI VF37 turbocharger, top-mount intercooler; Cusco Bellmouth downpipe; NGK Iridium spark plugs; Walbro 255LPH fuel pump; ARC oil pan, thermostat, titanium pulley cover; Koyo 2219 radiator; Mishimoto slim radiator fans
Drivetrain STI Version 7 manual transmission w/DCCD; Driveshaftshop aluminum driveshaft; ACT Street clutch disc, Street Lite flywheel; 2005 STI wheel hubs
Engine Management STI Ver. 7 ECU; Open Source ECU flash
Footwork & Chassis ’05 STI TEIN Flex coilovers w/EDFC; OEM GC8 top hats; Whiteline 24mm adjustable front sway bar, adjustable endlinks, subframe lock bolts; Helix 22mm adjustable rear sway bar; STI carbon-fiber front strut bar, aluminum A-arms, steering rack; GTSpec aluminum rear strut bar, trailing arms, adjustable lateral links, SWave front ball joints, tie rod ends, 4-point ladder brace; Turn-In Concepts race subframe bushings
Brakes ‘04 STI OEM Brembo front brake calipers, ‘05 STI Brembo rear brake calipers; Project Mu Club Racer (track)/BForce (street) brake pads, G-Four 335 fluids, master cylinder cap, Club Racer slotted brake rotors; Goodridge stainless steel brake lines
Wheels & Tires 18x9" +25 ADVAN TCIII; 245/40R18 Toyo R888; Muteki SR48 lug nuts
Exterior L’aunsport 99 22B/WRC widebody front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, fenders; OEM STI 22B adjustable rear spoiler; shaved door moldings; JDM OEM hood, taillights, clear corner lenses, 22B hood vents, STI badges, front/rear bumper reinforcement; Rally Blue Pearl paint, 22B titanium STI side badges, power folding mirrors; KT Project clear turn signals
Interior Bride Cuga seats, Type RO seat rails; ’04 OEM STI rear seats; Takata safety harnesses; Personal Neo Grinta 330mm steering wheel; Works Bell short-type hub, Rapdfix 2 quick-release; MXP titanium shift knob; STI Ver. 6 Type R gauge cluster, STI blue carpet and floor mats; GReddy 52mm boost gauge
thanks you Mom, Dad, Stan at Toyo Tires, Mackin Industries, Mark at GTSpec, Yoshi at Project MU, Brian at JT Motoring, Mike at Evasive, Teddy at Works Bell/ Personal, S&A AutoDesign, JadeCrew