Junkyard Find: 1983 Honda Accord- No, Wait, Subaru GL Hatchback!

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

If you’re familiar with the story of kickbacks and dodgy dealings at American Honda in the 1970s and 1980s (yes, copies of Arrogance and Accords go for $150 a pop these days), you know that getting a new Accord was quite a challenge for American car buyers during the Late Malaise Era. You sure as hell weren’t going to get that shiny new Accord hatchback for anywhere near invoice, if you could find one at all… but hold on now, what’s that affordable, Japanese-built, gas-sipping front-wheel-drive hatchback at the dealership across the street, the car that looks so Accord-like? Surely it must be every bit as good as the Honda, yes?

Well, no. The 2WD Subaru STD/DL/GL hatch (yes, the base model was called the STD, nobody bought it— for obvious reasons— and I’m still searching for some STD badges for my collection) was quite Accord-like at 100 feet, but it neither rode like an Accord nor lasted 300,000 miles like an Accord. I’ve got plenty of miles in both types: in 1987, I dumped a girlfriend with a white GL hatch in favor of one who drove a metallic-green Accord. I have never regretted that decision.

I don’t know when I last saw one of these things, on the street or off. Most early-to-mid-80s American Leone buyers went for the wagon, and most of the hatches that did make it out of the showroom wore out and got crushed while Bill Clinton was still in the White House. To be fair, early Accords are nearly as rare (though I found one in the same junkyard as this car; stay tuned to the Junkyard Find Channel for more Japanese Malaise Era history).

Since I live in Colorado, I see many elderly Subarus in my local self-service yards, but 99% of them are the four-wheel-drive models that helped drive the last few dozen nails in the coffin of the sturdy-but-crude-and-thirsty AMC Eagle. This rusty front-driver was a rare find indeed.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Rental Man Rental Man on Jan 21, 2012

    During the 70's there was an Arab Embargo that caused every large auto maker from Japan to keep their product away from Israel. This went on until the late 80's. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda & Mitsubishi all stayed out of the holy land. Subaru did not. Joined later by Suzuki & Daihatsu, Subaru had nothing to loose. By then the word was out about the legendery? reliability of the Japanese crop and the Israelis wanted to claim their own. Until Mitsubishi came in during the late 80's Subaru's were the best selling car in Israel. Legend has it that Israel was back then the #2 export country after the US in terms of sales. As snow rarely ever hits the Israeli main land for more then a day every few years salt was never a problem and rust not an Issue. Lancia's had the cancer issue covered. 90% of the sales were FWD. The Brat pickup truck (never known by that name) is a legend out there with stories about bedouins tribes members who drive them up goat trails & watch Humvee's get stuck.

  • Davew833 Davew833 on Nov 02, 2012

    An '80 1600DL5 2WD hatchback like the one above except rootbeer brown was my first Japanese car. I bought it in '86 with 103k miles for about $700. I loved the quirkiness of it, including the passenger seat that would recline without warning and the rear windshield washer that could be turned to shoot over the top of the car and hit someone in front. I drove it for 2 years and then passed it on to my sister whose "boyfriend" vandalized it by draining all the oil out so he could "rescue" her when the engine quit. A few years later I had another '80 2wd hatchback that I *think* was a STD... although it was red and had a tacky dealer- installed striping kit (remember those?). I bought an '82 GL sedan for parts and switched the fancier front-end trim over along with the square headlights. I don't remember any STD badging-- it seemed like Subaru had DL, GL, GL-10, and GLF badges, I'm still not sure what all the differences were. About 7 years after that, I had an '89 4WD hatchback that was even silver like the one above. I've had many cars including a number of '82 and '83 Accord sedans and hatchbacks, but that '89 GL 4WD hatch is one I really wish I'd kept.

  • Lynchenstein @EBFlex - All ICEs are zero-emission until you start them up. Except my mom's old 95 Accord, that used to emit oil onto the ground quite a lot.
  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂