The Rad JDM Subarus Fans Brought to STI’s Motorsports Day

The faithful came out in droves to celebrate STI's 30th anniversary.

Ken Saitowriter

I couldn't leave Subaru STI's Motorsports Day at Fuji Speedway—where I drove the new STI S209 and a few JDM models, plus rode in an iconic WRC racer—without checking out the parking lots and gaping at the cool stuff fans brought. As I began to peruse the more than 1000 cars in attendance, I challenged myself to find a 22B—this was a celebration of 30 years of STI, and surely an example of one of its most iconic cars would be somewhere, right?

Unfortunately, no. After about 30 minutes of searching, it was clear I wasn't going to see a 22B—but I did stumble across tons of other interesting cars. Unsurprisingly a lot of GC8-generation models were scattered about, as were a few WRX coupes. (This got a bit annoying after the fourth time I thought one was a 22B from afar.) As I surveyed the cars, the dominant theme emerged: rally-inspired modifications. For many, Subaru and STI means rallying, as it's only been in the last decade or so that the company has turned its focus to endurance racing and Japan's Super GT series. As such, more than a few cars were festooned with the iconic '555' livery, gold wheels, and hood-mounted quad fog lights, and I probably don't need to tell you what the Subaru Replica Owner's Club that was there was all about. I have to give credit to the members; they did a great job with their cars.

It wasn't just rally lookalikes and Imprezas, though. There were also a few JDM-special Subarus most Americans have never even heard of. Like the cute R2 kei car with its baby Tribeca face; Subaru even made a two-door version called the R1, which was a sort of modern interpretation of its first car, the 360. There was one of those in the lot, too, with every badge imaginable on it.

Or what about a Subaru Chiffon? Yes, Chiffon like the cake. It's another kei car, but this one is a badge-engineered Daihatsu Tanto. Nearby was an Exiga, a seven-seat mini-minivan related to the Legacy that even spawned a Crossover 7 version. It served as the replacement for the Traviq—a car I forgot existed until I came across one here—which was a rebadged first-generation Opel Zafira. Circling back to kei cars, one of the coolest by far was the Vivio Targa Top with the rally-style Racing Hart wheels. Amazingly, a Vivio was driven by Colin McRae in the 1993 Safari Rally.

Among cars you may have heard of, seeing the occasional fourth-generation Legacy (as seen below) made me realize how good looking these cars still are. There was even an example of the ultimate incarnation of the fourth-gen Legacy, the S402. Launched in 2008 strictly for the Japanese home market, it was limited to 402 units in each body style. It was the last hurrah for what is arguably the handsomest version of the Legacy, and was equipped with a 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer four lifted from the contemporary Impreza STI and tuned to deliver 285 horsepower.

Even rarer than the S402 was the Legacy STI S401. Originally, STI intended to make 400 examples but only ended up producing 286. It was the very last twin-turbo Legacy—the sequential turbochargers made way for a single turbo afterward—and was the result of Subaru handing the Legacy to STI and telling them to go to town. STI did just that, fitting a 2.0-liter EJ208 with 289 horsepower, a six-speed manual from the STI, a front limited-slip differential, a full STI suspension, Brembo brakes, and gorgeous 18-inch BBS wheels. The S401 can be distinguished from regular Legacys by the unique bumpers, hood scoop, and pink STI badges.

I lapped all four main lots, in the process finding an SVX, a couple of Forester STIs, and a Crosstrek with orange wheels. As I called it a day, I noticed flared rear fenders out of the corner of my eye—could it be the 22B I had given up on finding? It definitely looked like a 22B . . . but under its hood sat the 2.0-liter engine from the standard WRX rather than the larger 2.2-liter unit in a real 22B. Still, it was a well-executed replica, and it was good enough for me. I could go home happy.