Straight From the Source || Subaru Impreza WRX STI RA

By 15 November, 2014 Featured Comments

Now, as I sit here writing this latest piece for you all to enjoy reading, I have a bit of an inner conflict brewing as how to start this off. On the one hand I could go in depth about the Impreza’s history: how Sainz and McRae tore across continents in world rally iterations of the scooby in the 90′s; how this is a 4wd rally car for the road, how the evo/impreza battle of the 90′s waged on in the stages and the street, so on and so forth, overused cliche after overused cliche, I’m even guilty of doing this myself. But, perhaps for a change, I’ll just save you from the history lesson and get to the point. This is owner Richard Duwel’s 1999 GC8 Impreza Sti RA limited and, I’ll be straight, it’s bloody awesome.


PTtP2V5sRD6GEuWbqwtQRNow our feature today comes directly from Japan, more specifically the island of Okinawa just South of the mainland. Owner and Gymkhana aficionado Richard Duwel is a U.S. native but has been stationed in Japan as a Jet Engine Mechanic for the U.S. Air Force since 1999; fast forward to 2003 and Richard picked up a 94 Sti and a 6 year long build began on the car. Extensive work including a host of performance upgrades and a full body respray from red to bay-side blue took place until Richard unfortunately crashed the car, and as a result it was stripped of all salvageable parts and subsequently scrapped. Not to be deterred, Richard soon acquired a 99 Sti RA limited and another 4 year build was in the works, culminating in the road and track ready Impreza you see here. With that being said however, it’s not been without a few hiccups along the way, Gymkhana battle scars and all.xBJdh6EJpo6aHZTo the build itself: I think by now it’s fairly plain to see that the car looks nearly as stock as can be, aesthetics have taken a back seat to make way for performance and this is by no means a bad thing. The original EJ207 STI RA engine was one of many components of the car to suffer at the hands of a Gymkhana thrashing and, during a test run, it terminally blew, and as a result it was taken out and swapped. Fortunately for Richard, Subaru’s are a bit like lego; most EJ engine’d cars have fairly interchangeable parts, albeit with a bit of fettling, and a newer 2004 EJ207 from a Spec C with the VF36 twin-scroll turbo was installed. The new engine, being younger, is definitely set to last for years to come and the VF36 ball-bearing turbo is fast spooling and provides greater mid-range torque. Further upgrades include a Version 5 throttle body adapted to fit, meanwhile other engine upgrades are simply to improve flow and cooling, with a GDB top mount intercooler fitted along with a HKS air filter and a 3″ exhaust for that trademark boxer burble. The only other mentionable upgrades are the B4 legacy alternator and the aftermarket engine and transmission mounts to keep the later powertrain firmly fixed to the GC8. Peak Power isn’t the goal here, it’s more about keeping the car reliable and driveable; important when driving to compete in arguably one of the most mechanically demanding motorsports around, and then driving home again.7BXCbTszHaXyfaMoving on to the drivetrain, the GC8 has been fitted with a GDB 6 speed Sti transmission complete with DCCD: essentially a controllable center differential. Meanwhile a Cusco 2 way limited slip diff has been fitted; fundamentally a 2-way diff provides full lock under acceleration and deceleration to allow the car to be thrown about more easily. This is a somewhat aggressive set-up for road use but as the car is mainly about Gymkhana, it’s probably the best way to get the car to change direction quickly especially with the handbrake being used frequently, extended for ease of use of course. This is also a more effective and reliable upgrade as opposed to simply welding the original diff, not something I would advise anyway.JkieCeXLsXGwpdNow, Gymkhana is something most of you are probably relatively familiar with, albeit with perhaps a different view than is reality due to Ken Block’s flashy Hollywood viral videos. Gymkhana 1 is probably the only video even remotely indicative of the grassroots competitions seen in Japan; perhaps ironic that he used an Impreza too I guess. In reality though, Gymkhana is more similar to autocross, but even so, similar principles cross over from Mr. Blocks’ impreza to Richards’; essentially suspension and tyre setup is key and, as is the way with the mechanical stress of Gymkhana and, perhaps Richards luck, casualties were to be expected. Now, working on a budget generally means some parts don’t get changed unless something goes wrong, in this case, again during a Gymkhana run, one of the 7+ year old JIC FLT-2A shocks decided to let go in dramatic fashion on the right rear corner, chewing up a wheel in the process. As a result the car now sits low on KTS coilovers along with further suspension upgrades. Cusco parts are mainly on the agenda here with a 22mm front sway bar 21mm rear sway bar helping increase roll-stiffness for fast direction changes, meanwhile various bracing and the 7 point roll cage increase chassis stiffness and safety for track use.5lalGv8Kcw2zElFinally for the performance side of the Impreza are the four corner upgrades. GDB Sti Brembo rotors and calipers have been installed all round providing greater stopping power and the resilience to withstand the abuse of constant track use; another advantage of the GDB Brembo’s is the unsprung weight is virtually the same as standard WRX brakes. Continuing the OEM look, the Impreza sits on version 7 impreza wheels powder coated in white to give it that WRC tarmac feel. As for tires, Richard has gone through a few sets over the years and the latest set to be slayed are the Toyo Proxy R1R semi slick’s providing good dry grip, perhaps a bit less than good wet grip, and, from all accounts, they’re fairly good for chucking about.o6EajsQtvuufNQFor the aesthetic side of the car, simplicity is the key here; unless you’ve actually read through so far you might completely mistake this for a factory model and this is no bad thing. The original Gen 1 impreza is a classic shape and Richard has kept it as original as can be; no stupid bodykits, massive park bench wings or 20″ chrome wheels here; it’s nice to see especially since so many are ruined with awful body mods and pseudo wrc-esque decals. The only real body mods are the OEM front lip, painted in black, and the rear diffuser; mods in themselves that are very subtle yet are nice touches which just accent the lines and which provide small aero benefits. Finally a GDB bonnet scoop has been fitted to help feed the top mount with more air; some find this a bit controversial, “too large” is the general consensus but personally I think it suits the car and balances out the rear spoiler well. Finally for the aesthetics, the car has been finished in the classic Subaru rally blue from factory and, let’s be honest, there’s not really another colour to have for a Gen 1 Impreza is there?qf1dbDcPFsSNvFRichards’ Impreza then; I have to say having spent a lot of hours looking over the car and the 183 page, yes really, build forum, the story of the car and the way it’s been modified has really endeared me to it. This has not been a big budget build nor is it a car used for professional events by a race team, this is a really honest car built by Richard in his spare time with help from a couple of friends from around Okinawa. There’s a somewhat purity to the build being that the car has been built solely for enjoyment behind the wheel and not to impress at shows. However with that being said, Richards’ Impreza is still a great balance between form and function and, despite some bumps along the Gymkhana road, the final result is something special.UHQ5g15

Words by: Callum MacHugh@callummcq

Make sure to check out the full 183 page build forum at

Spec List:

EJ207 Spec C swapped in with VF36 twin scoll turbo.
GDB Top Mount intercooler
HKS Air filter with custom ducting
Optima battery
B4 legacy alternator
Aftermarket Solid engine and tranny mounts
Sti oil cooler

GDB 6spd STI tranny with DCCD
Cusco 2 way LSD
Custom made E-brake extention
Stock Ver 7 rims (white powdercoat) wrapped in semi-slicks
GDB STI Brembos

KTS Coilovers
Cusco 22mm front sway bar
Cusco 21mm rear sway bar
Laile rear Diff lock brace
Cusco rear cross member brace
front adjustable endlinks
rear aftermarket endlinks
Cusco H-brace
7 point roll cage
Syms front tower bar
STI rear tower bar
Whiteline Outrigger bushings