By on January 19, 2021

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]

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18 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1990 Subaru Legacy Wagon, Sold Back to Subaru...”

  • avatar

    My in-laws had one of these when I first met them. Solid little car, it racked up a ton of miles, and eventually was replaced by another Legacy.

  • avatar

    My sister bought a 1992 Legacy wagon on the advice of her boyfriend, in 1996. She should have had it checked out by a mechanic.

    The mechanicals were still in good shape, but just four years in Massachusetts caused extensive rusting. Within a year, there was a hole in the floorpan in the passenger footwell, and a couple months later the top of the coil tower broke.

    She bought a new Nissan Stanza and broke up with her boyfriend. She later replaced the Stanza with another Subaru, a Forester, and is now on her second one. Subaru apparently now does a better job of rustproofing.

    Unmentioned in the article is where the original owner lived, but the fact the second owner put it up for sale in San Francisco is a clue. It may have spent its life in Alameda, the place Murilee Martin calls “the land that rust forgot”. I doubt many of this model survived the snow and salt zones.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, climate matters. When my friend got married in the mid 90s in Palm Desert, I was amazed at the sheet metal condition of some early 70s Japanese cars. These things were long gone by the early 80s in most parts of the country but here were all these solid examples still running. Sure the sun killed the paint and interior plastics but they were still solid with no rust at all. Incredible as I used to see three year old Japanese cars during the early 80s in Central NY that looked like Swiss cheese.

    • 0 avatar

      If she bought a new Stanza approximately 1 yr after buying the Legacy in 96, I hope she got a good deal on a leftover 92 since that was the last year Stanzas were sold.

  • avatar

    I do miss the Legacy Wagon. & Mazda6 Wagon.
    Subaru offer us Levorg and I’ll forgive you.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto that, Oberkanone. I had a 2003 Legacy wagon and reluctantly gave it up after 14 years, the longest I have ever owned a car. Terrific vehicle. Never drove a Mazda 6 wagon, but I almost bought one when they were available. SUV’s are OK, but for those of us like me who reside in the distinct minority, a wagon has an appeal all its own. I like the Outback, but my heart really wants another Legacy wagon instead.

      • 0 avatar

        Ditto the ditto. Got a hand-me-down early Legacy from dad when he bought another car. Good car but you could grab a picnic chair and watch it dissolve. At least my ’05 GTL wagon has done a better job staying intact, though the left rear quarter is going at the lower panel seam.

  • avatar

    * I am horizontally opposed to boxer engines.

    * First and second pictures: If grilles today were that small, no one would notice if they were functional or non-functional.

    * “TWO STAGE POWER DOOR LOCKS” – does the second stage use liquid fuel or solid propellant?

  • avatar

    The wagon’s silhouette reminds of a Peugeot 505 wagon.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

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

  • avatar

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

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