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Subaru goes wah-wah with new WRX ad


CarsGuide goes behind the scenes to find out what it takes to bring a car ad to life.

Most car ads conform to a particular format. You see the car driving around some nice scenery, usually the Sea Cliff Bridge near Wollongong, with some fast-paced music playing, while a voice over talks about how exciting and life-changing the car is.

But what happens if you combine an historical aircraft museum, Melbourne-based guitarist Darren Hart, and bit of left field thinking?

That's what Subaru has done with their "W-Wah-X" campaign for the recently-updated WRX performance sedan.

"The challenge was just not do another car ad," says Subaru marketing boss Andrew Caie.

So they started thinking about what makes people like cars.

"You know what? There's nothing better than getting on the open road in a great car, and turning on a great music track," he added.

And that was the brief: to marry music and motoring. What came back was a little unexpected.

No, you can't do that

The idea was to turn the WRX into a musical instrument by swapping the accelerator for a guitar wah-wah pedal. Darren Hart - Harts, as he's known professionally - would sit in the back and riff on his guitar, while the wah-wah pedal worked its magic on both the car and his amp.

But first they had to find out if it was even possible.

Initially there was "a bit of disbelief really, because you think 'no, you can't do that'," says Rob Choon, the Subaru technical expert who wired it all up.

"But once you start looking at wiring diagrams, looking at how the pedal works and that sort of thing, you think 'yeah, it's possible'."

In about a week they went from tossing around ideas to forming a plan of how they were going to do it. After that, actually modifying the car and replacing the pedal took only six hours.

On the set

However, replacing the normal accelerator with the wah-wah pedal did make a big difference to how the WRX drives. As the guitar pedal is more of an on/off button, compared to the graduating action of a normal accelerator, the CVT needed to be adjusted to compensate for this sensitivity.

This softened throttle inputs, making it easier for Harts to play in the back seat.

You can see Harts working the frets in the back seat

So with the hard bit done, it was time to put it all into action and see how it would work.

The small army of a film crew got everything ready - props, lights, cameras, sound equipment, everything - and after a bit of standing around Harts was off.

Standing on the outside, it's an odd sight; a car looking as though it's bunny hopping across a runway, while you can see Harts working the frets in the back seat.

There was minor hiccup, as you'd expect really with something that had never been built before. A loose wire brought the WRX to a quick halt, but that was soon fixed and they were off again.

Afterwards, Harts described the experience as "a really unique thing".

"We're figuring out a lot of things as we go - what works the best, what doesn't work the best. But it's working really well," he said.

He also, like most of us really, was surprised the left-field idea of a wah-wah pedal-cum-accelerator was even possible, although the modified WRX most likely won't be making its way into his stage performances.