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This Subaru WRX STi Type RA escaped a collapsing Japanese tunnel

Jim Yu December 2, 2012 Cars You Should Know 22 Comments

On Sunday, a highway tunnel 80 kilometers west of Tokyo collapsed. A section of concrete 50 to 60 meters long and 20 centimeters thick fell down and onto traffic. As of the time of this writing, several cars were still trapped underneath the rubble. Obviously, this is a sad story all around.

Eagle-eyed car enthusiasts in Japan and America watching the news footage saw a lone Subaru in the marque’s iconic blue paint scheme. Much of its passenger side was damaged from the falling debris. What is the story behind this rare WRX Type RA?*

Well, it happened to be owned by an NHK (Japan’s national broadcaster) employee. He and his wife were in the tunnel when the ceiling started to collapse. He was already in the passing lane so he floored it, passing about ten cars. He made it out. Nothing followed him out of the tunnel, other than a plume of smoke and dust. His wife in the passenger seat was injured.

Can any Subaru experts out there shed more light on this car?

* Type RA stands for Rally and Group A. It is a stripped down version of the regular WRX. Note the roof ventilator, which replaces the heavy and power-draining AC unit.

Images source: This Japanese blog.

For a video of this car, click here, play the video on the top left corner, and skip to 4:40.

Hat tip to You-Know-Who-You-Are for this story.


    That there's a Sub-"OW"-ru.

    • Derp

      Hope They rebuild that car for saving their lives.

  • Van_Sarockin

    The only way they could have been any luckier would to not have been in the tunnel at all. Too close a call. News reports are saying that a group of concrete ceiling panels fell. That sounds like a problem in Boston's tunnels that killed a woman a few years back.

    • Van_Sarockin

      Also, accelerating out of danger, FTW!

    • hwyengr

      The Boston tunnel used epoxy anchors to hold the panels and the constant weight loading was slowly causing them to fail, but they were failing from day one. They actually had a couple of anchors fail before the project was even completed, but since everyone mistakenly thought that the anchors were specified for that kind of load, that it was just a bad installation. Reading the NTSB accident report is super depressing, because you can see several spots where someone should have noticed something before anyone got killed. Needless to say, adhesive bonds will never be used in a constant load bearing situation in the United States again.

      Since this tunnel had just been inspected, and it hadn't just opened, the cause might be pretty different. Though, once anchors start failing, it doesn't take too long to use up the margin of safety.

      • Rover1

        Thank you, It's great snippets of insight like this that make Hooniverse so great. I suppose this Japanese tunnel was built at roughly the same time.

      • Van_Sarockin

        Yep. Though, in a way, everything is starting to fail from the moment it's built. I haven't heard how these panels are suspended. Hopefully the accident inspection will resolve this, so it won't be repeated.

  • Felis_Concolor

    Was he a fee collector? I'm guessing the tunnel was fed up with the NHK man's shakedown tactics.

  • seat safety switch

    Very lucky! I hope his wife's injuries are minor and that everyone trapped in the tunnel makes it out OK.

    We have a few Type RA STIs imported to Canada so far; they have a few tweaks (almost no sound deadening, no radio, reduced climate control, electronically controlled centre diff (DCCD), 4.44 final drive, special axle stubs, different diffs front and rear) and are really quick cars (albeit with a relatively low top speed). I don't think those are the stock seats.

    • Coolness! Did they ever sell them new in Canuckistan or the U.S.?

      • name_too_long

        I know they predate the US introduction of the WRX. Don't know about Canada.

        • seat safety switch

          Yeah, there were no factory turbocharged Imprezas for sale in North America prior to the introduction of the 2001/02 (debatable) WRX.

  • name_too_long

    Speed saves!

  • The chassis could well still be straight under that…

    I say he should keep driving it as a rolling testament to the advantages of speed and acceleration.

    And luck.

  • BaldwinP

    That dude will buy Subarus for life.

    Shame for Subaru that it would be too bad-taste to use in advertising, but it's a great story for the WRX anyway (and for the presence of mind of the driver to floor it, but if nothing behind him got out then he obviously needed every bit of acceleration that that car could give him).

  • BobWellington

    Speeding out of a collapsing tunnel is truly one of the most bad-A things a human can do.

  • spokenoise

    I hope he stopped, peeled of his aviators, looks at his wife and says 'Yeeeeaaaaah'

  • Steve

    If I recall the "RA" is "Race Altered".

    • Van_Sarockin

      Well, it's altered now. Maybe it should be a TA for Tunnel Altered.

  • CeeJay

    Looks to me like a my97 wrx sti RA V3 v-limited but I could be wrong. Judging by the colour, roof vent and the little badge on the boot that likely says "world rally manufacturers champions Subaru 1996". Theyre a limited number car, 555 I think. But theres been so many special editions over the years it's hard to keep up. They say the v3 RA is the rawest sti ever, personally I own a V5 type R coupe, and the old RA and type R's are animals, far more fun than a late shape sti.

  • bragis

    The video link does not work, does anyone have a link?

  • James

    Type RA actually stands for "Race Altered" not rally and group A.