The year was 1983, Subaru had for the last eight years been the primary sponsor of the US ski team and this year was no different. The Subaru wagon in GL trim was the vehicle of choice, providing ample storage space in this body shape, a surefooted four-wheel drive system and a whopping 85 horsepower from the carburettor-fed 1.8L flat-four engine up front.
Fast forward 39 years, and a GL wagon has once again reached notoriety, but for very different reasons. While this wagon may bear a passing resemblance to its namesake, it’s the automotive equivalent of feeding Mogwai after midnight (some of you may be too young to understand this classic movie reference). The name ‘Family Huckster’ pays homage to the ‘Family Truckster’, a fictional wagon that featured heavily in National Lampoon’s Vacation (another ’80s movie) and was subjected to jumps and all manner of other abuse, making it an apt name.
The difference is, this Subaru GL wagon was built to take it.
Vermont SportsCar has a long history of building competitive rally cars. In more recent years though, VSC have also built cars for a different purpose – not only to go fast, but to put on a show. In order to top the carbon fibre-bodied, 862hp Subaru Airslayer STI that took Travis Pastrana to a second place outright finish at the 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb, it had to be rather extraordinary.
While the Airslayer was relatively focused in its directive, the Family Huckster was designed from the ground up to be an all-rounder. In short, it was built to party.
Digital automotive designer Khyzyl Saleem was given a brief, which while fairly open to interpretation had certain requirements for the end product. A few iterations followed, with Khyzyl drawing inspiration from Group B rally, and Group 5 and Super Silhouette circuit race cars.
Active aero (more on this later) was always part of the brief and various options were considered, but ultimately what we see here was the best compromise between the engineering requirements and style.
The wagon body itself serves no functional purpose and instead of being built on a production chassis it is built around a bespoke VSC tubular chassis frame inspired by 2022 WRC regulations. The tube chassis was built to replicate the strength of a roll cage built in a production chassis, and 72 meters of tubing and 30 gussets went into its creation. The double main roll bar guarantees even better the safety in case of a roll over.
What you may not be able to notice is the subtle increase in the size of the body shell, something done to ensure the wagon had the optimal wheelbase. But despite the increase in size, the Huckster is still smaller than the Airslayer. The size along with the boxy proportions allows Travis to position the car far more easily in any given situation.
While virtually all components have been changed, some subtle nods to the original wagon are retained. Externally, the GL’s wing mirrors and rear lights are factory items, and even the grill has been recreated to maintain the correct scale.
The graphics and wheels are also a nod to those used on the original ski team edition wagon. All that’s missing are the skis on the roof – something Khyzyl’s early concepts actually included.
Eight hundred and sixty two horsepower is a far cry from the original 85hp the GL would have come with, but that’s what you get with a derestricted Nitro RX ‘Supercar’ class motor and 6-speed sequential transmission-equipped drivetrain sending the power to all four wheels. The boxer motor is all bespoke, comprising of a billet block and heads, force fed by a Garrett turbocharger with both exhaust and wastegate dump pipes exiting through the car’s right-side front fender.
Suspension travel has more than doubled to over 300mm thanks to bespoke Reiger dampers.
More carbon fibre can be found underneath, with a completely flat floor leading to a rear diffuser. This flat floor could possibly serve another purpose, should Travis decide to 50/50 grind some Jersey barriers, but I couldn’t possibly speculate…
The AP Racing brake package clamps down on 343mm rotors, larger than the wagon’s standard wheels were in 1983.
The team brought a few different compounds and widths of these sticky Yokohamas to Goodwood this year, saving the widest, softest slicks for the shootout on Sunday.
Opening the carbon door to the driver’s seat, it’s apparent just as much thought was given to the interior details as the exterior.
The digital instruments used in the original wagon were state-of-the-art in ’83, and this detail has been retained, albeit with a modern twist. The main screen displays a top-down view of the car to indicate when the active aero is deployed, along with a g-force meter and the essential telemetry for stage mode. Other screens are more useful for diagnostics.
Small pieces from the original car’s interior were also retained, such as the wiper switches, radio and HVAC controls.
One thing that did not come standard is the air tank shaped like an old bomb, which houses the compressed air for the roof spoiler rams.
Dan Farley, Vermont SportsCar’s lead powertrain manager could be found behind the wheel each morning monitoring the telemetry and running the car through a series of checks, while the rest of the team were looking over the physical components. The entire VSC team were treating this event like any of the competitive rally events they attend, making sure nothing was left to chance.
The first time you see the aero package deployed under heavy braking, it looks almost comical. Each of the arches houses a hydraulic ram which in an instant lifts large flaps, along with the air-actuated roof-mounted spoiler.
Over the 2022 FOS weekend, Travis gradually built pace, getting a feel for the car and the course. The wagon squatted, rolled and pitched directly in proportion to every action behind the wheel. While the Family Huckster placed fifth place in the shootout, the car won in terms of theatre. Thanks to Travis’s fully-committed driving style, each run was nothing short of spectacular.
I’m not sure how Vermont SportsCar will top this build, but given that I thought the same two years ago when they brought the Airslayer to Goodwood, I have every confidence they’ll be back with something even more radical in the future.