A couple of weeks ago, Jim Brophy visited the lemon lot at Yokota Airbase and provided a good overview of the kinds of cars that are often purchased by American military members assigned to Japan. In an odd coincidence, I had been working on a similar article and, the day before Jim’s article appeared, had visited the lemon lot at the Yokosuka Navy base where I had taken an astonishingly similar set of photos! As further proof that great minds think alike, Jim’s article even included a car I was going to profile, a Subaru B4 Legacy sedan. Now it’s my turn and, naturally, I’ve decided to try and one-up him.
Today’s Japanese curbside classic is the Subaru B4 “Blitzen,” a limited edition twin-turbo grand tourer sold outside of the United States between 2001 and 2003. Wikipedia tells me the Blitzen was designed in conjunction with Porsche Design, an industrial design company founded by the grandson of famed 911 designer Ferdinand Porsche that generally styles products like eyewear, time pieces and household electronics. Porsche Design was responsible for the car’s interior, body kit and wheels – although the latter have since been replaced with a set of Oz racing wheels on this particular car – while the mechanics were left to Subaru.
The Blitzen is powered by a 16 valve, 2.0 liter flat-four engine that, through the magic of intercooled, sequential “twin” turbos, is good for about 280 horsepower. The power is sent through either a six speed manual gear box or, as is the case of this car, a short-geared, sequential “sportshift” automatic and routed to all four wheels via Subaru’s traditional viscous, limited-slip center coupling.
B4 Blitzens were offered as both four-door sedans and station wagons and came in just four colors: black, white, silver and red. Although technically a “limited edition,” I quickly managed to locate two B4 Blitzen sedans in my own neighborhood and photographed the car presented here after securing the permission of its deservedly proud owner less than a week after I started looking.
Up close and in-person, this car is a thing a beauty. As a family guy with young kids who is currently consigned to a mini-van, I look forward to the day that I can return to something smaller and sportier. The practicality of this car, its four doors and mid-size cabin, combined with Subaru’s sporting pedigree and a brilliant red paint job that reminds me of the “graphic red” on my ’88 Turbo Shadow, positively grabs my attention and fires my imagination. While these will undoubtedly be old and rare by the time I am able to downsize, I note that Subaru attached the Blitzen name to a bright red concept car shown at the Tokyo Auto Salon last year. If we are lucky, they’ll put it into production and the legend will live on.
I’d like Subarus more if they had pleasant-sounding engines. Every time I hear a WRX it makes me think of an exhaust leak, & even the more tame Outback has a hint of that.
The exhaust note is msde worse by the kids putting on loud ‘sporty’ mufflers on their Subies. To me they sound a bit like a hot Beetle from the ’70’s.
Some cars just don’t sound good with loud pipes. The Mazda rotaries sound worse though, like a big-bore 2-stroke dirtbike with no muffler.
Conversely I’ve always liked the sound of a Subaru, particularly the smaller-displacement ones (the early ’90s 2.2 and particularly the OHC 1.8 in the DL/GL/Loyales).
Not with a loud exhaust, though. The droning is unpleasant.
The flat-four ‘beat’ is really distinctive, and I like it, but not if it’s ridiculously loud.
I was fortunate to see an old Jowett Javelin on the street a few years back, and it had that same beat to the exhaust. The Jowett was slower-revving of course, but it had a distinct ‘pom-pom-pom-pom’ sound.
Kool write up!
Did Porsche Design outdo itself here or what? Expanded sheet metal grille, 4 basic colors, some wheels all for that back ally “pimp my ride” effect. Oh, I forgot: the Blitzen script in that old German font.
But the stuff that matters should make this a real rubber muncher.
“currently consigned to a mini-van, I look forward to the day that I can return to something smaller and sportier.”
I am on the far side of this epoch. By then you might be more interested in touring rather than grand touring. However, it is possible you have your kids at a younger age than myself. Once they get into the driving age you have a great excuse to get a old-fashioned 5 speed MT. It’s likely going to be a curbside classic.
+1 on once they get to driving age. You can get all sorts of interesting cars on the basis that “it’s a manual” if your significant other isn’t too car savvy.
Just watch out if you let your teenage son loose on the internet car sales sites though – mine tried hard to justify a Mazda 3 Turbo, but we compromised on a Maxx Sport instead.
Very cool version of a car I wouldn’t look twice at in it’s plain vanilla US forms.
Only gripe, and this is a general peeve of mine, is the window tint. I know in many places the front differs from the rear but following to that letter of the law just looks terrible, either match it all the way around, whether by ignoring the law or going with a lesser legal tint, or don’t get it at all.
Agreed, but I think in this case it was factory.
Tom, very cool car and nice write up. I miss your writing on ttac but I’m glad to see you blessing us with these Japanese oddities on here! Hope Japan is treating you well.
Thanks Dan. I appreciate your compliment, it means a lot. Japan is good and, in a lot of ways, its been a nice ‘homecoming,” It’s especially good to see my kids get the chance to spend real time with their grandparents again.
From what I remember, you were not too far away from where I come from and live. I think I recall buffalo? I’m from the Syracuse area and every day I find myself daydreaming about getting away from here and living in some fresh scenery. Not a very friendly place for CC’s either. We all love our cars but family is what’s most important to our hearts and minds and its touching to see someone be able to relax and get away from the stress (hopefully) to bask in that.
That’s right. I was based out of Buffalo for about 4 years. Those were happy times, I really enjoyed living in Western NY. I even visited Syracuse a time or two.
As scenic vistas go, your region is right up there with anywhere I have been in the world. When you have it so good, why leave?
I kinda like the noises our Forester makes … though one day I was driving my Alfa Milano around in 3rd gear with the windows down, just so I could listen to it, and it occurred to me I’d never do that in a Subaru!
The one Subie that I did dig the sound of was the Justy I had for a while. Little triples – including my mom’s Metropolitan (re-badged Suzuki) – have a growl that puts me in mind of a really fierce kitten. AAaaawwww … !
+1 on the sound of triples. Especially with a turbo.
Just this morning I was reading an article about a “limited edition” Subaru based on the Impreza wagon. It will be the basis for Subaru’s entry into BTCC racing. The article made a point of mentioning the name of the model when spelled backwards was somewhat unflattering. I wonder who names these cars?
Anyway, the newest model for Subaru in the U.K. is the LeVorg, which spelled backwards is the Grovel.
Sweet. In the red it gives me the feel of the Porsche 924/944, but with four doors. Could enjoy owning one.
Seeing a Japanese original makes me think a couple of these I see locally are clones as the rear badging location doesnt quite match, thats ok boyracers are allowed to clone performance editions just like all the fake GT Falcons and Camaro Zs we have, these are fairly quick cars though a well driven example car really get along, Ive been chased by a Blitzen grilled Subie we had great fun I only had him in the twisties once the road straightened he was gone twin turbo petrol versus single turbo diesel, not much of a contest in a straight line, but the badge at the back was in a different location, STI on the left and Blitzen on the right.
Porsche Design sounds a lot like Raymond Lowey’s design group except they haven’t done airplanes, locomotives or soft drink containers.
In my short visit to Japan I saw more of these than any other interesting older car by an order of magnitude. Of course, they were almost all on base, but when I did a search for them I figured out why – they are dirt cheap there. Just like everything else we can’t have yet. [frowns]
I currently own the last year of the Legacy GT wagon and I can say that after owning it for 6 years I don’t think I’d be too keen on getting one even older. I am constantly terrified something catastrophic is about to happen to it. And that’s owning one of the most reliable iterations of the car.
I’d be curious to see the interior treatment.
These are showing up in Canada now, particularly out here in Western Canada, as used-car imports…wrong-side-of-the-road headlamps and all.
Have to keep my eyes peeled out here on Vancouver island we seem to have an over abundance of small diesel vans, mostly Mitsubishi. Although I have seen a few Suzuki and Toyota versions.
You may want to double-check that “Sequential manual Gearbox” bit….
Good catch! My source is below. It looks like I was wrong on the gear box, the sequential was the auto. I’ve corrected it now.
The Blitzen model was the result of a collaboration with design house Porsche Design, and featured many unique parts and paint schemes. The wheels, body kit, and interior were all designed by this German group. It also featured an implementation of Aisin Seiki’s new sequential automatic gearbox, the first use of sequential-shifting on a production Subaru model.”
 MotorTrend, July 2000
Great find – and sorry if I got out in front of you on the Lemon Lot article – I had been planning to write it for over a year but got side-tracked with some bus posts.
All the B4s up here are silver so nice to see one in another color. Jim.
No worries. Your bus articles were beautiful, by the way. My favorite is the Bonnet Bus. As my wife would say, it was quite natsukashii.