By on November 8, 2011

While Malaise Era Subarus have disappeared from just about every location in the world outside of Colorado, a Subaru Leone sedan is a rare sight even here in Denver. At first glance, I wasn’t sure whether I was looking at a Corolla or maybe even another RX-2.
Malaise Subaru wagons and hatchbacks, they’re a dime a dozen in the junkyards of the Mile High City.
Not only is this a sedan, it’s an automatic 2WD version to boot. With a 67-horsepower 1600cc engine, even this car’s 2,030-pound curb weight must have felt like several tons. Of course, with certain world events jacking up gasoline prices in ’79, the original owner probably felt pretty smart for owning this gas-sipping little car.
Look, it’s the phoniest automotive “wood” surface ever!

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21 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Subaru GL Sedan...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Having lived in Colorado in those days I have a lot of memories of these Subarus. Few of them really pleasant.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    I’ve been meaning to ask. Why do you spend so much time in junkyards? I love the stories and all, but still it seems an odd way to spend the significant amount of time there you seem to.

    • 0 avatar
      retrogrouch

      http://www.murileemartin.com/
      http://www.24hoursoflemons.com/

      Do you know Murillee is not female and that his name is not really Murilee? His name is Robert Paulson.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        You’re saying Murilee has b*tch tits?

      • 0 avatar

        One of these days I’m going to write the definitive history of How Murilee Martin Got This Weird Pen Name. Hint: porn is involved.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        I had no idea that the Broadway star of “Peter Pan”, Mary Martin, ever did porn.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        @retrogrouch

        Honestly didn’t know and frankly didn’t care what gender he was. The articles about the junkyard finds are always a fun read and a good trip down memory lane. I was just wondering what he did that required him to spend so much time digging through junkyards. Especially as I’d rather be wrenching on some project instead.

        On the other hand, I just can’t seem to get into the whole 24 hours of lemons thing. Maybe it’s one of those things that is much more fun doing than reading about. I’m sure some people enjoy them though.

        Anyway this is a good website and very informative and entertaining.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to junkyards with my brothers and tell us about the cars there. It was as good as a car museum and usually free. No one bothered you to tell us not to touch what we saw. And we sometimes got a chance to see a few mummified cats, possums, and mice dehydrated into furry wafers with teeth. We absolutely loved it.

      I learned a hell of a lot in junkyards. I learned how cars age, which materials rot faster than others, what the sun does to some paint jobs, chrome and interiors, and how some cars are utterly destroyed in horrible wrecks. I saw how fragile cars really are, and how complicated they can also be.

      Dad would take me to the far reaches of some yards, right to the most rusted skeletons of cars from the 1920s. I saw Hudsons, Nashes, Studebakers, Dodge Brothers, Overlands, Oldsmobiles, Hupmobiles, Fraziers, Crosleys, Plymouths, as well as current makes.

      Touching the pitted chrome rear bumpers of a 1958 Buick, looking at the twin rocket badge of a Hudson, seeing the six pointed Dodge Brothers star, looking through the broken column window of a Frazier Manhattan four door convertible. Listen, we talk a lot about recycling and environmentalism, and a junkyard is about as honest and simple as you can go. Frown all you want about a junk car being an eyesore, and they are when not in the right place – but junkyards should not be considered beneath anyone’s dignity to view. Hiding junkyards only hides the truth about our mass consumption and a car’s “Circle of Life”.

      You can spend a lot of time in a junkyard and see the coolest things. It is definately a guy thing, and a hell of a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, if I owned a junkyard I would set it up so that tours could be safely arranged in groups.

    • 0 avatar
      mad_science

      Because for the $2 admission, they’re the cheapest hands-on automotive museums around.

      Where else are you allowed to buy items from an exhibit if you think they’re interesting?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m always looking for a few things for my projects and those of my friends, so when I have an hour to spare I walk through a local yard and see what’s interesting. Living in a major urban area means I’m always within 10 minutes of many junkyards. The yards here in Denver don’t have quite the inventory turnover of those in (coastal) California, but they’ve got more weird Subarus and IHC products.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        I’m with you on enjoying wandering around junkyards, however back in the UK my hobby was cut short by the ‘Health and Safety Executive’ who deemed that anyone who hadn’t watched a video, undertaken a short introductory course and was wearing steel toecap boots/hard hat/hi-vis jacket was no longer safe to walk up and down between rows of cars. Now in the UK if you want a part – you have to ask for it and the guys go get it for you.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    A friend owned one of these in college and I was amazed when I found out it had a manual choke, and came from the factory that way! I believe that the control was located in that plugged spot shown above in the lower LH corner of the dash. I know that not all Subarus came so equipped, so maybe it was part of a cold-weather package or something?

    I worked on a few Subarus from the 1970s, and I was not impressed. But compared to a Chevette or Pinto, hmmmm . . .

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……I sold Subarus in that era….I must have been a better salesman than I remember…..boy, were they ugly! The newly restyled 1980 model was like a dream car in comparison, and sales leaped……I think we sold 7 one month. All kidding aside, being a Subie dealer was no instant ticket to great wealth like Honda and Toyota practically guaranteed. The cars themselves were mechanically bulletproof, and warranty claims were practically non-existent, another unprofitable angle for a new dealer. For a period of about 2 years, I ran without any licenced mechanics at all. I had hired a teenager as parts manager/parts truck driver, and he turned out to be a mechanical genius, able to direct the lube bay kids in the (infrequent) repairs required. Inevitably the factory found out, and I started to get serious heat about the unorthodox situation.
    One day the Subaru regional sales manager paid a visit, lamenting the lack of A/C in his demo (A/C was a dealer installed option, and there had been a supply delay). I winked at Jimmie and took the guy out to lunch. When we returned 90 minutes later, Jimmie rolled the car up to the showroom door, vents blowing ice cold……all was forgiven.
    Smart kid that he was, Jimmie moved onward and upward. When I last heard from him he was international parts and service manager for a Fortune 500 equipment manufacturer.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    My first car was an 81 GL Hatchback. Ugly as sin, was all of 7 years old, body was half bondo from salt rust, had 100k on it. Got it for 600 bucks. IT WOULD NOT DIE! I totaled it twice, wrecking into ditches on gravel roads, still drove it home and using come-a-longs straightened it out as best I could, replacement A-arms from the junk yard etc. Eventually the clutch went out of it, couldn’t get in first gear anymore after one of my ramping expeditions across a field incidents, taking off in second finally took its toll. Fun fact, you could run them without a radiator as long as you didnt sit for too long idling, did that for a good 9 months. Actually seemed to run cooler without it. Donuts in reverse was a blast as well with the motor out front like it was. Next car was a 81 escort, nowhere near as much fun.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ……fixit…running early Subarus without coolant was something I never tried, but I remember the factory rep telling us that they seriously considered air cooling for production……the nuisance of designing an adequate heating system tipped the balance in favor of the more conventional setup. Those early boxers were popular with home built aircraft builders for their air cooled possibilities and ultra light weight….. yes, they were really bulletproof, in the 8 years I sold them we never did a valve job, and replaced only one motor (punctured oil pan). Junkyard motors were ridiculously cheap, because they were almost never needed.

      • 0 avatar
        MrFixit1599

        Well, I actually bought 2 junkyard radiators for it, and both of them leaked, so eventually I ran it out of water just waiting for it to overheat. Carrying around a gallon of water all the time and keeping it filled was a PITA for my stupid teenage self. Eventually I just pulled the radiator and the grill so max air would reach the motor and keep it cool. It worked remarkably well, minus the no heater factor. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out the Beetle and Porsche engines were basically the same design, and were intentionally air cooled.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Ah yes, Subaru dealer installed A/C. Had an ’80 wagon with same. Quickly learned to switch it off while merging onto the freeway.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    You know 30lbs per HP is not bad for a ’79, especially when you consider the ’80 Corvette California Special barely pumped out 180HP to move its fat arse around.

    Having lived in Colorado for years and toured nearly every junkyard in Arvada and Commerce City, Soobys were and are very, very popular cars. The 80’s rounded Soobs with the pull lever 4WD were awesome cars; always ran in sh** weather, had true 4WD and decent ground clearance, and gave decent gas mileage. This sedan in particular is so fugly, its cool.

  • avatar
    claytori

    The shot of the heater controls reminds me that until the Japanese car wave arrived we didn’t know what a recirculation setting was. I still never use this.


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