By on January 19, 2012

If you’re familiar with the story of kickbacks and dodgy dealings at American Honda in the 1970s and 1980s (yes, copies of Arrogance and Accords go for $150 a pop these days), you know that getting a new Accord was quite a challenge for American car buyers during the Late Malaise Era. You sure as hell weren’t going to get that shiny new Accord hatchback for anywhere near invoice, if you could find one at all… but hold on now, what’s that affordable, Japanese-built, gas-sipping front-wheel-drive hatchback at the dealership across the street, the car that looks so Accord-like? Surely it must be every bit as good as the Honda, yes?
Well, no. The 2WD Subaru STD/DL/GL hatch (yes, the base model was called the STD, nobody bought it— for obvious reasons— and I’m still searching for some STD badges for my collection) was quite Accord-like at 100 feet, but it neither rode like an Accord nor lasted 300,000 miles like an Accord. I’ve got plenty of miles in both types: in 1987, I dumped a girlfriend with a white GL hatch in favor of one who drove a metallic-green Accord. I have never regretted that decision.
I don’t know when I last saw one of these things, on the street or off. Most early-to-mid-80s American Leone buyers went for the wagon, and most of the hatches that did make it out of the showroom wore out and got crushed while Bill Clinton was still in the White House. To be fair, early Accords are nearly as rare (though I found one in the same junkyard as this car; stay tuned to the Junkyard Find Channel for more Japanese Malaise Era history).
Since I live in Colorado, I see many elderly Subarus in my local self-service yards, but 99% of them are the four-wheel-drive models that helped drive the last few dozen nails in the coffin of the sturdy-but-crude-and-thirsty AMC Eagle. This rusty front-driver was a rare find indeed.

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60 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Honda Accord— No, Wait, Subaru GL Hatchback!...”


  • avatar
    grzydj

    There’s a guy around town here who has a lifted 4WD version of one of these, complete with a straight pipe exhaust and a mudder spare tire mounted on a roof rack on top of it.

    Looks a lot like this one:
    http://karakullake.blogspot.com/2010/08/carspotting-51-subaru-dl.html

  • avatar
    dejal1

    They never looked alike. I had a 81 Accord 4 door, Dad a 82? Subaru 4 door, sister a 83? Subaru 2 door. You’d have to be blind to think they were the same.

    The interiors were even more different. The Subies were an aquired taste. The hard plastics reminded me of the crap plastics in the Ford Maverick.

    We all ended up with 3rd gen Accords 4 doors in the late 80′s. For me it was a no brainer, they had to learn. Now, the gap is much less (or non existent) between the 2 makes.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Agreed. There’s no way you could confuse an early 3 or 4 door rounded Honda Accord with the notchback look of the Subie.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      The ’83 Accord was not the rounded model, it had much straighter lines than the first gen. I had an ’83 hatchback, and there’s definitely a resemblance to the Subie pictured, if you squint a little. Can’t see how you can call that Subie a notchback, for that matter.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    One Amazon seller wants 1500 dollars for a copy of that Honda book. Are there coupons for Honda Floor mats in the back???
    Honda dealers were smug right up to the early 90′s, often times well worn copies for Consumer Reports were handed around to convince people to pay for side mirrors, radios, floor mats, wheel covers and pinstripes far above what they should have.
    It’s one reason I bought a Saturn in 1991, I wanted a passenger side mirror at no extra charge on my car.

    • 0 avatar
      magicbus1966

      It looks like someone claiming to be the author is selling pdf copies on ebay for $30.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      My father thanked the arrogant Honda dealers for his double Toyota purchase in ’85. When he walked in to check out picking up an Accord for himself, the sales staff immediately notified him how many thousands they would tack on to the window sticker and he would pay that and like it. After a curt “idfts” we hopped over to the island’s main Toyota dealer, who ended up cutting dad such a good deal on a new Camry including the trade-in, my father immediately negotiated a Tercel purchase as well. The prep work took minutes after which we picked them up, then cheerfully drove them back around to the Honda dealership to show them off and explain to the general manager just how much money his attitude had lost him in the past 2 hours. In a larger metro area I’m certain this would have been shrugged off, but on an outer island the population was low enough that every lost sale hurt, and it showed on the GM’s face.

      Subarus were also popular for negotiating the perpetually muddy tertiary roads in the county, but those near the ocean would very quickly lose their body panels to corrosion, becoming windsurfer specials in a few short years.

      • 0 avatar
        Rollo Grande

        My dad did the same thing in 1990 when the local Ford dealer refused to help him buy an Explorer. The salesman wouldn’t even get up, he just said, “They’re out back.” Dad went to the Mitsubishi dealer, bought a ’91 Montero off the lot, drove it back to Ford, and said, “Remember when I was in here looking to buy a truck? Well, there it is!”

        I doubt that Explorer would have held up the way the Montero did. It was a great vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      The point of the book, which I recommend very strongly if you can find a copy, is that Honda dealerships had to bribe the shit out of the Honda USA managers in order to get inventory, and the bribes often added many hundreds of bucks to the price of a new car. Sometimes dealers who didn’t play ball would find a brand new Honda dealership opening up right down the street… and guess which dealership would get the new Civics and Accords?

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        That might explain the proliferation of Honda dealerships on the island, where there were 3 scattered around town with just a single dealer for the other Asian brands and even the domestics had sole outlets until the early 90s.

        Thanks for the notice; I’ll scan the shelves in the used bookstores to see if it ever shows up, although the recent state of the secondary books market has become slightly volatile in this town the past few years. 3 have shut down and 4 have opened, so I guess that’s a net gain.

      • 0 avatar
        Rollo Grande

        I will keep an eye out for this book. If you’re really into Subarus and their checkered history, a fascinating read is Randall Rothenberg’s 1994 book “Where The Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of An Advertising Campaign”.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      My first car purchase on my own was an ’85 Civic and was my all time worst buying experience on ANY product.

      I shopped for a month to find the perfect compact for myself, and there it was – the Civic Si. It was radically better than anything else I had driven, so I “negotiated” the terms – $500 over sticker, and a three month waiting list. The dealer told me my car would be worth $2500 in trade. i plunked down the deposit and drove off, happy as a clam.

      Three months later, the phone rings, and they have my car at the dealership. I took my dad along as a possible co-signer (didn’t know if I could qualify on my own). Dad was the scourge of St. Louis car dealers – he was a dedicated negotiations enthusiast, and once had one dealer order him a car from out of town, and put a sunroof in it, only to reject the car when it came time to have it delivered. They told him to never set foot on the lot again. Dad was also about 6’5″ and built like a linebacker. He asked me if I needed some help negotiating the deal and I told him, no, it was all set. He gave me a “Okey dokey” look and off we went.

      So there was the car…resplendent in two-tone gray paint, and with air conditioning. Of course, my friendly salesman had neglected to tell me that the A/C was extra-cost, but that was OK, they’d already installed it on the car for an extra $1,000. How nice of them!

      Then he told me that my car had depreciated badly in the last three months and was worth $1,000, not the $2,500 we had talked about before.

      Through all of this, my dad was impassive, though this had to be killing him – he was letting me take care of this on my own, the good guy he was, even though he knew I was taking it right up the slats.

      I weakly said to the salesman, a little rat-faced guy in a Crockett-from-Miami Vice-wannabe suit, that this was BS and I was not going for it. He pointed to three guys standing by a potted palm in a corner of the dealership and informed me that if I didn’t want the car, they were lined up for it. He also insinuated that a refund for my deposit might be a convoluted process. I relented. So, to sum up: the car cost $1,000 more than I had agreed on, and I’d agreed to $500 over sticker in the first place, and my trade was worth $1500 less. I didn’t care. I was in love. I went to drool over the car while I waited for the finance guy.

      Looking back at the dealership, I saw my dad having a discussion with rat-face Crockett suit guy. Through my love-stricken haze, I seemed to see him making some rather animated points, while standing about a foot away from him and looking down at him. Then rat-face came out and made a stunning announcement: he was throwing in accessories! Pinstripes! Rear speakers! And floormats! And free oil changes!

      Be still, my beating heart!

      Years later I found out that the conversation involved an imminent threat to force rat-face do something anatomically impossible unless he started tossing in some goodies. Ah, Dad…

      What sticks with me from all this, though, is not how I got ripped off – I actually learned to negotiate after that – but after I stopped mooning over the car and realized how badly I’d been taken, I developed an abiding distaste for Honda dealers, and in the years that followed, every time I shopped one of their dealerships, they tried the same “our car is so much better that we deserve give you the prison shower treatment” song-and-dance on me. By 1995, I just stopped shopping Honda altogether.

      That Civic was a splendid little car, but it will be my last Honda. Ever. Just goes to show you that a great car will sell once, but service will sell again and again.

      • 0 avatar
        silverkris

        My how things have changed. I remember the stories of Honda dealers gouging buyers with the advent of the ADM = additional dealer markup.

        Nowadays, however, at least in my neck of the woods, the Honda dealer service experience is pretty civilized – and the local dealers are better than the Toyota ones both from a buying and service/repair experience.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    In 1987, my sis begged me to buy her an ’82 version of the GL. I complied, and learned during the subsequent shakedown runs that it had an amazing appetite for CV joints, leading me to decide it had to go before I could turn it over to Sis. In the process of having it fixed up for sale, I took it to a shadetree mechanic so he could replace the brakes. He removed all the worn out stuff – shoes, rotors, drums, whatever the hell it had – and walked out his back door later in the day to find the car gone! Seems a kid down the street had decided to go for a joyride. Said ride didn’t last long or end well. At the first intersection, he planted the Subie firmly in the arse of a CJ-7. Upshot: kid and Jeep undamaged, Sube totaled. Best part was, the kid was fresh out on probation and his old man had money. With the well timed transfer of a handful of Benjamins, the case was closed the same day. What an effing relief. Thought I’d never see one of these dungheaps again – I don’t know whether to thank or curse you, Murilee!

  • avatar
    tkewley

    I was the last owner in my immediate family of a white ’82 STD – it got passed from my mother to my sister to my father to me in the late ’80s. I can tell you that, while the all-vinyl (even the flooring) interior outgassed, leaving a greasy film all over the windows, and then fell apart, the mechanicals were very sturdy if agricultural in terms of refinement. Not a Honda, certainly, but not a Hyundai Excel, either.

    FYI, the STD model name appeared only on the window sticker, so no badges, I’m afraid…

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I seriously hope you’re joking about looking for “STD” badges.

    “STD” is an abbreviation for “Standard”. “Standard” means base model, no options. One of the options that was lacking was badges.

    • 0 avatar

      I MUST HAVE Subaru STD badges, even if I have to make my own!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      IIRC, the big difference between the STD hatch and the DL hatch was that the DL got you a 5spd and an AM radio. And four square headlights instead of two round ones. Different fancier vinyl seats too.

      My Grandfather traded the last of his giant American boat station wagons for the first of two Subarus in ’79 for one on of the very first ‘new for ’80′ DL hatches. It was by FAR the most reliable car he had ever had, and of course amazing in the snow compared to the boats. And 35mpg instead of 15. So he bought my Grandmother a left-over ’82 GL Sedan in late ’83 that became my first car in ’86. Funny metallic maroon with 5spd and no power steering, which was probably why it was a leftover, but Am/Fm and air-con! They were both still commuters until then, and my Grandmother for a few more years. The ’80 rotted out in less than 4 years though.

      Those ’80 Subarus were kind of a jump ahead of the same priced Japanese competition in ’79. This was a car that was nearly as big as an Accord, but cheaper than a Civic. And good looking compared to the truly goofy generations before. Toyotas were still mostly (entirely?) RWD then, and FWD Datsuns were funny looking and smaller. So the Subie’s were a good deal, especially as they were kind of unknown, the dealers were dealing on the already lowish prices. Probably helped that the Benz dealer sold them. That had pretty much gone away by the time they bought the sedan, hence it being a left-over. He was always a sucker for a deal.

      Other interesting tidbits – around here (Portland, Maine) Subarus were sold out of a corner of the local Mercedes-Benz dealer in Falmouth, Performance Motors. That lasted only a few years before they built a HUGE stand-alone dealership down the street in 81-82. Sales absolutely skyrocketed with this generation, as I mentioned in another thread we had 11 of them in the family at one point. The rust reputation and increasing prices of both the area and the cars seemed to get to them in the ’90s though, the dealership moved to a smaller, cheaper location and the big store became first a BMW dealership, then Saab.

      Also interesting, at that time in the early ’80s up the street was Colony Motors, who sold Buick, Oldsmobile, Peugeot, FIAT, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley! Now a shopping center, sadly. The Mb dealership moved years ago too, but there is still a VW/Audi Porsche Mazda dealer on that strip. Only car dealership left there, the Saab store got folded into the same owner’s Volvo store in another town last year.

  • avatar
    jmo

    but it neither rode like an Accord nor lasted 300,000 miles like an Accord.

    At least in the northeast Accords (like all other cars from that era) were a puddle of rust long before 300k.

    • 0 avatar
      zenith

      Ditto, Omaha and environs, where the govts. shovel snow with a salt shaker.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      I actually saw an early 80s Accord hatchback driving around about 2 weeks ago in southern Maine (Portland). I wanted to get a closer look but the person got on I-295 and I wasn’t going that way. Those cars just don’t exist in this area these days due to the massive amounts of salt.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        I’ve seen exactly one first-generation Accord in the past, oh, decade. There’s a lonesecond-generation sedan cruising around, with third-gen cars also nearly extinct, but examples from the CB7/CB9 onward are easily found.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        If it was light blue, I have seen that one too. First I have seen in eons. It won’t be around for long if they keep driving it in the winter.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      Even in Texas they tended to rust out early, much faster than Detroit iron or European iron.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I attended university in Colorado when these cars were quite a common sight. It was so easy and logical to justify buying a Subaru. Terrain west of I-25 isn’t kind to daily drivers in traditional heavy 4WD body on frame vehicles. Getting less than 15 MPG really adds up commuting to booming Aspen from affordable Glenwood Springs, or booming Vail from affordable Idaho Springs. Before legalized gambling there was affordable housing options in empty former frontier towns west of Denver.

    A Subaru let you tank up in Golden and get home in Georgetown without needing to be refueled. These cars allowed you to take you and three stoner friends to A Basin with all your outdoor gear stowed out of the weather in a warm interior. Subarus were as comfortable in this Rocky Mountain lifestyle as a new pair of Rossignols.

    It was more than any other Jap Trap. It was FWD like a Honda, but it was also a 4WD vehicle if you popped for that costly option. It made sense back then. You could get a little fuel efficient Japanese car with 4WD. If you did what so many do around Colorado and put 30,000 miles of mountain driving on your odometer every year, these Subarus seemed especially built for you!

    And owning a Subaru set you apart from the cowboys. It showed folks that you thought outside the status quo and didn’t have to do manual labor. Subarus were new in town. A new generation of mountain folks drove them, especially flannel wearing short haired women who didn’t see a need for guys.

    These weren’t the best. They were too narrow. Maybe k.d. Lang and her friends could fit across the width of these little machines, but not anyone sporting an XL body type. You sat deep into the seats, so the beltline prevented you from really resting your elbow out the window. The photo Murilee uses of the interior isn’t from a driver’s perspective. The interior styling were frightenly disturbing and weirdly feminine. Naturally, I would call the jutting twisty knobs pertruding from the IP binnacle by crude vulgar sexual terms and lick my fingers before twisting them. There was very little room for your legs and if you were wearing your hiking boots, you felt a bit clumsy. The orange instrumentation lighting was nauseating. The sing-song chimes use to replace the standard warning sound became maddening after spending a day buzzing around. The frameless windows gave a feeling of cheapness when using the doors. It was a kinda a chick car, but beefier. There was too much front overhang. The engine was perched too far forward, causing excessive wear on the front axles, CV joints and brakes. The spare tire was mounted behind and over the engine. The car was front heavy. The steering was not very good.

    They rusted. Badly. All the Japanese cars turned to rust dust after a few years. The interior plastics sloughed off dander. The icky plaid seat covers ripped from the vinyl.

    Their novelty wore off. They were no longer new by the mid-1980s. The combination of 4WD and the design compromises within the vehicle showed themselves fully by the end of the decade. Subaru knew it’s weaknesses and crafted a stronger market contender, dropping the car’s irritating quirks, but also a lot of it’s character. The Legacy was a better car, but as dull as a Japanese Volvo.

    While I respect Subaru, I believed it was not a good value. The hot market for Japanese cars affected Subaru prices too. These cars sold for more than they were worth. If you kept them a decade or more, or could live with them that long, then you could perhaps fix that problem, but after three years, these cars looked like ugly rusted cheese that was nibbled away by Pikas above timberline.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      VanillaDude, I love your story. I’m saving it for my Subaru memerobilia collection.

      Long ago here in Michigan, I bought a used, 1977 GL Coupe, in nausea-beige. What a revelation to have front wheel drive in the snow (and 45 MPG highway). When that rusted away, that led to my purchase of a new, 1981 GL 4×4 wagon, spark blue, which is very similar to this ’80 hatchback. While my car had several of the endless/typical Subaru problems (that I will forever make known online), it was eons better than the Detroit-crap at the time.

      My wagon arrived at one of the best times of my life, it was my first new car, I had it for a long time, and for that reason I’ll remember it fondly. Like the time heading into Denver on I-70 on a summer road-trip, in my early ’20s, girlfriend in the passenger seat, and seeing the Rocky Mountains off in the distance for the first time. We’d explore them in the Subaru the next day, but after we stopped at what now is the ‘Golden Hours Motel’ on Colfax. Good times.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Sorry, but I see no resemblance between the Sube and the Accord hatch whatsoever. Yes, they’re both three-door hatchbacks but that’s where the similarity ends. Everything else is different.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Is it just me, or does it just seem weird that all these Junkyard Finds are being held up by wheels perched on the center of another wheel?

  • avatar
    obbop

    At our yard of dismantling the car/truck holder-uppers were bare steel wheels (never “rims”) welded together to ensure maximum stability.

    Functional.

    New saw one fail.

    Proper placement of wheels under vehicle was important.

    Even the Loma Prieta quake that sent some rather severe jolts through the sedimentary deposits of the Concord valley did not cause any wheel-suspended vehicles to topple.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    A family friend had a dark green on brown 4WD wagon, don’t remember the year but it was this vintage, early/mid 80′s. Last time I saw it was the late 90′s and it was in showroom condition. It was his daily driver, everything worked, even the a/c. I remember the surprise of seeing the spare under the hood. I ‘got’ to drive it a few times and my strongest memories are how slow it was and the smell of the interior materials.

  • avatar

    Also the age of experimentation with control stalk substitutes. I’d forgotten about the stumpy ones in these Subarus.

    Has the first-gen Isuzu Impulse already been covered? If not, have you seen any out there, Murilee?

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    I know I’m probably alone in this, but the only Honda I ever owned was a horrible piece of junk. I had a ’79 Accord hatchback in 1983 with only fifty thousand miles on it. It was a one owner car that looked really great when I bought it, and it had a complete service history. It had an electrical short on it somewhere that nobody could find and I put three batteries and two alternators in it in the six months I owned it. I took to parking on hills and coasting down them to start it. The final straw was the blown head gasket that happened. The shop I took it to claimed they couldn’t get parts for it except at the dealer and it took $800 to fix it in 1983 dollars. It was already rusting on the liftgate when I sold it. Needless to say, I decided not to ever buy a Honda again.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      You’re obviously a liar as the best and brightest here at TTAC can assure you no Honda has ever gone wrong in any way. Indeed, other than accidents, all Honda’s ever made are still on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      My 83 Accord was a good car, but it also had an electrical gremlin. At near-freezing temperatures one of the plugs wouldn’t fire, so it would run on 3 cylinders til it warmed up. Living in So Cal, and then Hawaii, it usually wasn’t much of a problem. Until I took it camping 8000 feet up a volcano. Only ran on two cylinders on the trip home, fortunately the first 15 miles were all down hill.

  • avatar

    I can see the GL/Accord comparison. Before the Accord went to the wedge-shaped, pop-up headlight equipped version, it was quite round, albeit low. Lower than the Subie and more “stretched-out.” Perhaps if you picture the Accord, then shrink that picture by 80% on the horizontal axis, while leaving the vertical, the comparison would work.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      The easiest difference between the Accord coupe and this car was that the Subaru had a noticable B pillar what dropped down from the roofline, and the Accord didn’t have a noticable B pillar.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Uh, is that (looks like right rear) wheel in the picture properly attached to the car with nothing missing? Looks like only a swing arm and a shock. Tell me it ain’t so, Murilee. It already bothers me to see fwd CRV’s looking like they’ve had their balls cut detesticled with that empty space in the rear axle/suspension but this lools like it didn’t even have THAT

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    These things were all over my corner of the Pacific Northwest in the 80s and a college friend of mine had one in the mid-90s but I’ve only seen a couple of them in the past ten years and those looked like they needed to be junked years before that.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    One of these would be an excellent candidate for a drivetrain swap from a modern WRX. I bet these are quite light and with over 220 awd hp would be great sleeper to surprise some BMWs in.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    My older sister had a subie wagon of about that vintage. Ran it much longer than it should have.

    I am another who is not happy with honda reliability. My 83 accord (in 91) was among the three least reliable cars I ever owned (77 olds starfire and 2002 Saturn Vue the other two). I think Honda made great motorcycles but the interference motors with the rubber band timing belt have caused me to think of them in a bad light ref their cars.

    Until the comment above, I thought I was the only one who ever owned a Honda Lemon. That was ok. Misery does not really like company.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The dealer I worked for still had new GL 4WD hatchbacks with this body in stock in the summer of 1989. They shared the lot with XT coupes; ‘Loyale’ sedans, coupes, and wagons; Justys CVTs and 4WDs; and the new Legacy sedans and wagons. That was about three times more models than sales justified at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      They sold those 4wd hatches LONG after they stopped selling the other models of this generation. As you saw, all the way to ’89!

      Same around here, sales cratered by then, the new models were too expensive and a little bit wierd, and the rust reputation caught up with them in a big way. Folks still bought the AWD ones to some extent, but it was the Outback that really saved Subaru here, sad to say.

      But I can vouch that those ’80-84 cars were tough buggers mechnically, I shudder to think what I put my poor ’82 through as a newly licensed 16/17yo car nut. I thrashed the living daylights out of that car, slid it off the road several times (on dry pavement), and even managed to go through a set of tires AND brake pads in less than 20K miles. Slid it into a curb and bent the rear suspension trying to learn handbrake turns in the snow. My 16yo self did not know the handbrake was on the FRONT wheels…. A favorite pastime was my buddies and I seeing if we could bury the 85mph speedo on the windy back roads around here. Oh yes, I could, at about 7K rpm in 3rd gear…. Once my Grandfather checked the oil and it took 3(!) quarts to fill it up.

      I honestly don’t know why I survived that phase. A combination of calming down and getting into VW Jettas that had actual handling and brakes.

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    My parents bought this car (4-door wagon) new in 1983, moved cross country, and commuted in it every day. I hate to offer a differing statistic, but they put 300k on it over 14 years, and dad did all of the maintenance himself. It was the blue GL with blue cloth interior, front wheel drive, 5-speed manual. Somehow the mice loved it more than any other car. I can remember driving down the road with all the windows down and hanging my head out to avoid breathing in putrid air whenever one died. The light front-wheel drive did fairly well in the snow, actually.

    Mom tried to teach me how to shift gears one day and dad thought that there was a delivery truck stuck in the mud with all the revving and stalling that happened.

    With 300k and 14 years old we sold it to neighbors cheap, but the timing belt (chain?) broke after a few months and destroyed the engine. It was either crushed when Bill Clinton was in office or became a playhouse for goats.

  • avatar
    jogrd

    If it’s confession time about unreliable early Hondas.
    I had a 1978 that was going strong at 120,000 miles though rusty. Pretty good for the era. So I replaced it with a really nice 82 Civic 4 door. Engine was burning oil and done by 70,000. Lovely solid car otherwise, but my Fiat 128‘s engine lasted longer than that . Next Civic was bulletproof though, other than it’s habit of eating distributors and exhausts.
    If Honda and Toyota could have got together back then and there was a 20R powered Accord that would have been something.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I had no idea Subbie made FWDers back during the malaise era.

    The ’78 Honda Accord with the aluminum engine and automatic tranny was an exercise in malaise grade engineering that would have made Detroit blush with admiration on how craptastic they were.

    Unlike Detroit Honda figured it out quick and made huge changes in ’79.

    Now if Honda could figure it out today…

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Subie didn’t get on the AWD kick until the ’90s. Remember that back in the ’80s they were still 4WD with a selectable transfer case and such. You could buy a FWD Impreza in the US until 1995 or so.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    I’ve had a FWD GL 1600 SW and a 4WD XT Coupe go over 200k with little fuss and great gas mileage. The guys I sold them to drove ‘em till they stopped (usually 275k). Very cheap to own and operate.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    My first car was an 81 GL, looked just like the one pictured, except a lovely shade of brown. Paid 600 bucks for it in 1988. Had 100k on it when I bought it. Tried like hell to destroy it and finally did by ramping it off a small cliff after the brakes failed. Turned out I had damaged the front drivers side caliper, and when I went to hit the brakes, there weren’t any as the pads had fallen out. Gave it to my buddy, who resurrected it and drove it for another 2 years, most of that time without a radiator. Just keep it moving and it stayed plenty cool. The fact that it survived all the ramps and reverse donuts and clutch dumps as it did was just shocking. Remarkably durable drivetrain. Had an 84 Brat as well, rust finally killed it. The rear shocks were sticking out of the rear fenders and the driveshaft was rubbing the undercarriage the last time I saw it after i gave to a friend as a party buggy by their riverside camp.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My next door neighbor’s parents bought one of these new in 1982. After one winter the steel wheels started to rust which made the car look old really quick. The following winter saw the wheel wells rusting, a nast oil leak in the driveway and hard starting in low temps hard core winter mornings. I remember getting a ride to school in that car with there son who was my age as our parents traded off even and odd days making sure we got to class. That car was a dog with the crappy automatic transmission which gave out well before 100k miles leaving a very pissed off mom stranded a half hour away at work. Those were the days when most average house holds had only one car. I’ll never forget the look on the father’s face when the carb went south and needed either rebuilding or replacement to the tune of around $800.00 if memory serves. It was probably the acres of vacuum lines and hours of labor that made it so expensive. The follwing year which was 1990 saw holes in both the body and floorboard and dad was forced to junk the old Subbie because there was little left underneath holding the car together. He never bought one again and today drives a mint 2002 Grand Marquis.

  • avatar
    MM

    Thanks for the memory, Murilee! Had one of these in high school in ’87 – nicknamed “Rasputin,” as it was unkillable and provided something of a financial windfall. Car was brilliant in mud/snow, and could hold its own in dumpster football against friends Civics and Mustang IIs. Chugged oil.

    6/87: Purchased 1600 GL 4dr, 4sp, 80K on clock for $1,000

    12/87: Car t-boned New Years Eve by drunk; pass doors crushed but still opened. $900 settlement check, -$65 for new rear pass glass

    2/88: Punched thru 6′ plowed snowbank waaay too fast. Headlights, signals and grille smashed. -$140 at scrap yard to replace and squeeze back together (hood, fenders dented also).

    3/88: Rear-ended by Topeka Police car on icy off-ramp; $875 settlement, bumper folded under; re-glued tail light lenses together w/super glue.

    6/88: Sold Rasputin for $200 to girlfriend; profit of $770 for 12 months of serious hoonage fun. Learned a lot about driving dynamics, insurance operations and such. (*GF drove car for 2 years, sold it for $500).

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    During the 70′s there was an Arab Embargo that caused every large auto maker from Japan to keep their product away from Israel. This went on until the late 80′s. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda & Mitsubishi all stayed out of the holy land.

    Subaru did not. Joined later by Suzuki & Daihatsu, Subaru had nothing to loose. By then the word was out about the legendery? reliability of the Japanese crop and the Israelis wanted to claim their own.
    Until Mitsubishi came in during the late 80′s Subaru’s were the best selling car in Israel. Legend has it that Israel was back then the #2 export country after the US in terms of sales.
    As snow rarely ever hits the Israeli main land for more then a day every few years salt was never a problem and rust not an Issue. Lancia’s had the cancer issue covered. 90% of the sales were FWD. The Brat pickup truck (never known by that name) is a legend out there with stories about bedouins tribes members who drive them up goat trails & watch Humvee’s get stuck.

  • avatar
    davew833

    An ’80 1600DL5 2WD hatchback like the one above except rootbeer brown was my first Japanese car. I bought it in ’86 with 103k miles for about $700. I loved the quirkiness of it, including the passenger seat that would recline without warning and the rear windshield washer that could be turned to shoot over the top of the car and hit someone in front. I drove it for 2 years and then passed it on to my sister whose “boyfriend” vandalized it by draining all the oil out so he could “rescue” her when the engine quit.

    A few years later I had another ’80 2wd hatchback that I *think* was a STD… although it was red and had a tacky dealer- installed striping kit (remember those?). I bought an ’82 GL sedan for parts and switched the fancier front-end trim over along with the square headlights. I don’t remember any STD badging– it seemed like Subaru had DL, GL, GL-10, and GLF badges, I’m still not sure what all the differences were. About 7 years after that, I had an ’89 4WD hatchback that was even silver like the one above. I’ve had many cars including a number of ’82 and ’83 Accord sedans and hatchbacks, but that ’89 GL 4WD hatch is one I really wish I’d kept.


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