This ute Impreza WRX is a strangely appealing freak of nature
Who says you can't be sporty AND practical at the same time?
The concept of the ute, or a coupé utility vehicle, has been a lot more popular in other parts of the world than it has been in America. Australia seems to be the leader in ute production, likely because the concept originated in the land down under. But what does one do if they live in North America and they want or need a ute? They could look to the 1970s-1980s era of cars and get themselves something like a Chevrolet El Camino or a Ford Ranchero. They could import a ute from other parts of the world where they were more popular or, in rarer cases, they could make their own. That last route is the one that Michael of Rallynetics chose to follow.
Originally he was looking for a Subaru Impreza WRX “bugeye” sedan for his own collection. As with most collector’s cars, it took him somewhere around a year of Craigslist digging to find a good example that was actually worth its asking price. The one he found wasn't perfect but was still in decent enough condition to fix up. It was a project car if you will. It was obviously re-sprayed and had some poorly repaired rear-end damage.
“It was in that sweet spot of not good enough to feel bad about chopping it up, while still being mechanically solid.”
After some basic maintenance and a few replacement parts here, there, and everywhere, this Impreza was looking a bit more like a reliable car and less like a Subaru. Even so, it was just another bugeye Impreza and Michael needed something that would stand out without the exotic prices. That’s when Mighty Car Mods came into play.
A few years ago, MCM did a build collaboration with Roadkill where they built their very own Subaru Impreza ute, or as they dubbed it, the Subarute. Well, this was a Subaru and Michael had access to the tools to do it so why not?
“There's something inherently cool about a turbo, AWD, manual mini truck. It gets bonus points for being kind of a modern throwback to the Subaru Brat.”
Thus the build was underway. While the project was a bit on the easier side, it did require a lot of patience. Thankfully, Smyth Kit Cars makes kits to turn a number of cars into utes including Audis, Chargers, Beetles, and of course the Impreza WRX.
“The devil is certainly in the details, as with any kit car. Stuff like how to manage drainage/waterproofing definitely requires some thought and usually, people who do these builds have different approaches to it. There's a helpful Facebook group where you can trade ideas and ask specific questions, so help is there if you need it.”
Just a few months later, the once sedan 2002 Impreza WRX was replaced by a much more unique Impreza WRX ute. Thankfully, Michael uses the “ute” part of his WRX to its full extend. He’s hauled wheels/tires, V8 engine blocks, gas jugs, scrap metal, and other things that regular trucks are used for. What started out as a YOLO project turned out to be a ute with a surprisingly useful bed. He even wanted to take it to rallycross events but he needs a roll cage installed since the OEM structure has been modified.
In terms of other upgrades, the 20-year-old interior is currently receiving a custom headliner, custom shift boot, shift knob, seats, and steering wheel to make it a nicer place to be in. The powertrain has yet to be upgraded thanks to a few maintenance items like bushings that still need to be addressed. There are plans for a turbo-back exhaust but not much more other than that since the tired old EJ engine probably wouldn’t take kindly to it.
People’s reactions to it have been, as you might expect, a mixture of excitement and confusion. Some love how creative and useful it is while others aren’t big fans of seeing a chopped-up WRX. I personally love it. There are tens of thousands of bugeye Imprezas but only a fraction of those are as unique as this ute. Not only that but it was modified for a reason and it serves that purpose on a daily basis. I see nothing wrong with that. I think Michael himself puts it best.
“I think the Subarute straddles the line between being cool, stupid, and practical really well and I love it for that reason.”
Big thanks of course to Michael for taking the time to tell me about his awesome car! He also runs his own automotive-inspired watch company called Rallynetics that I wrote about here so definitely give that a read if you like cars, watches, or a combination of both.