Junkyard Find: 1978 Subaru DL Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1978 subaru dl sedan

Living in Colorado, I see so many discarded Subarus during my junkyard explorations that it takes a very unusual one to make me reach for my camera. An SVX might do it (though not always), or maybe a BRAT (again, not always), or perhaps a Subaru with Saab badges. A really early Subaru, from the Malaise Era days when few Americans took the brand seriously — I think that’s always worth shooting.

Here’s a first-generation Leone that I had to go all the way to Northern California to find.

In 1978, the Subaru Leone was known as just “The Subaru” in the American market, with the different trim levels used for model names. This one is a front-wheel-drive DL sedan, located in the middle of the Subaru price range that year.

Power came from a 1.6-liter boxer four, rated at 67 horsepower. Yes, that’s an air-conditioning compressor, and it probably felt like opening a big parachute behind the car when the AC kicked in.

In addition to air conditioning (which must have been an extremely rare option for ’78 Subarus), this car has the luxurious automatic transmission. Acceleration must have been… stately.

It appears that the original owner of this car bought it at a dealership in a Grand Rapids suburb, risking vandalism from enraged autoworkers and rust so voracious that many Japanese cars simply evaporated overnight.

This car shows plenty of damage from the Rust Monster, but it’s the top-down kind you get in California, not the bottom-up sort that happens in the Upper Midwest. This car moved west early in life.

What’s left of the interior looks decent, so maybe some owner of an early BRAT will grab a few bits.

Even The Cadillacs loved the ’78 Subaru.

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2 of 14 comments
  • Mickmc Mickmc on May 21, 2019

    I'm shocked at how little rust this Subaru has. Growing up in NE PA, we had a lot of snow, and my family had a lot of 70s Subarus- my father had several wagons, 1 76 2wd, 2 of the late 70s 4wds, My uncle had 2 of the late 70s 4wd wagons, my best friend's mom had a 79 4wd wagon, and for a while at university I had a 79 4wd Brat that I bought for $300 to get through the winter. With the exception of the Brat, all of them were running perfectly and they rusted out- one of my father's cars had literal holes in the floor that blew cold air and slush through, another had a bar that held the struts in place necessitating the removal of the spare, and bungee cords keeping the fenders from flapping because they all rusted through at the top. My Brat was in comparatively good shape-it had rust but wasn't rusted out. Broke a torsion bar when I was driving, and I sold it. Wish I still had it, but that was a long time ago. All of these people loved, really loved their Subarus, except for the rust. In this era there were no economical, reliable 4wds except Subaru. The closest was the 4wd AMC Eagle, which was not highly thought of.

  • L1800Turbo L1800Turbo on Jul 07, 2019

    Where did you find this one? I actually could use some parts if it still exists..

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.