What is the perfect rally car? Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there aren’t many rally fans around the world who wouldn’t answer the Subaru Impreza 555.
Few cars in World Rally Championship history have as large a cult following as the machine Colin McRae made famous. This legend, coupled with its iconic blue-and-gold color scheme and raucous (and utterly unique) soundtrack is a seductive combination that makes the Impreza 555 one of the most fancied rally cars ever.
So why would you try and change it? Surely that would be sacrilege? Not so according to Carlo Boroli.
Baroli grew up an avid rally fan, watching both his native Sanremo Rally and Monte Carlo Rally in the early 1990s when the Lancia Delta Integrale was king. But when Lancia pulled out of the WRC, Boroli needed some new heroes.
“We were looking for a new myth to follow after Miki Biasion, and that myth, thanks to his driving style and the unique story of his rallying, was Colin McRae of course,” he tells DirtFish.
“Putting together two such unique things like the Subaru Impreza – which had a unique sound and a unique shape – and Colin, the battles fought by Colin were amazing to follow and when he was driving in Italy or on Monte Carlo, everybody remembers him.
“That started to be a dream for me, one day to own an ex-works Subaru. I put apart some savings, and waited years until the end of the lifecycle of the Impreza – which were very popular in Italy because Piero Liatti was driving them at maximum level and then some private teams rallied Prodive cars – to look for a proper one until I found L439 BXP.”
L439 BXP has been Boroli’s since 2009, but was originally driven by… you guessed it, McRae. It debuted on the 1993 RAC Rally before being used on the 1994 Monte and then by Liatti on Italian championship rallies.
“It’s really an amazing car to drive, and every time you jump in you feel special,” says Boroli.
“It was even more [special] than my dream because it’s not like switching on an R5, you put it in gear and you go. You have a dog-box six-speed manual gearbox and three pedals that you have to use, you have the adjustability of the front and the center diff and there aren’t as many adjustments of the setup as on modern cars.
“And the sound of the car, it’s just amazing! You can hear a road-going Subaru coming from far away, so on the rally cars it’s really, really incredible.”
All still sounds like the perfect recipe, doesn’t it? But in order to breathe new life into a legend, Boroli wanted to create something that was faithful to the original car, but unleashed with modern technology and components so that it can still be enjoyed today. In short, he wanted to create a continuation project.
Welcome to the Best Impreza McRae Limited Edition.
“I knew that the original cars were going to be put in what I would call dining rooms, or super-protected garages because the value has gone up so fast and so high,” explains Boroli.
“So three-and-a-half years ago I had the crazy idea let’s say to make a continuation car, which means making a car that was no longer produced and to go back to the original specification with some improvements thanks to new technology but according to the specific regulations, which are the FIA’s Group A regulations.
“We are not doing anything that would change the originality or the nature of the car, and every single part has been built to the original spec. Only a few things are different like the ECUs and the software of course.”
And if you want to know how serious Boroli and his Best Engineering team were about keeping the car as authentic as possible, consider this anecdote.
“We had a problem with the ECU at the beginning because we switched on the car for the first time and then suddenly the sound was not exactly the same as the original one,” he says, ironically interrupted by the gorgeous flat-four thrumming of the Best Impreza being driven onto a trailer.
“The engine was so smooth and so regular it was different from the original sound which rumbles in a rhythmic way. We spent three days on the dyno trying to replicate, at idle, the original sound and that was because the capacity of the original ECU up to 1500rpm was a random map. So we replicated that in order to achieve what you have just heard.
“There are several other improvements too such as the shock absorbers and the whole suspension system, but this is just because of the development of those parts since the ’90s to today.”
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there either. Who better to ensure the Best Impreza feels like the original than enlisting the help of somebody who drove it originally?
“The final setup of the car has been made with Piero Liatti,” explains Boroli. “We worked together at the beginning for some crucial choices and then afterwards we did some tests together.
“The car is 1.5 seconds per kilometer faster than the original one,” he adds, blowing DirtFish’s mind. “Piero said, and I quote, that ‘it brings better performance in handling and in cornering while having exactly the same good feeling of the engine and the gearbox of that time’.”
We want one, badly. But we best join the queue as only eight of these will ever be made – but even there there’s some massive fever attached.
First of all, each Best Impreza will be built just as Prodrive did back in the ’90s, with a donor car being used to create the rally monster. The McRae family has given its blessing to the project too, with Colin’s daughter Hollie particularly invested in the creation.
But that’s not even the coolest bit. There’s little doubt Boroli could build and sell more than eight of these, but a limited run of eight has been carefully chosen due to McRae’s achievements with the original car.
McRae won seven rallies in an Impreza 555 – New Zealand 1994, RAC ’94, NZ 1995, RAC ’95, Acropolis 1996, Sanremo ’96 and Spain ’96 – and of course won his one and only world title too. The eighth car will commemorate that success, sporting a special gold livery instead of the original blue.
The first car will be debuted at this year’s Rallylegend event in October and has already been sold, while the second build is underway. Each car will likely be a little different though as there’s a degree of customizability with what can be offered, depending on the customer’s individual requirements.
And Boroli doesn’t want to miss out: “I hope to keep one for myself, yes,” he says.
Who can blame him? Because no, the Subaru Impreza 555 isn’t perfect. Why? Because the ‘Best Impreza’ is better.