By on August 30, 2021

It feels like the Subaru Outback has existed in wagon-only form forever, but you could get a new Outback sedan until 2004. In fact, the Outback name was once used by Subaru USA for outdoorsy option packages on both the Legacy and (from 1995 through 2000) the Impreza. If you want to go back down the branches of the Subaru family tree to find the current Outback‘s direct ancestor, you’ll come to something like today’s Junkyard Find: a second-generation Legacy station wagon with the Outback package, found in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard in June.

Subaru didn’t go to all-wheel-drive on every car sold in the USA until the 1996 model year, so you’ll find plenty of badging on their cars and bragging in their advertising on the subject during the late 1990s. My research indicates that all 1994-1995 Outbacks had all-wheel-drive as standard equipment, but I cannot rule out the possibility of front-wheel-drive examples with all the cladding, fog lights, weather-band radios, and other non-powertrain Outback goodies from those years.

Speaking of weather-band radios, I’ve found that this feature actually comes in handy when driving in the mountains. And, really, who doesn’t enjoy listening to a robo-voice describing hailstorms two counties over during a drive?

I see a lot more of these cars in Colorado (where I live) than in California, and it turns out that this one started its American journey a few miles from my house (about 20 hours’ drive away from its final parking spot). Burt Subaru is now Groove Subaru, still at the same address on South Broadway.

This car racked up a respectable final mileage total during its 22 years on the road.

These cars often blow head gaskets, which is a very costly repair job due to the maddeningly tight clearance around the cylinder heads in the engine compartment, but it appears that this one ended up in this place due to a crash.

The leather interior still looks good, so I think we’re looking at a car that got meticulous care and maintenance throughout its life.

Yes, it had been 30 years earlier when Malcolm Bricklin had the idea to import the Subaru 360 Kei car to the United States. Just the car to park between two GM behemoths!


Paul Hogan did the ads for the early Legacy Outback wagons.


For the home market’s ads, Mel Gibson drove a right-hand-drive Legacy wagon in a snow-covered mashup of Stockholm and New York City while schmaltzy music played.

For links to more than 2,200 additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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28 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback Limited Wagon...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    “These cars often blow head gaskets,”

    Is that so? I thought these were the ones affected:

    Impreza 1999 to 2011
    Forester 1999 to 2010
    Legacy 2000 to 2009
    Outback 2000 to 2009
    Baja 2003 to 2006

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Pretty sure they all do through MY12, and even since I’m not completely confident.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Subaru finally fixed the head gaskets for the 2010 model year forward on the EJ25’s – why it took so long, no one knows. I have model year ’10 and ’11 Outbacks, 97k miles and 163k miles respectively and neither has or has had a head gasketing issue. To Subaru’s discredit, the OEM engine rebuild gasket set includes those crappy single layer head gaskets with the carbon-coated mating surfaces to this day. Most now know to use the multi-layer steel gaskets used on the turbo EJ253’s when replacing them.

        • 0 avatar
          eng_alvarado90

          My in-laws have a 2011 Outback Limited which had the headgaskets done 2 years ago at around 100K miles. Admittedly, they were the 2nd owners so there may have been some negligence by the previous owners but the CARFAX didn’t show anything wrong.

          Before doing the HG the mechanic showed them the engine bay and there were tons of grayish stop leak in the radiator.
          I drove the car a week before this happened, it was odd because the coolant reservoir would dry out but there was no white smoke to speak off and the dummy temp light would blink intermittently.
          Why would Subaru use a dummy temp light instead of a full gauge on cars powered by this notorious engine was beyond reason. The instant MPG analog gauge looks like an afterthought when you have a trip computer to do so.

        • 0 avatar

          My Brother’s 2011 Legacy had the head gaskets go at 120k miles. Curious if the past 2012 thing is real or not.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @JMO:

      I think you listed the entire model range. I’d say that qualifies as “often,” LOL.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Were these ever sold outside Australia?

  • avatar
    redapple

    I like manufacturers that give the buyer more than the basics. Like my post a couple days back on the Accord. Now this Subaru with a radio with:
    Weather Band
    CD and
    Tape Player !

    Whoa!

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Saab had the weather band radio built in on the OG 900 and 9-3 until the new model arrived for the 2003 model year. They were also on the 9000 and 9-5 models. Additionally according to some threads on Saab central some 9-2X Saabaru owners search out Subarus of this vintage for the weather band radio.

      As a kid I had a Radio Shack transistor radio as well as one from Lafayette that had the built in weather band. It always worked in the NYC metro area but apparently in some regions of the country it could be spotty.

      • 0 avatar

        Loved the Weather band reception in my 9-3. There are five active channels in the US, most of the US will get one of them. If I’m playing with a VHF radio it’s one of the first channels I look for, most of the US is covered.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Subaru 360 link is pretty hysterical. It’s obviously early in their American presence; the model line up includes the 360, the pickup, the van, and the Star 1 (2 door), Star 2 (4 door), and Star 3 (wagon). The last 3 have a semblance to the early Subarus I remember.

    Also, the narrator guy keeps calling them Sue-BARR-roo.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    I’ve owned a few Subarus since 1981, the last being a 1999 Outback wagon bought used in 2002 with 84k on it. Here’s a summary of my problems with the ‘99, in just 30k miles:

    3 Years Old Dealer Maintained:
    Bad chassis vibration at 3000RPM.
    A/C compressor fried, contaminating the whole system.
    Transmission leaks, corrosion of filter/body, and in the end, poor shifting.
    Rear wiper froze up.
    Weird, snap oversteer at a certain steering input due to bad suspension durability.
    Aluminum wheels that leaked air.
    Mileage drops 20% in cold weather.
    Poor cold driveability.
    Speedometer works intermittently.
    Dash lights burned out.
    Power window switches failed.
    Seat bolster’s foam crumbled.
    AWD system is simply FWD till the fronts spin enough, offering no directional stability in snow.
    Rear liftgate handle corrodes and become inoperative.

    Subaru, like VWs I’ve owned, seems to have hit-or-miss reliability. Some seem reliable or at least meet somebody’s expectation of reliability, some don’t. If the overall fleet-score is better than average, then that means there’s a lot of lemons being suffered out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      Been an owner since 1994, several different models. Glad I missed all that. Had a transmission issue once with my SVX but had a local Aamco guy fix it cheap. That was the extent of my transmission problems.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      @DetroitX

      This must be about the 43rd time you’ve ragged on about your secondhand Subaru on TTAC, Are you an elephant? Do you never forget? Blaming Subaru for some dumb previous owner’s lack of maintenance has been your schtick for almost two decades now! Your complaint is irrelevant, at best.

      I bought a new ’99 Impreza TS in the fall of ’98, and the only thing that went wrong with it until Feb ’08 and 92,000 miles was the rusting out of the upper fuel filler pipe. Best car I ever owned in the maintenance outlay stakes, less than $900 in unexpected repairs. It was the 2.2l and never suffered the head gasket issue caused by the huge thin wobbly cylinders in the die-cast block halves and 99.5 mm bore of the SOHC EJ 2.5l that came out for the ’98 1/2 model year. The 2.5 previously had DOHC and scuffed the cam lobes due to too small oil drillings, so that ended up as a “head problem” as well. Yes, I knew the local Subie mechanic who eventually won third place at the Subaru world mwchanics championship in Japan. Saw all the 2.5 SOHC blocks scattered about in the shop. Other than that schemozzle, Subarus were remarkably reliable — I’d met the mechanic years before when he was the top local Audi guy and I ran those pieces of crap for twenty years. And like he said, when it came to quality Subaru won going away, so when the dealer split in two to be separate Subie and Audi dealers, he went with the Subaru half.

      I figure my anecdote is as relevant as your continual carping. Especially since my next car after my Impreza was a Legacy GT that ran like a train in the mechanical department for 12 years, until one day the automatic decided “enough” of these 6600 rpm shifts. It owed me nothing either.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        People still won’t buy GM because their Wife’s Grandmother’s Brother’s Mistress had an Olds Diesel in Reagan’s first term and they heard it was real bad. Yeah, people that have bad experiences with a car online griping about it on a car forum. Crazy, right?

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        Don’t care. The truth hurts. The truth repeated isn’t forgotten. Stay tuned for post #44-8000 on my fully relevant experience with a my defective POS Subaru. Enjoy.

    • 0 avatar

      I have had two Subaru’s, and yeah they would need something really compelling to get me to buy another. Subarus have lots of issues, but owners who love them which seems to let them forgive the issues. The last person I recommended a Subaru too was my brother in 2010 and his 2011 recently had the head gaskets fail, along with a bunch of other little issues. In general after my experience and extended family experience I steer people away.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Head gasket repair is not very costly if you find a good non-dealer Subaru tech that does these daily. Typically around $1,500 to $1,700. When you add up other maintenance costs over 100,000 miles which are basically nothing, and add in the head gasket, overall it’s not an expensive car to maintain.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Subaru actually sold the Outback sedan, I want to say actually called an SUS at the time, until 2007.

  • avatar

    I’ve had enough after the fact upset legal consults with Subie owners, all non enthusiast, unhappy about the multiple expensive repairs…

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