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Only 9,900 Miles? 1980 Subaru GL 1800

Oddities and collectability often go together, as is the case with this little 1980 Subaru GL 1800, available on craigslist for an asking price of $6500. If you want it, it’s waiting for you in Woodbury, Tennessee, sporting four doors and only 9900 miles on its original engine. This one was spotted for us by Chuck Foster, whose tips are always worth pursuing. So if this is your kind of collectible, better make a phone call. Pass this up, and you’ll wait a long time for another one.

What’s the market for this car? If nothing else, it’s an interesting moment in the history of gasoline-powered conveyances. Subaru of America came to be in 1967, when Malcolm Bricklin contracted to bring the first tiny Subaru models to the US. By 1980, they were still a company that sold cars mainly to people who carried rural mail and folks from Vermont, who needed the AWD capability of many of the company’s offerings. Don’t laugh—in the 1990s, I worked for Subaru’s ad agency. Our primary charge was to change the public’s perception of all-wheel drive, which most cars did not need but that was featured on every Subie. What the Subaru has always been is rugged, and now half a century on, they have a full lineup from small- and medium-sized sedans, to the WRX sports car, to various wagons and SUVs and even a shared model with Toyota, which in Subaru form is called the BRZ. It, please note, is rear-wheel drive.

Who collects this marque? Here’s a surprise for you: One thing the seller could do is contact Subaru at their corporate office. I don’t remember the guy’s name, but there was someone in New Jersey whose ambition was to buy back various models offered by the company over the past years. Maybe he, or his successor, is still curating the collection. For this kind of money, I’d bet there’d be interest in this four-door sedan. Heck, I’d take it just to stare at that tiny engine and front-mounted spare tire.

But should you or some other lucky person decide that this car is just worth it on its own merits and bought it to drive, you’d be getting a super-low-mileage four-door that has been kept in a climate-controlled garage and looks like it. The only thing you’ll find wrong is some fading paint, but that’s all that separates the car from its Japan-born self. How can you go wrong at this price, or some reasonable offer? Would five grand do it?


  1. alphasud Member

    My first experience with Subaru was buying a 83 GL-10 sedan with the 5-speed. It was traded at the Indy shop I worked for with bad bearings in the 5-speed transaxle. I worked on mostly VW and Audi products and I was suprised how easy the car was to work on and how intuitive the transaxle was to repair. Also saw a lot of similarities in design to an early VW. This car was loaded to the 10’s with a digital dash, power everything, fancy stereo, and a cool hill holder clutch. Drove ok but compared to a 80’s VW and Audi product there was no comparison. Subaru had a lot of work to do. Did I think it was a cool car in its own right. Yes, very much so.

    Like 22
  2. Yblocker

    Who cares

    Like 4
    • MotoMichael

      12 people thus far, including me. 😐

      Like 18
    • Gregg

      I do…

      Like 5
  3. Stan

    Buddys family had a wagon 2wd Subaru maybe a GL not sure mid/early 80s number. It was a lemon 🍋

    Like 4
    • Bob Devaney

      Don’t hear that much about Subies. Too bad.

      Like 0
  4. BA

    My grand dad of people own the wagon which shouldn’t surprise me as he was a engineer at Heniz for 50 years ! He drove jeeps until the 1970s usually a Cherokee but then he retired and then drove Subies till the day he died. He was a hunter/fisherman/ mushroom gathering naturalist & traveled from upper Michigan to northwest Ohio . They served him well . He was born in 1912 and knew the great depression well he was a great man in my eyes.

    Like 17
  5. Big Bear 🇺🇸

    These Subies were good. My cousin’s had these all the time. When they rust out get another used one. Always a stick never a slush box like this one. I feel if this one was a stick it would be gone quick. It’s a great looking one. Good luck to the next owner.. 🐻🇺🇸

    Like 7
    • bone

      The problem is, they rust fast. Its hard enough to find a solid 2010 Subaru on the East coast let alone a 43 year old one ( which you’ll never find here)

      Like 4
  6. CarNutDan

    My aunt had a wagon version of this when i was a little kid i think it was a dark blue color.
    This would be great to take to cars and coffee events or radwood era car shows.

    Like 4
  7. Aussie Dave Aussie Dave Member

    I’ve owned 2 L wagons. In aus the 4WD wagons were simply called “L”.
    The first was an 84, 4 speed manual, no dual range, no air con, no pwr steering, loved it, best “beach ” car I’ve ever owned. Loved passing “real” 4WD’s that were bogged, lol. Unstoppable on sand. And as I like to fish perfect.
    The 2nd was a 94 L wagon, 5 speed manual, dual range, air, steer , etc. Almost as capable as the 84, certainly the longer nose caused issues.
    Back to this little gem, I love it, but I’d put the L wagon running gear underneath her. But make it RWD when in 2WD mode.
    What can I say, I’m a hoon, lol.
    Oh reminds me, never try and do a hand brake turn in them. The hand brake is connected to the front wheels. Ask me, lol

    Like 8
  8. Nelson C

    Subarus were beginning to resemble regular cars about this time. My friends Mom had an early BRAT which was kind of interesting to drive. This is a neat little car for someone to drive and show. Great conversation starter.

    Like 7
  9. Kirk

    Think I already told this tale about my 82 Subaru GLF I bought for 25 dollars at a Saturday night party but anyway I ask the guy what does GLF stand for and he said ‘ good fn luck ‘ I said but that’s.. .nevermind what’s wrong with it .. nothing, jus needs a clutch. So I bought it and next morning we went down pryed the motor off the tranny enough to slide the clutch out took it to the junkyard and eyeball it up to one that said Hyundai pony on it off their used parts shelf for like 10 bucks If I recall correctly ..drove back to the GLF installed the clutch put it all back together fired it right up and proceeded to drive it for about almost a year and I drove as hard as you could imagine someone could drive a 25 dollar car that was pale yellow and FWD 4 CYL so was not anything I cared much for but I have to admit that car was tough as nails and never broke down once or did I ever break any part on it .. made a few cry but it gained my respect for sure . Redlined that little boxer motor daily and it sounded Good doing it . Dirt roads getting airborne you name it. It was a tin can and the seats were hard as wood but vouche for their durability in any rally race . . Would I pay 6grand for a 4door auto with no miles..? Nope never .. mine was actually not bad looking kinda sporty in a 2 door

    Like 8
  10. SirRaoulDuke

    I’m being serious: if I were building my hypothetical lottery-winner car collection, this is exactly the kind of vehicle I would be interested in. I love some oddball survivors, cars you would expect exactly no one to preserve. And you know this would get more real conversation at cars and caffeine than another Porsche or Ferrari.

    I’d also need a GL wagon with the cyclops light in the grill. Too cool.

    Like 11
    • Rex Rumfelt

      I have one for sale. New Mexico car. No rust. 1975 wagon with an early 80’s brat engine. Runs,drives,stops. Orig. 2 tone green paint with white top.

      Like 0
  11. Aussie Dave Aussie Dave Member

    Agreed, a Brumby (brat) is in my lotto winnings wish list

    Like 4
  12. samiam

    Our local Chevrolet dealer added Subaru in the late 70’s-early 80’s, and sold a ton of them, which was really something for our rural area as the closest Toyota, Datsun, Honda dealers were all an hour away from us. So, many people in our town bought them. Most of them had tan paint, I remember. Nearly every one of our friends that worked at the factories about 30 minutes away bought them new for their commuter cars due so their inexpensive prices and AWD.

    Like 3
    • Paul Alexander

      I was in the foreign car repair business for over 40 years. Never saw too many of these, but the few we had as customers were amazing. Usually nothing more than tuneups and oil changes, and the occasional brake pad replacement. Their owners swore by them, and most put hundreds of thousands of trouble free miles on them. Never saw a rusty one, but then, I was in New Mexico. The One in this article will probably go nearly ‘forever’, if properly maintained. Personally, I’d prefer AWD and stick.

      Like 1
  13. Sean Howard

    The issues with this one:

    Not AWD
    Not a wagon

    Not worth $6.5k

    Like 3
  14. Richard

    I’ve had three Subarus. The first two went over 200K miles with no major repairs. The latest, a 2021 Forester has been a great vehicle so far. It’s not surprising that this example has lasted 44 years.
    They don’t rust, being built of galvanized steel. The flat engines have optimal oil distribution. These cars will last a long time, with just preventive maintainence.
    I’ve owned most of the Japanese makes, and have been happy with all of them. However, if I had to buy one more car to last the rest of my life, it would be a Subaru.

    Like 1
    • bone

      No Subaru can go 200k without a valve job and head gaskets. And they do rust, and they aren’t galvanized . Iwork at a Subaru dealership, and we see plenty of rust – maybe you live in the desert ?

      Like 2
  15. Mark T Kotasek

    Engine compartment, wheels and interior look quite clean as does the body. It is a southern car that could have been cleaned up. Cant tell from the photos. Not a bad looking car. As others have said, probably not worth $6500. Maybe $4k-4500.

    Like 0

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