Can You Turn a GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Into a 22B Clone?

GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi 22B clone article highlights:

  • There are notable differences between the first-gen Subaru Impreza WRX STi and 22B, ranging from drivetrain upgrades to suspension and chassis modifications
  • At least one shop can make you a 22B clone, but you can also replicate it fairly well with a number of aftermarket parts
  • The exact cost varies based on the donor GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi and part quality, but building a 22B replica is significantly cheaper than getting the real thing

Although the first-gen Subaru Impreza WRX and its STi (first-gen capitalization) sibling are finally import-eligible, one version still isn’t. And even after all the GC8 Impreza WRX versions become old enough to bring over, it’ll still be nigh-impossible to get. I’m talking of course about the Subaru Impreza 22B STi, which even today is a JDM and rally icon. However, classic car fans have long had ways of experiencing hard-to-find models: cloning them. But can you do that with the 22B?

A real 22B is very different from a stock GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

A blue 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi in a grassy field
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi | Subaru
1994-2000 ‘GC8’ Subaru Impreza WRX STi1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi
Engine2.0-liter ‘EJ20’ turbocharged boxer four2.2-liter ‘EJ22G’ turbocharged boxer four
Horsepower247 bhp (1994)
271 bhp (1995)
276 bhp (1997)
280 hp (claimed)
300 hp (estimated true rating)
Torque228 lb-ft (1994)
235 lb-ft (1995)
253 lb-ft (1997)
260 lb-ft (1998)
267 lb-ft
TransmissionFive-speed manualFive-speed manual
Curb weight2712-2800 lbs2867 lbs
0-60 mph time4.9 seconds4.7 seconds

The first-gen Subaru Impreza WRX STi is already significantly upgraded over the ‘standard’ GC8 WRX. Besides more power and torque, the GC8 STi’s handbuilt version of the EJ20 has forged pistons, polished ports, and lighter valvetrain components. And that’s on top of the engine’s upgraded turbocharger, retuned ECU, and factory-installed intercooler water sprayer.

Plus, that’s just the motorsports-derived stuff in the engine. Compared to the GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX, the STi has stiffer springs, upgraded shocks, a larger rear spoiler, and a front strut-tower brace. Also, its center differential is electronically adjustable. And inside, it has a Nardi steering wheel and sport seats with more bolstering.

But while Subaru threw a significant amount of racing tech at the GC8 WRX STi, it threw even more at the 22B. Understandable, given that the Subaru released the 22B to celebrate its three back-to-back WRC titles and 40th anniversary. So, while the first-gen Impreza WRX STi is special, the 22B is even special-er.

For one, its EJ22G is bigger and has additional performance upgrades, including a bigger turbo, new ECU, and sodium-filled valves. And though an EJ20-based design, it has a closed-deck crankcase. That makes it more durable and more receptive to additional high-horsepower modifications.

In addition, Subaru gave the 22B a reinforced, close-ratio five-speed transmission with a new twin-disc clutch. It also widened the track, seam-welded the chassis, installed a rear strut-tower brace, bolted on Brembo brakes, and fitted lighter, wider gold BBS wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires. That last change necessitated flared fenders, which turned into a WRC-like body kit with an adjustable rear wing, Autoweek explains. Also, the Subaru Impreza 22B STi has Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs set up by rally team Prodrive as well as a quicker steering rack.

You modify a GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi into a 22B replica—or have a shop do it for you

RELATED: 1968 Mustang Fastback Restomod Shows Subtle Speed Is Sweetest

In short, there are a lot of things that separate a GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi from a 22B. And some of them, such as the seam-welded chassis, aren’t easy to replicate. However, a lot of the 22B’s upgrades, such as Bilstein coilovers and BBS wheels, are ‘just’ parts. They’re not necessarily cheap parts, mind you, but they’re not new-car expensive, either.

Also, the parts shopping list is shorter if you’re starting with a GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi, rather than a non-turbocharged Impreza 2.5RS. For a long time, that was the sportiest GC8 Impreza we could get in the US, Car Bibles notes. But while it’s (usually) cheaper than a JDM Impreza WRX STi, you’d have to buy even more parts to make it into a 22B clone. With a GC8 STi, the factory already got the ball rolling with the upgrades, so to speak. And you won’t have to swap the engine, either.

RELATED: Is it Better to Lower Your Car With Lowering Springs or Coilovers?

Now, some of these upgrades, such as increasing the engine’s displacement, aren’t for the faint of wrench. Fortunately, there is an alternative. California-based Renner Racing Development specializes in Subarus, including 22B replica builds, Autoweek says. So, if you don’t feel comfortable modifying your GC8 STi yourself, you could always talk to the Renner team.

But if you do want to DIY this, here’s a rough parts list:

  • Bilstein coilovers with Bilstein or Eibach springs
  • Brembo or similar brake kit
  • EJ20 stroker kit
  • ECU tuner or upgraded ECU
  • Close-ratio five-speed transmission
  • Twin-disc metal-and-ceramic clutch
  • Widebody kit
  • Wheel spacers and/or wider control arms
  • BBS wheels
  • Turbocharger upgrade kit
  • Rear strut-tower brace

How much does a DIY 22B replica cost compared to the real thing?

The side view of a gray GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi with gold wheels
GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STi side | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

RELATED: Subaru Impreza WRX With Insanely Low Miles Needs a New Home

These days, a good-condition GC8 Impreza WRX STi costs about $20,000-$30,000. Meanwhile, even a fair-condition Subaru Impreza 22B STi goes for at least $100,000. And $70,000-$80,000 can buy a lot of parts.

If you just want the widebody look, Renner can do that for around $12K, Autoweek says. But if you want some of the performance parts, you’re looking at about $40,000—and that’s not including the donor car. And if you’re looking for a real race car, with a roll cage and everything, your replica will cost almost as much as the real thing.

As for the DIY approach, Car Bibles’ 2.5RS-based build would cost, depending on part quality, $4500-$13,500 without the donor car. However, it’s worth pointing out that Aerosim Research, Renner’s body kit supplier, charges $7500 for its carbon-fiber kit. There are cheaper kits available, though.

Browsing through suppliers like Vivid Racing and Bilstein, I think Car Bibles’ estimate is slightly low. Assuming a non-carbon-fiber body kit, I’d peg the part cost closer to $20,000. A metal-ceramic twin-disc clutch alone costs about $2000. Also, that $20,000 estimate doesn’t include installation costs or unexpected repairs. And considering some of the mods involve the suspension, you will need to factor in alignment costs. In addition, ECU tuning isn’t always street-legal.

However, if you want a Subaru Impreza 22B STi but can’t wait another year or afford one, know that there is an alternative solution. And that’s modifying a GC8 Impreza WRX STi.

Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.

RELATED: Check Out These California-Legal Engine Swaps That Are Impervious to Cops