Before Subaru finally nailed down the sales-clinching formula for a car that had four-wheel-drive but didn’t seem too truck-like, all the major Japanese car manufacturers took at shot at building little sedans and wagons with power going to all the wheels. Since I live in Colorado, I get to see examples of each of those 1980s efforts, most of which didn’t result in much showroom action but are still pretty interesting today. In this series, we’ve seen a Camry All-Trac, quite a few Corolla All-Tracs, lots of Tercel 4WD wagons, countless elderly Subarus, and so on. The Honda Shuttle aka Civic Wagovan shows up in Denver wrecking yards as well, and I don’t bother to photograph most of them. This late Wagovan with the futuristic “Real-Time” four-wheel-drive system, however, is a rare find even in Colorado.
Real-Time 4WD didn’t require the driver to throw a lever or push a button when snow or mud threatened, and thus you didn’t have to worry about leaving the car in four-wheel-drive on dry asphalt and tearing up the tires (or worse). Of course, there was a fuel-economy penalty for using a center differential and driving all four wheels all the time, but Subaru proved that this doesn’t hurt sales.
There are emblems boasting of this technology all over the car.
The ’88 4WD Wagovan also got a super-low (I assume that’s what the “SL” stands for) first-gear, which was probably great for climbing steep driveways and busting CV joints.
Under the hood, the pretty-potent-for-1988 106-horse D16A6.
Nearly 180,000 miles. No rust on the body, interior not too bad, so my guess is that a blown head gasket doomed this car.
I couldn’t find any Japanese-market ads with the screeching tires and macho voiceovers that the Civic Shuttle deserved.
At least they still appreciate the 4WD Wagovan in Sweden.