Rare Rides: Justy a Little Subaru, From 1990

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides justy a little subaru from 1990

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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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Nov 06, 2018

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

  • Blackcloud_9 Blackcloud_9 on Nov 06, 2018

    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.

  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are some many OEM-specific ones out there (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.