By on June 22, 2011

Denver is home to plenty of AMC Eagles, BMW 325iXs, the occasional Vanagon Syncro, and just about every other oddball four-wheel-drive vehicle made. Until yesterday, however, the only Justy 4WD I’d ever seen was this Crusher-bound example. Then this extremely clean red Justy 4WD showed up in my neighborhood.

Is it sick to want one of these things? With three cylinders and (in most cases) a misery-enhancing CVT transmission, it’s tough to explain to normal folks why anyone might want a Justy as a winter car.

But who cares? This thing is probably rarer than an Aston Martin Lagonda!

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37 Comments on “Down On The Mile High Street: Subaru Justy GL 4WD...”

  • avatar

    During a snow storm, this owner is laughing all day long as he passes people in their BMW X5 M and Range Rover Sport suvs stuck in a ditch. (The other 95% of the time when it’s not snowing, this looks like a pure misery bin.)

    It may only have 3 cylinders, but during a snow storm, even that is probably more power than you can responsibly use.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe the Subaru Justy was the last production carburated car sold in the US. Can anyone confirm?

      • 0 avatar

        My Festiva had one. I heard that it was the last car to have a carburetor.

      • 0 avatar

        My 1989 Corolla wagon had a carburetor, and I thought it was among the last cars to have one in the U.S..

        Wikipedia states that the Justy was carbureted until late 1992.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a 1993 Isuzu Pickup 2.3L four-cylinder that had a carburetor. Not a car, I realize, but there you go.

      • 0 avatar

        According to Wikipedia, the last carbureted cars sold in the US were:

        “1990 (General public) : Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, Buick Estate Wagon
        1991 (Police) : Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with the 5.8 L (351 cu in) engine.
        1991 (SUV) : Jeep Grand Wagoneer with the AMC 360 engine.
        1994 (Light truck) : Isuzu”

      • 0 avatar

        No. Justy got FI in 1990.

        Isuzu Pickup was last carburated “car” sold in the US (MY1993). I remember reading an article about that in one of car rags. WikiPedia agrees:

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    I once had one of these things blow by me on the way up to go snowboarding… despite the fact that I had proper snow tires, was hooning it a bit, and the Subie was loaded down with 4 stoners and all their gear.

  • avatar

    Hahaha, my dad had one almost exactly like this one growing up, a 1988 model. First NEW car my parents ever bought. Same faded red color, except it was a “three” door and a 5 speed!!! All 103hp of furious power if I remember right. Not a fast car but it was dead reliable and talk about gas mileage. My dad drove it to work every day even though they had the means to buy a nicer car because it worked and he got easily 40mpg in it.

    They owned the car from 1988 until about 2001 shortly after my dad died and my mom didn’t need a high mileage car sitting in the driveway. She sold it to a Mexican family with 3 kids that all piled in the back and drove away for $500 with almost 300k (I think it was about 280 something officially) miles on the clock. My parents were always big Subaru fans. Before the Justy they had a bright orange Subaru 1000 I believe that was totaled in a rear end collision. That prompted the Justy purchase from the shady Subaru lot attached to shiesty Dodge dealer in Denton, Texas on University Drive back in the day. Now that Dodge dealer has moved out off the highway along with the Ford dealership and they haven’t sold Subarus in years.

    The family my mom sold the car to called her a couple years after she had sold it to ask who they used to service it because it was needing some work. My dad was a mechanic and had done the work himself so she had to break the news to them that there wasn’t a magic grease monkey who had kept it running so long. I imagine it’s probably still out there driving around Denton somewhere. I remember seeing a similar one last time I was in town.

    Lots of fond memories of this car, being driven to little league practice in it, hatch up, seats down, piling the team in to drive kids home (my dad coached the team so it pulled taxi duty). I remember one time driving somewhere and my dad asking if I was embarrassed to be driven places to meet friends in such a crappy car. I was kind of surprised he would ask something like that, I had never really thought about it before but it had never bothered me and the car really fit my dad. Nothing flashy, reliable, and it always got the job done. A lot of my old friends still remember that car to this day.

  • avatar

    I was in the market when this car came out and with the positive experiences I had with Subaru, considered it.

    But it was a three cylinder, not the trusted Boxer Subaru engine. It was a CVT. To me, the Justy was not a Subaru GL mini. It was a completely different animal created by a trusted company.

    Yet, I decided not to buy a Justy because while I trusted Subaru to make a decent 4WD wagon or sedan with a boxer engine, I did not trust Subaru enough to buy a three cylinder with a CVT.

    I think my gut instinct turned out correct.

    I went with a boring, but fully loaded, Festiva LX. It is still on the road with over a half million miles on it.

  • avatar

    Funny thing is the modern version of this car isn’t made by Subaru, it is made by Suzuki as the SX4. Suzuki really beat Subaru to the punch with that car.

    • 0 avatar

      If only Suzuki prioritized MPGs when they created the SX4, it might just be the perfect car for me. But they went the performance route, which is also respectable.

  • avatar

    Ahhh, Subaru Justy. My first and favorite car. I had a 1989 Justy RS 4WD with 5-speed manual and on-demand 4WD. That was an incredible car!

    3-cylinder engine was an absolute gem. Flexible power delivery from 400 rpm, effortless crawl in traffic in first gear, effortless cruising at 110 mph at redline in 5th. Amazing in deep snow but quite unstable at highway speeds on slippery roads. Manual steering was telepathic — so much better than BMW and Mercedes cars I drive now.

    Awesome car that I miss to this day.

    • 0 avatar

      The first new car that I bought after I finished school and started working was a 1991 Justy 2WD with the 5 speed stick. The absolute top end was 90 mph, you must have had a turbo.

      • 0 avatar

        No turbo. Yours must have had 12″ wheels and a speed limiter. My RS had 13″ wheels and 5 less hp than yours (and heavier due to 4WD.) 90 mph was my normal speed on the Schuylkill Expressway back then. At this speed it was at about 4700 rpm and begging for more. Here’s the break down based on final drive and gear ratios for 1989 Justy RS 4WD:

        1 2 3 4 5
        0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
        500 2.1 3.7 5.6 8.0 9.4
        1000 4.1 7.5 11.2 16.0 18.8
        1500 6.2 11.2 16.8 24.0 28.2
        2000 8.3 15.0 22.4 32.0 37.7
        2500 10.3 18.7 27.9 40.0 47.1
        3000 12.4 22.5 33.5 48.0 56.5
        3500 14.5 26.2 39.1 56.0 65.9
        4000 16.6 30.0 44.7 64.0 75.3
        4500 18.6 33.7 50.3 72.0 84.7
        5000 20.7 37.5 55.9 80.0 94.1
        5500 22.8 41.2 61.5 88.0 103.5
        6000 24.8 45.0 67.1 96.0 113.0

  • avatar

    I remember breaking the spare tire carrier in the back of one of these, doin’ the wild thing. I think the only thing tougher would be doing it in a phone booth.

  • avatar

    You know what Murilee – in the late 1980s there were a bunch of decent mini cars from Japan that did not sell well in the SUV booming US. The Justy is just another one.

    Too bad too – these were cars that showed that small cars could be good cars.

  • avatar

    I live in “Subaru country” – and I have never seen one of these…

  • avatar

    If you really want a 4WD Justy, Super Rupair up in Boulder sometimes gets them in stock.

  • avatar

    And for $1500 you can have a prime 1976 example!

    Could you Justyfy it? :D

  • avatar

    I see these things all the time up here in my corner of the Pacific Northwest but they are never in good shape like this one. The rust monster has attacked the ones around here with a vengeance.

  • avatar

    I don’t recall ever seeing a 4-door Justy. My brother in law used to have an old two door, I once had to borrow it for a few days. The bracket holding the rear of tailpipe broke off while doing 70 on I-5 about midnite. Fun times scrounging for a piece of wire in a strange car on the side of the highway in the dark. Crawling under the car to rig the hot pipe back in place was even funner.

  • avatar

    I’m glad one nearly snow-free winter has not ended your quest for a winter car! The Justy would be just fine for driving up Floyd Hill, as long as you don’t mind pulling over to the shoulder for passing semis.

  • avatar

    I bought one of those things new in Canada in ’89. $8600 off the showroom floor including tax, plates and everything.
    One of the best cars I ever had – nothing ever broke in 7 years of abuse.
    It really would drive through waist deep snow without any problem
    3 cly 1300cc -4 wheel drive – 5 speed.
    After 7 winters and 180K + km the body was starting to rot and I traded it in on a Ford Escort. The alternator died on the way to the dealer on out final drive together. The only thing that ever broke on that car. 1300

  • avatar

    i loved this little car!

  • avatar

    I’m surprised so many people have commented on the Justy without mentioning it was made by Suzuki for Subaru. While I’m aware of Subaru-love, it’s very strange the extent to which unawareness of Suzuki extends.

  • avatar
    Joe K

    I have its brother in my driveway right now, a 1989 Justy GL (WOHOO it came with a radio) CVT with 30,000 original miles on the clock. The car sat for years as the Original Owner bought it for his daughter new and she did not like it.

    There is a Justy board. These cars well maintained and understood have been running over 100,200,000 miles. What kills them off is doing the routine oil changes (7500 miles on less then 4 qts! ) and not understanding how to drive the CVT. Oil changes dropped to 3500 miles, coming to a full stop before chainging direction, and using Ds in slow driving would make these cars last. Just about everything is available new or used except for the exhaust system.

    38 mpg for a 23 year old car and no black magic, and the car is quick for the time it was made.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned four of these cars, 2 with the ECVT transmission and 2 5spd, all of them from 1991. The Justy was the last car sold in the US with a carb, on the 1992 DL version, all GL’s were MPFI. I must say that these cars aren’t the misery boxes that most people assume, they’re nothing like the Fiestas and Metros, Chevettes, etc. in the same size class. The handling and performance are miles ahead. A Justy can out-brake almost any car on the road from 100mph to 0, and surprisingly out accelerate almost anything from 0 to 30. Not that anyone drag races only to 30mph. The ECVT was surprisingly fast, with 2 modes, D and D-Sport. D-Sport could literally throw you onto the freeway from the onramp in a 4 wheel drift. 4wheel drive will get this car almost anywhere you want to go with it, and most times places much more seemingly capable vehicles cannot. They’re not terribly fast, 105-110mph tops, but they feel like little sports cars none-the-less. I’d gladly pay $1200 to 1500 for another one of these in this condition, providing it the engine makes oil pressure.

  • avatar

    There is/used to be a lady around the corner from my best friend’s mom and down the street from my old Apartment who had a teal green 2wd 3-door Justy. An older lady owns/owned it and it looked brand new. I think I looked one time as I walked down the street and it only had 69,000 miles.

    My dad had the big brother of the Justy, the old-school 4wd GL Hatchback. My dad loved that car, my mother hated it. I wish it was still around. I’d be driving that thing.

  • avatar

    I sold a bunch of these Justys. Remarkable cars in the snow. I worked at Burt, the largest in the US then for 25 years. They started at 5995 and invoice was 5770 or something like that. It was designed as an entry level car to gain loyalty for future owners. They were actually pretty peppy, had 90 HP and the ECVT automatic was nice to drive around town. They did not weigh much, but had a good HP/WT ratio. You could buy one (base DL manual) and have 130 payments. The ECVTs had problems, they sold the technology to Nissan. They lost their glamor in the mid 90’s as the big SUV market exploded.

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