By on March 2, 2016

1991 Subaru Loyale front in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

I moved from California to Colorado in 2010, and the stereotype of the stony Subaru driver who snowboards/hikes/camps/rock-climbs, has some sort of retriever dog, and drinks super-hoppy craft beers turns out to be based on reality.

Everyone here drives Subarus — hell, even I have an Outback in the fleet — but we’re talking about the beat-to-hell, 15-to-30-year-old cars here, and not shiny new Crosstreks in the REI parking lot. Last week, I saw the perfect example of that type of Subaru in a Denver self-service yard: this rusty, crusty, 200,000-mile, Pleiades-badged Colorado veteran, which spent its long life driving to trailheads and brewpubs, is now set to donate its metals to the global commodities markets.

1991 Subaru Loyale rear window sticker in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

Colorado has 53 mountain peaks 14,000 feet or higher, while California comes in a weak second place with 12. If you’re serious about climbing mountains here, you need to hit all 53 (yes, including Pikes Peak, which has a paved road all the way to the top). I’m guessing that the last owner of this Loyale may have accomplished that feat.

1991 Subaru Loyale body filler in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

There’s body filler over rust over more body filler.

1991 Subaru Loyale window decal in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

According to the High Country Healing website, “Not everyone wants to smoke a gram. It’s a little intense, they see these Mini Js and they think, ‘That’s just right for me.'”

1991 Subaru Loyale door panel in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

Vegetation-printed shelf liner works pretty well for covering sun-cracked dashboards.

1991 Subaru Loyale beer sticker in Colorado junkyard - © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

Where it’s always 5 o’clock on the ski hill.

In 1988, Subaru claimed that 92% of 1978 or later Subarus were still on the road.

They should have used the Dead Kennedys version of ‘Rawhide’ for this ad.

It could be worse, though. It could be Leo Sayer. Now with Activu Torque-oo Split-o!

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1991 Subaru Loyale, Colorado Stereotypes Edition...”

  • avatar

    200,000 miles? Hard to believe. I owned one of these and the money they must have spend to keep this on the road must be out of this world. The body alone should have fallen off the wheels by 125,000 miles. As you can tell i never purchased another Subaru again.

    • 0 avatar

      my 93 hit 200,000 and sold for 3,500. YMMV.

      • 0 avatar

        A family of fellow Russian immigrants had some bad luck with several of these older Wagons (theirs were mid-late 80s variants with quad headlights), seems that even back then they were susceptible to overheating issues. We referred to these Subarus as “Japanese Zaporozhets,” because the flat four exhaust note reminded us of the air cooled V-4 in the rear engine ZAZ vehicles back in the Soviet Union.

        Subaru really seemed to hit their stride in the early 90s with the first Legacy model with the 2.2L SOHC motor. Now that is a rock solid powertrain, I rarely hear of them NOT making it to 200k miles, sadly they were pretty rust prone cars and the last ones were rusting out in the mid 2000s.

    • 0 avatar

      Stuff doesn’t rust in Colorado the way it does back east.

      These Subies, mechanically, could run 300-400,000 miles or better if maintained, as long as you could keep a body on it. And they actually had some spunk, my family’s ’92 Legacy – different body but mechanically similar – was fun to drive.

      The self-immolating head gasket issue began with the first 2.5 Outbacks in 1996-1997, and remained an issue until a complete redesign for 2011-2012. Only change was circa 2003 when they were redesigned to leak outside rather than inside the engine.

      I certainly wouldn’t buy one today.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. We had a ’93 Legacy and it was awful. We traded it in in ’97 with 44K miles.

      We were on a special plan where we got the car for a week each month, and the service department had it the other three. The HVAC system so FUBAR that apparently it was installed wrong at the factory. They gutted the interior and had to redo everything on it at 38K miles. I will say that Subuaru did step up and extended the warranty to cover the defect.

      A few months after that it started to hemorrhage bodily fluids in the garage – we were done.

    • 0 avatar

      My first car was an 85 GL-10 (same as this car) Brown Manual station wagon. Purchased for $500 in 1995, odometer frozen at 120k miles, clutch so burnt out it wouldn’t go faster than 25mph. Got clutch fixed and my brother and I drove it for 5 years, probably beyond 200k who knows. CV joints broke a few times, oil pump needed replacing and there was a constant oil leak…but it was basically the best first car one could have. Rust took the exhaust out in front of the muffler which resulted in Harley-Davidson like sound from the boxer. Loved that car

  • avatar

    They’re pretty common in Oregon too. My Aunt and Uncle who live Oregon also I think have had something like 10 of them in a row. Never heard of this model though.

    I have had Broken compass beer and I have driven to the top of Pike’s peak in a rental Mustang perhaps a little fast, although I thought there was a portion near the top still not paved?

  • avatar

    This one must have spent a good part of it life in the Northeast , this might be the worst looking car I have seen in this series, looks like you found it in a Vermont Junk yard.

  • avatar

    The former owner of this car and I would not have got along. This is certain.

    Also, I think the teal Celica next door is more interesting. You don’t see that particular style around much anymore for some reason (rust?).

    • 0 avatar

      Eh, to each his own. I probably wouldn’t get along with some guy driving a jacked up diesel pickup with “Obama is a communist” stickers on it either, but it’s his money, y’know?

      Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have better things to do with my energy than waste it on disliking people over lifestyle or political disagreements.

      • 0 avatar

        No energy spent.

        • 0 avatar

          I spent some time this weekend at my fiancé’s highschool friend’s place. Her and her BF are basically stereotypical Millenial cases: finished art school with debt, can’t find a job in their desired field. They at least had the presence of mind to move away from the hip big city and move somewhere cheap where they can get by with renting a cheap apartment and pay for it with minimum wage jobs, and even have money left over for weed and craft beer as it turns out. Despite the conversation sometimes venturing into some topics where I vehemently disagree with them (benefit of GMOs), the evening was very pleasantly spent, and I didn’t even get a contact high, ha! I’ve learned that I can get along with just about anyone as long as they reciprocate my practice of not imposing views/beliefs on the other party.

      • 0 avatar

        Freed, When someone makes fun of another person it is to be funny and to get attention. They feel it will make them more popular and liked if they are funny. Another reason is because they are sad inside and do it to cheer them self’s up. It makes a weak person look enlightened.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Subaru Loyale or 1st Gen Toyota Camry? Only the badges know! For those who aren’t yet familiar with the Universal Japanese Car references, an image search for the latter will underscore why you get that deja vu feeling when one of either type rolls by.

  • avatar

    Is this a 4WD wagon? I don’t see any badges (unless they rusted off). Just curious.

  • avatar

    As a Vermont native, this car resonates very deeply with me. As a kid I played pond hockey with a 70 something year old guy named Warren who lived in a commune and drove one of these. Replace those stickers with a Take A Hike! Long Trail brewing and a Mad River Glen Ski It If You Can, maybe an AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) sticker and you have 1/3 of the Subaru wagons in the state. Even has the right rust.

  • avatar

    Thinking about it – it’s shocking to realize they sold this until 1994. 1994! Imagine what a joke that was, going from a Honda showroom to the Subaru one down the road.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially then, the Subaru customer was a completely different animal from his or her Honda counterpart. And if it weren’t for Subaru, I don’t think that Honda would have ever sent us the Civic 4WD wagon, or Toyota its 4×4 Tercels and Corollas.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a fair point. They were willing to pay more, as well. The GL10 model was something like 5-6k more expensive than a Civic Wagon 4WD in the mid 80s.

        • 0 avatar

          You also couldn’t get a Civic 4WD with a power sunroof, digital dashboard, locking center differential, turbocharger…. And the Subaru offerings (at least in GL-10 form) had much nicer interiors to go along with the richer feature content. The Subie even offered a full trip computer – in 1985!

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. Two very different types of customers.

    • 0 avatar

      Nobody bought Hondas here in the ’80s, relatively speaking. They had a reputation for rust that not even Subaru could manage to surpass, and the prices were silly. Subarus were EVERYWHERE, at one point there were an even dozen of the ’80-’84 generation in my extended family, and a lot of them got replaced with these. Tough mechanicals, lousy rust protection for both generations. But they were cheap in FWD form! The 4x4s were spendy, only one 4×4 wagon out of the dozen.

      Compared to the rest of the country, Honda doesn’t sell a lot of cars in Maine even today.

  • avatar

    You’ll probably see a lot more of these in junkyards in Colorado, especially since pot’s legal!

  • avatar

    If you ever want to purchase a license to print money, all you need to do is buy a Subaru dealership in Boulder or Fort Collins. I once did an informal count while I was in Boulder and something like 30% of the cars were Subarus.

    And then in my neighborhood, the status-mobile is a four door diesel pickup.

    Ah, Colorado…

  • avatar

    I had an ’88 Loyale Coupe, it was a hatchback, not a wagon, a bit of a rare model. It was my first car and I paid more for it than I could afford. And it rewarded me by being constantly in the garage, burning up all the money I was making in my low paying job. It taught me a valuable lesson about cars. 1) If you purchase a model almost no one else has, that probably has implications for parts availability & garage technician familiarity 2) if hardly anyone bought the car, there’s a message there. My next car was a deep purple ’87 Chevy Celebrity Wagon I paid $600 for and it never gave me any trouble. Loved that car!

  • avatar

    I can’t speak for Colorado, but in WA Subaru is synonymous with the SEA lifestyle. Mind you, that AWD will only come in handy a half-dozen times a year (skiing up on Snoqualmie Pass?). But it’s the projection of a healthy, greenie lifestyle that’s important here. Shopping at REI, Whole Foods, the local organic farmers market…it’s a club and the right jacket is required.

    Btw: How is it so many people can have Subarus and still suffer the devastating effects of whirling disease when an inch of snow rarely blankets the ground?

    • 0 avatar

      Simple, as an old friend reminded me when I bought my first 4×4: “4WD will make you go better in the snow, but it won’t make you stop any better.” People forget that…

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        But it does exempt you from overzealous chain restrictions on the mountain passes. Buy a Subaru and slap some snow tires on it, you’ll never have to chain again.

        • 0 avatar

          Really? Washington’s chain laws don’t make much sense to me, as a Coloradan. Last week I was turned away from the north entrance of Olympic National Park, even while driving a rented Forester. The road was closed at low altitude “because a weather system is moving through,” said a ranger. Several other drivers chose to wait it out, but I can’t imagine the road was reopening that day.

          Regardless, the Forester was an excellent sightseeing vehicle, with large windows tall enough to see the peaks. An older Outback that i rented later from Flight Car was a lively dance partner on Seattle’s winding streets. So I can see how well these cars fit the landscape.

  • avatar

    Ex and I bought a black, top-line ’91 Loyale AWD Turbo wagon and thanks to [email protected] babysitter didn’t get to keep it long enough as she thought AWD translated to “goes up and down ice-covered hills with ease”.
    Decent car, but turbo was amazingly under-boosted though the whining droned out the kids.
    Nowhere near the car my LGT is.

  • avatar

    “Vegetation-printed shelf liner works pretty well for covering sun-cracked dashboards.”

    I actually … kinda really like that, in this application.

  • avatar

    About 15 years ago I bought one of these just like this one in 4WD turbo form from a charity car auction for $100. They couldn’t get it to start at auction time, but a new/used battery fixed that problem right away and I drove it home. It was one of my favorite cars to hoon around in and even came out victorious in a collision with a brand- new Porsche 911 turbo convertible, but it had serious rust around the windshield and in the roof. I patched it back together a few times but had to give up when water started pouring into the dashboard whenever it rained. A broken timing belt (The EA82T engine had two) was the final straw. I bought another rust- free non- turbo wagon of similar vintage and contemplated swapping the whole drivetrain into it, but it would have required swapping the whole wiring harness as well. Game over!

  • avatar

    Did Subaru ever fix their weak wheel bearings and automatic transmissions? Those two problems plagued so many of their cars throughout the 90s in addition to the head gaskets. I hope their rustproofing got better too. My parents bought a new 95 Legacy and the rear passenger door was rotted in 2 years. In 5 years the roof had rust around the luggage rack mounts. All this on a car that was directly marketed to ski patrollers (my dad got a hefty discount thanks to that program). The rust indirectly killed it when water came in and shorted the electrical system. Dead at 115k. A shame because the car would go through anything!

    I only see new ones in SoCal but due to my experience I look at them the same way as I do with British cars; never own one outside of warranty.

  • avatar
    April S

    In 2001 I picked up a 1993 (last year imported) Loyale sedan from a elderly ladies estate. Mint condition with about 45,000 miles. Tasteful silver exterior and equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission (had the neat hill-holder clutch option). Other than the weird motorized front seat belts it was pleasant little car. Unfortunately it didn’t make it six months due to a locked up engine. One of my co-workers decided to run a screwdriver though the oil filter.

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