There's an old commercial from the early '80s that is peak Subaru. It shows a GL family wagon/estate leaping over a mound of dirt and splashing through the mud before the slogan, "Inexpensive. And Built To Stay That Way" pops up on screen. Maybe that's where Subaru got the inspiration for this year's Goodwood build, minus the "inexpensive" part.
The Subaru GL "Family Huckster" doesn't look much like its factory sibling if we're being honest, apart from the obvious shape. And considering the most powerful GL had less than 80 bhp from the factory, this highly modified version is about as far from stock as it gets. But at its core, this is a true 1983 Subaru GL wagon, albeit one that's been gutted, widened, and handed over to rally driver Travis Pastrana in an attempt to set the hill climb record at this year's Festival Of Speed.
But in order to get the GL Goodwood-ready – and hopefully, nab a winning time – it took the Hoonigan team’s racing knowledge combined with Subaru’s rally knowledge to get it done. A closer look at the Huckster in its Goodwood paddock garage reveals a wagon body that is basically a carbon fibre shell surrounding a tubular spaceframe chassis. The suspension is World Rally Championship–spec with longer travel and a differential borrowed – and heavily modified – from Pastrana's Mt. Washington record-breaking WRX STI.
Even the four-cylinder boxer engine is basically borrowed from that Mt. Washington car. It pumps out the same 862 bhp as its STI sibling and comes with the same six-speed sequential gearbox and all-wheel drive.
But because the Family Huckster is "kind of like a brick," Pastrana admits, it took some creative engineering to help keep it in check at high speeds. One of the most interesting aerodynamic elements is the roof rack, which is more than just another visual aid for the retro theme. It actually routes air into the rear-mounted radiator courtesy of a NACA duct in the roof.
On top of that, there are four flaps – two at the back of the bonnet and two more on the rear quarters – that shoot up under hard braking to slow the car. And there’s a pneumatic rear wing that extends eight inches from the vehicle's rear to enhance the active aerodynamic effect.
The lead engineer of the project tells us that there are two ways to activate the aerodynamics. A simple button press on the steering wheel will deploy the flaps and wings, or they extend automatically when the car reaches a threshold of braking pressure and G forces. That way Travis won't have to activate them on his own when things get dramatic.
Here’s how those active flaps look in action:
There are a few fun touches inside of the vehicle, too – like the genuine Subaru GL radio and the blue carbon fibre applied to the dash, a nod to the original GL’s blue dashboard. And there’s even a 12.0-inch digital instrument cluster that displays retro '80s-style graphics, because why not?
But attempting to take home the top spot in the Goodwood hill climb this year wouldn’t be easy. Last year, Travis came in second with a time of 46.20 seconds behind the wheel of a 2020 Airslayer STI – a second shy of a race-ready McLaren 720S. And this year’s field promised to be even more challenging, especially with the likes of the McMurtry Speirling in the way.
But Subaru was still confident that its modified GL wagon could have one of the fastest times this year. And it did.
Rocketing up the track with the beautiful billowy sound of the exhaust bouncing between hay bails, Pastrana drifted his way to a heat of 46.20 seconds – exactly the same time as last year. That put Subaru fourth overall for the weekend and first in the class, with the GL taking home the unofficial record of fastest estate ever at the event.
"For sure my all-time favourite car to drive," Pastrana said on his Instagram page after the run, alongside an in-car video.
Among a field of race-prepped vehicles and insane EVs, the Family Huckster was a fantastic sight to see. But what’s next for the 862-bhp station wagon? The Subaru GL will make its Gymkhana debut in just a few months with Travis behind the wheel. We can’t wait.
Photos: Michael Shaffer