Junkyard Find: 1978 Subaru DL Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • 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..

  • Jeff Glad that GM still makes a car for enthusiasts. Maybe if Chris is lucky he could get his hands on one it would make a good car review.
  • Tsarcasm Someone tell soft skull (musk) about the moss magnuson warranty act
  • Ajla Nice car.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Not at all.
  • Verbal Here's a little tale about long-term Tesla ownership.In 2017 my buddy bought a three year-old Model S for $68k, which was the going rate at the time. He kept it garaged and treated it with kid gloves. It looked and ran virtually like new. The only problem he ever had with it was some kind of recurring issue with the driver's door handle. He never had to replace the brakes.A couple months ago, at ten years of age, the original battery finally bricked. Tesla quoted him $17k to do a battery replacement. But! If he replaced the battery, they would give him $11k in trade on a new Tesla!!! You don't have to be a math genius to see that those are crooked numbers.Using aftermarket parts is a non starter. Rebuilt batteries can be sketch. And the cap that goes on the battery is a Tesla-only part.Most people don't have $17k burning a hole in their pocket for a car repair. What are you going to do? Ask your credit union for a $17k loan to put a new battery in your ten year-old car? Good luck with that.A local auto recycler quoted him $1000. The recycler said that if he replaced the battery, the car would have a resale value in the low $20k's. That wouldn't give him enough headroom to make it worth his while. He said there are 150,000 dead Teslas in the national inventory (don't know where he gets this figure). And there's no demand for used Tesla parts, since most Tesla owners seem to treat their cars well. So Teslas with dead batteries have marginal scrap value.Thus, my friend's Tesla, with 80k miles on the clock and in excellent condition, with a dead battery, was scrapped. During his ownership, the car depreciated by around $800 a month.He saved a lot of money by not paying for gas, oil changes, tune ups, and consumables. But in the end, all those saving were erased by huge depreciation.Welcome to long term Tesla ownership, folks.(Cue the wailing and rending of garments from the Tesla fanboyz.)