By on November 22, 2013

01 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne thing that makes Colorado wrecking yards different from those in the rest of the country is the large numbers of Subarus in every yard. We’re talking the history of Subaru North America in every yard here. In fact, you’ll see more 1980s and 1990s Leones aka GLs, DLs, and Loyales in a typical Denver-area self-serve yard than you’ll see Corollas or Civics. You’ll also find lots of more recent Legacies and Imprezas, not to mention XTs, BRATs, SVXs, and even the occasional Justy 4WD. 1970s Subarus, however, are getting pretty rare here; in this series, we’ve seen just this ’79 Leone wagon and this ’79 GL sedan so far. Today, we add this very-much-of-its-time ’78 wagon.
22 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack in 1978, your choices in four-wheel-drive vehicles were very limited; you could get a truck, you could get an AMC Eagle that drove like a truck… or you could get a Subaru.
12 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese things were ludicrously underpowered, rusted quickly, and didn’t come close to the reliability standards set by Honda and Toyota, but they got decent fuel economy and were competent in mud and snow.


Subarus were quite rare in the United States back in the Malaise Era, but the marque made it into popular culture with songs like this one.

Or this one.
07 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJudging by the quantity of pine cones and animal nests in this car, it hasn’t run for many, many years.
13 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot many places in Colorado damp enough for moss to grow on cars.
29 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in Colorado, will be crushed in Colorado.

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27 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Subaru Leone 4WD Wagon...”


  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    In 1978, the only AMC product you could get with 4WD was wearing a Jeep badge. The Eagle wasn’t available until the 1980 model year.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That washer fluid bladder kills me! I can’t believe it’s still intact (and looks full). If this were a VAG product of the same time, you can bet the plastic/rubber would be all full of cracks.

    I’ve never seen a Leone in real life. There’s something charming and agricultural about it though. The rear slats on the fender look like a nice place for debris and rust to collect on a hard-to-clean surface.

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      I was driving through New Hampshire a couple of years ago and saw a beige DL 2 door sitting on somebody’s lawn, and it appeared to be in mint condition. Looked like the kind of car a kindly old grandmother would have purchased, if said grandmother was heavily influenced by her patchouli-wearing granddaughter.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Those kind of patchouli people annoy me.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        If it had been a hatchback, I’d know the car. They’re certainly few and far between now, given that we salt our roads like popcorn.

        • 0 avatar
          wagonsonly

          If it had been a hatch it would have been quite a find. Subaru had no hatchbacks until the 1980 model year, the second generation of Leones. By 1987 there were three distinct models in the lineup-Justy, EA81 low-feature hatch with either a 1600 or 1800 OHV engine (the 1600 was the later-style EA71, with an updated bell housing and a different starter mounting location), and the high-feature EA82 3rd generation Loyale with your choice of carbed, throttle body EFI or multi-point EFI turbo OHC engine. Three body styles with six engine choices among them, from a company that historically never sold more than 200,000 vehicles a year until very, very recently.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I’ve seen a GL Turbo wagon before, what an odd duck. The GL is one of the most sedate looking vehicles I’ve ever seen, so a GL with “TURBO 4WD” (or something like that) decals is an amusing sight.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Now this comes from the heart!

  • avatar
    Roader

    “Not many places in Colorado damp enough for moss to grow on cars.”

    This car certainly wasn’t sitting around the Denver metro for that moss to grow; definitely up in the mountains somewhere, parked underneath shady pines.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The ” 4 Wheel Drive ” script looks much like the ones spray painted on the back tailgate of Willys wagons in the 1950′s .

    Cute little car ~ I remember these from new .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    gottacook

    When I think of a song that mentions Subarus of that era, Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” comes first: “My love is bigger than a Honda, yeah it’s bigger than a Subaru” – at a time when this WAS the biggest Subaru and the first-gen Accord was the biggest Honda. I guess one could argue that this lyric would be more rather than less inherently heartfelt today, given the average size of modern-day Hondas and Subarus.

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    Did this car have the infamous Subaru “third headlight” that hid behind the grille badge?

  • avatar
    linkpin

    A friend of mine in high school had one of these, in red. I don’t remember much about it except that the cam gear stripped, requiring an engine rebuild.

    It was a loooong time ago…in Colorado.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Was Subaru not part of the voluntary import quota system back in the day? Or were they just limited enough in appeal that it didn’t matter? They were much cheaper than the other Japanese cars, and FWD when most Toyotas were still RWD. They were every bit as popular in Maine as in Colorado. When the new ’80 cars came out my extended family ended up with ×11× of them by 84, starting with a first off the boat ’80 DL hatch. And by around 1990 every one of them was junked due to rust, and none have been bought since. As with all Japanese cars back then they did not really last long enough here to get a reputation for reliability one way or the other.

    • 0 avatar

      I think New england is till Subaru’s biggest market, even with the rust issues. Back in the 90′s when they introduced the outback sedan it was only sold in New england. My friend worked at a dealer at the time and they got a letter saying the outback would only be offered in Newengland as a thank you to the new england dealers. The implied thought was that with out New england sales Subaru would not have survived in the US market.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    My sister had a little wagon that looked like this. Drove it a long time. Eventually they wound up with three or four Subarus that, in fact, were parts cars. They drove the wagon a long time but transplanted parts were everywhere. Possibly western Ks. used sand instead of salt. Don’t remember a lot of rust.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Ron was overexposed.

    Ron took the Master Card from the clothed man, and placed it under the carbon paper. As he worked the roller to secure the payment, his slack genitalia wobbled to and fro. “Thank you. Enjoy your stay.”, he said, giving the man the key. Ron smiled politely, to put him at ease. As was often the case for new members, he was initially startled at the sight of an exposed penis.

    “I’m going to get some McDonalds, you want anything?”, he asked Janice, donning his clothes. His co-worker came out from the back, and answered “Oh, I really shouldn’t, but…” Ron fished the keys out of his pocket, and spun them around his finger repeatedly. The obese, nude Janice gave him quite a large order of burger. Sweat glinted in the folds of her skin as it worked like a bellows, while she draped her white towel over Ron’s freshly vacated chair at the front desk. Ron bit the inside of his cheek. “Everyone is beautiful.”, he reminded himself in thought.

    He hated being fully clothed in the resort. The uneasiness among the naked guests at the sight of him was totally apparent. His stride was one of determination, a beeline to the Subaru wagon with the barber pole rear bumper. The improvised bash bar was hoped to ward off any more encounters with poorly-braked Ford Mavericks, striped black and yellow for conspicuousness. Ron twisted the key, and lit up the EA71. The shrill buzz reminded him to use his safety belt. The tape deck clicked, allowing Huey Lewis to proclaim the want of going back in time once again. He had a steady idle this time. The truck-like shift linkage was worked into reverse with a grind, and Ron made his way to the main gate. He pulled the handbrake, and quickly worked the padlock on the gate before the Subaru could slowly roll into it.

    The offset rust stains on the wheels revolved around as the wagon plied 285 towards Denver. Ron pulled into the drive-thru and collected the sack of 4 squeaky, styrofoam-encased burgers. The left front axle clicked away on departure. He engaged the AM for the news. The Dow was doing well. Finally, after Christmas he could retire fully. The summer of 1987 would be his last year as a working stiff.

    The gate was unlocked, and as Ron made his way back to his rusty chariot, the engine died. He hopped back behind the wheel, and depressed the brake to arrest it’s rapidly increasing rearward descent down the hill.

    Ron tossed the sack of cold burgers on the front desk, and went back outside to find Jerry. Janice’s query of “Where have you been…?” was cut off as he exited, remaining unanswered. Jerry was found poolside. The extremely tan man looked the fully-clothed Ron up and down through his sunglasses. “Hey, you still got that tow strap in the back of your truck?” “Aww, Jesus.”

    The Silverado dragged the dead Subaru to the treeline behind the main office. Jerry and his wang exited the truck to detach the tow rope. “What do you think it is?”, Ron asked the mechanically-inclined, well-endowed Jerry. “Well, it’s the carb most likely.” “Let’s get this damn tire out of here.” Ron hunched over the engine bay, trying to keep his penis clear of the shattered plastic grill. He lifted the spare tire from the bay, and tossed it aside on the ground. As he did so, his back blew out. The searing pain made him grab the rusty fender as if it was momma. “You okay?”, Jerry asked, “Why do you drive this old bucket anyway?”

    “Ha!”, Ron laughed, wincing.
    “I’m gonna be behind the wheel of a Corvette next year.”

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    All those pine cones couldn’t have just dropped into the car. It looks like some animal’s entire winter stash got hauled away with the car. Also, a couple of those nests look recently occupied. Could it be the ‘aru still has passengers?

  • avatar
    matador

    A washer fluid bag in the trunk!? I can see why that trend never caught on…

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    based on the cones and needles in this vehicle i would say lodgepole pine. in colorado this species exists at 8,000 – 10,000 feet. the closest population is a bit west of denver. i imagine this one sitting outside at high elevation for quite some time.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The early ( exported to the U.S. that is ) Subarus were really – well agricultural – compared to their Japanese competition . A friend had a new 1975 Subaru 2 door sedan – in orange and white , this being Austin and that was University of Texas team colors , and I remember the thin metal and the cheesy dealer add-on A.C. unit that took up most of the front passenger legroom . Engine sounded like a tractor too . Not up to the Datsun /Toyota standards of the time .

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    I bought one of these new in 78. It was slow and loud but,it took my first wife and kids everywhere. At 60k it broke a clutch cable and 65k,the throttle cable broke. It started to rust at 85k (about the same time the marriage did) and traded it for a Toyota.The ex father-in-law couldn’t believe it was “so tight” after that many miles. Of course, if you drove Ford at the time like he did, anything from Japan would’ve seemed tight.


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