Junkyard Find: 1979 Subaru GL Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 subaru gl wagon

The Malaise Subaru Apocalypse is in full swing in Colorado, if we are to judge from the selection of old Leones in Denver junkyards these days. Yesterday, we saw this ’82 GL “Cyclops”, but that was just the beginning of the Subaru death toll in this yard. A few rows away, I found this brown GL wagon, a little rustier than the ’82 but still appearing to have plenty of life left in it. Is anyone restoring these things?

When you’re driving a brown Malaise econo-wagon, you’re pretty well obligated to sport brown plaid upholstery.

The same rule applies when it comes to orange and white tape stripes: you must have them!

I thought that speedometers on US-market cars from the 1979 through 1982 model years were required to max out at 85 MPH. You know, for safety. Either Subaru found some loophole for this car, or someone swapped in a later 120 MPH speedo. Imagine, this car doing 120!

I’ve worked on a few of these things, and I always thought they were pretty unreliable and shoddy next to contemporary Hondas and Toyotas (though Malaise Subarus were built like bank vaults next to Mitsubishis of the period). The quality of Subaru products improved as much in the 1990s as did Hyundai stuff, which may explain the hindsight-based perception that the old GLs were bulletproof (cue the enraged commenters who got 400,000 trouble-free miles out of their Malaise Subies). Were I transported back to 1979 and found myself shopping for a four-wheel-drive car, I’d go for the less civilized but sturdier AMC Eagle SX/4. Still, it’s sad to see all the old (non-BRAT) Subarus getting crushed now.

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  • Jimal Jimal on Jun 29, 2011

    1. The brown plaid is just fantastic. 2. The last time I worked on one of these was when I was in Technical School, so either late 1988 or early 1989. What alarmed me about working on Subarus was (I don't know if it is still this way) that they were famous for random design changes through the model year. When ordering parts, not only did you have to provide the year, model and engine size, but also the production date of the car. Coming from working on GM cars where part interchangeability was measured in years, that was weird. 3. By the time most of these went to the scrap yard, they picked up that distinctive Subaru exhaust leak sound (the aforementioned lack of interchangeability made it difficult/impossible to fix leaks in a cost effective manner). I've always found it funny that some people take a perfectly good STi and spend more money on an exhaust system that ends up sounding like one of these old beaters.

    • See 4 previous
    • Sam P Sam P on Jun 30, 2011

      @Wagen ZKWs and ALs were installed interchangeably on the E46 (seemingly depending on what was in stock at the time). There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to them, which is fine except for the fact that the ZKW lights toast their projector bowls - which requires replacement or the aftermarket Lightwerks TFX upgrade. The AL lights don't have that issue, thankfully (I have AL lights).

  • Cheezeweggie Cheezeweggie on Jun 30, 2011

    The sheetmetal on earlier Subaru's was stamped from recycled Chevy Vegas...

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.