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.
Living in Colorado (as I do) and spending a lot of time in junkyards ( as I do), I see discarded Subarus. Lots of discarded Subarus, in fact, so many that I only notice the more interesting ones — say, an XT Turbo or a really ancient wagon out of a novelty song.
Today’s Junkyard Find isn’t particularly noteworthy by those standards, but it seems to embody so many Denver Subaru stereotypes that I decided to photograph it. High mileage, high final owner, and high levels of oxidation, all here at a mile-high junkyard.
The Rare Rides series has dabbled in AMC previously, cataloging some of the fun ideas generated by the good people of Kenosha, Wisconsin. We’ve featured the luxury targa Concord Sundancer, the unrealized Van, a baroque Matador Barcelona, and the Renault-by-AMC Alliance GTA. But none of those represents the AMC brand quite as well as today’s Rare Ride. It’s a pre-CUV crossover. A luxurious Subaru Outback, before there was such a thing.
It’s of course an Eagle 4×4 wagon, looking Limited in black over tan.
Your Rare Ride today is a quite old 1981 Subaru GL wagon. It comes complete with a manual transmission, brownish paint, 4×4 drivetrain, brougham Desert Fox trim, and plaid seats. I figured you wouldn’t be too interested in seeing it.
Oh, who am I kidding? You all clicked through as soon as you saw the headline image, and you’ll be glad you did.
I once read a book abut Subaru’s history in the American market, which I assume makes me an expert on all things Fuji Heavy. That and I came home from the hospital in a GL10 Turbo station wagon, which suffered an ignominious death from rust just months later. But somehow, there was a gap in my Subaru knowledge, specifically with their two-door models.
You could buy the Subaru BRAT in the United States until the 1987 model year (though removing the Chicken Tax-loophole jump seats— which made the BRAT a passenger car, legally speaking— meant that it got a lot more expensive in 1985). Thing is, Coloradans love BRATs, which means you can’t even find a total basket-case example for cheap here. What to do? Why, take a beater 4WD Leone aka GL hatchback and apply ingenuity!
Every time I do a Junkyard Find with a Subaru (for example, the ’79 BRAT we saw yesterday), I mention the large numbers of other old Subarus to be found in the same yard. How many? Well, at the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay (where I found the BRAT), I decided to walk through the entire Imports section and get a photograph of every Subaru from the early 1990s or earlier.
If you’re familiar with the story of kickbacks and dodgy dealings at American Honda in the 1970s and 1980s (yes, copies of Arrogance and Accords go for $150 a pop these days), you know that getting a new Accord was quite a challenge for American car buyers during the Late Malaise Era. You sure as hell weren’t going to get that shiny new Accord hatchback for anywhere near invoice, if you could find one at all… but hold on now, what’s that affordable, Japanese-built, gas-sipping front-wheel-drive hatchback at the dealership across the street, the car that looks so Accord-like? Surely it must be every bit as good as the Honda, yes?
You didn’t start seeing Subarus in large numbers in North America until the third-gen Leone showed up. Even so, most of these quarter-century-old veterans are gone now, even in regions they once dominated (e.g. New England, Colorado). I found this more-80s-than- Wang Chung example in a Denver self-service yard a few weeks back, and I had no choice but to document this soon-to-be-rare piece of Subaru history.
While Malaise Era Subarus have disappeared from just about every location in the world outside of Colorado, a Subaru Leone sedan is a rare sight even here in Denver. At first glance, I wasn’t sure whether I was looking at a Corolla or maybe even another RX-2.
The Malaise Subaru Apocalypse is in full swing in Colorado, if we are to judge from the selection of old Leones in Denver junkyards these days. Yesterday, we saw this ’82 GL “Cyclops”, but that was just the beginning of the Subaru death toll in this yard. A few rows away, I found this brown GL wagon, a little rustier than the ’82 but still appearing to have plenty of life left in it. Is anyone restoring these things?
Denver being the Land of Subarus, I see plenty of 20-year-old GLs, Loyales, and whatever else the marketing wizards at Fuji Heavy Industries decided to call the Leone over here. What I don’t see often is examples of the hatchback coupe version of the Leone, so I did a double-take when this car caught my eye today.
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