Car collectors usually start out by buying the car they wanted but couldn’t have in high school. For baby boomers, those were Detroit muscle cars and little deuce coupes. But for a younger generation, they were road-legal rally cars, vehicles such the 2004 Subaru WRX STI.
Subaru was among those seeking global attention for their cars by racing in the early years of this century in the World Rally Championship. Rallying may not have been as big in the United States as Formula One, Indy cars or NASCAR, but globally it was second only to F1 and even here is was popular with the video gamers.
Subaru’s WRC hopes rode — and rode well, winning the championship twice within three years — on a souped-up version of its Impreza compact sedan. To race in the WRC an automaker had to homologate its racer for the road and thus the WRX STI. WRX was sort of short for World Rally eXperimental and the STI came from Subaru Technica International, the company’s in-house motorsports shop.
What those letters brought were 300 turbocharged horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque from Subaru’s 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, an architecture similar to that employed by the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, just with fewer cylinders in Subaru’s case.
With a six-speed manual, strengthened suspension components, Brembo brakes and driver-adjustable full-time four-wheel drive, the WRX STI was (and remains) quick and nimble. With a massive hood scoop, big BBS wheels and ginormous rear wing, it had (still has) a menacing presence that belies its commuter-car underpinnings.
Put it all together and the WRX STI is ready for handbrake J-turns on dusty forest roads (the center diff is so smart it disengages the rear-wheel drive when the handbrake is applied) and for smoking its tires — and its competition — on tight autocross circuits. Don’t be surprised if it also shows up on classic car auction blocks somewhere down the road.