The First Subarus to Rally in North America


Don’t let its humble physique and faded pumpkin orange paint fool you. Long before legions of metallic blue Imprezas, this was the first Fuji Heavy to rally in North America. The Subaru FF-1 took on the Baja 500, baby, and it wasn’t even all wheel drive!

The FF-1 was front-engined, front-wheel-drive and the model that started Subaru’s trademark boxer engine configuration. Jack Coyle built his first Baja Subaru (not to be confused with the BRAT-like pickup from 2003) FF-1 for the famed Mexican desert race in 1971, but totaled it during the festivities. The car above is his second, which Coyle donated to Subaru of America after the 1973 Baja 500. It ran with beefier, wheel well-filling tires and shinier paint, but has remained otherwise untouched for 37 years.

At the same time, Japanese rally man Noriyuki Koseki brought his Subaru Leone (known as the GL in US markets) rally car across the Pacific for the 1972 Mexican 1000 and the 1973 Baja 500. Subaru’s Drive Performance magazine has a great historical piece about these cars and additional photos. They’re also asking readers whether they should restore this piece of history. We say put the big wheels and rally lights back on and get it running, but leave the battle scars.

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9 Responses to The First Subarus to Rally in North America

  1. Dan said:

    that’s some crazy fender gap =D

  2. bert said:

    Yes, Yes, Yes get it running again, then put it up against the rally cars of today! Maybe Subaru will miss what they had, and go back to rallying!

    I’m really diggin the Leone (sorry “GL”) Why is there only one picture of it?

  3. Alan said:

    No more rallying, no more frameless windows… what’s next, an inline four? FMIC’s?

    Love this cute little ball of Japanese, Citroen-rivaling quirk. From the days when Subaru was SOOOOBBARUUUU to the core.

  4. Ben said:

    Don’t you just love the vintage stickers too? The K&N and Bridgestone Tires logos have changed a lot (now we don’t feel too bad about our JNC logo evolution :) ). Then again, the NGK one is timeless.

  5. Kostamojen said:

    I’ve got simular fender gap going on right now with mine :P (until I adjust the torsion bars)

    Saw the article about this car in the current issue of Drive Performance magazine (Subaru publication) I had no idea it existed, this was the first time i’ve heard anything about it.

  6. jim-bob said:

    Very cool! As for the question at hand, I would restore it to operability, and put the correct wheels and tires on it. Aside from that, it should be stabilized to prevent further deterioration but left cosmetically as is. It is a piece of history, and restoring it to pristine condition ruins much of the historical value it has. The scars show provenance and should be left as they are.

  7. Ben said:

    jim-bob: RIGHT ON!

  8. slickwrick said:

    totally agree!!!!!

  9. Kostamojen said:

    From experience, there really aren’t enough parts still existing to restore it 100% to factory conditions anyway.

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