Junkyard Find: 1987 Subaru GL-10 Turbo 4WD Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1987 subaru gl 10 turbo 4wd wagon

By the second half of the 1980s, Subaru had moved beyond being known only for tiny, hilarious econoboxes. While American Subaru shoppers could still get front-wheel-drive cheapmobiles at that time, the same showrooms also offered futuristic-looking s ports cars and four-wheel-drive family wagons loaded with luxury features. Today’s Junkyard Find is the swankiest Subaru wagon money could buy in 1987 North America: a GL-10 4WD Turbo, found in a Denver car graveyard last summer.

This was the period during which Subaru USA named every member of its Leone family (except for the BRAT pickup) using a trim level that doubled as the model name. The cheapest ones were DLs, and then the regular GL was a step up. The GL 4WD Turbo was king of the Leone jungle in 1987, and the GL-10 package added a heap of gadgets and comfort-enhancing features atop that.

The GL-10 got a Mars Base digital instrument cluster (sadly, some junkyard shopper snagged the one out of this car before I could), power windows, sunroof, automatic transmission, and— of course— a turbocharged engine good for 115 horsepower.

Subaru didn’t sell cars with true full-time all-wheel-drive until the 1990s (every Subaru sold here had AWD starting in the 1996 model year), so this one has a four-wheel-drive system activated via a switch on the gearshift lever. You weren’t supposed to drive it in 4WD on dry pavement for long periods, but good luck explaining that to American drivers!

Someone pulled out the Alpine cassette deck and then left it. It was challenging preventing these units from being stolen, back in the 1980s, and many car owners resorted to faux-factory-AM-radio covers to camouflage their nice aftermarket decks.

Power sunroofs were serious status symbols in 1987. I’m still not sure why.

It’s a bit rusty now, but it stayed alive for 33 years and it appears to have been a runner until the very end.

Even the affordable DL wagon had an automatic transmission and power steering as standard features in 1987. Subaru’s response to the Joe Isuzu ads of the same period wasn’t so funny, but at least they tried.

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2 of 19 comments
  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on May 18, 2021


  • Davew833 Davew833 on May 19, 2021

    I picked up several of these for $100-$200 each about 20 years ago in various states of neediness. I had an '87 or '88 identical to this one including the digital dash, but the 3AT transmission Subaru put in these was problematic, something about a plastic gear breaking, and I never could get it working. I also had a '90 Loyale AWD turbo wagon which was basically the same car but with the improved 4EAT transmission and fewer bells and whistles (no digital dash.) It was a fun little car but the roof had rusted through around the windshield. I kept it patched together for a few years until it started leaking down into the dash, and then one of the TWO timing belts broke. I decided I'd gotten my $150 worth of fun and junked it.

  • Jeff S The question is how long will Ford offer the Mustang as a pony car? Dodge is sun setting the Challenger at the end of this year and it is doubtful if the Challenger will come back as an EV. Rumors are the Camaro name will be used on an EV and that will mostly likely be a crossover. There is not enough market for a Detroit muscle or pony car. It is sad to see not only the last of the cars like the Camaro and Challenger go but to see most cars go. Soon this site will have to change its name to The Truth About Trucks (TTAT).
  • Oberkanone Does GM build anything to compete with this? Does GM build any competent hybrids?
  • Dukeisduke So, it'll be invisible, just like all other Gen 6 Camaros?
  • Alterboy21 The gov't has already mandated control of your vehicle. 10 years ago they required cars to have ABS and traction control.I am not sure I agree that automatic breaking is ready for primetime, but taking control of a cars driving behavior is not new ground for the NHTSA. 
  • Parkave231 Collector's Edition hood ornament or GTFO.