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Big, Bad, Bumpers: 1988 Subaru Loyale GL 4WD

This big-bumpered, blue-hued 4×4 is a 1988 Subaru GL 4WD Hatchback and it’s in fantastic condition for being almost 30 years old. We’ve all seen cars from this manufacturer being more rusted than not and this isn’t one of those. It’s on Craigslist with an ambitious asking price of $5,000. It very well could be worth that if it had a couple of additional features. It can be found in Saint Claire, Pennsylvania.

I’m a sucker for these oddball 4WD Subarus, the non-“normal” ones, if there is such a thing as a normal Subaru! This particular car is a 3-door hatchback, a body style that’s unusual to see. Most of them from this era are either wagons or sedans, a two-door is nice to see for a change. Although, those bumpers, yowsa! You could land a 1968 Cessna 172 Skywawk on those things.

That’s a big, unusual hatchback. May the force be with you if you ever have to replace that rear glass, whew. There’s a decent amount of storage space in the back, and you can pull the cover over your valuables to make sure you’re letting everyone know that you in fact do have valuables under that cover! The seller mentions that “the under carriage is solid – rust free and it was garage kept vehicle for most of its life.” It sure looks perfect inside and out to me.

The interior appears to be almost like new. This car has a touch over 96,000 miles on it which means that it’s barely broken in. My winter car, a 20-year old Outback, has 346,800 miles on it and it literally runs like new. This Loyale GL is a third-generation car and you can see the red button to actuate the 4WD system on the shift lever. Speaking of shift levers, this car has an automatic, like it or not. If it would have had a 5-speed it would have been more fun to drive. But, some folks can’t operate a clutch pedal and sometimes there’s just something about putting it in “D” and letting it do the work for you, especially if you’re stuck in traffic jambs more often than not. I always like seeing power windows in a Subaru of this era, it seems so decadent.

This is a dirty, un-detailed version of Subaru’s EA-82 1.8L boxer-four and it should have around 85-90 hp. A lack of a couple of hours of detailing really lets the look of this engine down compared to how perfect the rest of the car looks. It’s unfortunate that this isn’t the RX turbo model, that would have brought around 115 hp to the table. It’s still not a huge amount of power but it’s a noticeable difference from 85 hp. The seller says that this one has a “new timing belt – cam seals – valve cover gaskets – new radiator – new thermostat.” This one would really be a winner (in my book) if it was a turbo with a 5-speed in this fantastic condition. Have any of you owned a Subaru 4WD hatchback?


  1. bill

    yes those traffic jambs can be brutal.

    • Jay M

      So, then the bumper would make a good door jam?
      Jamnit, im confused…

    • Scotty Staff

      Ha! Good catch, Bill. Sorry about that, I was thinking pocket door installation and had door jamb on my brain. Dang it.

  2. grant

    Hey cool a used car from the ’80’s.

  3. sir mike

    Starting back in 1973 when the ”gov’t” mandated these bumpers we called them ”porno bumpers”

  4. Fred W.

    Just because I enjoy a challenge, I went to “” to see how hard it was to find a back glass. Found it in two minutes for $35. It’s in a ’90 model coupe, but looks the same.

  5. Gunner

    I love it, bumpers and all just because it is such oddball 4WD as Scotty says. I don’t recall seeing this 3-Door Hatchback before (more probable is that I didn’t notice). I would love to have it. I bet it does great in the snow. I always liked having vehicles that were a bit off track from mainstream. 5k is an awful confident price. Best of luck to the Seller. Nice find Scotty :-)

  6. Rock On Member

    You could drive this car up to the side of your swimming pool and use the front bumper for a diving board!

    Like 1
  7. John B

    What is it with Subaru and the spare tire under the hood anyway? I like this car, especially the flat four and that front bumper that I could lay out a small buffet on and dig in!

    Like 1
    • Mr. TKD

      The spare tire is there to help absorb the energy of a crash. Plenty of room there with that flat four.

  8. erikj

    I know these subes well and have had many(75 or more!) most with the ea82. They are great little cars and really easy to work on.Non interference motor so if the belt breaks no engine damage. The will fry the heads if you overheat them though. I love the 4wd/5spd wagons the most and I had a few of the gl coups also. As far as the automatic trans-they did not hold up long unless you got a good one,seems I,ve seen many with bad autos in them,even low mileage one. And the turbos did give a needed boost, but a lot of them with the turbos seem to have early bottom end issues.I,m told that the turbo is to hard on the bottom end. Ran into many with not a lot of miles and knocking engines.
    The gl-loyals 4wd,5spd wagons are great ,I still look for them. Got my eye on one across the street from me.

  9. Neal

    I left this message earlier this week in reference to a Turbo Sunbird that was listed here, but I’ll copy and paste it again as it is a better match for this Subaru discussion.

    I had a low mileage ’85 Subaru turbo wagon back in the early 1990’s. It had been lovingly cared for and maintained. I continued to care for it, religiously letting it idle for over a minute as instructed each time before turning off the ignition to ensure proper cooling and lubrication of the turbo bearings. They should have never added a turbo to that engine: it had a habit of cracking the aluminum cylinder heads from heat and boost. I actually fixed it TWICE and then I gave up and sold it to a person in the know about that model, white coolant smoke trailing and all. I wanted to keep it forever, but poor engineering made me plan otherwise. And I swore off turbos and other hopped-up vehicles, and Subarus specifically.
    Now, if the right Scout with an intercooled 4BT comes along someday, I might change my vow…

    I recall that Subi also needed a front transaxle differential rebuild/replacement.

    Sounds like I rode it hard and put it away wet a lot, but I actually took good care of it. Ol’Jake let me down and cost me a lot of money I didn’t have back then.

    I still have a soft spot for this generation Subarus, especially the wagons and hatchbacks like this.

    I’ve moved on to minivans…

  10. Howard A Member

    Why is it idling at 1600 rpms? KA–LUNK, and off we go. Is that the “check engine light” on? Ohhh, that’s gonna cost ya’ ( especially in NY)

    • Brigham B.

      It is normal for these engines to idle high, especially when first started. My 1992 Subaru with the same engine idles at 2000 RPM when cold.

  11. Brigham B.

    This is NOT a Loyale. This model was the GL, DL, or GL-10 until 1990 when it was renamed the Loyale.

    • Fred C


  12. David Miraglia

    good daily driver

  13. Dave W

    Interestingly, Subaru sold two different body styles of 3-door hatchbacks in the late ’80s, this one which was introduced in ’85 and later became the Loyale, and the previous version introduced in 1980 which was sold up until ’89. I had a few hatchbacks of the previous version, but never one of these.

  14. KP

    I have one of these now. It is a great little car getting close to 300,000 miles on it now.

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