By on December 27, 2021

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne great thing about living in Colorado, where new residents are issued a dog and a Subaru when they arrive, is that I can find examples of just about every Subaru model sold here since the late 1970s in the local car graveyards. That means that I have plenty of opportunities to observe the gloriously weird SVX, once its street days are finished.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe SVX, known as the Alcyone SVX in its homeland, was the successor to the somewhat oddball XT. It was the most expensive and most powerful Subaru ever offered in North America when it appeared here for the 1992 model year, and especially impressive considering the agonizingly proletarian Subarus we got here just a decade or so earlier.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, side glass - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThere’s no way crazy side glass like this would ever make it past Subaru of America’s focus groups today, but the 1990s saw the last gasp of the lengthy battle for weirdness supremacy between Subaru and Mitsubishi.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars1996 was the final model year for the SVX here, and the list price for a 1996 SVX AWD L (which is what we’re looking at) came to $28,750 (about $51,755 in 2021 dollars). The most expensive Legacy Outback you could buy that year cost a mere $20,005.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, H6 Engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 3.3-liter H6 engine in this car made 230 horsepower, good for a quarter-mile time in the mid-15s.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause Subaru didn’t have a manual transmission that could survive behind the H6’s output, every SVX made came with a four-speed Jatco automatic. Even so, the transmission proved to be the weak point in these cars; most junked SVXs I see have been fairly clean and uncrashed, so I assume that transmission woes ended their careers.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, red tag - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one has a red tag from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s, citing it for having been “left unattended and unmoved on the roadway.”

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, ignition switch - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe key is still in the ignition switch, so perhaps the ol’ SVX finally blew up in Arvada or Golden and its owner just walked away.

1996 Subaru SVX in Colorado junkyard, Wolf bra - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn its heyday, a Wolf bra protected its snout from chips.


It thinks it’s a BMW, only better.


I expected the home-market Alcyone SVX ads to be frantic, but they’re pretty schmaltzy.

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33 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Subaru SVX...”


  • avatar
    drnoose

    That pop up ad or whatever you call it has made this site just about unusable.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Kudos to the last driver to leave the key in the ignition to let all know it is dead!

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Yeah this was smart. Old Subes are usually engineered for a catastrophic sadistic failure to befall their last and poorest owner. Lost a 2002 Outback once. Timing belt fail. That blow knocked me wobbly. But what left me twitching on the canvas were the tow fee, diagnostic fee, and parking ticket from when the heap was sitting dead on a snow route by the mechanic’s shop. I got hit with that last one on the way down for good measure. Best just to take the plates off and leave it there. Or better yet set it on fire if there’s gasoline left in the tank.

  • avatar
    seppi

    1. The last year for the SVX was 1997, not 1996.

    2. The weak point of the SVX was not the transmission, but the rear axle CV joints

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      I had an SVX LS for 8 years. I never had the rear CV joint issue since it was front wheel drive, but went through 18 rear wheel bearings over that time and had a transmission failure when the fluid drained out one day through a casting flaw in the housing. This might sound crazy but I enjoyed every second driving that car.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It is surprising that the SVX made it to production.

    They always appeared to have broken springs, to me at least, with how low they sat.

    185k isn’t bad for this car.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    185k isn’t a bad run.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’m kind of surprised to see this here, these command big bucks on the classic cars auction sites. Even with so many miles I would think some one would have taken it as a project car

  • avatar
    JMII

    Even when these were sold new you never saw them. This is one of those vehicles you complete forget about because they were so rare. They were sleek and futuristic looking but the insane pricing and silly windows likely complete killed all sales.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    Having driven my 1992 Subaru SVX LS-L, which I bought used at 17,000 miles in 1994, for about 85,000 miles until I sold it, and having owned several interesting cars since then, I do think that the SVX was the most satisfying car I’ve ever owned. Not a sports car, the SVX was truly a grand tourer, a real GT.

    It certainly wasn’t the most reliable. The JATCO transmission failed. Later models of the SVX had a transmission oil cooler which apparently solved the overheating that led to the failure of my car’s transmission.

    The design and utility of the SVX was superb. Esthetically it was a success. The window within a window, when opened, did allow quiet cruising at high speeds. On the other hand, paying a toll booth attendant was difficult.

    The SVX did not have a height-adjustable suspension.

    Both front headlight housings and rear taillight housings admitted water.

    Failure of rear-wheel bearings, shared on most Subaru vehicles, was common in those years.

    Would I buy a used SVX? No, because it’s an orphan model. Cannibalizing another SVX is the only source for parts.

    If Subaru did offer a similar SVX today, I’d be sorely tempted to buy it, even though I drive a 2018 Audi SQ5, which I ordered to my specifications and which has been a delight to drive and to own.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      There is at least one teal green example in Zürich, I spotted it on Uraniastrasse in 2016. Same day a ’75-78 silver Town Car also made an appearance, I’m sure the Swiss owner was puzzled by my reaction (shaking my fist in the air in approval).

      • 0 avatar
        CaddyDaddy

        ’75-78 silver Town Car in Switzerland. mmmm.. had me daydreaming a bit. No Compromise downsizing like the B-Body competition over at GM.

      • 0 avatar
        Heino

        Love seeing American iron in Europe (or anywhere else).

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          There’s a lot more American stuff scattered through Europe than most would expect. I was pleasantly surprised. What I did find odd is that some it would certainly be the least desirable American stuff available…both of these observations have held true for the last few decades, though I haven’t been to Europe in the past 8 years…

  • avatar
    DungBeetle62

    Just remember, Isuzu was still well in the weirdness olympics during this time period.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    On second glance that alternator looks like so much fun to change out.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      It appears to be the same as most Subarus. That plastic trim piece pops off, there’s a metal cross piece with two bolts under it, and the alternator rotates up and out after pulling a couple bolts and the wiring connectors. Maybe three minutes tops.

  • avatar
    spamvw

    Engine might be a nice upgrade to the 2.5 subee in the back of the Vanagon right now

    Some people do it.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      And I know at least one of these has been manual-swapped. Always best to let someone else pioneer that project.

      I have no idea what can be done to cure the dive and roll. One ran at my local autocross, and it really wallowed.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m surprised that the engine is still intact since the 3.3 H-6 is popular among the VW Microbus/Vanagon Subaru engine swap folks.
    The JATCO transmission is a weak spot on these and a number of owners have swapped in the manual from the Legacy.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I was shopping a very used XT at a Subaru dealership in the 90s sometime and remember a “new” 2 year old SVX in the showroom. Blew my mind because I thought they were awesome. Then again, I was trying to buy a clapped out XT so what did I know

  • avatar

    When I came to Valley in 2000 I saw few of these Subarus on parking lots. But then I also saw Avanti and DeLorean every day in Gilead parking in Foster City when walking after lunch and it was in 2010s. Apparently some enthusiasts were commuting to work in these rare classic cars. I never saw these cars in Russia but one of my neighbors owned 1990 Town Car.

  • avatar
    davew833

    I purchased and tinkered with half a dozen of these until about 9-10 years ago. Unique body style, bulletproof non-interference EG33 H6 engine, and effortless highway cruising were the upsides. The downsides have been mentioned: weak transmission, rear wheel bearings, less-than-stellar handling, etc. Others include rust under the plastic body cladding, especially on the doors, floppy sunvisors, and the fact that certain factory parts are NLA, like struts (very limited aftermarket options), interior parts (the aforementioned visors) and especially the $1200(!) titanium-coated windshield that was color-matched to the rest of the glass depending on the body color of the car.

  • avatar
    settsu

    I’m an auto enthusiast who specifically has always had a thing for the SVX. I think the number of times I’ve seen one wouldn’t require every finger. Didn’t know of their issues until reading the comments here, so I’m glad having never fallen hard for one, but I still wouldn’t mind one populating my dream garage…

  • avatar
    graham64

    The red reflectors on the boot/trunk to visually integrate the tail lights was a bit of a styling fad in the 1990’s.

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