As restoration of the ’03 Bugeye WRX continues , one begins to wonder if starting with a car in better condition was a stronger plan. Like this 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B with only 40,000 km on the clock. With a week to go in the auction, the car is already at $195,000 Canadian dollars.
Bring-A-Trailer lists it as number 156 of the 400 ever built. The car has been in Japan since new, but was imported to California last year under the “show or display” exemption. World Rally Blue, turbocharged 2.2L flat-four, all wheel drive and a five-speed manual gearbox. And did we mention it’s rust free!
A never-installed OEM fender for the front right corner. Replacement JDM bumpers with aerodynamic enhancements. Subie-Savers patch panels for the rear fender arches and rocker panels. That’s really only half the story. As mentioned in a previous post, there isn’t a straight panel on this car. It’s had a rough life.
The ’03 Bugeye is up on the hoist at the body shop. The car has come so far since that test drive in February. Now in excellent mechanical condition, plated and insured, it’s almost ready to his the road.
Except for the fact that there isn’t a single straight panel on the car! The wax-crayon circles on the doors, fenders hood and trunk identify every dent and sing on the body. Tony at Scarboro Subarufound a new-old-stock OEM fender to replace the rusted out aftermarket one on the car now, while Japan Direct supplied the replacement front and read bumpers. But this car is going to need a lot of hours to make it beautiful again.
Stock, unmodified 2003 WRXs are quite rare in 2021. It’s not just the age of the car that makes them hard to find. It’s that so many have been thrashed and crashed, the number of cars left is dwindling. Some might say that this WRX was not a good candidate for refinishing, being in such rough shape. But the body shop has experience repairing vehicles that there simply aren’t parts for. Sometimes the only way to fix it is to bring out the hammer and dolly and start working the sheet metal.
Or get one of those classics around the shop to teach the WRX the restoration trick from 1983’s Christine.
The WRX is now plated and insured. Once the car leaves the body shop with rust repaired and a fresh coat of paint, it will be ready for the road. Less than a year ago, Daniel got his driver’s license, and now a license plate for his first car. Big moment!
The fun thing about going to the local body shop is all the odd cars you’ll find crossing paths with yours. Forget about the commoners minivans and SUVs. Those are just appliances the boss has to repair to keep the lights on. No, the good stuff is usually in the back. Sometimes it’s a project car that stalled out, other times an antique undergoing full restoration.
For example, tucked in behind Daniel’s WRX is a 1920’s Chevrolet in Detroit’s version of World Rally Blue.
Out in the back lot you’ll find a late 1950’s Studebaker developing extra patina before being turned into someone’s rat-rod.
Or this turn of the century Rolls Royce with minor fender damage just waiting for factory parts to arrive from the UK before heading back out on the rough Toronto roads..
Rust on the rear quarter panels of a Subaru is a common problem. Rust on the rockers too. Rust in general.
With so much snow and salt on the roads in Canadian winters, these cars take a lot of pain. But the AWD system is fantastic, so that makes up for a lot. There’s a great company out of Wisconsin that makes top quality patch panels for the Legacy, Forester and Impreza WRX called ‘Subie Savers’. They are dedicated to the preservation of Subarus.
A pair of rear wheel arch panels, and new rocker panels, arrived today. With the new/old bumpers from Japan Direct, all the components are in place to begin restoration of the WRX’s body.
There’s some long weeks of body work and rust repair in the WRX’s future. However, rolling into the body shop today, the WRX project really felt like it was in the final stretch.
We’ve been sort of restoring a Bugeye ’03 WRX. The plan was to bring the car back to original condition, with only minor changes for safety (back-up camera) but no performance mods. However, if parts could have been on the car, that’s an acceptable change. For example, if the WRX was “wingless” it would be fine to add an OEM spoiler; who’s to say what the car was originally equipped with?
Wheels were the most obvious area for improvement. The stock 16″ cast aluminum wheels were cleaned up, and will work just fine in the winter. But a nice set of “optional” wheels for summer would be great. The search for parts brought us to JDM Place in Markham. These guys have decades of experience customizing Subarus, and have some very unique parts, including these Porsche Design wheels available from Subaru in 2000 to 2003.
Produced between 2000 and 2003 for the Japanese market only, the Subaru Legacy B4 ‘Blitzen’ (that’s German for ‘flash’) was a collaboration between Subaru and Porsche Design. Not the Stuttgart car company itself, but the Porsche Design subsidiary that provides industrial design with flair for glasses, laptops and even Subarus! All the interior and exterior design changes were designed by Porsche. This included the body kit, bumpers, the split rear wing, and of course the wheels, reminiscent of the early ’80s Porsche 928 telephone dial wheels.
The final decision was to go with the BBS RK 028 wheels that were optional on the WRX, and not the Porsche Design wheels. But they were an incredibly cool item that we didn’t even know existed..
On the weekend, we spotted a WRB Bugeye WRX parked on O’Connor Dr, right in front of Rob’s Good Food. As we drove by, Daniel craned his neck to get a better look at the car, and told me to take a lap around the block so we could go back and check it out.
We parked the ‘monster truck’ behind the Subaru, and Daniel hopped out to get a better look at the car so similar to his own. This WRX looked lowered, some customization on the stock body, plus a leather interior that definitely didn’t come from the factory that way!
Seeing the two of us inspecting his WRX so closely, car owner Michael stepped out of Rob’s to introduce himself, and answer the inevitable questions.
Michael was gracious enough to tell us about his car,. He explained that the upper grill was from a Japan-only model, and that he custom made the lower grill. STi headlights and hood scoop were the other obvious exterior mods, because this car was all about performance!
He called the Neetronics tuned car the fastest Bugeye east of Yonge St and sounded like he had earned this title over the past decade with late night street races. Got to say…we liked Michael immediately!
The 2003 “Bugeye” Subaru Impreza has always been one of my favourite cars.
I think it’s the best Impreza. Fast but not too fast, cool but not that cool, cheap but not too cheap. It’s the perfect first car. I was lucky enough to track one down, but the downside to a car this age is that there was a lot of work to get it running again.
After weeks of work at Scarboro Subaru tracking down a braking issue, the car is one step closer to being done. With shiny BBS RK wheels and fresh Yokohama tires, the car finally started taking shape. It was awesome getting to drive my new car, which sounds amazing. While Laird Auto Body still has work to do, this is already the coolest car in the school parking lot.
The WRX sits in the Scarboro Subaru shop, nestled between modern WRXs and STIs…a sea of World Rally Blue.
With two sets of wheels into the GMC’s bed, Chris and Daniel visited Scarboro Subaru to drop off the rims, and select new tires to mount on the shiny BBS wheels.
The tires size of 205/55-16 is a good fit for the 6.5″ wide factory wheel. But the optional BBS are 17″ x 7″, allowing for a bit more rubber on the road. With the help of parts manager Tony, a 225/45-17 sized tire was chosen as the best fit. Despite the shorter sidewall, the new tire size is only 3mm taller overall (635mm vs 632 mm) but has a full 20mm wider tread. Only selections were narrowed down to Continental, Michelin, Toyo and Yokohama rubber.
The Yokohama AVID Ascend GT tires were selected as the best overall Grand Touring tire.
The WRX project has really started to come together with mechanical repairs, new exhaust, interior detailing, in car electronics, and now BBS wheels and Yokohama tires wrapped up…the next step will be to roll the car down to Laird Auto Body for body and paint.