AMONG THE SUBARU PERFORMANCE CARS STORED IN ITS “MUSEUM” IS THE PURPLE SVX THAT ONCE PACED THE FIELD FOR INDY CAR WORLD SERIES EVENTS.
A storage building near Subaru of America, Inc. headquarters in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, houses a number of legendary Subaru performance vehicles. These are some of the more favored and treasured vehicles in Subaru history – stored much as you would keep things in an attic. Previous issues of Drive Performance have featured the Impreza 22B STi Coupe and Justy land speed record-holder that reside in that large room. In one of the corners, the purple SVX pace car rests as something of a counterpoint in design to the rest of the vehicles stored there.
In the early 1990s, the SVX helped bring exposure to the Subaru brand and elevate the public’s perception of it. At the time, the name Subaru was associated with the BRAT and the slogan, “Inexpensive, and Built to Stay that Way.” Although Subaru was beginning to make inroads in the world of rallying, Subaru rally blue wasn’t yet world famous, so performance was not part of most enthusiast’s perception of the brand in any part of the world. Now here was a stunning, sporty Subaru, complete with an extremely strong powertrain, luxurious GT interior, and all-wheel drive.
At that time, the races in the PPG Indy Car World Series were well-attended. They offered high exposure to enthusiasts who followed the racing in person or on television. The series’ PPG Pace Car program featured brightly painted street vehicles prepared for the track. Driven by female racers, the cars and pickup trucks in the program not only paced the races and were used as safety vehicles during the course of a race, they were used to give VIPs hospitality rides around the track during breaks in the race weekend’s schedule.
According to Roger Banowetz, who was involved in the program for Subaru, “Image, exposure, and performance were the goals of this program.”
“It was a rarified world, that of a PPG Pace Car,” continued Banowetz. “Not just anyone was invited to play. First there was the requisite business relationship – paint for the SIA production line in our case, but that was not a guaranteed entry. In the case of the SVX, the unique styling was the draw. The Pace Car program at the time was dominated by U.S. makes – Camaro, Mustang, sedans, and the rare pickup truck. The only other Asian vehicle was a Nissan Z. Compared to these vehicles, the SVX was a different type.”