Thought the half-million pound restomod Impreza was priced too high? Well, not so much…
By PH Staff / Saturday, 25 June 2022 / Loading comments
Just ahead of its public unveiling at the Festival of Speed on Thursday, Prodrive confirmed that all 25 examples of its stunning P25 restomod are already spoken for. The firm admitted to PH at Goodwood it had pre-sold five cars to customers it had an existing relationship with, but following the announcement on Monday – alongside studio pictures of what the model actually looks like – the rest were gone in just two days. “We haven’t known anything like it,” remarked Richard Thompson, Prodrive’s Chief Engineer.
The appeal is obvious enough. Having seen the P25 in the metal, PH can report that it lives up to its remarkable billing. Naturally it has been compared with the 22B, the car that ranks as its spiritual predecessor – but for Prodrive, the team responsible for running the Subaru works rally team back in its nineties’ heyday, the opportunity to build a modern day version taps into something much deeper. Not least the experience accrued in some of the toughest competitive environments in motorsport.
“The Prodrive DNA is in the car, so that’s 30 years of development – be it Subaru WRC or Mini WRC or Golf or whatever – there’s a big background to it,” remarked Thompson, when asked about how long the P25 project had been in gestation. “But really seriously you would say the last 18 months we’ve just been getting a feel for it, and then [it’s been] very intense for the last 9 months, with dyno development and designing the gearbox and suspension and all the kinematics. That’s been a tough period.”
The car on show at Goodwood – bodyshell zero – looks in fantastic condition given the scramble to be ready for the event, although Thompson confirms that there is much Millbrook-based calibration work still to do (the tuning of the fly-be-wire throttle and fly-by-wire clutch began just this week) as they aim for a sign-off toward the end of summer, ahead of assembly in Q4. Nevertheless, because the P25 is based on the chassis of the two-door Subaru Impreza, the build-up even to this point has required extensive additional effort.
“It is a true restomod. We take an existing Subaru WRX STI – we’ve been in the background over the last year looking for very, very good examples – and then we strip them, we media blast the bodyshells, get them back to bare metal, then start the long journey of the process.” When that process includes ensuring that you’ve got ‘zero corrosion’ on a twenty-year-old frame, and then need to go to the trouble of stiffening it before you start bonding and bolting on composite body parts, you can see why Thompson expects each example to take 1,000 man-hours to build.
But it’s clear that something very special is being cooked up in Banbury. When asked if the P25 was intended as a ‘rally car for the road’ from the start, the chief engineer was unequivocal. “In terms of an engaging drive, that’s what we set out to achieve. So the adjustability in your throttle maps, in your centre diff setting, in your anti-lag settings – all of that DNA came from the world rally car, and that’s in the car,” he confirmed. “But it’s fair to say there are no frills: no traction control, no ABS – but you do have a floor-mounted pedal box, and you’ve got a brake pedal that moves a millimetre, and you’ve got WRC-inspired brakes, and you have a hydraulic hand brake. But it’s no frills. Because once you start on the road of all those aids, then you end up with a 1,500kg Audi RS4 or BMW M5, so you’ve just got to be true to your original remit.”
That remit has certainly included going to places the 22B could never have hoped to reach. Thompson noted that while the original special edition was based on the contemporaneous rally car, it was never truly optimised for its wider body. The P25 is. “All the kinematics, the track width, the wheelbase, the centre of gravity, weight distribution – all of those elements have been optimised. When you look at the car, the wheels are out at the edge of the wheel arches; it’s a true 1770mm wide car.”
It is also one made as light as possible. “The road car’s 1,200kg, the track day car is going to be under that value, and then the 400+ horsepower means the power-to-weight ratio is going to be really good. But then it’s all about your instantaneous roll centre position, your static roll centre position, your bump steer, your camber variation – all the things we’ve learned over a long period of time, you try to put into P25 and execute them sensibly and reliably.”
Achieving the sort of reliability that a modern-day owner expects also extends to what’s under the bonnet. Prodrive has gone to considerable lengths to produce a flat-four worthy of the car. “It’s a brand-new engine based on the EJ25. It’s a hybrid block so we’ve worked hard on block stiffness to create an engine that will reliably support 400+ horsepower for a good period of time. Everything’s been reviewed: pistons, connecting rod, camshaft, cam profiles, crankshaft, Garrett turbocharger – we’ve got a manufacturer relationship with Honeywell, and that means that we can pick and choose the right turbo for response and maximum power.”
For now the new motor is intended to work in conjunction with a six-speed sequential ‘box exclusively, although Thompson concedes that there have already been enquiries about the possibility of a conventional manual transmission. Understandably, the engineer is very much in the corner of the fly-by-wire option – for functional reasons, certainly, but also because it’s fundamental to a more authentic experience of what the Impreza would be like if it were built from scratch today.
Whether Prodrive chooses to bend to its customers’ will or not, it is clear that the lucky few will be well catered for in terms of options. For one thing, as Thompson alluded to, the firm will be more than happy to build you a more track-focused version of the P25 – made helpfully lighter by the deletion of the rear seats. It’ll go much deeper than that, too: “springs and anti-roll bars, different roll stiffness distribution, different roll gradients, wheel and tyre packages,” are all up for discussion if you’re truly intent on making the car your own.
As you might expect, some buyers expect to be involved from the start, and will happily pore over every detail. They’ve certainly earned the right after agreeing to part with £460,000 plus VAT for the privilege. Hopefully their involvement will ensure that at least some of the cars are not immediately retired to a pressurised bubble, never to be seen again. Obviously there is no way for Prodrive to guard against that outcome – but for itself if no one else, the firm is evidently building a restomod begging to be driven with some properly old-fashioned Impreza-style gusto. Little wonder they’re all gone.
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