As automotive enthusiasts, we are all dreamers. Some dream of owning an exotic, while others dream of building their ideal project car. At Rally Innovations, we have a list of dream cars of our own, but we also dream of building fun and unique vehicles. Through the years, we’ve had our hands in numerous SEMA project cars, partner vehicle builds, and even smaller builds for our friends. We strive to turn our dreams into reality.
In 2020, an opportunity fell into our hands that we just couldn’t pass up. The early months of the pandemic left us with plenty of time on our hands, and the timing couldn’t have been better when a good friend of ours was looking to get rid of a tired, old Subaru. This Subaru happened to be an Impreza 2.5RS sedan, and if you know our history with the 2.5RS, you already know that we saw huge potential with this vehicle. So we scooped it up, and got to work. Call it a quarantine project if you will.
By no means was this 2001 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS in perfect condition, but it was perfect for what we were dreaming up. With 300,000 miles on the odometer, the chassis had clearly been well-loved. A newer motor had been installed at some point in its lifetime, so we knew that, mechanically, this Subie could serve us for many more miles. We had no intention of turbo swapping the engine, but for the power and reliability of a stock N/A motor, the EJ251 was the perfect platform. And, being that this 2.5RS was a 4EAT, it was even more ideal for the purpose of this build.
Let’s not forget to mention that the Southern California sun was no friend to the Silverthorn Metallic paint, as the clear coat was non-existent on a majority of the body panels. By no means was this vehicle perfect, but it was perfect for everything we wanted to do.
Though no stranger to dirt and mud, we were inspired by the growing community of overlanders and off-roaders. After seeing a few lifted GC Imprezas floating around the internet, we were inspired to build one of our own, but we wanted to take it up a notch. With inspiration from the Subaru Brat and other custom-built vehicles from around the world, namely the Mercedes 200-D from Goblin Works Garage and the WRX Ute from Mighty Car Mods, we loved the idea of building a Ute and dressing it up to traverse the dirt.
We knew it wasn’t going to be a quick and easy task, but we were up for the challenge. Starting with customizing a small 1/24-scale Impreza model to get the idea down, we started taking measurements of the real thing and drawing up the plans before doing any cutting. We aren’t fans of measuring once, and cutting twice.
Once we were sure of the measurements, and had the interior, glass and sunroof removed, we got to cutting. First, we cut the roof behind the B-pillar and at the bottom of the C-Pillar, filling in the sunroof opening with the leftover roof skin that was destined for the scrappers. With the rear section of the roof now removed, the unibody needed to be reinforced. The most notable feature of this build, aside from the lift and possibly the missing roof, is the cage in the rear half of the vehicle. With our experience building roll cages for Stage Rallying, we built a custom 6-point roll cage that ties the B and C-pillars together with additional bracing in the trunk. The cage has a unique, integrated Rear Tire swing-out located in the “trunk”, and allows for additional accessories to be mounted in the future. Not to toot our own horn, but this custom cage is pretty impressive! Or should we say, “Imprezzive”?
With the cage assembled and welded, we took it right back out. For good reason, of course. We sent the roll cage off to get powder coated, while the 2.5RS (or should we start calling it the Ute?) went off to the paint shop for a fresh coat of paint. Our choice of color? Subaru’s Quartz Blue Pearl to match with our 2017 Crosstrek and 2019 Crosstrek twins. We took it one step further, and had the lower half of the Impreza’s body, along with the bumpers, sprayed with a black, textured paint. The color scheme was intended to mimic the cladding of the Crosstrek, while alluding to the classic two-tone look of the Impreza Outback Sport and Legacy Outback. We think we pulled it off quite well!
Putting the Pieces Together
Now that the body work was complete, we updated the suspension with lift components from our friends over at Whiteline and Subtle Solutions. Forester struts went on for a 2-inch lift, along with Subtle Solution Trailing Arm Spacers and Whiteline Camber Bolts to adjust the suspension geometry. For wheels, we chose the 17-inch Pangea wheel from Centerline Wheels and for tires, Falken’s Wildpeak A/T Trail in 225/55/R17 fit the bill. We made sure the parts we chose weren’t only for the looks, though this Ute is starting to really come together now.
While the exterior gets its proper treatment, we spruced up the interior a bit, as well. A leather-wrapped MOMO steering wheel out of a GD WRX went in along with Roadwire custom-upholstered seats, front and rear. These aren’t just ordinary seats, however, they’re actually seats out of a Lancer Evolution (gasp!). These Evo seats comfortably hug our butts, and as a bonus, we had a spare set in storage. Not much else was needed in the interior department of the Ute. Many of the parts that were removed from the Ute continue to live on in other Subarus, just as those Evo seats live on in the Ute.
With all of the modifications that we’ve made to turn the Impreza into the Ute completed, it was time to start adding accessories. First come the lights. We gave the Ute the Rally Innovations Ultimate Light Bar treatment and installed 4 Baja Designs XL-Rs. Custom ditch light brackets with Baja Designs Squadron Sports and our newest 99-01 Impreza 2.5RS Light Conversion kit with Baja Designs XL-R Sports were added so we’ll never need to search for more lighting.
The fun doesn’t stop there! We modified a set of our Crosstrek Rocker Panel Guards to fit the Ute. Some DIY was required to make this work, but what’s drilling a couple more holes compared to cutting off the roof? Our custom roll cage was then fitted with a modular Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack, allowing us to tie-down our recovery and safety gear up top, and with room to spare.
The Big Picture
Photo Courtesy: Falken Tires
Though we don’t think we are quite done with this build, the Ute is at the point where we are proud to show off our work. The time and effort from everyone involved in this project, despite the challenges we faced throughout the year, has definitely paid off. This classic Impreza may be unsuspecting from the front, but the view from the rear and especially the side may put you in a neck brace. We hope you enjoy our Ute!