By on February 3, 2011

Denver being the Land of Subarus, I see plenty of 20-year-old GLs, Loyales, and whatever else the marketing wizards at Fuji Heavy Industries decided to call the Leone over here. What I don’t see often is examples of the hatchback coupe version of the Leone, so I did a double-take when this car caught my eye today.

Denver’s getting some snow now, which means I was able to photograph this car in its natural setting.

I don’t have the obsessive Subie knowledge necessary to pin down the exact year of this sporty four-wheel-drive coupe, but I believe Subaru went to the Loyale name by 1990 and the Libby Light indicates that this car— or, at any rate, the silver car that donated the hatch— is an ’86 or newer model. Let’s say it’s a 1988 until one of you can make a better guess!

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36 Comments on “Down On The Mile High Street: Subaru GL Hatchback Coupe...”

  • avatar

    1987/1988 sounds about right. Two other rare ones (at least still running) are the XT and SVX.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I hope it is actually a 4WD and didn’t just get the badge from the donor car.  Even back in high school (1995 graduate) I thought anyone who bought a FWD Subie was just stupid.  That’s like buying a 2wd Jeep. 

    The old well rusted wedge styled Subarus that are still rattling around the Midwest are legendary among the populace.  Many of my high school friends till prefer a Subaru with a selectable transfer case. 

    • 0 avatar

      These Subarus weren’t bad cars with FWD, just pretty unremarkable.
      Rear drive SUVs, on the other hand, I’ll never understand that one.  At the height of the SUV craze, it was very, very rare to see an Explorer or Grand Cherokee with 4×4 badging in the Midwest.
      Now that I live in the South, it’s the other way around.  Lots of traditional SUVs, but few with four wheel drive.  For awhile I was probably the only guy in the area with a 4×4 4Runner; until I sold it, because it was an utterly stupid vehicle to own down here.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought about looking underneath to see if it was really a 4WD model, but I didn’t feel like crawling in the snow.

    • 0 avatar

      Dan, my wife had a ’95 FWD Impreza sedan. Had I been buying, I would have voted for an AWD wagon, with a 5-speed stick, of course, but her little Soobie ran 126,000 miles without much fuss, and we only sold it because it was too small for a rear-facing car seat in the back and full-sized Americans in the front.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yes but my point was that there’s no compelling reason to buy a FWD Subie.  4WD… yes if you live in the snow belt or enjoy playing “rally driver” but no reason to buy a FWD Subaru.  The quirkly styling only makes sense you gain some sort of advantage (like traction) over other drivers.  That’s all I meant.  I honestly wish all Subarus still had manual locking diffs, they would honestly be on my short list of used cars, well that and I wish you could still get a Legacy GT wagon. 

    • 0 avatar

      I see posers switching badges on their Mercs–everyone wants an AMG or V12.  But this is a Subaru, for crying out loud.  Who in their right mind would re-badge a Subaru?  What possible “image consciousness” or esteem can anyone get from driving a Subaru?  It’s like the difference between a two slot toaster and a four.  Sure, it always better to have more slots for your toast, but who brags about it?

    • 0 avatar

      @ Educator Dan:
      Just brought home a 2005 GT wagon last week.  With a manual.  I’m in love.

    • 0 avatar

      @mpresley And the people fooled by badges aren’t worth fooling.

  • avatar

    Sure wish Subaru kept making 2 doors.
    Imagine a 2 door Legacy GT.
    Or, to be in full character, a base model with a stick, manual everything, and steel wheels.
    I can’t be the only one, can I?

  • avatar

    It looks like a 1988 Ford Tempo and a 1989 Mustang had a baby.
    I’ve never seen this 2-door style DL/GL/GL10 in Ohio…. some older 2-door hatchbacks, from perhaps 84 and earlier.

  • avatar

    I know a guy that’s had several of these, including an RX (the turbocharged AWD model).

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    Hey Murilee:
    I haven’t seen one of these in the PA / NJ / MD / DE area in at LEAST 15yrs.
    Id love to see some pics in 79 era Leone / GL’s Subbies..
    I never even knew they made a Hatch coupe of a Subbie GL..

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A 1989 Subaru DL wagon was the only vehicle I bought out of that crappy auction I mentioned in the last Hammer Time.
    Bought it for $425. Absolutely immaculate on the inside. I replaced the water pump and everything was fine from that point forward.
    We used it as the ‘beer’ vehicle for the hasher runs. That little wagon could stack enough beer for a few dozen hashers. The rear would droop a bit but the little bugger never let us down.
    I eventually sold it to a stockbroker who was on his way to Tennessee. He stopped at my driveway. Asked if the car ran good. I said, “Yeah.” He gave me $2300 on the spot and took off. Never even test drove it.
    I love those types of customers.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      Holy smackers batman,
      I AM in the wrong business!
      Pick up a 22yr old Subbie GL Wagon at a auction for 4 and a qtr and turn around and sell it for 2300. Holy smackers batman. I wonder what you’d sell a 96 Accord wagon for in the same condition for…
      Talk about PROFIT!

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      This was back in Y2K. With the water pump, auction fee, a couple of belts, etc. I probably had $650 in it.

  • avatar

    I had the series prior to this one, a 1983 DL 2wd 5spd wagon.  A true Subaru, quirky, odd and unique features inside and out.   Oh, and it had the spare tire where God intended; right over the transmission and directly behind the air cleaner.

  • avatar

    There are hardly any Subarus that can genuinely called “handsome” (definitely not the XT), but this one is about as close as they get. The bubbleback is interesting.

    • 0 avatar

      Gen 1 Outback (especially in Euro/JDM trim), as well as the 2005-09 one were both quite pretty and well-proportioned machines.
      Sorry, I’ve been subjective…

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, that would be my pic too. The Outback/Legacy from 2005-2009 looked good as long as it had 17 inch rims or larger on it. I would say I’m biased (2005 OB) but I felt that way before I bought my car.

  • avatar

    My favorite trivia tidbit about Subies that no one here in Colorado is aware of is, in some other regions of the country, they are knows as “lesbians’ cars”. After hearing this from an east coast friend, a few minutes on the net uncovered some archived (and apparently successful) Subaru print ads none too subtly targeting lesbians.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      The older, boxier Foresters especially had this reputation. Don’t believe me? Park in an REI parking lot and observe.

    • 0 avatar

      Okay Sam. I guess  I am clueless about REI stores ?

    • 0 avatar

      This is the lone reason that my sister doesn’t want my mom to get a Subaru to replace her slowly dying Volvo V70.  At all.  No matter what it looks like.  And my dad still thinks they’re ugly, even though my mom and I don’t think so.
      Here in the upper midwest that is a common idea, especially the base models it seems.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it depends on the model. The Outback drivers I see (me, being the obvious exception) are mostly the soccer-mom/well-to-do types that don’t have enough kids for a minivan. And I don’t think the Tribeca would fall into that corner either.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you should mention that.  Living in Minneapolis, there is a similar “stigma” attached to Subies here as well.  A good friend of mine and his wife were looking for a vehicle to replace her aging Accord.  They don’t have kids, but they have dogs and do alot of outdoor stuff.  So, they narrowed their choices down to a GMC Terrain and an Outback.  Hubbie liked the GMC, wiffie liked the Subie.  Guess who won??  Anyway, when he told me what they bought I asked him if he was aware of the  …. ummmm …. label associated with the Subie?  He said yes, then I asked him if she had any tendencies?? He laughed.  In any event, I told him to make sure she didn’t drive through the Uptown district with it loaded down with her girlfriends…….

    • 0 avatar

      I have an Outback wagon, complete with dog gate in the back. I think I’m the wrong demographic for this car, but OTOH I do occasionally get approving waves from women with short haircuts and flannel shirts.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I used to see a lot of these here in the North East. The rust worm got to them. I always liked this 2dr especially the turbo version. A shame today they don’t offer an updated version. I once borrowed a wagon from someone I knew for some moving chores. It was a 2WD 5 spd GL transplanted from the south, a decent ride say equal to today’s Suzuki SX4.

    I take it not as many Subbies sold south of the Mason Dixon line had 4WD. 

  • avatar

    As much as 4wd seems overkill in the South, my experience in Florida is that in heavy rain it’s a nice piece of insurance.
    My parents bought a new Outback, they are moving to Eastern Washington state so it makes good sense. I’ve driven it some, and it’s better than expected for an SUVish car, both in terms of gas mileage (over 25mpg) and in terms of handling. I was expecting to dislike it and it turned out very nice.

  • avatar

    Love.  It.  I have to admit, I have a real weakness for this era Japanese car.  Personally, my daily driver is a 1992 Subaru Legacy wagon with a mere 2 wheel drive.  It averages 30 MPG and is as reliable as a stone.  The best part?  I always know for sure which car is mine in the parking lot!

  • avatar

    My (now long gone) 89 XT 4WD went an easy 250K mile but…the electohydropneumatic suspension went south at about 225K and the single windshield swipe also quite at 200K (Rain-X from then on). Good engines and driveline but they got quirky on some of the other stuff. My GL wagon (5 speed) also went 225K quite handily. A friend of mine always was always on the look out for any 80-early 90’s Subie with 100K on it as they were good for 100K more.

  • avatar

    I saw a remarkably clean and rust free white Subaru GL coupe like this one while driving through Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood last week. I did a double take since these cars are pretty rare, let alone in great condition in the salty Midwest.

    It must have been garage kept its entire life, or came from some other part of the country.

  • avatar

    This was my first love in high school.  I owned a pristine 1987 2wd version of this car.  I drove that poor car to death!  My very first ticket was doing 90+ MPH with a state trooper timing me using his speedo.  Just followed me through the dark Ohio countryside until I tried to get into my own driveway–and pulled me over in it.
    I jumped that car over country railroad tracks every time I got a chance and paid the price in CV joints.  Also, as it was the sad 3AT I was not able to pull off the smoky burnouts that all of my friends with MTs could.  That is, until I started reverse dropping it.  This, in turn created a wonderful chronic AT fluid leak.  It went well with the oil leak and coolant leaks that mysteriously developed after all of my abuse.
    After a bad overheat and a detonated radiator, one of the head gaskets gave way.  This made for great fun using onramps–the long curves would be punctuated with giant clouds of coolant being burned in a very Batmanesque smokescreen.
    After a messy summer of leaking, wheezing and dripping its way across the countryside, I did it in by hydroplaning across a puddle and wrapping it around a telephone pole.  A tire change later, I drove it (bent in half) home in shame.
    Though I’m not too fond of the modern bloated mess that is a current Subaru, I always have very fond memories of hooning about the countryside in my precious GL.

  • avatar

    Friends of mine had an ’82 GL wagon for a long time.  It had long descended into “beater” condition, so they recently bought from another friend, an ’85 GL wagon in nice shape for $800.  They need something with 4wd because they often drive on disused mountain logging roads, but also want a low flat roof for carrying canoe/kayaks, lots of cargo space, and good mileage.  I suggested a first generation XL-7 or an X-Trail, but they elected to buy the Subaru. Nothing newer came closer to their ideal vehicle.
    A peculiarity of these cars is that the parking brake is on the front wheels.  Anyone wanting to use the parking brake to help descend a steep slippery road should know about that. Earlier imports of the Loyale/GL also had a low range.

  • avatar

    My first car was a hand-me-down ’82 4dr GL, 5spd, front-wheel-drive. Tough mechanicals, I beat the piss out of it in way only a car-crazed 17yo can. My folks just could not understand how I got through a set of tires and a set of brake pads in 15K mile…. This was in ’86. It was completely rotted out and junked by it’s 8th birthday. Lots of Subarus in the family at that time, all of them rusted to pieces. No one in the family has looked at one in 20 years for that reason. Long memories in Maine.

    And yes, Outbacks and Foresters are certainly the car of choice for larger women with short hair in comfortable shoes!

  • avatar

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think this particular example is a 2wd model. The 4wd models had a higher stance than the 2wd drives, but it’s hard to tell from the picture.
    My dad had an 88 4wd GL Hatchback and a 92 FWD Loyale. His hatchback, however, was the other body style. I have never been able to figure out why Subaru offered two different GL hatchback simultaneously. If you don’t know what I mean, do a google image search for Subaru GL Hatchback. The whole first row will should be white hatchbacks identical to my dad’s, though mostly older ones.
    Dad loved that car, although my mother loathed it. It was white, blue interior, stick shift with push button 4wd. Our driveway when we first bought it was at a roughly 45 degree angle, and it would (apparently) push right up the driveway in the snow.
    I never understood why he sold it. When I was looking at cars, he wished he had kept it for me. I’d have driven it, gladly.
    The Loyale was much less interesting. I guess without the 4wd it was truly nothing but an econobox. I remember that one much better, though, since we got it when I was about 4 as opposed to the 88 which we got when I was a year old.

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