T-WRX and the Balmain bandits
THE renewal of the Subaru WRX triggers memories.
It seems only yesterday that the late and great Possum Bourne (whose given name was Peter) flung me through the forests in Canberra in his personal WRX toy. The blue beastie was fully tweaked for the World Rally Championship and someone had obviously spent a lot of time and money to ensure it could defy the laws of physics and common sense.
I lived, Possum laughed, and the trees stepped back to ensure they were not caught up in the sideways craziness.
But there was craziness of another kind with the very first WRX I drove as a road tester.
This one was a plain James four-door sedan with white bodywork that was as visually impressive as a Toyota Corolla. I was living in the inner-Sydney crush of Balmain at the time and parked the car close by the front door before setting the bin out for the garbos.
Morning came with a clatter and a bang so I retrieved the bin, but there was no sign of the WRX. I wondered if I had misplaced it while parking but my initial confusion was quickly overtaken by a walk to the police station and an embarrassed call to the head honcho at Subaru Australia.
It was the first WRX that had been stolen by enterprising criminals but the scenario was to be repeated many times before Subaru fitted engine immobilisers. The Impreza’s ridiculously basic antitheft package was easy prey for fastcar fans wanting more than a Saturday night drift partner.
The police found it easy to track the missing WRX on security cameras — it starred in a series of stick-ups that needed the getaway zap on tap from the turbocharged pocket rocket. But thanks to its boringly basic bodywork, it became invisible on the Sydney streetscape.
The WRX lived at large for more than a week until the simplest thing, a flat tyre from driving over a kerb, forced the thieves to abandon it. There was no lasting damage but it obviously made an impact.
In following months, WRXs became the car of choice for ram raiders and service station robbers across the country. They, like Possum, could see that Subaru had hit on a winning formula for fast-car fun, feeding affordable turbo power to all corners of the car to inject Porsche performance into a suburban shopping trolley.
But there was a final twist in the tale of the wayward WRX, as the police forensic crew discovered a surprising piece of loot on the passenger floor. It was a nicely preserved threepenny piece, which had somehow been captured by the criminals more than 30 years after it had served its time as legal tender.