The fire came while I was reading something dull. Boring, that is, by most people’s standards, but not mine. I was browsing through the class regulations and requirements for the 2012 Rally America season. I’m a huge rally fan, and ever since I attended my first rally back in February, I’ve experienced a longing, several times a week, to rob a busy convenience store, buy an old beater VW or Civic and go rallying.
So once in a while I read over the rules, just so I can be ready. Not long ago I was thus refreshing myself when I saw under the Open Class category a notion that smelled like thermite: “The engine is unrestricted, but must be derived (at least the engine block) from a product line offered by the manufacturer of the vehicle.”
The thermite caught and has been melting through the layers of my brain ever since: a Subaru Justy with an STi drivetrain.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Justy, it was Subaru’s lunge into the ‘80s hot hatch craze. Okay, admittedly, it wasn’t that hot, more of a hypermiler, really, powered by a 1 or 1.2 liter 3-cylinder. But it oddly came with available 4WD, so it was quick to endear itself to the quirky enthusiast set. A 5-speed manual or a CVT (the first to be imported to America) were your gearbox options.
This is still a dream right now, but as I push off into dreamland, I’d start with a beater Justy. They can be had pretty easily on Craigslist, usually for a grand or less. I’d have to go with the 2-door to save weight. Begin the teardown.
First thing’s first. The 78hp 3-cyl isn’t going to win any rallies. I mean, not even the historical ones. Thankfully, Subaru makes some other kinds of drive trains, namely the EJ257 2.5 liter flat-4 out of the WRX STi. In stock form, it makes about 300 hp with the help of a VF48 turbo. This I would ditch for a Garrett GT35, as my target would be about 400 hp. Open class requires a restrictor plate, so 400 should get the job done regardless.
Between the seats, a stock STi 6-speed, hopefully out of the same wreck from which I pulled the engine. All of this would take some serious shoehorning to squeeze into a little Justy engine bay, but I also have a garage in my dreams, and can weld and fabricate, so that helps.
The drive shaft would likely need some shortening before plugging into an R180 diff out back.
At the Ends
A 5-lug conversion would be needed to fit the wheels, at least 16,” and varying widths depending on conditions. It’s smarter to run skinny tires in the snow, but for gravel, the wider the better. Holding everything up would be a complete suspension setup from RCE. Granted, it would likely be as expensive as the engine and transmission combined, but there’s no point in having a dust-light rally car if it’s flopping all over the gravel. I’ve had great experience with my EBC brakes, so I would probably go to them for pads and rotors. They like sponsoring rally cars, anyway.
The Justy is a paragon of that conservative, blocky styling we loved about ‘80s design. Rally America doesn’t let you do much to the body, and I wouldn’t want to mess with a pure Justy’s look, but some carbon fiber fender flares (which must cover the tires anyway) wouldn’t be amiss. I would need a taller, scooped hood to make room for the intercooler, so I’d have that made of carbon fiber, too.
Aero, too, is fairly limited under the Rally America rules, but you are allowed some moderate wings, as long as they don’t protrude more than 15 cm from the original bodywork. A wing on the front, just below the bumper, and another crowning the rear hatch should give me all the downforce I could get on a rally course.
Wrap it all with a StreetsideAuto.com sponsorship banner. Right, boss? Sir? He’ll be okay, guys. Read on. Give him some air. Speaking of ventilation, I’d cut in one of those trick roof scoops with the shuttered vents.
In the Oven
The interior would be pretty Spartan. Out would come the back seats, and the original fronts, to be replaced with a pair of Recaros. Rally America requires the original inner door panels to stay in place, (the Justy’s thankfully, are made of rice paper), but the rest of the interior trim, carpet, headliner, and even the dash would be removed, the latter replaced with more carbon fiber. I’d also like a small tablet with OBDII readouts mounted somewhere nearby. You know, to keep an eye on the manifold.
Here’s where things get crazy. There would be a Plexiglas barrier behind the driver/codriver seats with some lightweight insulation starting halfway down. Why? Because it will get hot in the cargo area with the JUN radiator and all. Yes, as there won’t likely be any room left for it under the hood, it will have to go out back with the battery to keep it company. It makes for better weight distribution, anyway. The rear polymer windows would be ducted for cooling, and I’d have to find some places for vents, too.
The mid-1980s are considered the Golden Age of Rallying. With the advent of Group B homologation, things got insanely fast, with manufacturers stuffing extremely powerful engines in tiny fiberglass lookalikes of some of their production cars. Subaru wasn’t rallying with the WRC at the time, but if they had been, I think they would have done something like this.
So there’s my insane engine-swap idea. What’s yours?
Special thanks to Streetside’s resident STi expert, Danny Wyly for his expertise.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.