Car culture took a major turn in this country when the Fast and Furious franchise headed to Japan for some Tokyo drifting. But while the first couple of movies had burst onto the scene and introduced kids in this country to tuning and modding, drivers over in Japan had been all about their project builds for years. After all, this is a country where the R32 Skyline, Silvia S15, and Toyota Supra were pumping serious power to both two and four wheels, with plenty of big turbos to go around.
While Toyota, Nissan, and Honda were working on some sublime cars during the late 1980s, 1990s, and early-2000s, a brewing rally rivalry turned fierce as Subaru and Mitsubishi began injecting serious funds into the sport. These days, Subaru has undoubtedly done a better job leveraging that success into serious market presence, and fans of Subarus rival even Ford, Chevy, and Dodge men in their outright, blinders-on insanity.
But legit rally racing notwithstanding, perhaps the reason Subaru has become the potent seller that it is now is that they actually turned their cars into products the average buyer could daily drive. Even comparing an Impreza WRX in STI trim to Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo isn't quite fair: the Evo is going to be miserable on city streets because it's way too stiff and unrefined to meet most people's needs.
Don't dare say that to Subaru fans, though. For these guys, it's Subies all day, every day, and between puffs on their vape pens, they're liable to say some pretty ridiculous stuff.
Subaru bros love to paste stickers with plenty of kanji and katakana all over their sick whips like no one knew that Subarus come from Japan. And a quick search on Craigslist or on any Subie forum will bring up plenty of posts chock full with cars and parts that are described as "JDM" but look closer, and it's clear very few of these wannabe rally racers actually realize that there's a difference between JDM parts and that bumper that fell off an STI as it bottomed out on a two-inch tall speed bump.
JDM parts were specific to Japan's domestic market—they weren't sold here, bro.
19 Rally Lights!
Plenty of Subaru's market share can be thought of as the direct result of the brand's excellent rally racing pedigree. And sure, Subarus are awesome cars to race—both on the tarmac and off—but adding a ridiculous number of rally lights (usually applied with zip-ties) to any old Subaru wagon or hatchback doesn't magically transform a daily commuter into Travis Pastrana's latest record-setting hill-climber.
Plus, those lights may very well be illegal in many regions, attracting cops further to the vaping drivers trying to downshift with one hand so they don't have to put down their pen for even a single second.
18 Red Bull
Approximately 10% of the Subaru owners who aren't drinking Red Bull the entire time they're behind the wheel of their car are on the way to the store to pick up another case of Red Bulls. Another 10% are daydreaming about one day meeting Travis Pastrana and sharing a Red Bull with him while he's wearing a Red Bull racing kit in his Red Bull Subaru and leaping over the Grand Canyon so hard he ends up in Hollywood.
The other 80% of Subaru drivers, meanwhile, are attempting to balance their Red Bull between their legs because they tore the cupholders out of their center console to shave a bit of weight down on their sick rally car that's pretty much as sweet at Travis Pastrana's.
Submarining a little deeper into Subie culture reveals an obsession amongst the (supposedly) more knowledgeable of the brethren who believe that the STI is the only way to go (although, to be fair, it is) and that a base WRX is basically garbage (it ain't). The STI brings more power, better suspension, and a slightly nicer interior into the mix—but STI brats always like to bring up their DCCD.
Confused spectators wondering why there's so much DCCD-related fist-bumping need to learn up on the Driver Controlled Center Differential that the STI offers. It sounds nifty to be able to send a specific percentage of power to the front or rear wheels, but only until you realize that a lack of traction up front or out back can then bog down the engine if the DCCD is biased towards that exact axle.
16 Shred It!
Snapback wearing Subaru drivers love to "Shred It" almost as much as they like to yell, "Shred It!" And they're not talking about pulling off some Arthur Anderson accounting techniques—though they'd probably be better served shredding the actual mechanic's bills they have to pay after their cars carom off the designated road and hit a few ditches or curbs on the way to a 180.
But when that WRX has Symmetrical All Wheel Drive, apparently it becomes inconceivable to consider that doing doughnuts during inclement weather might actually be a bad idea most of the time, unless your daily commute happens to be across a wide-open field.
15 Charge Up The Hill
It snowed last night somewhere in this country, so every driver on the road needs to keep a wary eye out for a pack of Subarus stuffed full of bros and their gear, roof rack crammed with snowboards and twin-tip fatties, as they charge up the hill to catch the fresh pow. And more power to them, if the storm provides motivation to get out of mom's basement.
But nine out of a pack of ten are going to end up over-confidently steering their WRX into a culvert approximately twenty seconds after they reach the actual snow—charging up the hill is just about the worst way to make sure the whole crew makes it to the first chair.
14 In The Twisties
Everyone who's ever driven a car of any kind occasionally has the dream of owning a sports car. Even tractor operators sit there fantasizing about getting off the brush hog and pushing a Porsche through its paces on a pristine, empty mountain road. But sports cars are one thing; a daily driver pushing thirty pounds of boost through all four ragged tires is by no means fit for actual canyon carving.
This is why anyone who owns a real sports car has two cars: that Forester you're hoping will keep up with a Corvette is front-heavy, with a high center of gravity, and let's face it, you need new brakes, new rotors, and definitely new tires.
Bolting on a cat-back exhaust is pretty much the mandatory first step for anyone buying a used Subaru these days, even if the previous owner (or owners) did exactly the same thing. But when a big three-inch tip isn't charring the paint on that fender quite enough, who knows, maybe another half inch or so might help. Plus, it'll really open up that Boxer grumble—nevermind the fact that cat-backs are only so popular because they're cheap, easy to install (read: cheap), and don't really do much of anything performance-wise other than annoy your neighbors (read: cheap).
Any real gearhead goes for the full shebang, but most Subie fans probably don't realize how much better life could be.
12 Cobb Accessport
Spend enough time around a crew of Subaru drivers and the words "Cobb" and "Accessport" might eventually make it seem like they're living in some futuristic world where computer programs have been pumped into their skulls to convince them that an ECU tune can double an STI's horsepower at the touch of a button.
"But the Boxer engine's just ripe for tuning, pump up the boost on that Cobb Accessport and, oh yeah, you're gonna feel it." Brilliant idea, gents. Forget that rampant tendency towards blown head gaskets every 50,000 miles and let's get this show on the road already.
11 Downpipes & Headers
At least all the Subaru drivers who swear by their roaring downpipes and headers have a bit more knowledge of how an exhaust system on a turbocharged car actually works than the dudes who just smack on a cat-back and call it a day. Or is it that they just have enough money to actually get the full system that all their back-slapping forum friends recommend wholeheartedly without ever having actually tried?
Either way, downpipes and headers are apparently a "must-buy" for anyone hoping to really free up the musical racket their opposed-cylinder Boxer engine's making down under all those vacuum lines beneath the hood.
10 Sick Spoiler
Every Subaru just has to have a spoiler. After all, with their front-mounted engine and all-wheel-drive layout, there's too much weight out there over the nose and the rear wheels are losing grip every time you really mash it down while charging up the hill.
Forget the fact that 99.99% of the spoilers bolted onto the trunks of all those Imprezas, WRXs, and STIs out there are ridiculously showy pieces of engineering detritus—they're probably helping the weight distribution more through their actual poundage than they are utilizing aerodynamics to keep the tail planted. And don't even mention the coefficient of drag, either.
9 Tow Hook
It turns out that almost every tuned Subaru spends most of its time churning out miles and miles on the track, or at least, that's a fact if all the tow hooks left in bumpers during city driving actually get used, approximately, ever. And sure, Subie bros want everyone to know they're pushing their cars to the limit—but do all these nose-heavy cars with Symmetrical All Wheel Drive really end up in accidents so often that the tow hook regulations need to be followed on the way to the vape store to restock every last pen in every last glovebox?
Or is the whole point to add on another accessory (in a location that could be used for a license plate that actually faces forward)?
8 Angel Eyes & HIDs
These days, plenty of auto manufacturers are installing LED headlights on their cars—but for many years, only the most high-end performance vehicles came with halogens or HIDs. But that didn't stop backyard tuners from adding a little blue tint to their lenses to complete the illusion that their Subarus and Civics might look, in some tiny way, fancier at night.
And now, it seems like most rally-crazed Subaru fanboys are converting their cars to have angel eyes, presumably in the hopes that the one time they actually drive through a snowstorm at night, they'll be able to see the ditch before they slide into it like the amateurs they are (who didn't know low beams are better in snow and fog).
7 World Rally Blue
Subarus just look good in blue with gold rims. And hood scoops. And roof scoops. Oh, and spoilers, body kits, mud flaps, and last but not least, plenty of decals. Every Subaru is a rally car at heart! And they should only leave the factory in World Rally Blue! In reality, this first-gen Impreza coupe looks perfect in its rally spec, and the United States would be a better nation if Subaru had been kind enough to ship a few 22B examples to these shores.
And they'd definitely have been in WRB. But every Forester, Crosstrek, and Ascent certainly doesn't need to be plastered in the brightest blue to hit the market since Frank Sinatra's eyeballs.
6 Mud Flaps
Mud flaps are mandatory on rally cars, and for anyone who spends any time doing real canyon carving in the hills, mud flaps are just common courtesy to keep the folks behind you from having to worry about rock chips and broken windshields. But mud flaps are completely unnecessary on slammed commuters with fat exhaust and an ECU tuned to 30 PSI.
First off, that Subie isn't getting any kind of wheel spin during city driving and secondly, it's going to have to slow down for any kind of road imperfection—including the tiny pebbles that the mud flaps might prevent from flipping up in the first place.
5 Nice Stance
The fact that stance has become a thing in automotive circles is just surprising. Is this the modern incarnation of lowrider culture? If so, there's a big logic leap missing somewhere. Taking a boat-like classic, polishing its underbelly up to a beautiful chrome shine, and then bouncing it until the whole thing collapses into a pile of parts is one kind of crazy.
Taking a sporty off-roader with all-wheel drive and a big turbo and slamming it onto the ground with enough camber to confuse a grade-schooler sounds like some new kind of modern art—or is that garbage piled on the front lawns of museums these days?
4 Short Shifter
Approximately 1,000% of Subarus have short shifters installed. If that number sounds excessive, do a quick perusal of Craigslist ads for WRX and STI models in your area to get a scientific sampling. Whether they're cable kits or just shifter knobs that are actually trimmed shorter, there's no doubt that they allow their owners to really shave those precious microseconds off of each shift.
And that kind of time saving (not to mention the few milligrams lost from less metal in the shifter mechanism) really makes a huge difference during the drive to ski slopes. Otherwise, some dudes in an Audi, or heaven forbid, a Lancer Evo, might get first chair, dude.
3 Front Mounted Intercooler
WRX and STI owners face some serious first-world problems sometimes. After all, the car just looks like a boring commuter if it doesn't have the hood scoop. But on the other hand, the hood scoop is just feeding air to a top-mounted intercooler that's right in the way, taking up space that could be dedicated to other engine mods. Best bet?
Get a hold of a front-mounted intercooler setup (ideally with a dual FMIC layout) to free up some space and get that charged air really flowing into the cylinders. Plus, with the intercooler out of the way, you can really get a good look at the Boxer engine when it blows a head gasket literally the very second the factory warranty expires.
2 Listen To That Turbo Spool Up
Turbochargers are an innovative technology that essentially allow JDM engines to—at bare minimum—quadruple their horsepower stats without all the weight gains of a beefy Detroit V8, not to mention the MPGs. In reality, turbos have been around for more than a century, and while compressed air does help with power and efficiency, even the most advanced turbo setups in the world are less reliable than a simpler, naturally-aspirated engine.
And then there's the problem of turbo lag, which puts the kibosh on the obsession among Subaru fans to listen to their turbo spooling up: while they're ecstatically listening to that glorious whine, the engine isn't up to full output yet.
1 Ken Block Is Hooning
Ken Block daily drives a Ford RS200 because he's totally one of the most awesome drivers on the face of this silly planet. He's been known to convert a first-gen Mustang into an all-wheel-drive, 1200-horsepower monster just to burn through an entire set of tires while trying to set a world record for most time wasted drifting during an attempt at a Pike's Peak hill climb.
But he's hooning, and he's a hoonigan, and just like Travis Pastrana, he's managed to worm his way into the brain of every Subaru driver that dreams of figuring out how to get their front wheels to burn out without losing control because they've got zero weight balancing out the understeer while they lose their own hind legs.
Sources: Bring a Trailer, Wikipedia, and RS25.