Big Shocker: 1979 Subaru FE Electric Car

061616 Barn Finds - 1979 Subaru FE Coupe Electric Car - 2

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Big shocker (no pun intended), but this is an odd one. It’s a 1979 Subaru FE Electric Car! It’s located in Warsaw, New York and is listed on eBay with a $2,000 Buy It Now price.  The seller says that “it was converted to electric by the previous owner.”

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This is a very rare car, even without the EV part of it. The Subaru FE, meaning Fuel Efficient, was Fuji Heavy Industry’s answer to.. well, to getting more mpg out of every gallon of gas. It was rated at 33 mpg city and 50 mpg highway, pretty good for today’s standards; although safety-wise it can’t touch a modern car, but that’s true of any vehicle that’s almost four decades old. You can see that the roof is sleeker with a lower, more wind-cheating shape. I think that it’s a very cool shape, but you already knew that I’d like this car.

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Well, “cool shape” other than those mandated bumpers, ugh. The European version looked much better with smaller bumpers. The seller mentions that there “are a few rust spots that can be seen in the pictures. There are two small spots where the paint is bubbling because of rust on the trunk lid. Also there is a spot on the passenger door frame that I put rust converter on and covered with some paint.” Here’s an interesting old ad for the Subaru FE, the normal one.

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The interior photos are absolutely horrible, I’ll just go out on a limb and say that publicly. Sorry for being so blunt, Mr./Ms. Seller, but dang. There isn’t an overall 3/4 shot of the car at all and there really aren’t any photos that show the dash, just snippets and detail shots. That’s always a red flag to me. Here’s one of the like-new-looking rear seat, and the passenger seat looks great, too. They do say that “the driver’s seat is badly ripped”, but that can be fixed. Maybe not with an exact match for the vinyl, though. Also, “there is a small water leak on the drivers side. The previous owner ripped the carpet out on the drivers side to try to find the leak. I never found it but I suspect it may be the seal around the windshield.”

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Here’s the engine, or motor, in this case. The seller says that the “motor controller is an Alltrax 7245 set to 90 volt max output. The motor is from Advanced DC. I believe it is model FB1-4001. It measures 9 inches in diameter and around 17 inches long. The motor can be used up to 144 volts so a much larger motor controller could be used if you wanted a faster car.” Uhhhhh.. they just lost me. Not having a clue about such things, I’d much rather have this car if it had the factory 1.6 (1,596 cc) gas-powered engine in it! I just like this one because it’s unusual x 10 with the EV conversion. And, this car needs batteries, preferably updated lithium batteries for less weight, more power, and a longer range. Now, I know for sure that this car doesn’t match up with 90% of Barn Finds reader’s interests. But, is there even one, lone, solitary, sane, rational person out there who thinks this is a cool and interesting car other than myself? Hello? (crickets)..

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. RayT

    Rip out motor. Install Subaru engine/radiator. Throw away extra batteries, wiring, etc. Enjoy.

    As it sits this Electro-Sube probably has a range that can be measured in yards, a long, long recharge time and a top speed in the high single digits, unless it is a RARE exception to every homebuilt electric car I’ve ever seen.

    Right now, I’d put the value at about 10% of what the seller is asking.

    Like 0
  2. Paul

    OK Scotty, I will leave you off the hook. I do agree with you on several points. I agree with you about the body style, I also like it. It puts me in mind of a 1975/76 Toyota Celica. I really liked them as well. I also agree that the 1.6L would be more beneficial than the electric. I also suppose that this maybe a cool thing for a techie too. Hmmmm wonder if it is still AWD. I think they had it in 1979

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    • RayT

      Don’t think it’s AWD. No badges proclaiming that feature, and in those days Subaru was building a lot of FWD-only cars. My sister had one; sadly, it wasn’t an FE, which does have that cool silhouette going for it.

      I dig the “5 speeds” trunklid badge!

      Like 1
  3. Kincer DaveMember

    If I had the funds and the knowledge I’d build it up like that old white electric Datsun B210 that runs in the 9s, now that would be fun!

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  4. Scooter

    I love it.

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  5. Blueprint

    I have driven most EVs on the market for a string of articles, and considering all the computer programming and engineering that go into EVs to enhance their drivability, things like this just scare me! Convert back to gas, use a big 2.5 to generate some grins.

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  6. Car39

    The FE motors rotated in the opposite direction of the normal 1600 cc Subaru. Don’t remember the reason. Also there was a mid year change to the seats to give more headroom. I had a 79 demo with the high seats, and had to swap out the driver’s seat for a short customer who had a low seat car. They looked the same, but there was a difference. Now you would probably need a 40 page document to do the swap because of the airbags.

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    • Blueprint

      Correction: you would need to resubmit copies of the modified vehicle for the various crash tests.

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  7. Scotty GAuthor

    Ha, great comments! I wasn’t sure if there would be even one!

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  8. George

    10-15 mile range with new batteries? That wouldn’t even get me to work! Pass. Except it probably won’t pass… Tip your waiter.

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  9. Jim

    I’ve got the same motor that we pulled out of an Electric Audi. I’d be glad to sell it if anyone is interested.

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  10. DW

    I like it. And at 2k it wouldn’t be a huge risk for getting into an EV (a good lawn tractor costs more than that these days).

    BUT a 10 mile range wouldn’t quite get me into town… which means I’d be calling the wife to bring me…uh… a generator? a 10 mile long extension cord? Seven cars with booster cables?

    Ug. Probably just a can of gas and a match.

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  11. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    I love it, but then I had one in the 80s, a 79 FE exactly like this one. Fun commuter car for my 2 hour daily round trip, I wrecked it one snowy, icy morning, pounded out the damaged rear quarter, and kept driving it. Seems like 8 months later I was rear ended at a stop light, and it finally bit the dust. I’d take another one, except I have many neater projects that are more fun to drive if I needed another commuter, now I only have a 15 minute drive to work.

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  12. Don Tennison

    Had one back in my youth, same color and everthin’. I drove the wheels off it and couldn’t kill it, I just loved the car. Too many stories to go into, I would love to convert it back to gas. Most these weren’t four wheel drive in fact this is around the time it became available. This with a WRX powertrain, wow!


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  13. Thomas N True

    I would like to suggest that you consider the option of donating this electric vehicle to the historic electric vehicle organization (Contact Roderick Wilde at to get more information).
    There are hundreds of visitors at the museum from around the world who visit each year that would enjoy seeing such an example from this period of the electric vehicle era.

    Like 0
  14. Stephen Bowers

    I would love it. I miss my FE that was taken from my life by a drunk driver. I had so much fun driving mine. Hard to find them in driving shape now. I paid $600 for mine back then and miss it so bad.

    Like 0

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