So. 2014 and 2015.
I swear I had good reasons!
In 2014 I moved interstate and was a student (I was insanely poor) for a year. 2015 I started a new career in aviation that I really enjoy and I didn't have a good car to road trip in.
What happened to the WRX you say? Well I'm going to ramble now. Scroll down if you just want the raw roadtrip goodness.
16,000 AUD of hail damage happened. It was murdered by mother nature. What a bitch. The hail was an inch deep around the student accom I was staying in. The poor car didn't stand a chance. It was like a misshaped blue golf ball.
It took about six months for the car to be assessed and written off. I deferred maintenance. The car suffered. I honestly felt terrible.
I used to take about a photo a week of the car, that dropped to nothing. I felt like I had failed it. 2015 was the year that I was starting a new career and I would have had the money to throw at it to slowly turn it into a MY07 Spec C OEM ++ in WRX clothing.
Walking away from the car in the assessment yard took more out of me than I wanted to admit. That car was my road trip buddy. It got me though a year of being a student. It moved me and everything I owned interstate. It helped me make friends in Brisbane.
It sounds strange to say this but that collection of metal and plastics was my friend.
And I had taken it's reliability for granted.
Instead of buying my 5th Subaru and 3rd WRX, I took a different tack. I brought a 1986 AW11 Supercharged MR2.
It's been a 2 year love/hate relationship. But more about that car another time.
I will say that for the record I don't regret buying it. It's been worth it.
If you listen closely, you can hear it planning to break something expensive and/or impossible to replace.
Back on topic, the MR2 is a shitty car to road trip in.
It's tiny as fuck. It's not the most liable thing in the world. You can't fit much in it. It's loud, tiny and uncomfortable to be in for more than two hours at a time.
You sure as shit can't sleep in it.
I did another Targa High Country. I had a blast and we kicked ass, the Datto took 1st in Handicap and 3rd in Outright again. Bloody awesome results and I had a great time doing the camera work for it.
However I missed being able to drive down there. Really missed it. It gnawed on me the entire trip.
Going up Buller and seeing a Subaru ad on hell corner made it hit home. Why I'm I a passenger in Isuzu D Max when I could be ripping up the mountain driving a Rex?
I needed a new road trip car. I needed it yesterday. I had an invite to service crew for the 240z at Targa Tasmania, where we had a real chance of winning the Classic outright comp.
There was no fucking way I was missing that.
Tasmania is driving heaven and helping a car win the classic comp in Targa Tas?
Oh hell yeah I was in.
'Tassy" doesn't have Victoria's insane speeding tolerance or cameras every ten seconds. What it does have is an almost endless supply of A1+++ would drive again roads with excellent speed limits.
So it was time for a third GD WRX.
I know. Shocking. Didn't see that coming at all you might say.
But after owning two I decided I wanted to go to a new level. It had to be an MY05 STi with it's tricky DCCD, close ratio 6 speed box made of the same stuff that Nintendo used in the 90s, massive brembos and a nails tough EJ207.
I had been saving for awhile but Targa Tas wouldn't wait and I would need the car shaken down good and proper before hand. So it would have to be cheap. This wasn't going to be easy.
An MY05 with a cold air intake, 3" from the turbo back and a tune giving it 201kw at the wheels? Yes please.
After looking for five minutes I found it. Great mechanically, but the front end was falling off due to a bunch of broken clips. A hefty discount was included and I had the car. Great success.
In good company. Barring the Evo scum. I kid, I kid. But seriously. Sorry McKee. Also shout out to Jay's GTR there. It's a brilliant car.
A quick shakedown holiday to Newcastle and back (2000ish KM total with all the side trips) at Xmas confirmed that all was well with the car barring the front end issues and the cracked knock off front lip.
I packed and planned.
I was looking at roughly 5000ish kilometers of driving. I service the STI every 5000~6000km and with the timing I would have about 2.5k of KM left on the oil. So I would have to take with me my normal road trip/Targa gear AND the gear to do a full oil change.
The plan was simple.
Leave Thursday at about 2pm. (ALWAYS LEAVE AT LUNCHTIME) from work.
Punch down the inland route.
The aim was to get to eat dinner/fuel up at Moree at 7~8pm and then get to Dubbo by midnight and sleep in the car.
Then use Friday to drive to Shepparton for lunch/fuel and then sleep at the outskirts of Melbourne.
Then I could tool around for the better part of Saturday, have ages to get to the Spirit Of Tasmania car ferry.
Looking back I was wildly over confident. Luckily I had several hours of buffer.
No GPS this time. With a bit of a hack and slash I had a Joying Andriod based Double Din kit in the car.
Google maps, TomTom speed and camera alerts, Spotify, Podcasts, Audiobooks and my MP3s are all baked into the car. Awesome.
I ended up leaving late due to work. This got worse when I copped a massive headache (thanks work!) that forced me to pull over, pop some ibuprofen and sleep for about an hour and a half.
Protip right there for anyone still reading. Bring painkillers.
Fuel economy wasn't WRX levels but still reasonable considering that the car cruises at about 3000+ RPM doing 100~ km/h in 6th. Thanks close range gearbox!
The car handled the roads brilliantly.
It's a hard ride for sure, but only to the point where you know what's going on. Also holy shit it's licence destroying quick and the grip is immense!
I had to lift at points when playing the road train game (see the Adeline trip for details). STi does not make a car that messes around.
I stopped for food and to buy a pillow at Goondiwindi. The snitty at the The Royal Hotel rocked and the bar staff where not bad looking at all.
I thought I could still make Dubbo at this point.
From memory I splashed up and stretched at Narrabi. Locals eyed off the car. This was bat country.
I pushed on. Determined to make Dubbo. But the combo of leaving work late and losing time to the headache nap meant I could only make just south Coonabarabran, about 1.5 hours short.
Still. Not bad. I could make up time tomorrow.
I made the tent ready and spent about 30min watching the Rouge One trailer on repeat because that's a thing you do when you Adult these days.
The Hotel de'STi was on par with Hotel de'WRX. So much so that I slept 9 hours when I was supposed to only get 6.....
Alright. So now I had about 4 hours to make up. NO PROBLEM. It was time to drive the pants off the car.
I stopped in Dubbo for a cheese toastie and then go back to it.
I hammered down KM's. I did a massive skid near the massive sat dish from that movie.
I stole a shower from a caravan park at Lake Talbot.
It was a full on James Bond thing. The trick is to make it look like you're meant to be there. Shower as quickly as possible, then run back to your car without looking guilty.
I demolished a chicken snitty at the Colony Inn Hotel, Jerilderie, which has the nicest staff in the world. I had about four hours of driving left and a crap ton of time in hand.
I stopped in Shepperton, the place I thought I would be having lunch, at about 9pm. I went and saw Batman vs Superman.
I should have just caught up on sleep.
After that I drove for about 45min, found a quite bit of road and put the car in "sleep" config.
Saturday was easy, I was in Melbourne in about two hours. Found a JB HI FI to pick up some stuff I forgot, washed my clothes and wasted most of the day way.
4pm came and I made my way to the boat. Apparently the BMW media people and the entire Porsche club had decided to also jump on this boat.
I had a good look at the M2. I remember thinking that it would be pretty kickass to drive one.........
The i8 was cool in a freaky way. but yeah. The M2 was cool. There was also a M5, M6, M3, M4, M3 CSL. God damn.
If this thing went down like the Titanic I was fucked.
The boat was pretty cool. I had a ton of prep to do so spent most of it like this:
Wire and charger hell. 3 of the batteries committed suicide and I had to find a 24 hr Kmart when I got off the boat to replace them. Fuckers.
Next day I was up and I met up with the rest of the crew. It was game time.
The 240z looked awesome and everyone at this point was experienced and knew their stuff.
We had a good chance of winning and we knew it.
The shakedown at the track proved it.
My job was once again the cameras.
Hot tip. You can check the camera's status without getting out of the roll caged tiny 70s sports car by using your phone's selfie camera. I kept this one as I didn't look totally homeless at this point of the rally.
This kept me fairly busy, but I managed to check out some of the awesome targa stuff. This Fezza was awesome.
The P1 was nice. Real nice. They where afraid to open up the taps (they still had the white cloth delivery covers on the seats) so it dawdled along most of the time. It was still worth checking out just to look at the art work of carbon fiber that is that car's rear end.
Matt and Jase drove/nav-ed the shit out of the Datto on the opening days. We nailed the crap out of the street stage. One of our closest competitors in a 944 crashed out.
I spent most of my time chasing the car to check the cameras and doing fuel stops. This meant I got to spend a lot of time on just about to open/close tarmac rally stages.
That was taken on the Tasman Highway while I waited for the 240z near Pyengana.
The Tasman Highway by the way looks like this for about 75km
It's bloody nuts. If you like spirited driving you have to go there.
In fact if you are looking for good drives, download the Targa Tasmania map and just find the rally stages. You could spend over a week just doing your own mini Targa at a legal pace.
Seriously. Go there. Leave your family at home. Even a hire car spec corolla will be fun on those roads.
Based on our experience in the shorter events, we had about 40~55 second lead over a friendly team that was also in a 240z.
But this isn't a short event.
It's Targa Tasmania.
Targa Tasmania doesn't give a fuck if you have a minute in the hand at the half way point.
We reached peak rally before the end. The car seemed fine but needed some TLC at a service. None of us had a lighter so this happened.
Which was followed a few hours later by this.
Heart breaking stuff. Thankfully everyone walked away.
There was a missed call and a ditch. Shit happens. There was a littering of cars that had trouble with that same bend.
Unluckily for the GT3 it did something similar at tour pace ,100km/h or less. With a lead car setting the overall pace, which is something I still don't understand. But that's life
I was the fuel stop after the stage the Datto had an off on. I honestly thought I had fucked up massively, was in the wrong place. As soon as the stage open I took off at Mach 5 to try and find them. I hit the start of the stage at the top of a ridge line and was back in mobile reception and got the news.
We drowned our sorrows that night with absinthe, cloudy cider and beer from the brewery 500m from the crash site at a way to fancy pizza place in Penguin. I'm pretty sure they hated us by the time we left but we needed to blow off the steam.
If you want to see more of the Datto and the rally and the crash check out the team's youtube page.
The team decided if our 240z wasn't going to win, then the Siddons' one would have to. We serviced crewed for them for the rest of the rally.
That car ruled. 10/10.
We spent a bunch of time in Hobart. It's worth a visit when you're not carving up the insane driving roads.
It has some seriously weird shit going on.
The machine below is in the Museum Of Modern Art. It produces poo.
I sussed out the Salamanca markets. Great place to pick up a few scavenge a few things for home.
We got word on a bit of opportunity that meant I had a to book at flight from Melbourne to Hobart....
The media people driving all the BMW M cars had buggered off home and they needed drivers. Our team put our hands up. I had enough time with my ferry booking to spend the day driving the M2, go with it to the ferry to melbourne, fly back that night and then get on the ferry with the STi the next day.
In fact this was one of the M2's I was checking out on ferry over. Freaky stuff!
So yeah. This was a fucking brilliant turn of events. What a way to pick things up from the bad result in the rally.
They told us to be responsible. I nodded. For sure I would be.
The car was brilliant. I didn't know a turbo charged car could be that powerful AND responsive. The handling was brilliant and it was comfortable.
I got to tool around with it for a day before we got onto the ferry. Shit ruled. In Sport + every downshift creates a crackle and pop that is totally addictive.
9/10. Would drive again. It would be 10/10 if the steering felt more connected to the car. I'll try to buy a clapped out one in about 20 years when I can afford it.
We brought back the service cars that where not the Datto. They had this in back. It unbent itself over the last few days.
We actually race for a good cause. I won't bore you or bash you over the head with it but give it a google or send me a comment if you want to help out something that helps a bunch of really good people.
I took it as a good sign for the next rally. The Datto was beaten and bruised but it would be back.
I spent the day in Melbourne doing video editing and eating. I flew back and got back into the STi. I was a little afraid it would be disappointing after the M2.
Luckily it wasn't. A ten year old car with 180k KM, that cost half the money when new was still up to stuff compared to the brand new Euro giant.
Hell. Fucking. Yeah. Subaru you made a good thing. I really hope you remembered the GD WRX and STi when go to the drawing board for each new Impreza.
I kicked off towards to ferry at about 8pm. I didn't risk going on a fun road because it was pitch black and I was pretty tired from the trip at this point.
So yeah. I splurged on a bed as I was feeling a bit off with a cold. Also I had spent the better part of a week and a half sleeping in my car, a boat or on a swag on a living room floor. I deserved it.
Quick review: The Arthouse Hotel would be a awesome place to stay if you are back packing. Good showers, excellent service and clean/comfy beds. They also seem to organise some really good travel things for tourists.
With the Datto still in Tassie, we had to rejig the service cars loadouts. I helped out by taking every jerry we had for the datto (I also got the remaining 2 tanks worth of fuel!) and would have to ferry them to Sydney.
There is about 140ish liters worth of jerry can in that boot.
I set out with a fair bit of time to explore.
I had to service the car before I pushed it again though. I found an out of the way rest stop and broke out the tools.
I buy a Fumoto valve as soon as I buy a car. It's the best $30ish you can spend if you are going to service the car yourself. On the side of the road. In the middle of no where.
Nearly as much went came out as went in about 5000km ago. Given the beating I inflicted on the car this was seriously good news!
Just as I was finishing, pouring oil back into the container a bus load of kids turned up. I sweated bricks and hoped no one was a massive environmentalist.
With hours to spare I went exploring around the area. I found nice bit of dirt and did handbrake turns into AWD donuts. At one point I forgot to shut the windows and flooded the cabin with dust.
Latrobe had some nice sweeping roads that lead me to River Rd.
GD platform STi best platform.
Except for the 22b. Don't lynch me.
I was early so I went and tooled around more and got lunch. I took some time to plan a slow route back that would take me though Victorian High Country and back though Sydney/Newcastle to catch up with some mates.
Not as good as the last group. Still some nice stuff though.
Early morning Melbourne is pretty.
I took the morning to find a laundry and buy supplies for the trip home. This ended up with me walking though trendy St Kilda in a Jedi bathrobe a oil stained tea shirt and a pair of old shorts.
Peak road trip life right there. 10/10.
Then it was on. Mansfield to fuel up and then some hard Targa stage driving.
A few hours later and I was back on fun roads.
The lead up to Mansfield is a mild warm up to what comes next. You're going to need it. These are back roads that bite.
I stopped for lunch and splashed the car up.
Still tastes insanely good, even when Targa is not in town. The bacon rocks.
This is probably my fave bit of the trip driving wise. Which is a bigggggg call considering I spent over a week in Tasmania. Which is driving heaven.
I went from Mansfield to Whitfield via Powers Look Out. This is plus Mt Buller is a leg (or day) of Targa High Country.
Fucking awesome roads.
I've never actually been to the look out during the 3 times I've been here. It's pretty.
Getting to it rules. It's 3ish KM of dirt and gravel.
The STi proved it's off tarmac chops. Looking back on it I was going way to fast on the dirt but the car just made it feel insanely safe.
I picked up more dirt.
A lot more dirt. This was peak Subaru-ing.
Fuel economy went to shit. I took this when it went back to a normal, boring road. 71km for about 15ish liters. Fun.
I stopped in Wagga and caught up with a old mate from high school. The next day I made it to Sydney, caught up with another friend for lunch and dropped off the fuel tanks. My role in Targa Tasmania 2016 was over.
From here on out it was an easy drive back to Brisbane, via a few days in Newcastle to see friends/family.
I took the last photo just before I kicked off the final stint.
I can not rate the experience of this trip enough. Flying and hiring might have been cheaper but it wouldn't have been as involving.
As for the car? Yeah. Top purchase.
I'm going to keep it forever.