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Subaru Really Made Imprezas This Ugly From the Factory. Now You Can Buy One

Here’s (not) looking at you, kid.

byJames Gilboy|
1999 Subaru Impreza Casa Blanca
Tennen-Gas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Fugly neoclassics out of Japan are usually the work of everyone's favorite oddjobs at Mitsuoka. Y'know, the folks who make the Mazda MX-5 look like a C2 Corvette, or turn the Honda NSX into a monster out of Subnautica. But Subaru needed no help from outside when it crafted what's probably the ugliest car it has ever sold: The Impreza Casa Blanca.

The Impreza Casa Blanca was a limited-edition styling package offered on the first-generation Impreza wagon toward the end of its production run. It was built to capitalize on the retro craze sweeping the global industry, which saw not just the popularization of Mitsuoka but the introduction of other throwbacks like the Toyota Classic and Nissan Pao. Subaru had the Vivio Bistro and Sambar Dias Classic kei cars, but no entry in larger (and more profitable) segments. Despite having a dearth of historic models to inspire it, Subaru pushed with the Casa Blanca, which might explain why it ended up looking like... this.

1999 Subaru Impreza Casa Blanca. Tennen-Gas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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The Casa Blanca (whose exact namesake isn't clear) received restyled lights, a different grille, and enough chrome trim to make a Chrysler 300 owner cross their legs. Its front end seems to be inspired by Subaru's original sedan prototype, the 1500, while the wheels vaguely resemble RS Watanabe tributes. The rear is beyond me; I have found no historic Subaru that resembles it. The effect, I think most of us will agree, is ghastly.

Things get more dire under the hood, where multiple sources indicate Subaru installed only a 1.5-liter EJ15 flat-four. It supposedly made just 94 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, channeled through not only a four-speed automatic, but at least in some cases, Subaru's full-time all-wheel drive. Dragging the Casa Blanca from zero to 60 reportedly took 13.2 seconds, making this thing not just ugly also but quite slow, given how conspicuous it is. Sorta like a V6 Dodge Challenger.

The Casa Blanca was introduced to the Japanese market as a 1999 model, with a limited 5,000-unit run allocated via lottery according to Bring A Trailer—a common practice in Japan. Production seemingly continued into the 2000 model year. As you'd expect, the Casa Blanca is said to have been deeply unpopular, which might explain why some examples were exported (offloaded?) to Taiwan. That localization gave us two further oddities: A left-hand-drive version, and this dumbfounding fever dream of a TV spot:

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Still, as a curio from the Japanese car industry's golden age, there's an appetite for the Impreza Casa Blanca abroad. Some have been imported to New Zealand, and now that they're 25 years old, they're reaching North American shores too. I know of one for sale on Facebook Marketplace with just 50,000 miles for $10,000—no buts about it, that's kinda pricey. But I'll say just one thing in its defense: I can't think of many things more insulting than being beaten by an STI-swapped Casa Blanca from a dig.

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