The Subaru Impreza 22B is not just cool looking – it’s a WRC homologation special car, therefore especially cool. It is not, however, worth $312,555 as it seems somebody thought this week. In honor of not overpaying for any car, I’m going to show you how to make a damn-near identical machine for reasonable money.
The 22B was (is) a fast, fun, classically handsome car. Googling it will get you plenty of comprehensive rundowns (“Here’s Why the Subaru Impreza 22B Is the $100,000 Ultimate Subaru” – Doug DeMuro; “Why the 22B is probably the greatest Subaru Impreza of all time” – CarThrottle; ect.) but the short story is this: It is a rally-bred bonafide rally legend with a symphony of mechanical sounds and rumbles, with a gorgeously mechanical driving experience. So, yes, the 22B experience is totally worth trying to recreate.
First, you start with a GC6/GM6 (commonly called a GC8) Subaru Impreza. In the United States, we never got the turbocharged WRX model from that era, and the WRX STi may as well have been the Holy Grail (Subaru Technica International was STi until the “hawkeye” came out in 2006, then it became STI). Alas, our best spec from the 1993-2001 body style is pretty basic: an Impreza 2.5RS coupe. They aren’t easy to find but do pop up for sale regularly, and can be had from $6,000 to $9,000 for a reasonably clean runner. Since we’ll be hypothetically ripping the engine and gearbox out of this one, you can even go even lower if you find a blown engine coupe. It is imperative that it is a coupe, and not a sedan Impreza, to retain maximum similarity to the legendary 22B.
Next, we’ll get to the mechanicals. The 22B had a closed-deck bored out Version 3 EJ20G, an OG old STI power plant. That engine is a 2.2-liter, and a very special (read: expensive) thing to replicate reliably. For our hypothetical repro build, we’re going to use a good-old 2.0-liter EJ engine, specifically a JDM Version 7 EJ207 from a bugeye WRX STI. It has forged pistons and a semi-closed deck block; a net strength gain over a later Version 8 or Version 9 closed-deck with cast pistons. As a bonus, the Version 7 has unequal length headers for the authentic Subaru sound; the 8s and 9s moved to an equal-length setup for the standard twin-scroll turbo, sacrificing The Rumble. Expect to spend about $3,000 for a Version 7 with ECU and ancillaries, and it should net you about 300 hp reliably, nearly the same as 22B.
Once we get to the transmission, we have a crossroads – the 22B predates the much tougher TY856 STI-engineered six-speed gearbox, and is actually a version of the normal five-speed. For maximum 22B purity, you can retain the 2.5RS five-speed and upgrade it with Type-RA gears for strength, or just get a five-speed from a 2004+ USDM WRX for the same upgrade. That gearbox is cheap, about $500 for a good one. Be wary that the five-speed is fragile and is susceptible to failure, though they were behind many STIs making 286 hp back in its heyday.
Alternatively, if you want a strong, reliable gearbox, the $2,500-$4,000 STI drivetrain with differential is well worth the investment, especially with DCCD (variable center differential) in the more expensive ones. Be wary: you can’t just buy the gearbox on its own and make it work with the car. It will bolt on, but the axles won’t fit in the hubs and the driveshaft won’t fit. Generally, you’ll be able to buy an entire drivetrain down to hubs and brakes from an importer or crashed STI. Take your pick and let’s move along!
Your choice of brakes will be affected by your choice of gearbox. If you stick with the five-speed for cheaper, budget another $400 for a set of WRX four-piston/two-piston brakes from a 2006-2007 hawkeye as a bolt-on upgrade. For the six-speed, you will need to source STI Brembo brakes if they don’t come with the drivetrain. Those can run you $900 for the full set, not including a set of STI BBS wheels that will clear the brakes, another $1,000.
For suspension, you could do the tried-and-true STI pink springs with Bilstein B6 sport shocks combo for a cool $700. That will give you all the performance you need a great price and factory ride quality. If you wanted to go all-out, you could spend $2,500 on a set of Öhlins DFV coilovers and STI aluminum control arms.
The most expensive but optional part of the build is its interior and general cosmetics. A good set of JDM STI seats, STI gauge cluster, and body kit could cost as much as $4,000. If you skip the interior parts, a knockoff 22B wide-body kit costs about $1,000. I’d go that direction, personally. Let’s call bodywork and paint another $1,500-$2,000 for that kit, of course you can pretty much spend as much as you can imagine to get a car painted. A full, well-done respray (which you might want if you love the car and keep it a while) can cost thousands more. Either way, at least the 2.5RS already has a big wing, so no need to budget for that.
Let’s tally it up for as expensive as we could get it:
- $7,000 1999 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS
- $3,000 EJ207 Ver.7 engine
- $4,000 Ver.7 STI six-speed drivetrain w/Brembo brakes
- $1,000 STI wheels
- $3,000 body kit and paint
- $2,500 interior parts
- $2,700 suspension
- A lot of your time or about $12,000 in labor
- Grand total: $20,500ish DIY/ $32,500 done professionally
As budget as we could get it:
- $4,500 1999 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS with a blown engine/mech failure
- $3,000 EJ207 Ver.7 engine
- $500 2005 WRX five-speed gearbox
- $400 2006 WRX brakes
- $700 STI pink springs with Bilstein B6 shocks
- A lot of your time because #DIY
- Grand total: $9,100ish DIY
Keep in mind that the time investment if you DIY this build is huge. Even though Subarus are bolt-on lego cars and are incredibly easy to work on, expect roadblocks and stumbles along your DIY journey. If you can afford to have it done right, then send it off to a good shop like Yimisport Tuning in SoCal.
Either way though, you aren’t spending $312,000 and you’re getting 99 percent of the same experience. Hell, if you spend the full-bore $20,500+ for a full STI replica build, you get more for your money with a better gearbox, engine, brakes, and power potential, with none of the fear of breaking that priceless 22B engine.
Yet, after reading my parts and to-do lists, you may be wondering, “Yeah, but does it really offer the same experience? Is it gonna feel rad or faker than a Prada handbag I bought near the docks?” Don’t take my word for it, take Executive Editor Jonathon Klein’s who’s actually driven a 22B clone from the good folks at Renner Racing Development:
“To say my budding enthusiasm revolved around rallying would be an understatement. Folks, I braved dial-up to watch 0:40 clips of Group B and Group A. I vividly remember the grainy, pixelated videos of that WR Blue WRC98 Impreza with McRae behind the wheel tearing through forests like it was on a mission from god. Exhaust popping, gravel spewing, and McRae laser-focused. So when I got the chance to drive a clone of the road car based on Colin’s, good mama was I stoked and nervous.
‘Would it live up to my hype? Would it ruin childhood dreams?’ I pondered the night before. Once behind the wheel, the hood scoop in front of me, a cage around me, and that one-of-a-kind burble emanating from the exhaust, I melted. The car felt right, it felt floaty and yet taught, like it was ready to decimate those same woods Colin terrorized. The shifter from the newer STI is what I imagine a race-spec shifter would feel from the day. And the noise in the cockpit as I let the turbo spool, hot damn!
It’s safe to say it lived up to expectations and more. I know I’ll never be able to afford a real one—clearly—but damn did this feel real. And in the end, does it really matter? I don’t think so. So long as what you’re doing lives up to your expectations, your perceived memories, your belief in what the real one would feel like, who cares! At least that’s my two cents. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be pricing out local GC8s…”
What do you guys think? Am I crazy or is this viable? Let us know in the comments!