Pleasant Pleiades: 83k-mile 1985 Subaru GL 4WD Turbo

It's just not everyday you come across a 27-year old Subaru GL in this kind of condition.

Subaru in the 1980s were a really cool car company. This was before they became the dull L.L. Bean-mobiles of today. It was when they still placed an emphasis on all-wheel drive, but their cars were economical, compact, and relatively lightweight.

They were also styled somewhat provocatively with hard, crisp angles and edges. Their XT coupe is a new classic of modern auto design, and it featured a lot of technology that was ahead of its time.

The GL was close behind.

Japanese manufacturers had finally emerged from the shadow of European design and came into their own. The fuel crises of the 1970s combined with form over function design principles forced the Japanese to create highly utilitarian products intended for maximum usage while also being aesthetically pleasing. Although even the best Japanese designs were usually inspired by something from Germany or Italy, it was their entry-level economy cars of the 80s (something that the Germans and Italians hadn't quite mastered, at least for the U.S. market) that defined Japanese design as clean, simple, and uplifting. They were family-friendly but still sporty looking. They were distinctive without being decorative. They just fit on modern American roads.

Subaru used the GL nameplate for several generations of vehicles. This is the first year of an all-new body that lasted until 1994.

The seller is a dealer who have done a phenomenal job photographing the car with a ton of high-res photos and offering documentation and proof of the low mileage and careful ownership that car has. They state the odometer reads only an utterly remarkable 83,520 original miles, and the car has spent its whole life in California, before coming to Nevada where it is now.

Perhaps even more impressive is the condition. The deep "Crest Brown" metallic paint looks new. The vehicle has no rust. The interior is nothing less than immaculate. The owner wisely realized the dry and sunny west coast climate usually cracks plastic dashboards so they placed a nicely fitting mat over it. Note the digital speedometer, a visual treat for fans of vintage electronics.

What makes this GL an extra special treat is the equipment level. This example has a 1.8-litre SOHC 4-cylinder engine that is turbocharged, on-demand 4-wheel drive, and on-demand pneumatic air suspension with height control. Awesome. Cruising down the highway at 80mph? Lower the suspension. Need to maneuver through water, mud or snow? Heighten the suspension, switch on the 4WD. Nowadays, most Subaru owners don't have these choices, let alone almost all vehicle owners. When the consumer loses choices, we all lose.

The seller states the vehicle has recently been given new axles, distributor cap, plug wires, battery and an a/c charge.

This car is not only a low-mileage survivor, but it's in unusually good shape and has some really cool optional equipment. It definitely deserves a new owner as loving as the previous was apparently.

If you are a Subaru fanatic or just have an itch for this, grab it. There probably isn't another one like it.

Find it here on ebay.


  1. The seller's ebay feedback is a little worrying, and his ebay photo is a little creepy, but there is no arguing with the impressive array of detailed photos and information provided. Wow. I would feel more confident if a CarFax report was provided, but that's about it.

    I love Subaru's little warning sticker on the unfortunate (but not surprising) automatic transmission: "avoid hard driving when AT OIL TEMP warning light goes on." Confidence inspiring.

    This car is in amazing condition for it's age, and particularly impressive since it's such a highly equipped model (assuming everything really works). In the Northeast, these 80's Subarus have long since disappeared - used up and/or rusted away.

    Unlike many things from the 80's, the exterior design has held up remarkably well. Even the brown color is now trendy again! The interior is totally 80's, but more in a novelty way, not in an offensive way.

    In keeping with the function over form theme, it seemed like many of these early 4WD Subaru sedans were driven by middle-age or older women living in rural snowy areas. They were all over the place in places like Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Seeing a native California car equipped this way feels unusual.

    While this little Subie is totally not me, I really like it. Great find, Sam!

  2. Replies
    1. Larry I wish I could get you on board doing follow up posts with sales results, I appreciate you checking that. I've wanted to tally the bids on all cars I post for a while now but it's hard to keep track of everything. And then they get re-listed again and again (like so many ebay cars).

    2. If I'm curious, I follow-up sometimes. Not consistently though. I wish I had that kind of time for my car curiosity.

  3. I have one sitting in the backyard

    Hard to part w/such a unique car especially
    Since I custom built it to be dual range 4wd
    Air shocks have been replaced

    As for now she sits in hibernation until more coin can be mustered up to invest! Probably the hardest engine to repair
    Very tedious

    I will be that old man one day cruising around in my 1987 gl10 4wd turbo sedan
    (Loaded) car was way ahead of its time !
    I also have a 1983 suby convertible too
    (Needs a new custom built top)

    I have not given up on my dreams and projects

    Had brat(s) xt6's wagons coupes

    Only car I know that will bring you places
    We've pushed them to their limits and they just don't quit!