Challenge Spec C: Rally Heritage For The Highway

It’s been effectively over a 12 months since my preliminary Speedhunters Storage publish, the place I launched a few AE86s and this – my Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec C.

Over that point quite a bit has occurred, however an equal quantity hasn’t. Life outdoors of automobiles has been very busy, making an attempt to stability work priorities and a brand new addition to the household. I discover once I can spare a while, it turns into a way for escape and to reset, even cathartic at occasions. Having a brand new challenge automobile to work on is at all times an thrilling prospect too.

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Earlier than I get caught into what I’ve been as much as with my Subaru and what’s deliberate for the long run, I assumed I’d begin with a little bit of background on the mannequin and my particular automobile.

Up till 2005, the WRX STI served because the Impreza Group N homologation mannequin, regardless of a Spec C variant being out there for buy. That every one modified with the 2005 mannequin 12 months STI Spec C, the place extra dramatic revisions have been undertaken.

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Beginning with an STI base, the brand new Spec C was placed on a strict weight loss program. Thinner glass, a thinner roof pores and skin and much less layers of paint, alongside an aluminium bonnet and boot lid and no underseal or sound deadening all contributed to a 70kg (154lb) weight reduction. The mannequin additionally acquired bigger wheel bearings and had its hubs modified to a 5×114.3 PCD, whereas elevated castor and a wider rear observe improved dealing with. I can’t overlook the final rally addition both: a pop-up roof vent.

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All of it sounds fairly good, proper?

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I knew I wished one, however now got here the problem of really discovering one which ticked all the appropriate containers. That’s simpler mentioned than performed contemplating the Spec C’s shortage, not to mention the truth that most have been changed into Group N rally automobiles or filth path or gymkhana automobiles, which is basically what they have been designed to be.

Following a number of unsuccessful buying makes an attempt, the appropriate automobile was ultimately received at a Japanese automobile public sale home. Following an arduous two month wait whereas it was shipped from Japan, the automobile – which up so far had lived its total life in Fukuoka Prefecture – lastly arrived on the UK docks.

There’s at all times a level of uncertainty about what precisely you’ll get when shopping for a automobile sight unseen from any public sale home – mine being half a world away. We’ve all heard the horror tales of less-than-accurate public sale grading sheets and sub-standard restore work, however fortunately there have been no horrible surprises in retailer for me. The truth is, the Impreza was higher than I anticipated it to be. The timing belt had been not too long ago modified and a stack of service receipts supported the Subaru’s total situation.

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Particularly, my automobile is a wide-track Subaru WRX STI Spec C 16-inch, which differs barely from the conventional (17-inch wheel) model. This was the mannequin devoted to gravel, and the specification it acquired mirrored that. Smaller brakes from the common WRX allowed 15-inch wheels to suit, ABS was eliminated alongside central locking, and the automobile got here fitted with the base-spec Impreza GX inside. There was little level for Subaru to specify the automobile with niceties when most purchasers can be gutting the within for a roll cage and racing tools.

To me, it was the best base for an fanatic automobile. Essentially the most pure, lightest model out there, and uncommon with solely 103 made in 2005.

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I began with the inside, swapping out the manufacturing facility entrance seats with a pair of fixed-back Recaro Pole Positions. They’re excellent for protecting one from sliding round throughout spirited drives.

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Used JDM automobiles are infamous for have mountains of aftermarket wiring for TV/CD/MiniDisc/navigation head models and different equipment like digital toll assortment (ETC) readers. I changed this 2DIN Kenwood unit with a extra fashionable unit that options CarPlay.

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I at all times have some type of hearth extinguisher in my automobiles, however fortunately I’ve by no means had to make use of one in anger. It’s positively higher to have one and never want it, than want it and never have one. As a substitute of a cumbersome extinguisher, this time round I opted for an ultra-compact Hearth Security Stick mounted in straightforward attain from the driving force’s seat.

The very fact my Spec C got here fitted with chunky snow tyres made it obvious the automobile was used year-round in Japan. First rate 16-inch rubber will be exhausting to come back by lately, however the Dunlop SP SportMaxx RTs I’ve since fitted have confirmed their price as a wonderful summer season efficiency tyre.

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I then changed the entrance brake rotors, brake traces, pads and fluid. OE rotors and Challenge Mu HC800+ pads have been deemed the appropriate stability of cold and warm efficiency, noise and mud.

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Extra upkeep adopted within the type of an engine oil change and changing the STI panel filter with a Ramair equal.

One factor the Spec C didn’t include – that may be good – are Xenon headlights. To provide the halogen models the finest probability at casting first rate gentle, I gave them a sand and polish.

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It was at this level that, by pure probability, I bumped into an proprietor of a white GDB WRX STI whereas out for a drive one afternoon.

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Parking the automobiles collectively, the STI was visually extra aggressive, however I’ve grown keen on my Spec C’s understated appears. It’s form of a ‘if , ’ factor.

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Regardless of having no intentions of driving the automobile over winter when British roads are lined with salt, the shortage of beneath seal and seam sealer necessitated some type of safety.

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After many hours of cleansing and encapsulating any floor rust, the underside and any cavities have been sprayed with Dynax-S50 anti-corrosion wax. That is by no means a enjoyable job, as a massive share of the coating finally ends up overlaying you as an alternative of the automobile.

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All the above work was performed according to my authentic plan for the Impreza – to get it to an excellent commonplace, then use it, work out the place upgrades are wanted, and slowly develop it to be a extra succesful and pleasurable automobile. Utilizing it was a main focus, and I took the Subaru on every part from quick drives to multi-day highway journeys.

Right here within the UK we’re fairly lucky to have an abundance of excellent roads. Among the highway surfaces aren’t nice, however for essentially the most half it doesn’t detract from the general expertise.

The Welsh countryside particularly has numerous roads that convey a excessive diploma of enjoyment, however there’s a disclaimer to this all: Pragmatism and being respectful means extra of us can get pleasure from them. The Evo Triangle – a well-known three-road loop – has, over the previous couple of years, been overrun by fans who’ve much less consideration for the native group than they need to have. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in an elevated police presence, extra irate residents, and even common pace cameras on some roads. Rant over.


Fortunately although, there are lots of roads extra off the crushed path to be loved. North Wales for a number of days with buddies in a Porsche 911 GT3 and Aston Martin Vantage V8 was vastly pleasurable. The additional floor clearance and narrower width of the Subaru was positively helpful down among the roads.

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I like protecting my automobiles clear, and a comparatively new technique of cleansing we’ve all seen getting used of late is dry ice blasting. Eager to see the advantages for myself, a session was booked with Tom, aka TheBlastSmith, to clear the engine bay.

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Any such blasting is way much less aggressive than vapour or media blasting. As a media, dry ice pellets evaporate immediately upon impacting the floor they’re directed at, the one residue left behind being filth on the ground to brush up afterwards. An enormous diesel-powered compressor offers Tom’s blaster with round 300 cubic toes per minute of compressed air (for reference, a traditional store compressor offers round 15cfm) to shoot the dry ice out the nozzle at over 100psi.

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Tom defined that the more severe the automobile is to start out with, the higher the distinction and subsequently the extra spectacular the outcomes. It’s exhausting to convey in pictures simply what a distinction it made in my Subaru’s engine bay, and I don’t assume these outcomes may have been achieved by scrubbing and brushing. Within the house of just some hours, the dry ice managed to get oil and filth out of even the tightest areas. Dry ice blasting could be a expensive course of, however as a one-off, I believe it’s completely price it. The engine bay is again to close new.

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Profiting from the 2023 UK summer season, I made one other journey to Wales, this time a one-day affair with my buddy Rob in his Renault Mégane RS. Each automobiles have related energy and weight, which meant we may maintain a reasonably regular tempo.

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This a part of Wales affords beautiful vistas and no scarcity of picture alternatives. However being one of many hottest days throughout a freak heatwave, my engine oil received fairly heat. Peaking at 130°C (266°F) in high-load, low-speed conditions was a bit greater than I’d have favored, so an exterior oil cooler is unquestionably on the playing cards.

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Many a bug met their destiny on the journey which necessitated a radical post-drive clear. When you’ve white wheels and aggressive brake pads there’s some further work to be performed.

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The spirited driving additionally referred to as for a brake calliper refresh. Utilizing compressed air and blocking three pistons at a time, it was a very simple course of to pop the pistons out to resume the seals earlier than bleeding once more. The passenger aspect entrance hub had additionally began to rumble, so a brand new OE one was fitted.

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For these of us within the Northern Hemisphere, gritted roads and miserable climate are upon us but once more. Whereas I’ve grand plans for the automobile – suspension, bigger brakes (which is able to necessitate a bigger wheel/tyre package deal) and a dyno session to get the automobile mapped for UK gasoline – these will all are available time and sure after numerous hours of analysis. I don’t wish to make the automobile undriveable for any size of time.

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I can attest to this with my AE86, which has sat for a complete of 12 years; 5 in my possession. The rebuild course of is effectively underway and the shell is at present being repaired and painted. However that’s a narrative for subsequent time…

Chaydon Ford
Instagram: chaycore

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