Desert Fox: 1981 Subaru GL Wagon

It looks like nice, older cars are actually still out there after all. This 1981 Subaru GL Wagon appears to be about as nice as they come. It’s listed on eBay with a current bid of over $3,000 but the reserve isn’t met. This l’il time machine is in Folsom, California.

I’m personally not a huge fan of the Desert Fox graphics, but it was a dealer option in 1981 and they were reapplied after the car was recently repainted over its no-rust body. The graphics can be removed if the next owner would rather travel under the radar, if that’s even possible in a 1981 Subaru wagon.

This is one gorgeous car, it really does appear to be in fantastic condition. The story goes that an older couple in Sedona, Arizona traded in their 1977 Subaru wagon and they drove this car for 30,000 miles before giving it to their daughter in Grass Valley, California who then drove it for another 30,000 miles. She then sold it to her Subaru mechanic who owned and maintained it for 15 years and restored it back to the condition that you see here. And, yes, this one has the very cool and coveted Cyclops light! Just like jump seats in a Brat, everyone asks if a Subaru from this vintage has that center passing light. They were available from 1980 to 1982.

For such an unbelievably nice car, there is an equally unbelievable lack of photos. There are no photos of the dash which is, I think, slated to be a Federal crime in 2018.. or, it should be. They say that the dash is crack-free but is covered by a dash pad. There are no flaws in either front or rear seats and the back looks great, too. The only dash photo is one showing the odometer that reads 65,832.

The GL had Subaru’s 1.8L EA-81 boxer-four with around 75 hp or so, give or take. The Subaru mechanic, who was the prior owner and had owned and cared for it for 15 years, resurfaced the heads and adjusted the valves. This incredible car also has new brakes, 5 new tires (including the full-sized spare), 4 brand new studless snow tires, new shocks, new plugs, cap, wires, rotor, new catalytic converter, and the list goes on and on. I’m guessing that the reserve will approach $10,000 for this one. I think that this is one great looking GL wagon, maybe the best one around.

Fast Finds


  1. Jay

    I am 26 years old and this is one of the coolest cars I’ve seen. The only thing that could possibly be better than this is a Brat in the same condition.

    In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m a Subaru enthusiast.

  2. MikeG

    Very tempting!

  3. Steve

    I love Subaru, what a great car company!

  4. Howard A Member

    If I’m not mistaken, it was this car that really turned the tide for Subaru. It was actually a car, not a toy, like the 360. Also, it was rumored, these cars were a hit with women that prefer the company of other women ( tried to be as tactful as I could there), but soon, everybody found out what great cars they were, especially in snowy climates. I’d be almost certain, people that had these, went on to buy an Outback, probably one of the best cars made ( Scotty will attest to that, with 350K on his Outback) This one? Well, since they simply evaporated in the north, it makes this one pretty rare, so somewhat justified on the price. Be advised, the Outback is 10 times what this car is, so be prepared for tinniness, choppy ride, uncomfortable seats and lousy heater.

  5. TAGS

    Owning our 9th Subaru now. Have had 1 or 2 in our driveway since 1978. Owned 2 BRATs…talk about good times. Absolutely the most unsafe vehicle to own but it would go anywhere I needed it to go. I beat the $%@# out of them and they never gave up. This wagon is tempting but I don’t think my pockets will be deep enough…lol

  6. wuzjeepnowsaab

    What a great find! I would love to rock this little trooper in the mountains of Colorado. If I can have multiple Saabs, I see no reason why my g/f couldn’t have a couple Subies :)

  7. JW

    I kind of like the graphics, different.

  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking Subaru! I’ve always loved this generation Subaru 4wd. :)

  9. Ray

    More photos were just added!

  10. gene

    I had a 1981 1800 dl wagon, very basic 2wd with larger engine and a/c, rust became major issue, but that manual adjust lifter engine was bulletproof. I’ve been wanting another one since I sold in mid-90’s. Mileage was always 33mpg or higher with 5 speed.

  11. newfieldscarnut

    I like the RAD1981 black plate .

    Like 1
  12. David Miraglia

    always like Subaru, the Japanese Volkswagen

  13. JohnD

    I’ve said it before, these are quite cool. My college buddy’s dad drove one and I immediately fell in love with the utility and cool looks. In my mind, the new Subaru Crosstrek is as close as you can get to this in a new Subie…that’s why I bought one 3 year ago! Man I’d love to have room for this.

  14. davew833

    The vinyl on those seats is paper- thin, as are the fenders. The mounts of the rubber end caps on the bumpers frequently rust through and fall off. I’ve had a number of these and still have two Outback wagons. It’s great to see one in mint condition. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one in ANY condition on the road.

  15. Ray

    Here’ a link to a YouTube video on the car!!!


    Like 1
  16. Melvin Burwell

    Nice. Looks like a good deal.

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