It’s the early 90’s. Grunge is in full swing; flannel is all the rage and Fuji Heavy Industries has some catching up to do. Nissan is dominating the track motorsport scene with its new kid on the block, the Skyline R32 GTR (not so lovingly dubbed the “Godzilla” by Australian press), which subsequently pushes their sales of road vehicles through the roof. Subaru’s World Rally team, on the other hand, are still only flirting with rally motorsport at this point and have, at best, managed a third-place podium position in the ’87 NZ rally. Additionally, Fuji Heavy Industries is having a hard time of it. 1989 saw flagging sales fall by a whopping 15% for the manufacturer totalling a loss of over $500 million by the time 1990 rolled around. The main bank for FHI requested assistance from Nissan, which already owned 4% of the company, to step in and help out. But even with lucrative contracts from Nissan shoring up their falling profit margin something had to be done to put Subaru back on the map…

Come the 1990 motorsport season, Subaru finally announced its entrance into world rally with its first Prodrive developed car, the Legacy RS. Still only skirting around most of the season races, Subaru’s aim was to showcase the prowess of the car on certain types of track, preferring the gravel courses and showing promising performance. However, as the early ’90s wore on and with the other teams starting to shift towards a lighter chassis Subaru needed to develop a vehicle that would show their manufacturing chops. They finally hit upon a design that would prove to carve out their infamy in the halls of motoring history. Not only in the motorsport scene but also in the retail market with their new Impreza WRX. 


Subaru Tecnica International was established in ’88 by Fuji Heavy Industries to head up the motorsport division of Subaru, and it was in conjunction with the British firm Prodrive that the winning formula of the WRX was born. With Prodrive forging the success of their World Rally Team and the Impreza WRX cutting a sleek figure amongst the pack, Subaru started to enjoy increased sales from its sportier line of vehicles produced for the road. 

The “World Rally eXperimental” GC8 chassis first hit the streets with a stiff suspension setup, all-wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine. To improve upon the success of this model Subaru offered its WRX in “high performance” STI editions. These editions included improvements over the stock WRX such as 6-speed manual gearboxes, helical slip difs, driver-controlled centre difs, uprated turbochargers and a whole raft of body and interior styling.

The STi line of cars quickly caught on and the badge was handed down through subsequent revisions of the Impreza.  Unfortunately, the STI badge has slowly been phased out as the main offering by Subaru in recent years with the manufacturer focusing more on family-based and luxury vehicles. There are exciting rumblings of a new STI being announced in 2021 which could be a return to form. How that revision will be received remains to be seen but those looking for an STI still have a long line sought after Impreza’s to choose from. 


Dating back to 1993 the Impreza range has seen 6 major body styling revisions across 5 generations since its inception. Including Saloon, Wagon and most lately hatchback body shapes, these revisions have been given differing nicknames by the enthusiast community depending on the headlights and their placement and shape within the front chassis. For the purpose of this article, let’s concentrate on the saloons…

  • “Meaneye” – ’93 to ’00: Generally referred to as the Classic. These are the original and arguably the most loved of the Impreza range.
  • “Bugeye” – ’01 to ’02: The first major styling change from the previous 7 years wasn’t the best received and many disliked the new style.
  • “Blobeye” – ’03 to ’05: Essentially the same block under the hood as the Bugeye this was a well-liked upgrade from the previous poor-selling facelift, this style turned around sales for Subaru.
  • “Hawkeye” – ’06 to ’07: The next facelift with an engine change, upping the displacement to 2.5L.
  • “Stinkeye” – ’08 to ’12: Subaru’s attempt to push the Impreza style into the hatchback market. They soon produced this car in saloon form.
  • “Raptoreye” or “Hawkeye” – ’14 to date: Subaru dropped the Impreza name, ending the legacy of the chassis for many.


Whichever of the generations is your favourite there is a wide selection to choose from at auction in Japan. Stock and modded base WRX and base WRX STi models are common and in good condition.

But if you have a tad more to spend and you’re after something a little rarer, Japan is your best bet for snagging that example you just won’t find at home. If you’re in the market for a two-door, we see a fair amount of Type Rs. If you’re looking for something with a little more poke from the factory, then the RA revisions are abundant. And of course, those juicy Limited Editions are available if you want to show off your 3 digit identifier when you’re pulled up at car meets.

The main benefit of buying from Japan is that the car is going to roll off the factory line in better shape than its EDM siblings. It’ll be looked after and in better shape than cars of a similar age in other regions of the world and ultimately you’re more likely to find cars that are rust free underneath; for a deeper look at this premise check out our post on “How to Import from Japan”. If you’re buying a car from the mid-90s then these points are going to be very attractive to help your future upkeep be as simple as possible. But, when you’ve got your car to the UK, how do you go about ensuring that it stays in good shape? 


We’re proud to be able to partner with Scoobybits Subaru Specialists, based in the South West, to be able to offer full service, undercarriage work and custom upgrades for all Subaru’s we import to the UK. Scoobybits have years of experience working as independent specialists and the work they produce from engine rebuilds, performance upgrades, undersealing to fully custom bodywork is exceptional. 

With this in mind we will be offering a “Subaru On the Road” package that will incorporate a full-service using RCM cambelts, genuine OEM oil filters, genuine OEM sump washers, Blueprint fuel filters and Petronas Syntium Oils. We’ll top this off with a range of different underseal options, a full inspection, UK conversions and finally an MOT to ensure your new purchase is fully road legal. By handing over this work to a team of passionate Subaru experts with aftercare second to none, we’re confident you will be happy with your new Subaru for years to come. 

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