By on November 5, 2018

Just two Subaru models have graced these Rare Rides pages in times past. The first was a very beige Desert Fox edition of the midsize GL wagon, and the second was a clean example of the very first car Subaru ever offered in the United States: the tiny 360.

Today we combine the characteristics of both of these prior Rare Rides and take a look at an Eighties hatchback, one which represented the smallest North American offering of the time. It’ll Justy take a moment (ugh).

Originally devised as a subcompact hatchback entry for the Japanese market, the Subaru Justy was without a predecessor. The company had made kei cars, compact cars, small trucks, and a single coupe, but no subcompact. All of that changed for 1984, when the Justy went on sale in its home market. An original design, Justy was based on the company’s contemporary Rex kei car — just expanded in every direction.

The Justy was intended as direct competition to the similarly-sized Daihatsu Charade. Initially available with a 997 cc engine to avoid Japanese road taxes, the company realized the Justy might need more power if it wished to enter international markets.

By 1987, a massive 1,189-cc three-cylinder engine was ready, along with a brand new transmission. In addition to the traditional five-speed manual, Subaru offered an electronically controlled Jatco CVT, driven by Dutch-sourced components.

That same year, the Justy went on sale in European and American markets. For American customers, the sub-liter engine was not available. In 1988, the company added its four-wheel drive system to the hatchback, and in 1990 a five-door version joined the lineup.

Sales were generally slow, and the Justy wound down in America after 1994. Canadians were a bit more bullish on the capable hatchback, and a leftover 1995 model was available across The United States of Toronto.

After wrapping up the first generation of Justy, Subaru decided it couldn’t be bothered to make another one. Instead, the automaker started licensing cars from other manufacturers and applying a Justy badge. The second generation was a rebadge of the Suzuki Cultus (aka Geo Metro). Then it was a Suzuki Swift, and after that a Daihatsu Storia. Most recently, in 2016, the Justy name was affixed to the Toyota Tank. Whoever’s offering, the Justy is game.

Today’s white three-door model was recently listed on eBay. In GL trim, it has a manual transmission, four-wheel drive, and 116,000 miles on the odometer. It asked $2,950, but did not sell.

[Images: seller]

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19 Comments on “Rare Rides: Justy a Little Subaru, From 1990...”


  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    If there is a way to sell a sucompact car and make a profit this is the path to follow. What do you say Subaru? Any appetite to make vehicle smaller than Crosstrek?

    • 0 avatar
      902Chris

      The spiritual successor would be the Susuki SX4 – a small plucky hatch with AWD. Best part is you can pick up a low mileage one made this century for under 10K. Hell, you can get a used one with similar millage and price to this Justy, and not have to rely on last-century safety.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Those little SX4s look good on paper, or driving around, but they are decidedly mediocre behind the wheel. Surprisingly thirsty for such a tiny car, even with the stick shift. Everything on it and about it felt cheap and underbaked. An older Impreza feels much better screwed together and better to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        saturnotaku

        After a VW Touareg and Lancer Evo with snow tires, the AWD SX4 is probably the third best car I’ve ever driven in the snow. That plucky little thing was stable and secure even as I drove through a blizzard in NW Indiana on my way to Detroit. The only thing I really disliked about that car was the its tiny gas tank. Even at steady-state cruising below the 70 mph posted speed limit on dry roads, you could not get more than about 220-230 miles out of it.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Oh how I loved my 1989 Justy 4WD RS. It was my first car. I called it my hero car. It could do anything.

    • 0 avatar
      ShoogyBee

      I had a 1988 Justy GL FWD that I inherited from my cousin during the mid 90s. Tough little nugget, it was. I loved how I could fit a new 27″ Panasonic CRT TV still in its box, in the cargo area (with the rear seats folded of course).

  • avatar

    My dad bought a bright red 1988 Justy. They had some old Orange Subaru that got rear ended and took the insurance check as a down payment on the Justy.

    I learned to drive in the Justy before I got my license. The clutch was pretty shot by then. My mom sold it after my dad passed away. It had over 300,000 miles on it and the original A/C still worked. It was reliable and cheap and that’s all my parents ever needed it to be.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Gee, I wonder why it didn’t sell? Lol $1500 would be top dollar for it in my book. Rare doesn’t always mean desirable or worthy of a ridiculous price.

    I get that the above commenters had good experiences with theirs, and I respect that, but $3k can buy a much better car than this, perhaps one even more quirky/rare/useful.

  • avatar
    Prove your humanity: 9 + 8 =

    Nice, clean little car, but it’s showing it’s age. The seat back needs to be sewn up, and the ERI (Eritrea!) sticker should be removed.
    I would give it some serious consideration if it were in my hometown, especially since it has a real transmission, but not at that price.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    My first new car was a 1988 Justy RS, 4WD, 5 speed. traded it in with 120k. Very reliable, had syncros replaced at 110k and new brakes at 80k. My favorite part was no motorized mice on the door, since it had 4WD it was exempt from them!

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Worked on one of these a long time ago. I remember it being fairly nimble and less slow than I thought it would be with 4WD. Does anyone have any idea what the toggle switch does the owner installed right on top of the engine? LOL

  • avatar
    Russycle

    My brother-in-law had one of these years ago, very well-used and sporting much rust. For some reason I had to borrow it for a trip of several hundred miles. Got stopped by a cop for driving with just the parking lights at night, didn’t realize I hadn’t turned the control all the way to get the lights on. Then 30 miles from home, the bracket holding the tailpipe gave up, with a loud clang and a shower of sparks. Had to dig through the car to scrounge something to hold it up for the rest of the trip, don’t recall what I found but it made it.

    Never drove it again.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    If I remember correctly you could walk faster then these Subarus. The $8500 sticker price is surprisingly high for 1990 considering this had ZERO options on it

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Are those honest to God late-80s Audi Coupe style RIAL alloy wheels? Or just the sexiest and most durable plastic wheel covers ever?

    My buddy Lou had one of these Justys—an earlier front wheel drive model IIRC. They had a three-cylinder engine IIRC, but they also weighed about three pounds, so they were surprisingly fun to haul around in. Almost motorcycle-like: tiny fast-revving engine, quick reflexes, minimal weight, and approximately nothing to protect you in the event of a wreck. It was basically a well-built Yugo, for double the price of a Yugo.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I drove this miserable piece of crap once.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Didn’t Jackie Chan drive one of these in one of his early movies?

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Absolutely love that you could include a picture of the window sticker. I also love that one of the two “options” on the car was the Custom User/Processing fee for $20. A truly desirable add-on.


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