By on May 4, 2020

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Outback version of the third generation of the Subaru Legacy wagon, built for the 2000-2004 model years, was the one that really nailed down the Outback as the Denver motor vehicle.

These things are so commonplace in Denver car graveyards that I don’t even notice them (unless I’m looking for bits for my own ’04 Outback), but today’s Junkyard Find is a top-trim-level VDC with every imaginable option, on top of its standard six-cylinder engine plus McIntosh audio system, and well worth documenting.

VDC stood for Vehicle Dynamics Control, which was Subaru’s early version of stability control. Pretty high-tech stuff for 2001.

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, McIntosh Radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe coolest thing about the VDC Legacy? The high-end McIntosh audio system, with lots of watts and speakers all over the car. Usually these head units get grabbed immediately by eBay sellers, but this car had just been put out in the yard’s inventory when I found it.

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, McIntosh Amplifier - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI already have a McIntosh radio, because of course I do, but I lacked the under-seat amplifier. Naturally, I yanked out the passenger seat and invested $12.95 in this amp. It will make a proper heart for a very high quality car-parts boombox.

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, tailgate badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBought new in Albuquerque, just down I-25 from Denver. In fact, the original owner’s manual and salesman’s calling card remain in the car. Subaru had removed all the Legacy badging from the Outback wagon’s exterior by this time, but this car remained a Legacy as far as the Subaru organization, insurance companies, DMVs, etc. were concerned (because you could get the Outback trim level for the Legacy sedan until 2004, it would have been too confusing to have “Outback” serve as model name and a trim level at the same time). Just to make things more bewildering in the Legacy/Outback universe of 2001, Subaru hadn’t axed the Impreza Outback until the 2000 model year.

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, Missouri inspection sticker - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAt some point in the early 2010s, it moved to Missouri.

The 3.0-liter boxer-six engine in this car cranked out a pretty decent 212 horsepower, which was 47 more than the four-cylinder in the ordinary Legacy. Legacy Outback Wagon shoppers could get the H6 in the VDC and in the nearly-as-pricey L.L. Bean Edition.

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, gearshift lever - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou couldn’t get a manual transmission with the H6, no doubt for the same parts-breaking reasons you couldn’t get one in the earlier Subaru SVX. I must say that the five-speed in my ’04 Outback — same generation of Outback wagon, fewer options — is the only thing that makes this ill-handling machine slightly enjoyable to drive on dry pavement (on snow or ice with real winter tires, though, it’s a fine machine).

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, red tag - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one got abandoned somewhere in unincorporated Colorado (probably the side of a highway) and towed away by the state rozzers. Maybe the transmission finally gave up.

2001 Subaru Legacy Outback in Denver junkyard, double sunroof - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDual sunroofs! The MSRP for this car started at a staggering (for a Legacy in 2001) $31,895, or about $47,000 in 2020 dollars. You could get a new Audi A4 Avant Quattro wagon with 190 horsepower for $31,990 that year, which would have given you better handling but no McIntosh audio system.

If the Black Ice Car-Freshner Little Tree (the #1 air freshener I find in junkyard vehicles these days) seems a little too, y’know, black for you, there’s always Vanilla Pride (which is an American-flag-printed tree suffused with the same scent as the Vanillaroma tree). Either way, you’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.


The world’s first sport utility wagon, according to Subaru. The mud-spattered bride who shows up late to her own wedding due to foolhardy Ford Explorer ownership is a nice touch, given the white-hot notoriety of the Explorer in the news when the ’01 Outbacks went on sale.


Subaru worked hard to position the 2001 Legacy Outback wagon as a true SUV, but American SUV shoppers tended to covet 5,000-pound-plus Detroit behemoths by that time. Still, while the H6 Legacies didn’t fly off the showroom floors, buyers in snowy/outdoorsy-activities regions threw elbows at each other in their frenzy to buy the lower-zoot-level 2000-2004 Outback wagons. You’ll still see these wagons lined up in row after row at the REI parking lots, here in Denver.


In Japan, this vehicle received Legacy Lancaster badging, and the Boxer


Have some tea?


With a name like Lancaster, you know this was one classy car in Japan. Actually, Subarus (other than kei vans) are fairly rare on Japanese streets. I’m a big fan of the Subaru Chiffon Police Interceptor, naturally.

For quick links to well over 2,000 additional Junkyard Finds, Junkyard Treasures, and Junkyard Gems, check out the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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48 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Subaru Legacy Outback VDC Wagon...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had no idea these were so expensive, no wonder you don’t see many of them

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I really like these Outback wagons and I wish more people would have gobbled them up instead of the 5,000+ lbs road crusher, crumple zone bypassing SUVs that were oh so common at the time.

    I have to make a comment about this Outback though…love the three different kinds of wheels. The front has Pontiac-like alloys. Driver’s side rear…looks to be a donut spare. Passenger’s side rear…steel wheel with a misfit hubcap.

    Such a terrible end to such a good, safe, go-anywhere car. And yes, take the stereo and amp and run!

    • 0 avatar
      salguod

      Those front alloys look like a cheap aftermarket wheel that was very common in the 90s. Or the very similar early 90s Escort GT wheel.

      The RR actually looks like a 2nd generation Prius alloy, minus the center cap and trim ring.

      • 0 avatar
        davew833

        Yes, the RR is a Prius wheel. The factory gold-accented alloys on these were actually quite handsome. Maybe whomever sent this to the junkyard held onto the wheels/tires and threw on whatever they could find to get it there. That’s what I’d have done.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Well, at least they made a slight attempt to correct the confusing naming…something that Mercedes and Cadillac never figured out…

    Must have been a stinky car…note the Fabreez “chicklet” in the air diffuser and the ubiquitous tree on the mirror…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The mismatched wheels that @theflyersfan noticed, and the fact the car was abandoned, probably indicate the car had minimal maintenance in its final years. The air fresheners are a cheap alternative to cleaning out the vents.

      A cheap friend of mine uses dryer fabric softener sheets in his truck. It smells like a laundromat, but that’s better than the alternative, two year old french fries mashed into the carpet.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I fold a coffee filter sachet around coffee beans or a pile of Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh deodorizing powder and throw that under the seat.

      People line up to buy my cars when I’m done with them.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Hmm, when the heat gets going in my car I always get an odd whiff of coffee. I always thought that strange, because I’ve never drank coffee in my car. I wonder…

  • avatar
    redgolf

    I’ve got an 88 year old friend who owns/drives one just like the one pictured, same color, he could be driving anything, lives in a very nice home with acreage, I don’t understand why someone older with money would not want to drive something newer and safer!

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Because as someone else pointed out to me recently, when you get older all you want is a car that runs well :)

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      If he’s capable of driving competently at 88 (which is a bit IF), I would think that having a vehicle he’s familiar with is far better than getting something new.

      I daily drove the same car for 10.5 years and I had such a feel for the car, how it responded and it’s dimensions, that I could maneuver it with perfect certainty without concentration. There’s something to be said for that.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Reality is that a lot of older drivers are not interested in touch screens, drop down menus, and twiddly knobs to change basic functions.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        What SaulTigh commented.

        Side story: a neighbor of mine in her mid 80’s had a 2002 Honda Civic, in pristine condition. Car had a little over 14,000 (yes, fourteen thousand) miles. She knew that car from top to bottom, and loved it. A few months ago, the Check Engine light came on, and she took it to the local Honda dealer. Some “slick” was scoping for customers in the Service Lane, and somehow convinced her that her car was no longer safe, and she traded it in for a new one.

        The grief that lady has gone through with the new one, has broken my heart. Not a week has gone by that she knocks on my door asking me to help her figure out how to work something on the car. Aside from having a backup camera, the newer car has not brought her any advantage over her old one. It is bigger, lower, with less visibility, has complicated (for her) technology that she did not need, in short, it’s been a fiasco. She is now very insecure about driving, which was not the case before. And, before you start, this lady may be in her mid 80’s, but she’s sharp as a tack.

        More than once the thought of going to the dealership and punching that salesperson in the face has crossed my mind.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @Roberto – makes me think of one of the Buick/Pontiac/Chevrolet dealers in the area I grew up around in Ohio. Mid 90s an older lady came in driving an A-body Century from one of the years in the first half of the 80s where the car had a hood ornament. The salesman showed her a new Century but she commented that it had no hood ornament “I use that to help find the center of the lane” she said.

          Now you and I know damn well that the dealer could have fairly quickly added a hood ornament in the body shop. However the salesman talked her into a brand new Park Avenue which did have a hood ornament.

          • 0 avatar
            Roberto Esponja

            @PrincipalDan
            &
            @thelaine

            Back around 2010, the elderly parents of a friend of mine went to their Mercedes dealership to replace a loaded E320. Nothing wrong with their car, they just wanted something newer with all the bells and whistles.

            Their salesperson convinced them that the only way to get an E-Class with all the bells and whistles was to spring for an E63 AMG.

            Their son only noticed this about four months later, when he went to visit them for Christmas (he lives overseas).

            They had to call the cops on him at the dealership…

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Exploiting old people is a car dealer specialty. Sorry Ruggles.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Now you jogged my memory to my brother-in-law and his mother’s first car buying experience on her own. She was a pastor’s wife and came back with a Mercedes Benz C-class with Sport package (different sized tires front and rear, summer tires.)

            Dealer specialty indeed…

          • 0 avatar
            Steve S.

            Is it ever.

            https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/how-drugs-and-greed-tainted-auto-dealership/

  • avatar
    Hogey74

    Great find! I remember these and the GT version were a little bit posh. The GT in Oz came with either this 6 or the turbo 4.

    Interesting your comment about your 04’s handling. My 06-07 Forester handles pretty well for what it is – a floppy older car. There is the thought about putting coilovers into it, depending on the choice about keeping it longer term or not. I do put better than average tyres on the standard 16 inch rims and it is pretty balanced. Compared to my NC MX5 it is suprisingly ok, and I’d expect it to have inferior handling to the outback, dunno why.

  • avatar

    Intense !

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ? Where’s the rust ? .

    ? Did the radio have a dedicated weather band button ? . I remember the old Panasonic weather band radios sold in my big rigs, sadly they all vibrated to death after maybe 5 years .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      My LL bean addition had the weather band which was kind of cool.

      • 0 avatar

        My 9-3 also. I always wonder why they don’t do weather band more often, it is five channels, FM, no endless royalty for proprietary nonsense to pay out for like “HD Radio”, and actually useful. Most of the US gets at least one of the channels clearly, to the point that Weather band is used by radio buffs as a beacon and first check of “does this radio work”.

  • avatar

    I had a 2001 LL Bean. My inlaws bought it new and I bought it from them when it was around 10 years old. These are truly amazing in the snow (as I recall the LL bean and VDC also had mechanical LSD in the rear other models did not). I once stopped dead in 6 inches of unplowed snow of a fairly steep hill just to see what would happen. It plowed forward like it was nothing.

    The H6 is a lovely driving engine but the 4 speed was rather infuriating never seemed to be in the right gear at the right time. But despite that it seemed quicker then the Volvo XC that replaced it. My H6 had a constant barrage of oil leaks to fight (valve covers oil cooler etc) which probably hastened a spun main bearing around 150k miles. People love these thou and despite the rust and blown engine I got 650 bucks for the car to someone who was trying to build one car out of 3. In general this car soured me on Subies. In addition to the oil leaks I had a bunch of issues with CV joints wheel bearings ball joints rear driveshaft AC etc etc. Shame because in other ways it was a great car when it worked.

    On the Mcintoch, that was the only thing I wish mine had that it didn’t. I had a former coworker who had been a car stereo installer at Tweeters for years and he had a lot of respect for that stereo saying it was one of the best factory systems around.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      You have touched on the things that have kept me away from Subaru as well. I had a first gen WRX wagon that I bought new for 9 months, the car was always in the shop. The rear end exploded and the turbo had issues, that was enough for me and I traded the car in.

      A cooked motor at 150k is not acceptable, along with the laundry list of issues. I like a wagon and in reality you can argue that my Suburban is just a large wagon, I am fine with that. Despite everything I have read, the Chevy’s reliability crushes the Subaru. I have zero leaks, the original CV joints, original AC so and so forth.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        My sister bought a 2001 Subaru new, and kept track of the maintenance expenses. The first two years under warranty, she bout wiper blades. By the 10th year, the bill was up to $5800. It seems they’re not going to last decades, but should be replaced every five years or so.

        By contrast, I held onto my 1985 Honda Accord for eleven years and sold it to a friend who’s still driving it as a backup second car.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          I have a 2003 Subaru (owned since 2010 but bought with only 30k miles on it) and I’ve NEVER spent $5,800 on it, not even cumulatively over 10 years and counting wear items (brake pads, batteries, tires, etc.). The biggest single expenses were the timing belt (normal replacement item @ 105 months/105K miles) and the inevitable Subaru head gasket (replaced with multi-layer stainless that is listed as a turbo part and never a problem since). Otherwise, the exhaust system (including the cats) rotted away, some wheel bearings, CV axle (boot sits right above the cat and gets toasted), a little body rust. Not Toyota reliable but not terrible either. Of course I COULD have spent $5,800 if I took it to the dealer. I think the factory cats are like $1,300 vs $100 for Chinese aftermarket ones, the CV axle is like $700 from the dealer vs $50 for Chinese, etc. Admittedly some of the Chinese stuff has failed after a couple of years when the factory originals lasted 10 or 15 years but I could replace these items (even including labor) 5 or 6 times and still be ahead of the dealer cost.

        • 0 avatar
          randyinrocklin

          @Lorenzo, I had an 85 too, and it went 250k miles with just water pump and timing belt changes. I finally blew it up by overheating it. Got a used motor from a junkyard, but it was not a CA motor. It was a mess.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Galles Motor – still there in Albuquerque. However I think Galles Subaru location is now Garcia Subaru.

    I love the engraved logo for the McIntosh stereo.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    – The McIntosh system in that car is impressive (and unexpected in a Subaru).

    – The solution to car smells is 90 minutes with an ozone generator.

    – That partial-mesh engine cover is sexxxy (and cool, in the sense of letting heat escape from the alternator, for example).

    – Give me an hour and I’ll clean up the peeling paint on the window trim (automotive masking tape/paper, wet/dry sandpaper, 91% isopropyl, Dupli-Color Self-Etch Primer, Dupli-Color semi-gloss black).

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Plate o’ shrimp, Miller.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Owning an Outback has the same effect on your social life as wearing Crocs on your feet. You’ll never have a need for birth control.

  • avatar
    Badhuis

    I bought exactly the same car five years ago. It was a replacement for my much-loved first gen Legacy wagon. That Legacy was totalled so I had to buy something else. A pity because I wanted to keep the Legacy forever. Did not like the second gen Legacy / Outback so went for a third gen. Six cylinder because why not?
    It was luxurious, it was fast, it had everything. Bought it from the first owner which gave up driving because of age. This was visible by the various scrapes on the bodywork. For me, the car missed the magic of the first gen Legacy, I never felt a bond with it. So when the auto gearbox started to behave a little strange, sometimes, I sold it, fearing an expensive overhaul.
    Its successor is just a bit better in almost all ways, and more reliable (really). I love it more than the six cylinder 3.0 Subie: a six cylinder 3.0 Jaguar X-type wagon.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    A buddy of mine had one of these he bought new…I believe he got about 5K off sticker. As for the McIntosh streo I thought it sounded good but not extraordinary…I can’t believe these units were handbuilt in Binghamton, NY like home tuners and amps were. I would bet someone else built them to McIntosh specs and McIntosh put their name on it

    • 0 avatar
      starbird80

      I’ve seen more than once in a FB audio group that these were manufactured by Clarion.

      Not a terrible name, but not typically thought of as high-end either.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      I’ve never heard a McIntosh sound system in any Subaru, but I would bet it sounds better than the Harman Kardon that replaced it on the newer Outbacks. My in-laws have a 2011 Outback Limited and the sound system is nothing to write home about, it sounds clear ebough but has no bass despite the 6×9 subwoofer in the trunk. I believe my Accord EX sounds better despite having no branded stereo

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    “Subaru hadn’t axed the Impreza Outback until the 2000 model year.”

    This is wrong. I believe they made the “Impreza Outback Sport” at least until 2004 (I own a 2003 Impreza Outback Sport aka “Bugeye”).

    In 2003 (I assume ’02 and ’04 are the same), the Impreza was available in 5 trims made out of 2 body styles: the regular sedan (RS) and the sporty WRX sedan, and three wagon (hatchback) trims – the regular (TS) , WRX and the “Outback Sport”.

    I believe what made an Outback Sport different from a TS was that the bumpers and rocker panels were silver instead of body color and that the wheel arches were also painted silver which kinda looks like cladding from a distance but it’s not it’s just masked off silver paint. The differences are purely cosmetic AFAIK – the Outback is not jacked up or anything like that.

    The areas that are painted silver are also the areas where the car tends to rust – I don’t know whether the silver paint was somehow inferior to the rest of the paint job or it’s just a coincidence since these are the areas that rust anyway.

    The wagons have a fatal flaw in that they drilled a couple of holes thru the rear strut towers in order to hold the latch for the folding seat back in the wagon. These holes (which emerge inside the fender well) form a channel for water to get in between the two layers of sheet metal that form the strut tower. The tower rots from the inside out and fails structurally, in the wagon only because of these holes. But for the want of a nail (in this case effective water sealing of a thru hole – maybe a 5 cent rubber washer on the bolt? A dab of silicone?) the ship was lost.

    • 0 avatar
      CombiNation

      Yep, you are correct. The Outback Sport trim for the Impreza continued through the 2014 model year. The OBS usually was advertised as having more ground clearance, but really it’s just a larger wheel size.

      I had a 2002. The other difference compared to the regular Impreza is the WRX-style oversized fog lamps, which I never saw on a regular Impreza.

      Mine never covered enough miles to find out about the rust issues. The engine was replaced completely early on after an oil change contained chewed-up metal bits, and later the transmission lunched itself. Early trade.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Obligator Repo Man quote:

    You’ll find one in every car kid.

    You’ll see.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    The star of the Subaru lineup is the marketing department. They have done an outstanding job for a very long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      TBH, their marketing per se is not that great. The cars have a strong fan base – a sort of cult following, but it wasn’t astroturfed by the marketing dept. People just like them. The fact that they are not as bulletproof reliable as Toyota (and they aren’t) doesn’t seem to bother the owners as much as it bothers some people here. People aren’t buying them as being the cars that never break but they have other attributes that they like and the reliability is not horrible. It may not be perfect but it’s not as horrible as people here make them out to be either. If you want the other attributes then you put up with the less than perfect reliability. Reliability is not the sole reason why people buy cars.

      This is doubly true of people who lease a car every few years and don’t keep it forever like some people here. If you get a new one every 3 years, who cares what they are like in 10, especially if they have good resale value anyway (and they do).

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I always thought that Subaru provided a lot of function with very little pretense, I think that appeals to a lot of people. For a long time Subarus were the only affordable alternative to large SUVs or a Jeep if you wanted AWD

        • 0 avatar
          ktm

          Well, they were the affordable sedan with AWD compared to Audi (primarily), Mercedes and BMW.

          I owned a 2007 WRX wagon and loved it. I did not have a single problem with it over 125k miles. I only sold it because I was 25k miles over my mileage limit for my company’s vehicle reimbursement program.

  • avatar
    davew833

    Contrary to popular belief, the H6 engine in these DOES blow head gaskets, maybe not at the alarming rate the EJ25 4 cyl does, but I’ve had both a 2001 Outback H6 and a 2007 Outback H6, both that had blown head gaskets when I bought them, unbeknownst to me. I bought them on the basis that the EZ30 is “bulletproof” compared to the EJ25. It’s a great engine, but not bulletproof.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    I’ve never heard a McIntosh sound system in any Subaru, but I would bet it sounds better than the Harman Kardon that replaced it on the newer Outbacks. My in-laws have a 2011 Outback Limited and the sound system is nothing to write home about, it sounds clear ebough but has no bass despite the 6×9 subwoofer in the trunk. I believe my Accord EX sounds better despite having no branded stereo

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