20 years on from Burns' memorable WRC victory, the RB5 looks better than ever
By Matt Bird / Friday, November 26, 2021 / Loading comments
Not for any manufacturer is the racing driver special edition a guaranteed success story. History suggests it’s beneficial to begin with a good car before plastering a great sportsman’s name on it to help sell a few. M3 Ravaglia Edition good; Infiniti FX50 Vettel Edition not so good. Same for Evo Tommi Makinen (good) and Stilo Schumacher (not).
It’s a discussion that could run for a while, but we’ll bet on the same car topping a lot of special edition lists: the Subaru Impreza RB5. Launched in 1999 to mark the return of Richard Burns (and his race number) to the Subaru world rally team, it is for many the best original Impreza. Not as fast or furious as a 22B, but a great reminder of just what a perfect package the original Turbo was – with a few special edition add-ons. That it arrived just a year before the infamous bug-eye car only added to the RB5’s reputation.
Because it looked good then. Now, in Blue Steel paint, with the Prodrive wing and the gunmetal wheels, the Impreza RB5 looks superb, arguably as iconic to British buyers as anything blue and gold. With the Impreza at the peak of its powers in the UK by ’99 (just before the official Evo imports), there wasn’t anything much more desirable out there for those who liked fast Japanese cars. Not much faster down a bumpy B-road either.
Moreover, there were just 444 made for the UK at the turn of the century. Given everything that Imprezas are famed for, it should be no surprise to find a lot fewer now in existence. HowManyLeft puts the current figure at just over 100; even allowing for the SORN’d cars, the numbers are lower than any of us would like. Still, in cheerier news, here’s an RB5 for sale, and it looks an absolute corker.
Number 70 is one of what’s believed to be about 170 with the Prodrive Performance Pack, which meant 240hp and 258lb ft – a good start. More notable than that, however, is the fact that this is a meticulously maintained, one-owner RB5. No modifications, no crashes, no deviations from standard specification whatsoever. The Impreza is being sold with incredible history, too: it’s had 22 main dealer services for the 22 years of its life, 19 MOT certificates for the 19 years it has needed them, two keys, three alarm fobs and even the original stereo cover. For a car that, let’s be honest, begged to be thrashed and responded so well to modification, this feels like a find from an archaeological dig; one beautifully preserved to show future generations how the past was. How the past was better, some might say…
Far from being kept in a garage, however, this one has accrued just over 40,000 miles with its solitary owner, meaning whoever buys this needn’t be afraid to add a few more. If, like us, you’ve been thinking about the great man after yesterday’s anniversary, there can’t be better ways to spend new hot hatch money than this RB5. Let’s hope the second owner cherishes their purchase as much as the first one obviously did.
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