Inspired by Subaru’s latest special edition JDM-only WRX STI Type RA-R, we felt the urge to remind ourselves of when Type RA was both special and mainstream.
Back in the 1990s Subaru’s rally success had given it cause to offer lightweight, more flickable versions of its fast Impreza. Type RA was a constant; an ever-present option in the range with a serious weight chop and initials that meant Race Altered.
If outright driving feel was more important to you than electric windows and fog lights then the regular lightweight RA was for you. It mustered an impressive 280bhp and weighed – depending on which source you believe – between 1210kg and 1270kg. Interestingly, though, it wasn’t an STI-branded car, but was a spin-off from the WRX grade.
The Type RA was available only in Pure White, with silver-grey five-spoke alloy wheels and no standard spoiler. Weight reduction, bro. But there were regular special editions of the Type RA, of which our pick from the classifieds is one.
We found a 1999 Type RA 555 Limited, one of just 1000 built. This spin-off of a spin-off of a spin-off was created to celebrate the mid-1990s period of success in the World Rally Championship under the iconic yellow 555 branding. Jaw-droppingly beautiful in Sonic Blue and with gold wheels, it was exactly what car kids of the era always wanted.
Although it was based on the lightweight RA it had the fog lights and electric windows reinstalled, and of course had the perfect boot spoiler as well. Weight went up by a reported 30kg, but it was still the one you wanted. The same specs went for several limited edition Type RAs around the turn of the century, though; it was the bright blue rally-inspired seats that set this one apart.
On top of the short-shift close-ratio gearbox, weight reduction and iconic spoiler, the striking pair of 555-embossed sports seats at the front were trimmed in the same colour as those in the classic Impreza rally car. What better perch from which to enjoy the deep well of character the car could offer?
The one we found is a 124,000-miler with an impeccable history, imported from Japan a year after being built and then supplied to an owner who kept it for 11 years. It seems to be more or less original aside from an aftermarket CD player unit. The wheels are in amazing condition (we suspect a recent refurbishment) and the bodywork looks straight.
Naturally there’s also a fist-test-friendly exhaust, because cliches are fun, but importantly the car rides on loosely period-appropriate Pirelli tyres, so someone has cared enough about it to spend the extra. You can just about see drilled and grooved brake discs, which definitely aren’t original spec, but those could be replaced easily.
The price for this genuinely lovely piece of WRX history is a meaty £8999. Prices have gone up in recent years and we don’t see them going back down. Get in there while you can.