By on August 7, 2012

Subaru went through a lot of bewildering names for the early Leone in North America, and they’ve retained that tradition with their Legacy- and Impreza-based Outbacks in more recent years. Here in Colorado, I find astonishing quantities of 20+ year-old Subarus in wrecking yards. Most are four-wheel-drive machines, for obvious reasons, but every so often I run across an elderly front-wheel-drive Leone. Here’s a rare 2WD coupe version I spotted in Aurora a few weeks back.
These things were cheap and (by the very lenient standards of the time) fairly reliable. Sure, they rusted like crazy (this one isn’t too bad, thanks to Colorado’s single-digit humidity), but what Malaise Era Japanese car didn’t?

I’ll take any excuse to find weird Japanese car ads.

Or vaguely relevant songs that I remember from Dr. Demento in the late 1970s.
This car appears to have been pretty well loaded with options you don’t see too often on Japanese subcompacts of the era. Power steering!
Power windows!
Subaru stuck with this semi-weird style of headlight switch as the 1980s progressed, though it was sort of drowned out by the wilder fighter-jet-style stuff in cars like the XT6.
One thing that hasn’t changed in all these decades of Subarus is the good old boxer engine layout.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Subaru L Coupe...”

  • avatar

    300,000 miles…we should be so fortunate with my wife’s ’05 Outback…

    • 0 avatar

      05s are definitely the year to avoid – first year of the 3rd gen Outbacks. Although I hear the head gasket will hold pretty well if you remember to put the special Subaru additive in the coolant.

      • 0 avatar

        Or if said head gaskets DO go out, swap out for Turbo head gaskets; a lot of Subie guys I talk to say so, with positive results (thickness on the Turbo gaskets -i.e. WRXish- is apparently thicker)

  • avatar

    I had a brown ’82 coupe. It was a fun car to drive. You got used to the strange knobs.

  • avatar

    My friend’s mom had a very used ’84 sedan. It was pale yellow with a 5-speed! I remember that thing quite well, it was indestructible! I even drove it once or twice. Not fast but certainly interesting. Sadly my ’89 RX while fun to drive wasn’t nearly as reliable.

  • avatar

    My sister had a tan one like this, maybe a 81 with a 5 speed. My dad had 80 or 81 4 door with a 5 speed.

    All I remember of these things was very hard cheap plastic around the radio and what a bear it was to replace the radio with something better for my sister.

    I also remember that the dealer where they both bought their cars were morons.

    My sister went to the dealer for an oil change. Car comes home and for some reason my dad decides to pull out the dipstick. Dipstick shows oil dirtier than it should be. Crawls underneath and he can’t budge the plug. He goes to the dealer and says what’s up?

    They say they couldn’t get the drain pan plug removed so they sucked the oil out of the dip stick pipe, which means they left most of it. They refused to fix the plug problem because they changed the oil, what’s the problem. He knew he was dealing with morons and it wasn’t worth the fight (I think he was wrong). He ended up dropping the pan, bringing it to the machine shop at work where a friend drilled out the center of the plug and then hit it with a blow torch to get it out. Bought a new gasket and plug. Never brought his + my sisters car back to that dealership for service.

    For some dumb reason he decided when it was time for a new car he gave the same dealer a shot. It cost more cash to get into a 86 Subaru 4 door than a 86 Accord 4 door. He bought the Honda and never looked back.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This would have found a new home in some third world country, even with all those miles.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Zackman will definitely shed a tear for this one…pillarless coupe, with rear windows that actually open all the way!

  • avatar

    When talking about Subie weirdness, don’t forget the spare tire mounted on top of the engine!

  • avatar


    My first car was a hand-me-down ’82 Subaru GL 4dr. FWD, 5spd, no power pkg so manual steering and windows. Had A/C though. Given to me by my Grandparents my Senior year of HS, fall of ’86. Beat the everloving PISS out of that car. Note there is no real redline on the tach, that meant 7K was achievable. I went through a set of tires and brake pads in 20K miles. Slid it off the road a couple times, smacked it sideways into a curb in the snow and bent the rear suspension. Oops. Didn’t know the handbrake worked on the FRONT wheels…. Amazing that I lived through my early driving years, I was totally fearless, and not in a good way.

    Sold it to one of my freshman year college roommates in favor of my first VW. He drove it until senior year when the rear suspension went through the trunk floor due to rust.

  • avatar

    The EA series engines were by far the most durable engines of their day, except for the timing belt. At least they were a non-interference engine. I had one customer back in the day who refused to replace the belt every 45k like it needed and I personally put 3 in it and I know he had at least one other put in while he was traveling the US in it. It was into 300K teritory when it finally started to use a fair amount of oil and compression started to drop on one of the cyls. So when it was due for yet another clutch a “low mile imported from Japan” engine went in with the new clutch.

    • 0 avatar

      Only the EA 82 engine had timing belts, and that was only the last couple years of the Warthog. Most were pushrod engines with not a timing belt in sight. This junkyard model was just a pushrod engine.for sure.

  • avatar

    I’m still holding out for a STD, or at least letting Murilee know where to find one.

    (second paragraph down)

  • avatar
    el scotto

    STD? So many thoughts, but decorum won’t allow me to comment.

  • avatar

    Those power window switches look very high quality….that wouldn’t be out of place in something built now. Together with 300k, I can understand why imports gained so much market share during that period.

    Good looking little coupe for that time period…but the bumper treatments are awful in hindsight (of course everything had that problem then). I always wondered why they put the accordion-looking ribs in the bumper plastic on the sides of the car…a lot of 80’s cars had that. To me it totally disrupts the lines and kills the smoothness of the transition….just 1980’s weirdness, I guess.

  • avatar

    I am not surprised by this at all, I still have my 83 BRAT and it now has 245,000 miles on it, and it still passes CA emissions with the original engine. Just make sure ya warm it up good, it likes to smoke a bit cold. The EA 81 (and indeed EA79) Pushrod engines will go for bloody well ever if you love them (and adjust the valves less you were blessed with a 84 or latter) The 5 speeds to not eat clutches like the 4 speed 4 wheel drive cars and BRATS. But they all have charm. And the one thing I LOVE about those odd ball headlight switches. If you have a upper model, just leave them on. They turn off when the ignition goes off.

    Much Subaru love from me, but my daily driver is still the Peugeot 505 because.. I like pain. I may have to kype some parts off that one since I am in Denver for a contract for a while. So I should bring presents home to the Subaru fleet! (Like the power window motors and switches WHEEEEE Brat with power windows!)

    • 0 avatar


      As a young boy in the early 1990’s, I longed for a Brat, however even back then most here in MN were completely rusted to oblivion. I really wish Subie (or ANY of the Japanese or Koreans!) would re-release a micro-pickup instead of the wannabe euro-esque hatches (of which, I own) that got 30+mpg, I think there would be many takers (especially at a sub-$20k price point).

      This may fall into the oft-mentioned ‘wagon with stick’ niche, but, tell that to the guys who bought Luv/Courier/Ram 50s back then…:)

  • avatar

    Back in the 80’s I bought a used 1981 Subaru Wagon. It was white, had the 1.8 liter boxer engine, a manual transmission and was front wheel drive. Mine did not have power steering nor power windows, and the steering was really heavy. I originally wanted one with 4WD, but ended up buying a FWD one because for what I could afford it was the one in best shape.

    It had a lot of strange things, like the headlight switch design that in my opinion looked like bull horns. The spare tire was placed on top of the engine, right where the air filter is in the picture. The windows had no frames, and the rubber seals on the doors where always falling. It’s also the only car I’ve ever seen on which the vanity mirror for the passenger was placed inside the glovebox. It also had a sort of brake assist for starting in hills, which kept the brake pedal pressed until the clutch was released.

    It was a good car, except for the CV joints, which were always making loud clicking noises when turning.

    I drove it for about 5 years, until I finished college, when I got my first full time job I sold it and bought an ’87 Nissan Pathfinder.

  • avatar

    300k out of an early 80s Jap? Wow. I’m wondering aloud if the same era Chevette/Escort/Omni would have lasted as long!

    P.S. Mr. Martin, I love the old 4WDs and K-cars, but find a Chevette or Escort of that vintage (that hasn’t been melted into Chinese beer cans) in the ‘yard and i’ll truly be impressed :)

  • avatar

    I bought a clean running, driving example of one of these at a local auction about 10 years ago for $115 plus the $100 buyer’s fee. It was kind of slow being an automatic and it was difficult to start because the carb needed a rebuild. Still, couldn’t beat the price and it was kind of neat looking. Mine was pale yellow.

  • avatar

    Oh i need some parts for my old Subby Gl ! how contact with him?

  • avatar

    Being odd doesn’t make it good. Subarus are for those people who are into women and are women, who have less eyesight than IQ, and who just want to prove that they are different.

    I remember this brand from the days when they were cheap and built that way and trying to go mainstream is a joke. The only thing this brand has going for it is 4 wheel drive and it isn’t in my driveway.

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