Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Subaru Impreza 555

300bhp. That's not a figure that carries a lot of weight these days, is it? We're so spoiled with our testosterone-pumped hot hatches and lithe, potent family saloons that we've lost the true value of power. But in the real-world a 200bhp 3-series, for example, is fast. A 120bhp MX-5 is fast. And a rally car with 300bhp is surely a force to be reckoned with...

In 1993, 300bhp meant a lot to Subaru. Moving from the larger Legacy to the nimbler, lighter Impreza, they wanted their flat-four-powered rally weapon to dominate on the global stage; they didn't want to be also-rans. They wanted titles. They wanted trophies. They wanted it all.
While it took a little time for the Impreza to get into its stride (partly because Subaru bosses insisted on waiting for the Legacy to win a WRC round before officially campaigning it), the first win in '95 at the hands of Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya heralded a new era of rallying - one that was led by poster-boy blue saloons with yellow graphics. Colin McRae went on to win the driver's and constructor's championship in that year, and the latter again in 1996 in the car you see in these photographs.

As was usual in the WRC at the time, the Prodrive 555 Impreza is largely the same shape as the road-going model you could have driven off the forecourt, right down to the tolerances of the panel gaps. Inside, however, is a different story: working with the myriad regulations relating to seats, harnesses, rollcages and other safety devices, the interior is stripped to the bare minimum (no bad thing in this case - the quality of the interior furnishings being the Achilles' heel of Subaru road cars), with the dash artfully sculpted in carbon-fibre.
And it's from under the bonnet that the drama flows. That feisty two-litre turbocharged flat-four produces the growly, shouty 300bhp, tuned for torque, keen to rev, and converting every last micron of potential energy into kinetic motion before thrusting it through the bombproof four-wheel drive system. 300 was, and is, the magic number.

Hungry for more? Click here for Octane's story on the restoration of another special 555 Impreza: McRae's 1997 car. Fully restored by Prodrive (who, of course, built it in the first place), the attention to detail and cost-no-object attitude equate to a lovely little story and a devastatingly effective rally car, sympathetically restored to be used as intended.

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