555 Horses Of Widened Fury
Legendary Looks From A Legendary Time

If the great Colin McRae was still around and came face to face with Naoki Takigashira’s GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX, I bet he’d give it a nod of approval.

I’ve previously voiced my disappointment in the way Subaru has gone with the latest Lancer Evol… oh apologies, the latest Impreza WRX STI. It’s still a great performance car for the money and it’s a safe and easy evolution (there’s that word again, sorry) of a tried and tested all-wheel drive turbo platform, but am I the only one that’s getting a bit tired of it all? Surely after 20 or so years of development Subaru could have done something a little more daring with the new model? Bump the power to about 400hp, perhaps? Maybe throw a dual-clutch transmission into the mix to prove they’re not stuck in 2001? I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud here. What I do know however, is that nothing really looks as bad-ass as a pumped and tuned GC8 Impreza WRX. It’s the daddy that started it all; the model that took Subaru to three consecutive WRC manufacturer titles between 1995 and 1997.

Given the GC8’s pedigree, I can fully understand why Naoki has stuck with it, perfected it over time and given it the looks to match.

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When I first saw this car at Battle Evome last weekend, it fooled me. I thought a crazy man had taken a rare 22B (the road car version of Subaru’s World Rally Car) and turned it into a time attacker. In reality though, Naoki’s Impreza is a normal 1997 WRX STI coupe, which has been pumped and massaged to mimic the aggressive lines of Subaru’s WRC machines between ’97 and ’00.

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And when I mean pumped, I really do mean it. Both the front and rear fenders have been custom blistered like those on the WRC machines, adding 50.5mm of extra width to each side.

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It’s amazing what some good old fashioned widening can achieve, right? I mean look at this thing; it looks evil just parked, and so refreshing to see without a single screw or rivet in sight.

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Seeing a car built in this way, with a proper artisan having tediously hand-sculpted the fenders in FRP and fitting and aligning them with a factory-like approach, is worthy of so much more admiration.

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I’m a guy that appreciates attention to detail, so I really like it when things are done in a performance-oriented way, as they have been here. Plus, the fenders are so well integrated into the overall shape of the Impreza, that they don’t stick out like ill-conceived additions.

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The WRC style provides a menacing look, but in this case it’s applied to a car that has not been built for carving up rally special stages. It works beautifully though, and the details like the WRC carbon mirrors are appreciated additions.

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To get it all looking right, the rearward section of the side skirts had to be integrated into the rear fenders, which mean that the skirts had to be custom made as well.

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The blistering takes the factory hip-line and extends it outward, and from this angle you really get an idea what an extra 50.5mm per side equates to.

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The rear end is finished off with an Avis bumper and a 22B/WRC-style spoiler mounted on a lightweight FRP trunk lid.

Every Little Bit Counts
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There’s an Avis bumper at the front too, but aside from that the rest of the body appears stock. But looks can be deceiving, because the bonnet is FRP and the doors are carbon fiber; the latter being extremely light and saving the most weight around the chassis.

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The roof is carbon fiber too, in this case a catalog item from T&E that completely replaces the factory steel panel. Around Tsukuba, you really feel little changes like these.

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It all make the car feel more reactive, less prone to understeer and far more chuckable through the corners with more accurate steering. Little things really do count, especially when you add them all up.

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At the GC8’s heart is completely rebuilt motor. No, it’s not the prettiest thing to look at, but boxer engines have never won any beauty awards. It gets the required job done though, supplying a fierce amount of power with optimal mid-range response.

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To achieve this, the motor was taken apart, bored out and fitted with oversized Wossner forged pistons mated to JUN I-section connecting rods. The factory crank has been replaced with a Tomei Powered forged billet item, which with a stroke of 83mm increases capacity to 2,230cc. The extra 200-odd cc are a welcome addition of course, but what these components really do is prepare the quad-cam engine for a serious dose of boost.

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Specifically, 1.7kg/cm2 (25psi) worth, developed via a top-mounted HKS GT3037S turbocharger.

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The heads are fitted with aggressively-specced JUN camshafts running 272-degree duration and 10.3mm lift on both the intake and exhaust sides. This gets the most out of the engine, which gulps in copious amounts of air cooled by a large HKS front-mounted intercooler, and then mixes it with high octane fuel delivered by 850cc/min injectors.

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The result is 555ps (Subaru rally fans will appreciate that number!) of power and a healthy spread of torque in the mid-range that tops out at a whisker under 600Nm. To get all this performance to the ground, Naoki has beefed up the AWD driveline with an Exedy twin-plate clutch mated to a 6-speed transmission borrowed from a GDB, and a pair of Cusco 1-way LSDs front and rear.

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While poking my nose into every corner of the engine bay, I spotted a cool old STI carbon strut bar that was offered on these cars. I have a similar item on my Legacy 30R and it works wonders for steering feel and turn in.

On the day, Naoki managed to nail a 57″963 lap – a perfect testament to the work that has gone into his project. Check out the in-car by hitting play above.

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What’s better than a WRC-style WRX that can lap Tsukuba in 57-seconds though? A WRC-style WRX that is also street legal. To me, that only makes the car’s track ability even more impressive. Time attack cars certainly have come a long way since I started covering the scene back in the early 2000s.

Stripped Out Just Right
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With so much attention focussed on dropping weight from Impreza’s body, you probably won’t be too surprised to learn that the cabin was also put on a strict diet. There’s a single Recaro bucket with a Takata 4-point harnesses, but when Naoki drives around on the street he uses the regular retractable belt.

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Although the passenger seat and rear bench have been removed, most of the trim around the cabin has been kept in place, which actually gives a nice ambience to it all. It’s definitely all performance-oriented, but you never feel like you’re sitting inside a tin can.

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Additional Defi gauges have been added to keep an eye on all the engine’s vitals; three of them neatly arranged beneath the center air vents. The Subaru has been stripped of its air conditioning unit though, so things get a tad toasty in here on a hot Japanese summer’s day. But with the HVAC controls gone too, it’s freed up space for Naoki to neatly mount the HKS F-Con V PRO engine management system box, HKS EVC EZ boost controller, the center diff controller, and the Defi Link control unit for the aforementioned gauges.

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Being 19 years old, this GC8 couldn’t possibly compete on structural rigidity compared with more modern cars, so the addition of a welded in rollcage is a welcome one, both from performance and safety perspectives.

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Naoki even moulded some carbon fiber to clean up the rear of the interior.

Here’s a quick little walk-around video that shows you the car and its simple interior.

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As we’ve seen, sheer mechanical grip is definitely not an issue, but to ensure that the Impreza handles properly around the track, a set of adjustable Bilstein coilovers are also fitted. It may sit a little high if we were judging it on stance, but we are not, so it actually looks perfect and very function-oriented. In the wheel and tyre department, the 18-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37SLs measure 11-inches across and are shod at each corner with gumball-sized 295/30R18 Yokohama Advan A050 semi-slicks. With that kind of rubber footprint, getting all the power and torque down to the ground is no issue at all.

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While the stock rear brakes were deemed up to task for the hard track duty the GC8 is put through on a regular basis, the fronts had to go. In their place are far more capable Endless 6-pot calipers, and along with PFC drilled discs the package does an awesome job of pulling up the WRX from speed.

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We see a lot of wild cars with wild aero added in pure experimental fashion, and that’s all good; it’s what adds to the whole spectacle of seeing these mad men attempting to shatter their own records. But seeing a clean and well put together car like this Impreza is equally pleasing.

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As I stood there looking at Naoki’s creation, I couldn’t help but wonder if the GC8 will be the next JDM car to explode in popularity. From a looks and potential standpoint, the model certainly has a lot going for it.

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It almost makes me want to go out and get one myself. Perhaps a new Speedhunters project car? Oh wait, I still have that blue thing to finish off first!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

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94 comments

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1

beautiful

2

This is awesome! i love everything about this car...and a 57, damn that's quick!!

3

What a beautifully done car. You can tell that no expense was spared in the build. A lot of money spent doesn't always equate to a fast car because it still needs to be tuned properly, but you get what you pay for in the aftermarket parts world and this.....thing....is....badass.

4

Beutiful, functional, perfect!
Rocket bunny should learn from this how to properly widen a car, instead of the trash they make lately!

5

Aftermarket Headlights? or JDM variant? or am I just seeing them weirdly?

6

They are aftermarket and ugly.

7

Beautiful car, i like he keep the door cards on and keeping it painted. So it clocked high 57s with just sheer power and mechanical grip?

8

57.9s without crazy aerodynamic is really crazy ! Given it have only 555-hp !
I'm guessing the 295mm tires must provide quite crazy grips !

9
jbfromsiliconvalley

Life needs more gc8s with 22b style widebodies.
I'll take mine w/ a built 22b block in aspen white with a later 6 speed please. Who says EJ's aren't pretty underhood??? Ha

10

For something that relies a lot on mechanical grip, a sub-1 minute lap time is a massive achievement!

11

Now THAT'S what a proper WIDE BODY should look like.

12

The dream car. One and only. Thank you DINO!!

13
FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove!

a/c controls usually live where the guages are, not below them, thats the stereo and the ash tray, remember ash trays? gc8's are the best, I have a coupe of my own and its an occasion everytime I drive it.

14

I watched this and had a fizzing sensation. So much so I forgot what shirt I was wearing.

15

perfect

16

Damn Dino! I think you've found my new all time favourite feature car! This is everything sort of in one, modified, clean, fast, pretty and roadworthy! Beautiful shots as always Dino!

17

rad!
rad!
rad!
Thank you Dino!
More of this
less of the "hype"r (Mattel) cars

18

Pure class.

19

That's more like it . No bolt in dash dodging cage set a mile away from the screen and pillars, no structural pop riveting, no hacking the rear bumper up but leaving the valance behind it untouched, a lot of time spent on the body for something that gets tracked and the red looks spot on, fair play to them.

I'm FAR from a Scooby guy but that's pretty special. 57.9 backs that up perfectly I guess. What are coupes going for over there now? I think you're on to something :)

20

Can't go wrong with the Bunta mobile......

21

Being an Evo fan (From New Zealand)
...This is just the best thing ever.

Memories. That one time at Rally NZ when I was 4 and I waved at him and he waved back.
Possume Bourne days.
When I was 17, fixing a GC8 STI 4 door with a broken fuel pump, then taking it for a test drive. First time driving a Subaru.
Oh how life's changed. Damn :/

22

I love my GD Impreza, but a stripped, caged, wide arch GC8 is the only Scoob that makes me want to sell up!
Great article Dino, nice to see you distinguish between the 22B and the WRCars. Its only a minor point, but it annoys me how many supposed specialist Japanese car sites fail to acknowledge the difference between the two.

23

Oh, that is so very very pleasant indeed.

24

Beautiful. I really wish factory cars were designed with blistered fenders. Wider is nearly always better.

25

Reading this made me really miss driving my GC8.
Great pics as usual, love seeing it from behind such a fat ass

26

With a few more laps, it should be making a 55.5 sec time.

27

Never thought I'd say this but this is one hell of a nice scooby. And Dino, if you were going to get any new car at least make it an Evo!

28

Genuinely my favourite car I've ever seen on Speedhunters. Absolutely love it.

29

This is one of my biggest dream cars. I love it

30

No matter how many times you call it a GC8, it won't turn into a sedan. The proper code for the coupe is GM, and first gen impreza wagons have the chassis code of GF.

31
hungry hungry hippos

had my mind blown to learn the sub boxers are quad came, always figured it'd be two single cams for each bank....nicely done dropping the knowledge on me speedhunters

32

@Ex Subaru owner The GM code only applied to American cars, specifically the 2 door Impreza RS. The US RS and JDM Type R are not the same thing. 
All JDM (and other export) "classic shape" Impreza chassis codes begin with either GC8 (sedan) or GF8 (estate), with the letter that followed that indicating production year and the number after that indicating number of doors.
The car in this article started life as a Japanese Type R, so GC8 is correct.

33

Nice!  And can now imagine the Rocket Bunny new style winder fenders for this body style...

34

Knowledge dropped!

35

GC8? Uh oh....Here come the chassis code nazis

36

Emptypie Those look like aftermarket DEPO smoked headlights

37

*roadworthy is Japan only

38

Kg/cm2 is such an awkward way to measure boost..

39

why no twin scroll.... :(

40

He should be very proud. This is an excellent build.
Especially achieving that time practically relying all on mechanical grip.
Has both the clean looks and performance to go with it *thumbs up*

41
speedhunters_dino

Twitch_6 It's stupid fast yes :D

42
speedhunters_dino

Yossarian But t hey make the bolt on variety, well for the most part (NSX)

43
speedhunters_dino

RDS 295s is what most guys are using on a lot of cars these days

44
speedhunters_dino

bluestreaksti My pleasure :)

45
speedhunters_dino

FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! Good point

46
speedhunters_dino

Lachys114 Thanks man!

47
speedhunters_dino

@SW1 Glad so many people are liking this:)

48
speedhunters_dino

tbtstt Thanks man

49
speedhunters_dino

@Ex Subaru owner I beg to differ sir ;)

50
speedhunters_dino

FujiHeavy ;)

51
speedhunters_dino

Leroy P Dunno...

52

huntrt because single scroll remain the boxer burble.. :)

53

I have a Type R Version 3 STi as well, and this is everything i've ever wanted to do to my car times 2. God what a build. Such a shame it isn't in WRC Blue though :(

54

The carbon roof what's the full name of the supplier I want that bad for my build? Which I would say is more extreme than this car, though I do love this gc8.

55

@Ex Subaru owner speedhunters_dino Brrratatat!

56

FujiHeavy Emptypie THANK YOU!

57

@Photon The colour is the only thing I would change as well! Other than that, this is pretty much perfection as it is.

58

It's almost like you anticipated chassis number related posts speedhunters_dino...
Further to my earlier post, the applied chassis code is broken down as follows:
G - Impreza
C - Sedan
8 - 2.0L turbo
D - MY97
2 - 2 Door
D - Type R 
D - 5 speed transmission

59

Damn those details. It really shows the heart of the builder in these kinds of builds. Keep it up!
Hoping to see more GT-R in the future too :)

60

Very much doubt that. You need a ton of aero to start getting 55's.

61

Building a red 22b at the moment and I think I'm a bit late. Now this beautiful machine is on speedhunters it's going to be weird to put a second one on it.
It's not as fast as the featured one, but with 320bhp still packs a punch. Didn't had the budget to go 500bhp at my age of 22...

62

Now THIS is how you do a widebody. Thanks Dino, this perfection.

63

tbtstt tbh, I think blue would ruin this specific build. The red really makes it feel aggressive and angry, but blue would kinda make it feel passive.

64

Bas v O Loooks badass, got an IG for it, I wanna stay updated on that beast

66

speedhunters_dino FujiHeavy Put em in their place Dino ! lmao

67

Gary89 The driver can do more.  I think this is a first of many more laps to come.  And I thought ppl would have picked up on the 55.5 = 555 pun?  
I know Dino did.  Dino is smart.  Be like Dino.

68
Gianluca FairladyZ

I don't know if anybody feels the same like me but back then, the cars were so simple, so cool, and just so much YES! Is it so complicated, dear japanese auto makes, to continue this path???????????????????????????

for me, car of the year 2016!

69

Amazing car and article!

Awesome work, Dino!

70

Always did love that model! 
Great build here, keep em coming!

71

That right there is a beautiful engine bay...nicely cluttered, dusty, a mess of wires and pipes and that little oil spray on the intake...rock chips on the bumper and splashes down the sides; the marks of a car well used. Refreshingly beautiful. It's a well built car, I love the GC8s, pity we didn't get the 22b in here in South Africa but there is a white 4-door for sale near me, were it not for the blown turbo I would be all over that.

72

speedhunters_dino 
Is that the widest available tires ?

73

Best Subaru I have seen in years!  What a great looking car and also potent!  ~57 seconds w/ basically no aero?  That's great!!!

75

2 doors how WRX's should be.

76

Excellent feature Dino! It appears the love for these Subie models brings out the enthusiasts from the woodwork!  What a strong compliment to the owner as it's well deserved.  It is quite rare to find a model that looks so aggressive and FUN from every angle whether moving or sitting still- and this one does it so well!  I wonder how many searches this feature just spawned of local used inventory for GC models after reading this a few times?!  I can't lie I have another tab open right now looking myself!! Great job though man you captured the passion perfectly on this.

77

Absolutely awesome.

78

a  lot 2 concentrate on diz build

79

Leroy P Plenty of US states too. Well, if the same mods were done to a US-maket GC8.

80

Whelp... Its settled...The 22B is my favorite Subaru!..Who told them to make them 4 doors?

81

nice Hyundai!

82

0xADADA srry but lol at the "cage"

83

nervcoffeemug i thought the same.

84

I don't have a build topic I'm sorry. But the update so far is that the car is almost done. It's back to the paint shop to adjust the front bumper and give it a good polish.
Hope to get it back in 2-3 days and finish the car.

85

Favorite Brand...Favorite Subaru...Perfection!

86

Bas v O Bringing this back to the top as someone linked the original feature on Facebook.
I'm also looking to build a 22B rep but no where near your point (got car, metal arches/fenders, 22T engine to rebuild) but I wanted to say both cars look great and would love to see more of your car Bas v O as I'm guessing it's done by now?..............

87

Very impressive car.... I like it very much

88

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89

DazHall1 Bas v O Yeah pretty much done now. Just a few small thing needs to be changed for my taste, but that wil be done in the next winter.

90

Just love a red widebody impreza.

91

Forged billet crank? Is that a typo? Shouldn't it be one or the other lol?

92

Does anybody know the color Code?

93

I know it wouldn't look as cool, but why not run narrower tires at the back to help dial out some of the understeer?

94

Really surprised he was allowed on track with the harnesses improperly installed. Very dangerous.

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