Impreza P1 by Prodrive

Rumours turn to fact

The Subaru Impreza exported from Japan has been, for most countries, a very much watered down article when compared with the vehicle available there. Much improved interiors, climate control, body styling and engines rated at 280PS (276bhp) made the STi variants much sought after, especially in the UK where right hand drive is common between the two countries. This has resulted in a very big grey import market, operating outside of normal dealership and import distribution networks, much to the disgust of Subaru UK. Until recently all of the Japanese manufacturers frowned upon these grey imports stating the cars did not meet various European safety and environmental standards and thus refused to service or supply spares for any grey. The greys were imported into the UK using the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) system rather than the complete (and expensive) European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ETA).

At the end of 1998 there was a slight turn around on a number of fronts. The number of vehicles to be allowed into the UK per year under the SVA rules was to be increased progressively. The gentlemans agreement with quotas in general for Japanese imports was to be lifted in 2000 and this allowed the smaller importers like Mitsubishi and Subaru to consider expanding their markets.

Nissan had taken the first step in 1996 in announcing it would officially import a low number of Skyline GTR albeit at a much inflated price above a near identical grey. At the end of 1997 both Subaru and Mitsubishi announced they would import a limited number of cars, just 16 off Impreza 22B for Subaru and around 500 off EVO 6 for Mitsubishi. At the same time Australians were granted their own STi variant and this proved to be extremely popular.

Since 1995, the UK has had a release of a special edition Impreza, and every year Impreza enthusiasts hoped that, just maybe, we would see the higher specification 276bhp models officially. As a result of these continual rumours, a couple of members of IWOC put together an April 1st spoof press release of a hot Impreza designed and manufactured by Prodrive. Not only did it take the IWOC mailing list by surprise, several dealers also got involved with false press releases being circulated, and faxes between franchises claiming they had been chosen as one of the 25 special vehicles service centres. Little did we realise ;-)

More rumours surfaced in May 1999 of an official STi but this one was specifically tuned for UK tastes, rather than a rebadging exercise which had occurred with the 22B-UK and the Mitsubishi EVO6. The grey import STi are excellent machines but are designed for the Japanese market and as such some owners feel the UK specification car is actually better.

...and then 4 months later.....

Copyright ©Autocar
Autocar 22nd September 1999

The 22nd September issue of Autocar (subscriptions 01795 414816) had a scoop two page article with pictures of a slightly modified white WRX Type R also confirming the fact that there are... er... rumours ;-) The article had some wild inaccuracies which could be pulled to pieces by any Impreza enthusiast.

"The car is expected to use a tuned version of the 2.2 litre blown flat four that powers the Impreza WRX."
- All WRX/Impreza (except the 22B) have 2 litre engines.

"Another relative, the Impreza 22B, has donated its two door bodyshell for the new car."
- The 22B has wide wheel arches which the one pictured does not. The bodyshell is donated from a WRX STi Type R coupe.

"Although official figures put the output of the engine at around 280bhp the unit can push out as much as 350bhp"
- The 22B when originally released had exactly the same claims, but when tested on a rolling road only attained 285bhp.

"A stiffer fixed bulkhead should also help sharpen the cars responses."
- The Type R shell is a two door model, all STi have a front strut brace, and the rear seat does not fold. Whether this equates to a stiffer bulkhead....otherwise it does not.

"It is understood that the car will use uprated brakes- possible the 406mm front and381mm rear ventilated disc setup used by the 22B."
- 406mm? That is pretty big and actually is a carry over of inaccuracies of mis reported 22B articles.

What we did learn from the article was that there was a car, it was in development, and Subaru UK and Prodrive were serious about producing a car that would compete with the Mitsubishi EVO and the grey import STi. From the article we also read that the car would be fitted as standard with 17in alloys, Prodrive supplied/tuned suspension, front and rear spoilers designed by Peter Stevens (who penned the Impreza WRC and McLaren F1) and come with full dealership back-up, warranty all for the price of around £30,000.

....anyway two weeks on...

Copyright ©Autocar
Autocar 6th October 1999 front page!

Autocar magazine made up for the inaccuracies by bringing the ultimate scoop (the advantage of being a weekly) in a 6 page article on the Prodrive P1, a car predicted upon these very pages. Developed from an STi type R, it is modified for UK (and European) tastes to specifications laid out by Prodrive who were the catalysts for the project. There have been rumours of something like this coming now for over a year, and the Autocar article was the first official confirmation.

At the same time Subaru UK sent out a 9 page press release and there followed a couple of months of similar articles in various magazines on the history and development of the P1.

Next - Development History

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Copyright © 1999/2000 Steve Breen
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