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

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

For links to 2,100+ additional Junkyard Finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.







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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  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on May 18, 2021

    "Hilarious"?

  • 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.

  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
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