By on November 15, 2012

The junkyards of Colorado don’t have quite the selection of the ones I grew up crawling around in California, but they do have more Subarus than I ever imagined possible. I’ve been a fan of the Subaru XT since it was new— in fact, I’m half-assedly shopping for one now— and so it’s reassuring to find them during my junkyard visits and know that I’ll be able to get parts. Today’s find is a rare turbocharged four-wheel-drive version from the XT’s first model year.
The XT Turbo had a cockpit that was wild even by the crazed standards of mid-80s Japanese cars. The instrument cluster moved along with the tilt wheel, so that no steering-wheel setting could obscure your view of the gauges. Wait a minute— the XT didn’t have lowly gauges! When you bought an XT, you got the most video-game-ish digital display of them all, and that includes the Mitsubishi Cordia digital dash.
I didn’t have any tools on me when I found this car, so I didn’t pull the cluster for my collection. Should I go back for it?
“TURBO” was the magic word of the 1980s, but you had to be a special flavor of weird to think that the XT Turbo was as mainstream cool as something like the 300ZX Turbo or even the Starion.
These things weren’t cheap. The list price for the ’85 XT 4WD Turbo was $13,589, which was close to 30 grand in 2012 bucks. That was about $1,200 more than the Nissan 200SX Turbo, nearly $1,500 more than a factory-hot-rod Mazda RX-7 GSL, and close to $2,000 more than a Chevy Camaro IROC-Z.
This one is a bit rusty and generally used-up-looking, but it still has a lot of good parts.
The engine in this car made 111 horsepower, which is 27 fewer than the base engine in the 2013 Kia Rio. Yes, we are living in the Golden Age of Horsepower.
We’re also living in the Not-So-Golden Age of computer nannies; rather than a quaint sticker advising the driver to slow down when the slushbox overheats, today’s cars just go into limp mode.


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29 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Subaru XT 4WD Turbo...”

  • avatar

    That cluster is calling, it wants to join the Cordia in your collection…

  • avatar

    I’ve never seen one of these in real life. Looks like some kind of forerunner to the SVX, a car that my crazy uncle has tried to pawn off on me several times.

  • avatar

    Ahhh, the shape of things still to come. I look forward to the Next Wedge Era with nostalgic longing.

  • avatar

    I learned to drive stick in one of those when I was 16! I loved that car, especially the digital dash, it was very Knight Rider.

  • avatar

    Just saw the movie Big again recently which features a Subaru XT — it’s what Josh’s grown up girlfriend drives when she drops him back home.

    Also, apparently TTACs advertisers think a Subaru XT is one of the 37 things you should hoard before the coming disaster.

  • avatar

    Back in ’93 I crashed my ’86 XT turbo into a tree in rural Ohio. It had to scour three states for a replacement hood and front end. I never could find a “turbo” hood, but we transplanted the scoop with judicious use of a sawzall in my dad’s driveway.

    I loved that car but mine was pretty unreliable. The only way I could afford to keep that thing as a teenager was by the good graces of a local Subaru mechanic who worked on my car at his house for under the table cash.

    These are nearly impossible to find. There was a pretty sweet XT6 for sale in wisconsin last year which was incorrectly listed as an SVX on ebay. Good luck with your half assed shopping…I’m also half-assedly looking so I may have to fight you half-to-death over it.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m half-assedly looking for an SVX, so stay on your side of the street! (Although my Subaru mechanic and my wife seem to be outvoting me on whether I should get one.)

      • 0 avatar

        Watch Craigs Reno-Tahoe. Up here in Truckee/N Tahoe I see them almost daily. I’ve seen at least a dozen different runners, most of which are pretty sharp and clean.

  • avatar

    Try finding a digital cluster out of a ’89 GL-10 Turbo, Murilee. Those cars are highly uncommon and I had one. Beat the royal shit out of it and now regret watching it get towed away (this was 8 years ago). :-(

  • avatar

    I just found good looking one for sale near Washington DC for a little over 3 grand

  • avatar

    Atarashi tanjo – ALCYONE.

  • avatar

    A girl I worked with in the late 80’s bought one of these with the 5-speed. The shifter was this shaft-like thing that rose out of the console like a giant, erect penis. She’s driving one day and suddenly says, “I really like the shifter on this thing – cause, ya know, it feels like, well, you know”, glancing over at me suggestively.

    I gave her the opportunity to compare to the real thing at a later date.

  • avatar

    I love Japanese car commercials. I can’t read the text, but I assume it translates to “Yacht owners will respect you. Become successful city man. Bring pride to your ancestors.”

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the early 90’s there used to be one of these parked on my street. Base model, no AWD in light blue, with steelies with the center caps. It did not even have a rear seat, just a pressed board package shelf with a sticker warning you not to seat passengers there. Think an old 30’s, 40’s Business coupe.

  • avatar

    When the XT came out, I immediately mistook it for a poor- man’s copy of the Honda Prelude of that generation. Now I appreciate them much more. I’d love to have a nice XT6 with the ER27, Subaru’s first version of the flat-6 engine. However, quirky, lovable (and often annoying) as Subaru is, they decided to equip the XT6 with a unique electric power steering pump and a power steering system that requires a special fluid called “Cybrid” power steering fluid. “Cybrid” fluid is available ONLY from Subaru and while they apparently still carry it (at $21/quart) there’s no word on how long they’ll keep making it. Regular red fluid will work for a while but quickly degrades the seals. I’m not sure if the 4-banger XTs used this system or a regular belt-driven pump and fluid.

    I currently own 3 of the successor SVX’s (one for parts) but I’ve never had the chance to compare the SVX to the XT.

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t mind having one of these someday, as time and space allow. I was trying to think of the last time I saw an XT, and have to think it was sometime in the ’90s. These were solid cars, but like all Subarus of the period, just didn’t last in any place that uses road salt. Still see the occasional SVX, most recently at a car show earlier this year, but XTs remain elusive.

  • avatar

    I had an ’89 XT 4wd. Always wanted to trick It out in Lancia Stratos colors. While barely 100 hp, it got 34 MPGs and went like stink in the sand, snow, mud, whatever. When the electrohydropneumatic suspension and single windshield wiper went south, I sold it for $500 with 225,000 miles and that owner drove it for a few years, getting just south of 300k.

  • avatar

    Back in 99 I was a mechanic at a Holden and Subaru dealership. Holden was by far the greater volume and we worked on V6 and V8 Commodores all day long, interspersed with the odd Subaru.

    One day an old lady brought in an XT (one of probably only 2 sold in Western Australia) that needed the air suspension compressor, located ingeniously behind the LHF bumper, replaced. I was given the job and it was surprisingly straight forward. I parked the car and tossed the keys to the service advisor, getting on with another job.

    An hour later the service manager, an arrogant fool with small man syndrome and a serious attitude problem, charged out to the workshop carrying on about how I’d stuffed up the job and ruined the car as it drove like an asthmatic pig.

    Further investigation by the workshop foreman revealed that the service manager had blown the turbo when he took the car for a joy ride- why you’d bother when there was a yard full of V8 HSV’s I’ll never know.

    I was given the job or removing and replacing the turbo and the extensive dismantling job began. By the end of the day I had the turbo off and a bench littered with bolts, brackets and other assorted parts all carefully catalogued in my head for refitting.

    The next day I came in early to work on a bitterly cold morning and surveyed the parts with my hands in my pockets to keep them warm. The service manager walked past and told me he wasn’t paying me to stand around with my hands in my pockets. I drove my car in to the workshop, put my toolbox in the boot and drove off.

    I’ve often wondered how long it took them to put that XT back together.

  • avatar

    My all time favorite Subie.

    Such an awesome looking car, and a really good example of Japanese design in the 80’s. One of the coolest dashes as well.

  • avatar

    I almost bought a 1987 XT Turbo 4WD back in 1991. That car was full of all kinds of gadgets. It felt like you were in a video game with the digital dash, and joystick type shifter. I remember that it was the first car I had ever seen that had a tilt steering/dashboard and the hidden door handles. Also, the audio buttons could be pushed in to be flush with the dashboard. The only reason I didn’t buy it was that I did some research and discovered that if I ever needed to have work done on the Pneumatic suspension, it was gonna cost a fortune.I ended up buying a new 1991 Civic Si instead.

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