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 and STi co-founder 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.