Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru GL Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Prior to the 1980s, Subarus were known by Americans more for being tiny and cheap than anything else (though some car shoppers in snow-prone areas came to appreciate Subaru's optional four-wheel-drive system during that time), but then the bigger second-generation Leone went on sale here for the 1980 model year and Subaru became quite a bit more mainstream on our shores. Today's Junkyard Find is one of those second-gen cars, found in a Colorado self-service yard.

junkyard find 1984 subaru gl sedan

1984 was the last model year here for the second-generation Leone in sedan, coupe and wagon form; the US-market hatchback stayed on this chassis through 1989 and the BRAT pickup through 1987.

Subaru didn't use the Leone name in the United States, so all the (non-BRAT) Leone-based cars sold here were called "The Subaru" and badged according to trim level until the Loyale name appeared for the 1990 model year. The plastic under the faux-chrome emblems was bright yellow, so it looks bad when the coating peels off in the Colorado sun.

The GL was the top trim level in 1984, so this car is nicely equipped for its time.

You could get the four-door GL sedan with four-wheel-drive, but this one is a front-wheel-drive car with a five-speed manual transmission (the base and DL Subarus got a four-on-the-floor as standard equipment). If you wanted an automatic transmission, you paid an extra 301 bucks ($875 now).

The list price for a 1984 Subaru GL front-wheel-drive sedan with manual transmission was $7,237, or about $21,040 in 2022 dollars. The absolute cheapest Subaru that year was the base three-door hatchback, which started at $5,096 ($14,815 today).

The GL got a 73-horsepower 1.8-liter boxer four under the hood, while the DL and base Subarus had to get by with a 1.6-liter with 59 horses.

Curb weight was just 2,190 pounds for the GL sedan, meaning it was slow but not intolerably so.

A new AE82 Toyota Corolla sedan went for between $6,498 and $7,198 with five-speed manual transmission in 1984, while a Civic sedan cost $7,099. The Subaru DL and GL were right with them in specs and pricing, and you could pay a bit more and get four-wheel-drive.

This one has air conditioning and an AM/FM radio with separate cassette deck. Back in the early 1990s, I used this easy-to-extract Subaru sound-system setup in a couple of my hooptie cars at the time.

Just better than 150,000 miles on the clock.

These cars rusted enthusiastically, but they don't use much road salt along Colorado's Front Range so the rot on this one happened in slow motion.

Real-world resale value on a rusty 38-year-old Subaru with two-wheel-drive and a manual transmission must be hovering just around scrap value these days, so here it sits, awaiting the cold steel jaws of The Crusher.

The GL-10 was the top version of the Subaru GL.

Number-one-selling import in Maine and Vermont!

Poor abused Subarus.

You don't see many US-market ads for the Leone four-door. For that, we must go to Japan.

The Leone 4WD was a super sedan.

For links to more than 2,300 additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

[Images: The author]

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2 of 8 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on Sep 13, 2022

    I started with an '88 Warthog turbo wagon, as an eight year old winter beater in 1997. Had air suspension, automatic, AWD, the lot and a fuzzy blue interior that was quite comfy. Not a bad old bus. Of course, prewarned by sniggering lads of the Cprescott variety, I checked inside my boxer shorts to see if Shorty was still there before signing the check. Two years later I got an Impreza TS which gave almost ten years service and less than $1k in unplanned repairs. Both exhibited Subaru's less than perfect fuel injection mapping, so occasional hiccups, dead bands in the midrange throttle response and mediocre mileage, but no other quirks. Todays Subarus are a dead zone to me, being perambulating ninny cars, but I look back on the dowdy-looking Warthog as an interesting drive.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Sep 13, 2022

    This car is where it belongs!

  • MRF 95 T-Bird The hideaway headlamps on these and other Ford vehicles of the era could have issues mostly vacuum related. Usually the vacuum hoses that ran to the actuators would deteriorate. The “coffee can” reservoir which was mounted in the front header was rarely an issue because it was protected from the elements. The other coffee can reservoir used for the HVAC controls and actuators and mounted under the passenger side wheel well had a tendency to rot away. I once replaced one on my 70 Mustang when I noticed that the vents were acting janky. Later model Fords like Fox bodies used a durable plastic globe shaped one. The radio on these 69-70 full-size Fords mounted on the left side of aircraft style instrument cluster within the drivers touch probably disappointed many young people. “Mom will you change the station?” “Andy Williams is so square”.
  • MichaelBug For me, two issues in particular:1. It can be difficult for me to maintain my lane on a rainy night. Here in southeastern PA, PennDOT's lane markings aren't very reflective. They can be almost impossible to make out when wet.2. Backing out of a parking space in a lot with heavy pedestrian traffic. Oftentimes people will walk right into my blind spot even if I am creeping back with my 4-way flashers blinking. (No backup camera in my '11 Toyota Camry.)Michael B 🙂
  • Tagbert When you publish series like this, could you include links to the previous articles in the series so that we can follow through? Thank you. Edit: now I see a link embedded in the first paragraph that goes to the previous story. It wasn’t clear at first where that link went but now I understand.
  • DungBeetle62 When you're in one of these, you life in a state of constant low-level nervous about 90% of the time. But that other 10% kinda makes up for it.
  • Garrett Instead of foisting this problem on the car companies and the people who buy cars, make those who possess liquor licenses and those who purchase alcohol take on the economic cost of this problem.