Fuji Subaru Ota, a Japanese dealership located near Subaru’s R&D facilities in Gunma Prefecture, is hosting a display of some truly historic cars right now. The exhibit is a tie-in for an upcoming enthusiasts’ event held by some local Subaru tuning houses, and it’s a rare opportunity to see some rare Fuji Heavies, including what is essentially a brand new Leone rally car and the world speed record-breaking Legacy.
Perhaps the most impressive car in the exhibit is the speed record Legacy, on of Subaru Tecnica International’s first projects. Back in 1989, to promote the newly released BC5 Legacy, STi took four specially prepped cars to a testing facility in Arizona to attempt a world speed record. Over the course of 447 hours 44 minutes (over 18 days) STi put 100,000 km (over 62,000 miles) on the cars while averaging 138.78 mph, setting a new FIA world record and surpassing the previous record by 10 kph.
One of the drivers of the car was Noriyuki Koseki, one of the founders of STi. Affectionately known as Oyabun (“boss” or “godfather” in Japanese), Koseki had been a racer long before establishing the motorsports arm of Fuji Heavy Industries. In 1964, he established the Joshu Auto Club and raced a Subaru 360 in one of the undercard events at the 1964 Japan Grand Prix, establishing his association with Subaru ever since.
Soon, Koseki was competing overseas in races such as the London-Sydney Rally, Baja 500, and Mexican 1000, the latter races in a Subaru FF-1 that is now part of the Subaru America collection. These races were conducted under the banner of the Subaru Motor Sports Group (SMSG), established in 1973, that was kind of an unofficial factory effort that prefaced STi.
Starting in 1979, Koseki began campaigning Subarus in the Safari Rally as a privateer. According to journalist Saburo Takemiya, this went on for 10 years, helping lay the groundwork for STi.
As it happens, one of the cars on display is a 1987 AA5 Subaru Leone in Safari Rally spec. One of several built in 1987, this particular example never raced, and still reads just 14 km on the odometer. It has a stock engine but the suspension, bull bars, roll cage, and driving lamps are some of the modifications made in preparation for the Safari Rally.
Although Koseki passed away in 2009, his son, Takayuki, still keeps and preserves the car in memory of his father. Koseki eventually went on to establish a Subaru tuning and service shop called Kit Service, which Takayuki still runs today. The family owns both the Safari Leone and the world record Legacy. The Legacy is still maintined as it was 30 years ago, and even ran 220 kph (137 mph) flawlessly at the Subaru Fan Meeting in 2016.
A couple of newer rally cars were already on display at the dealership. The GC8 Impreza 555 was the winner of the 1996 Rally Sanremo, driven by Colin McRae. That victory helped Subaru seal the WRC Manufacturer’s Championship that year for the second consecutive time, which is why it wears the racing number 1. As Takemiya explains, the second-generation GDB hawkeye is a spare sister car to Petter Solberg’s 2006 WRC machine.
Rounding out the display is a current-model WRX STI, and two of Subaru’s earliest vehicles, a 360 kei car and a Rabbit scooter. Behind them are boards showing the history of Subaru, going back to the days of Nakajima Aircraft.
As reported by Takemiya, this is the first time all four of these historic cars have been in the same place. Representing different eras of Subaru’s motorsports activities, they transformed Fuji Subaru Ota‘s showroom into a temporary museum. The exhibit will culminate in a “customization fair” held September 5-6, so if you happen to be in Gunma Prefecture you can check them out in person.
Images courtesy of Fuij Subaru Ota.