Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Approacheth

It's been an unseasonably snow-starved winter for Nebraska and, while most people would welcome this change, I couldn't be more upset by it.  So when weather forecasters are predicting snow for the next few days, well... lets just say not everyone is as stoked as I am.

There have been some massive snowstorms throughout the United States this winter.  I know there have been places that would cringe at the sight of one more snowflake falling... but Omaha has been ripped off all winter and this All-Wheel Drive maniac can't wait to go play in some fluffy white stuff.  It'll be the first snowfall of 2014... almost a full month into the year without any precipitation to speak of.  So while other parts of the country might groan at the thought of more snow, I (and my other Subaru brethren) welcome it with open arms!  C'mon, Mother Nature.  It's about time you reminded Nebraska of what season it is!!

Another reason I'm excited is because there's a gravel cruise planned for this weekend.  It'd be nice to have snow in the mix for that route, since folks who are inclined to go play in the dirt are more than eager to go out and play in the snow as well.

Still, forecasts called for snow on January 31st at 7am and, as of this morning, we still haven't seen a flake.  The bands of snow on target to pass through the area keep breaking up while all the "good stuff" slips by to the south.  There must be too many Front-Wheel-Drive owners praying for dry conditions.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

RS Revival: Stitching it Up

Dug into addressing some body issues with the RS the other night with some friends.  Probably the most productive part was banging out the rust, finding where it stopped, and then proceeding to temporarily fix it until we can permanently stop the spread of the rust.  For now, the zip-tie stitches will work just fine.  We tied them through the connection points in the bumper and drilled holes through what was left of the fender.  You can see through the trunk from this hole on the passenger side.  The drivers side isn't quite as bad.

The stitched up edges of the bumper stops them from flapping around in the wind when driving.  It also kept the bumper from sagging.  We also removed the tail lights, as the metal trim piece along the bottom of one of them was starting to rust, too.  There's always the option to go with JDM tail lights (Red/Clear instead of Red/Orange/Clear) but aesthetics are last on the list of needs for this RS right now.

We also took apart the front end to address the damage from our "run-in" with a wall of dirt about a month ago.  On the Drivers side, the corner light was broken and busted into the fender, the headlight (though the glass is intact) broke it's plastic connections and was wedged into the frame, and the front fender was dented down into where the corner light used to be.  We proceeded to remove the grille, other headlight, and other corner light while we were under there while we also tried to address a similar sagging issue of the front bumper, only I don't think it's because of rust.  The connections seem bent/warped that would normally hold the bumper straight.

Finally put the back seat into the RS, so now it's got JDM Version 2 STi front and rear seats installed.  It's surprising how much sound deadening the rear seat does for reducing cabin noise.  Granted, I don't think anyone will actually sit back there, but it's nice to have the interior all wrapped up.

There's a gravel cruise with the NSOC scheduled for the beginning of February and a Rallycross event mid-month that we'll hopefully have the RS buttoned up for.  At least, that's the plan!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sno Drift 2014 UPDATED

This weekend marks the first event of the 2014 Rally America Championship and it's a cold start as usual.  The event, Sno Drift, is held in upstate Michigan on roads covered on snow and ice.  Drivers must battle the extreme cold and slick conditions without the use of studded snow tires as they battle their way through each stage of the rally.  Last year, Subaru Rally Team USA battled hard against the Canadian champ: Antoine L'estage but ended up losing by a few seconds in the final stage.  It's sure to be another exciting event with Antoine.  Hopefully Ken Block's beast is able to compete, as he had some bad luck last year with mechanical problems.  Travis Pastrana, who signed on with Subaru recently, will be joining the team at the next event, but David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew will be in full attack mode in the hopes to have a strong start to the season!

Competitors have been testing and preparing all week to feel out the roads and choose the right tires to run for the event based on the present conditions.  There's footage of FY Racing and their Hawkeye STI testing at Rally America's website.

Visit Sno*Drift 2014 for more

SRT USA, despite having a rough start, is leading the Sno Drift rally.  Higgins is 27 seconds ahead of privateer Antoine L'Estage after the day's events.  Windy snowy weather conditions have been tough on the course and the cars overall.

After a long-fought battle between the Canadian Rally Champion and SRT USA, David Higgins & Craig Drew have secured their first victory!  “Last year Antoine hurt us really bad when he beat us on the last stage at Sno*Drift,” said Higgins, “These difficult conditions can change so quickly and you never know what you are going to get. That just makes me pleased to set the year off and get the points in the bag. Now I am looking forward to getting on the gravel at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.” - See more at:

Day Two Updates - Rally America

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Weekly Meet's Continue!

Glad to see that, after just over a year of hosting Weekly Meets from my Subaru dealership, they're still going strong.  Every Wednesday at 6pm, Stan Olsen Subaru in Omaha gets surrounded by the sound of that iconic boxer rumble.  WRXs, Legacies, Forester XTs, Imprezas, BRZs, we get a different mix every week... but it's always a good time.

Each week, while the meeting spot and time remain unchanged, we choose a different place to eat.  We've managed to get attached to a few places that we rotate through, but every now and then we find a new favorite to add to our list of places to visit.  Sometimes, if there's enough interest and time to do one, we even manage to do a quick cruise route on some fun roads nearby or on the way to our destination for the night.

I'm happy to see the weekly meets continue with their new home at the dealership.  Not only is it a fun way to meet new people, but it's great exposure for the dealership, the group, and Subaru.

RS Revival: Control Arms

When we were doing suspension on the RS project car last fall, one of the things we noticed was bad bushings and ball joints on the control arms.  You could feel it when you turned the wheel, as you could feel a little steering resistance in hard turns.  Part of the idea behind working on this car wasn't just to get it fixed, but to improve it, too.  So instead of simply replacing those parts, we opted to upgrade to Group N bushings with Aluminium Control Arms.

The passenger side swap was flawlessly easy to do, but the drivers side was unreasonably bad in comparison.  As with many of the issues on this car, rust was the name of the game.  We blasted through with some rust remover and a torch to free things up again.  To get to one of the rusted bolts, we proceeded to take the wheel off the axle, which was also rusted together.  After getting all of that apart, we wire-brushed and restored as much as we could with those components to avoid future problems.

On the up-side, my garage is now "mine".  I had a roommate for a short time in the new house who used the second spot in the garage for his Dodge Charger, but now there's a warm place to work on the RS.  I've also Subaru-ified my garage with an old '04 STI poster and some other older promotional ads I got when we were cleaning out the dealership.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Digital Brochure: 2015 WRX STI

Got some more goodies about the new STI, including a spec sheet with it's "rivals" up.  There's information regarding it's trim levels, options, performance, and some more photos of the exterior and interior.  There's a lot of nice bits that are standard with the new STI.  Looks like SoA isn't as stingy as they've been before with nicer options.

There's also a quick shot of the Launch Edition interior, which has the blue accents instead of the red in the other STI models.

You can view the full brochure >HERE<

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SRT USA gains a Familiar Face and a New Toy

Looks like Subaru Rally Team USA got to open their present today with the new 2015 Subaru WRX STI.  Along with news of Travis Pastrana joining David Higgins and his championship team, Vermont Sportscar got a look at what will likely be their own STI to develop into the next rally-bred WRX.

From SRT USA's website:
"Subaru of America announced today defending five-time Rally America Champion David Higgins will have a new teammate for the 2014 Rally America Championship, former Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana. 
“Subaru is very excited to bring back both of our former rally champions. Between David and Travis, Subaru Rally Team USA has won the Rally America Championship seven times in the last eight years.  Having them together this season will give us our best chance at defending our title” stated Rob Weir, Motorsports Marketing Manager.
In 2013, Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins with co-driver Craig Drew won a season-long battle against Ford, to win their third Rally America driver’s title in a row and the Manufacturer’s title for Subaru of America. “It’s going to be great having Travis back with the team. He has a massive following and it will be great for the sport to have him back. Amazingly, between all our championships in the USA we have never really competed against each other, aside from an odd event or two. I know we will work well together, but also have a healthy rivalry too” said David Higgins.
Travis Pastrana, who began his auto racing career driving a Subaru in 2004, won four straight Rally America titles with Subaru Rally Team USA between 2006 and 2010. “I'm so happy to be back with the team I've been most successful with in the past. Rally racing is where my heart is and it’s a privilege to do it in a Subaru. The competition is stronger and our cars are faster than they have ever been here in the USA. It won't be easy to get back to the top, but I'm looking forward to the challenge!” stated Pastrana.
Higgins & Drew will begin their season at Sno*Drift Rally, the first round of the Rally America Championship held in Atlanta, MI January 24-25th. Pastrana will make his debut at the second round of the series, the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood held in Salem, MO February 21st-22nd. Pastrana will also compete in Global RallyCross at X Games June 6-7th.  Pastrana and Higgins will compete in 2014 WRX STI rally cars featuring Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Both cars are prepared and managed by Vermont SportsCar, who also manages Subaru of America’s rallycross efforts in the Global RallyCross Championship. The all-new 2015 WRX STI, which debuted today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is in development at Vermont SportsCar and the team will debut the car later in 2014.

Gonna be an exciting year for Subaru, both as a manufacturer and in rallysport!

STI & Travis Pastrana

I just watched the live feed from Detroit on the new WRX STI unveiling and, like many fans, I have mixed feelings about this.  At the top of those mixed feelings are the big question marks still surrounding this vehicle, especially in terms of it's engine.  Driving Sports TV has confirmed that it's specs are identical to the 2013’s EJ257.  It should be the same engine and turbo setup: bore (99.5mm), stroke (79mm), compression (8.2:1), max boost (14.7 PSI), peak horsepower (305 at 6,000 rpm) and peak torque (290 lb.-ft at 4,000 rpm).  Also, Subaru says that the transmission now features "triple-cone synchros on 1st and 2nd and a double-cone on 3rd to ease shifting effort and reduce noise and vibration."  There's more info on their take on their website.

However, there's still plenty to be excited about from this unveiling.  The exclusive "Launch Edition" WRX STI that will feature the iconic WR Blue, Gold Wheels, and a blue-trimmed interior will be limited to 1000 units.  

Also, the announcement of the return of Travis Pastrana has me personally excited.  Looks like Subaru will be running two cars again for the Rally America series with returning champion David Higgins staying with the team and the addition of Travis to the series.  It could be to help develop the new 4th Generation WRX STI at a faster pace with two cars running the same stages as opposed to the one-car focus that Vermont Sportscar had done the past two years.

Enthusiasts will both love and complain about the fact that a tried-and-true EJ remains in the STI, that much is true.  Still, the return of Travis to rallying and a throwback "Launch Edition" should make things exciting for this year with Subaru!

Monday, January 13, 2014

'15 STI Unveil

The 2015 Subaru WRX STI is set for it's unveiling on January 14th at 10:55 Central Standard Time, which is currently less than a day away!

There's a live feed from that will stream online as well as that same video being broadcast at local Subaru dealerships.

Photos that were leaked earlier can be seen here, but for many fans, the real unveil will be when they open the hood to the new WRX STI.

Looks like Vermont Sportscar will have their own Unveil tomorrow, too!  David Higgins & Craig Drew will be starting off the 2014 Rally America Championship at SnoDrift later this month.  However, they'll be in their '14 WRX STI Hatchback for that run.  It's unconfirmed, but it's been speculated that they will switch to the new model mid-way through the championship.  In my opinion, it'd be best to stick with the tried-and-true '14 model for the entirety of the season.  It would flow well with the team's consistent approach to rallying.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

'15 STI Photos!

Ahhh it's good to see the STI toting it's signature colors: World Rally Blue with Gold wheels.  Props to my buddy Colin for sharing these.

While I can't say I'm surprised, despite how many good photoshop attempts there were to show the 2015 WRX in an "STI" format, these photos of the real thing are sure nice to have.  The only surprise for me is the spoke pattern on the new wheels.  Figured they'd be much more busy.  Certainly a fan of how these ones look, though!

The bigger news is still on it's way, though.  January 14th can't get here fast enough to deliver all the ooey gooey details that enthusiasts have been debating over since news of this new model broke out.  There's a lot of questions in need of answers concerning the powertrain on the 4th Generation WRX STI.

This is showing the "Launch Edition" colors on the STI, which is part of one of the packages for the new model.  Interior is supposed to have blue accents and trim, which I expect to be reminiscent of the older STI interiors.  I have yet to see interior photos, so I'm personally very interested in seeing how this will come along.  Included in the package are the 18" BBS Gold Wheels, though I'm not sure what the wheel option for the normal STI will be at this point.

'12+ Impreza LED Taillights

There's not much in the way of aftermarket parts for the '12+ Impreza, so when the new 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid had LED Taillights, I was more than interested in seeing how they might work on my car.  If you haven't already figured it out, the Crosstrek and Impreza Hatchback are twisted sisters, so they share many of the same parts.  Headlights and taillights are swappable between the two as far as mounting points are concerned, so now that there's a different option available, I wanted to see how it might work, what kind of modification (if any) would be needed, and how it would look on the Impreza.

Subaru's XV Crosstrek Hybrid, the company's first hybrid vehicle, was slated for a "Fall of 2013" release, though they didn't start hitting dealership lots until late December of '13 and early January of '14.  I was able to test-fit one and check a few things out so I could know if it was as easy of a swap as I thought it might be.  To the right, both the Impreza and Crosstrek Hybrid taillights are sitting next to eachother.  The dirty one is the Impreza one (off my car).  You'll notice the points that mount to the body are identical, but the arrangement of the lights is different.

The biggest hurdle is the plug for the lights.  There is a 6-pin connector that plugs in to the assembly that has a different shape on each version.  The plastic housing for the Hybrid LED Taillight is a different shape, although the pins are in the same place, than the Impreza's housing.  They will not plug into eachother in their stock format.

There's a couple of ways to address this mismatch, of which I'll be exploring later.  Once I've found a solution, I'll post a link here to it.  List Price on the taillights are $209.95 each.  Below are the part numbers.

RH Lamp - 84912FJ240
LH Lamp - 84912FJ250

Just another way this Impreza of mine is confusing fellow owners.  Quad exhaust?  Side skirts but no roof rails?  What IS this thing?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

'15 WRX STI Debut!

This morning, enthusiasts were greeted with some welcome news: the 2015 Subaru WRX STI will be unveiled on January 14th at the North America Auto Show in Detroit!  There's a countdown page, much like there was for the '15 WRX unveil in November, on Subaru's website.

"For those hungry for track-tested ferocity, tune in right here on January 14. Subaru is set to reveal the evolution of the WRX STI® species. Re-engineered for supreme balance, speed, and handling.

From the engine and suspension down to the leather stitching, the completely redesigned 2015 Subaru WRX STI will make your smile curl, your knuckles stiffen, and your gut feel like it’s riding shotgun. Introducing performance and handling like never before. The all-new 2015 WRX STI. Inspired by racers. Made for us."

No official pictures yet, although fans pretty much know what to expect.  There's also a build sheet from Jalopnik that has a "Launch Edition" WRX STi available that should look something like the blue fella pictured above.  Gold 18" BBS wheels adorn World Rally Blue with a blue-trimmed interior.  As with last time, there will be a live feed from the auto show for the unveil that will be available online (on Subaru's website) and at Subaru dealerships.  Stay tuned for more photos and specs to come!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years Lessons

So as it turns out, grip completely changes when you're on dry, icy snow.  One of the things I've been learning about behind the wheel is how Subaru's All-Wheel Drive system works on different surfaces.  My 2012 Impreza 2.0i Hatchback has VDC and other traction nannies that kept me out of trouble for most of my other adventures, but the 2000 2.5 RS lets me make all sorts of mistakes.  Luckily, I've been learning those lessons on the beat-up RS instead of my nice '12 Impreza the past few days.

Both "whoops" moments happened on dirt roads that I had been having fun on earlier in the fall.  However, if you add snow and ice to the mix, it doesn't matter how much All-Wheel Drive you have... there's no grip.  The first meant the car slid into a dirt wall that somehow left the bumper unscathed but dented the front fender and broke one of the lights on the drivers-side.  The second was an attempted right-hand turn that turned into a no-grip slide over an embankment that deflated the drivers-side front wheel and high-centered the car.

I'm just glad nothing happened to my newer car.  The repairs to the RS are minor and everything else seems fine on it.  The only significant damage is my pride as a driver, although I still don't claim to have much experience in the first place.  Just little mistakes I plan to learn from.