Rare Rides: A 1990 Subaru Legacy Wagon, Sold Back to Subaru

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride is an example of utmost care and maintenance. It’s a 31-year-old wagon which was driven and kept in showroom condition over more than 200,000 miles.

This particular wagon was unique enough that Subaru purchased it for their collection.

At the end of the Eighties, Subaru started to revise the way it approached car design. Not content with a small slice of the pie at the quirky end of the car market, the company knew it would need more mainstream appeal to generate some mainstream sales. In North America, Subaru’s largest car on offer through the Eighties was the compact GL, which over time changed its name to Leone, and eventually Loyale.

Though still on the compact side, the new Legacy was larger than the Loyale, much more modern looking, and more suited to American tastes. It entered production in 1989 and debuted in North America for model-year 1990. Legacy was offered in sedan, and (more crucially to its customer base) wagon body styles. All first-generation Legacies were powered by four-cylinder power in boxer configuration. Displacement ranged from 1.8 to 2.2 liters, in naturally aspirated and turbocharged guises. Most North American examples were fitted with the naturally aspirated 2.2-liter, for adequate if not brisk forward movement. Transmissions on offer were a four-speed auto or five-speed manual.

Moving towards the middle in terms of design worked for Subaru. The Legacy established itself as more than a bit player, and offered all-wheel drive for consumers who didn’t want an agricultural Jeep, or couldn’t afford something like an Audi 5000 Quattro. The Legacy was a compact car for precisely one generation. In 1995 it moved on up to the midsize class where it could compete more directly with Camry and Accord, neither of which offered all-wheel drive. It continues in that mode to this day, albeit without a wagon variant.

In the Legacy’s first model year in North America, someone purchased today’s Rare Ride and began taking exceptional care of it. In late 2019 it was purchased by an enthusiast of Japanese and Nineties automobiles on a whim. The seller reports he was not looking for a Subaru, but was taken with the condition of this particular example and decided to grab it. There are many breathless paragraphs about this in the extensive ad linked below.

The Legacy needed a bit of work, namely on suspension bits which were old and tired, tires, and other things made of rubber. Its new owner set about restoring the questionable parts of the car to factory condition, and reports spending around $6,000 to get everything up to snuff.

Job done, it was time to part with the Subaru so it was put up on Craigslist in the San Francisco area for $6,800. The seller received one particular offering of interest, from the company that built the car. Subaru of America reached out to buy the Legacy, to add it to their private museum collection in New Jersey. They took it into their possession a couple of weeks ago, so this particular Legacy will be forever preserved.

[Images: Subaru]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

More by Corey Lewis

Join the conversation
4 of 18 comments
  • Dave M. Dave M. on Jan 19, 2021

    Interesting in the ad Subaru compares with the "mid-size" Jag XJ6 and BMW 535 but "compact" 190 Merc, not the E class.

    • See 1 previous
    • Johnnyz Johnnyz on Jan 20, 2021

      @Corey Lewis That is what I noticed too. Hook me up with the BMW with the 3.5 inline six. You can keep the head gasket wheezing boxer 4.

  • Jmo Jmo on Jan 19, 2021

    200k miles? The seats look like they have never been sat on.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three