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Colin McRae’s 1997 WRC test car was for sale and we all missed out

8 June, 2017



Rally fans will know the story like the back of their hand, but for those of us a bit fresher to the golden era of international rallying, here’s why the recently sold test car is so important. The year was 1997 and Subaru was debuting their newly-built Subaru Impreza WRC, a fresh start to meet the new World Rally Car specifications that replaced Group A rules. It sported a livery similar to previous works Imprezas and Legacys, but would prove to be one of the most iconic in Subaru’s rallying timeline.

Chassis 97001, often referred to as “WRC97”, was developed by Prodrive and was the first car built to the new FIA World Rally Car specification that allowed greater design freedom for the teams. Of course, who else to test it other than Colin McRae — who took out championship wins in the previous incarnations for 1995 and 1996. By the end of the 1997 season, McRae had chalked up another manufacturers’ championship, making it three years in a row.
But, while owning the championship car would be something of mythical proportions — we assume that car is tucked away somewhere secure at a Subaru facility in Europe — this car never saw competition and the auctioneer, H&H Classics, was quick to point out that “the car was never an official Subaru WRC entrant”. Yet it still sold for £230,000 ($408,024 NZD)

Why you may be asking? That’s an easy answer, it’s the car used to generate one of the most iconic Subaru rally chassis of all time. A development and test vehicle for Prodrive, McRae spent considerable amounts of time in it to form the model’s tuning, and it was paraded around  by the Subaru World Rally Team to show off at press events. Not to mention that he first of anything tends to command a premium, and it’s no different when that first is a Prodrive-developed WRC winner.

Sadly, you can’t have it. It’s already been snagged by an overseas buyer at the private auction to — more than likely — never be seen again. But you can sit there staring at pictures of old wishing you had a spare £230,000 ($408,024 NZD) to blow on these sorts of things. We are too …

The video that H&H Classics slapped together is well worth the watch too — we slow clap any auction house that takes an ex-rally car power sliding and calls it promotion. 


The Jowett Jupiter turns 70

John Ball has always enjoyed tinkering with old boats and cars. He’s old enough to think having gearbox parts on newspaper on the floor of his bedroom, while the relevant car sat waiting on nail boxes, was a normal part of growing up. His passion has always tended towards old British bangers. He reckons he’s fortunate not to have got caught up in the American muscle scene.
John’s love affair with this Jupiter started in December 2015 when, with some time on his hands during a Christchurch trip, he searched online for ‘cars, before 1970 and in Christchurch’.

A passion for classics and customs

In the highly competitive field of New Zealand classic and custom restorations, reputations are won or lost on the ability to maintain consistently high standards of workmanship. A company managing to achieve this is D A Panel beating Ltd, of Rangiora near Christchurch. Is your classic or custom car restoration stalled, or in need of a refresh, or perhaps you are looking for experts to rebuild that recent import project out of Europe or the ‘States?