Subiefest brings out the Subaru in all of us
Six great gatherings of Subaru faithful all over the country celebrate AWD, big wings, grippy tires and center diffs
Who doesn’t like sliding a car sideways in gravel? Who? Communists, that’s who. OK, the communists probably like it, too, at least those who can get a Trabant to slide sideways. But the other people who like it are Subaru owners, and they come together six times a year to celebrate their love of gravel, grip and gargantuan powersildes in events called Subiefests.
At least, the one held last weekend in California is called Subiefest. The others are: Boxerfest (because Subarus have flat-four engines), Wicked Big Meet (because that’s how they talk in Connecticut, where this one’s held), Subiefest Midwest, Big Northwest Subaru Meet and Subiefest Florida. It’s Subielicious.
I went to the one in California because it was only a crankshaft’s throw from my house. It was held in the ginormous parking lot of Santa Anita racetrack, where Sea Biscuit won many a race and Bing Crosby was part owner. The Marx Brothers filmed “A Day at the Races” there. I could go on and on. But Sunday, Oct. 13, it was all Subarus, representing a different kind of horsepower.
Since the parking lot is big enough to land a space shuttle, there was room for an autocross in part of the Fest, and various racers battled it out in the semi-broken-up asphalt. Subaru World Rally Championship driver Chris Atkinson gave thrill rides to a select group of Subiefest attendees in a black Subaru BRZ. Like everyone else there, Atkinson loves Subarus. His first car was what we here in the U.S. call a Subaru Brat but they call a Brumby in his native Australia. He started driving it on the family farm at age 10. His dad raced a Subaru Leone.
“People who buy Subarus have passion,” said Atkinson, adding that it’s not just in northern climes that these AWD cars are appreciated. “I was just in Texas and saw a huge following even there. It’s spreading all over the country.”
Indeed, the parking lot of Santa Anita was a testament to that passion. There were thousands of Subarus — literally thousands. I saw them with my own flying eyeballs, mostly WRXs, but many BRZs and a number of more practical Subaru wagons and sedans. One corner of the lot was for off-road camper-style Subarus, a sort of mini-Overland Expo on pavement. Just like Overland Expo, there were tech seminars all day long on topics as varied as air induction, intercoolers and brake tech. Inside the show, after you paid your $20, were 70 vendors offering all kinds of Subaru tuning parts. Presenting sponsor Subaru brought three truckloads of classic Subarus, 18 in all, most rare beasts you wouldn’t see unless you traveled the globe going to auto shows and races: a 22B, S209, 2020 BRZ tS and a Japan-only WRX STi RA-R, to name just the few lined up in front of the Subaru exhibit space.
“I just love Subaru,” said company accountant Chris Stoop, who, despite working in the accounting department of the company, traveled across the country to help with the Subiefest setup. “It’s like working at Disneyland.”
The Autopia ride, in particular.
The guy who started it all, Subiefest founder Rob Champion, seemed to be enjoying Subarus as much as ever, even after putting on 10 years of Subiefests. He figured there were 400 cars in the California show, thousands more in the parking lot, 70 vendors and around 6,000 people. He himself has owned “somewhere between 12 to 15 Subarus.” Right now he has three. He was introduced to the brand when he went for a ride in a friend’s 2.5 RS on the back roads of Vermont
“Just the control that car had on snowy roads, dirt roads, big, paved, windy roads …”
He was hooked. He started a blog called mysubie.com, had a few parking lot events, then soon enough everything lead to Subiefest California with its 6,000 attendees.
“This isn’t even our biggest event,” he said. “The Wicked Big Meet (in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, in June) had over 8,000 people.”
He manages the whole thing through friendships.
“All these people you see here in the purple shirts are my friends, every single one of them,” he said. “And they all feel the same way about Subaru, we all share this same passion.”
You can share the passion and be a Subaru friend, too. Buy a Subaru and start driving now to attend Subiefest Florida Nov. 23 at the Sun ‘N’ Fun Expo in Lakeland. You’ll come back a part of a larger community of new friends. And you’ll probably have some new suspension parts, too.