Designer XT: 1994 Subaru SVX

030716 Barn Finds - 1994 Subaru SVX 1

Barn Finds writer, Jeff, wrote about a couple of Subaru XTs at the end of February that looked very promising. The front-drive XT is still available but the sweet, black, AWD XT6 is long gone, unfortunately. This 1994 Subaru SVX, found here on eBay in Savannah, GA, is the stylish update to the XT family of 2-door Subarus. At the current bid price of $1,994 it’s a bargain, to say the least.

030716 Barn Finds - 1994 Subaru SVX 2

A black SVX is rare enough, but one with no rust is even more rare. This car, according to the current owner, has “NO RUST!” It doesn’t get any more convincing than that! I wish that I could say the same about my 1997 Outback. The SVX design, like most (all?) of Subaru’s designs, is polarizing. There are passionate caucus goers on both sides of the camp; some love it and some hate it. The side window design may be the most interesting exterior feature of the SVX. The window-within-a-window was a pretty unusual feature and it still is today, over two decades after the SVX debuted. Just watch out when you get your 64 oz beverage at the drive-thru.

030716 Barn Finds - 1994 Subaru SVX 6

This car isn’t without its faults, however. As you can see, the right fender has suffered some sort of an odd, multi-dent-event but the seller thinks that it may be able to be fixed without replacing or repainting it. There are a few door dings and another “minor impact” just forward of the driver’s door. Being a black car, the paint should be fairly simple to match if those wacky waves couldn’t be fixed by a paintless dent removal company. If worse came to worse, you can always get a couple of new fenders directly from Subaru.

Subaru SVX

These cars all came with the 3.3-liter boxer-6 engine with about 230 hp. One of the glitches with these cars, other than not watching, and listening, for problems with the wheel bearings, is the transmission. Subaru didn’t make a manual transmission that could handle that much power at the time, so, unfortunately, an automatic was the only transmission offered in the SVX. This has held it back a bit, in my opinion, as far as collectibility goes. Not to mention that the automatic has been known to be somewhat troublesome. According to the seller, this 4-speed automatic has been replaced within the last 20,000 miles so it should be good for quite a while. This car has 178,000 miles on it overall, so look to do some maintenance to keep it on the road. There is no mention on whether the timing belt has been changed, but if not, I’d do that first. My 1997 Outback has 337,999 miles on it as we speak and it runs like new.

030716 Barn Finds - 1994 Subaru SVX 3

The interior of the SVX is fairly luxurious, especially for a Subaru in the early-1990s. These cars were designed by the famous Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign and were quite eye-catching in the early-90s. It was quite a gamble for the company as this car went pretty much from concept to showroom without too many changes in the design. The interior features comfortable front seating positions and some wacky things like a hidden radio and even wackier is the lack of rear seat legroom.

030716 Barn Finds - 1994 Subaru SVX 4

It’s probably best used for storing your designer luggage that won’t fit into the trunk. The sunroof makes noise like it’s going to open but doesn’t, and the radio amp isn’t working anymore; both of those could possibly be fixed without paying $$75-100 an hour at your local Subaru dealer. This car is an oxymoron par excellence: a fancy, designer Subaru. It wasn’t designed for racing or off-road duty, even though it has AWD, it was a grand tourer. The SVX was quite a car when it first came out. I love it, but what does this designer Subaru do for you?

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    SVXes are very underrated if you ask me. I remember driving one on a fairly lengthy trip when they were new, and found the positive aspects — engine, chassis, and so forth — far outweighed any quibbles about the side windows and hidden radio. Never tried to fit any humans in the back seat, but grocery bags sat back there without complaint. I recall the build quality was well above average as well. And that big Six was smooth and sounded very nice.

    Poking around Scotty G’s link for replacement fenders suggests that Subaru still has parts available, which I would have worried about given the car’s relatively short lifespan. For $2-3K, it might bring a new owner considerable driving pleasure.

  2. jim s

    the automatic transmission in these were a known issues even before they were released for sale. you can go back and look at the predelivery service notices sent to dealers. great car let down by no manual and a rush to sell with a flawed automatic. subaru did make some of these with just front wheel drive. interesting find.

    • Peter Reed

      I owned a ’94 SVX from new and at 105,000km (65,000 miles for those Stateside), reverse gear went missing! The warranty offered by Subaru Australia was 3 years/100,000km, so even though the car had covered 5000km more, the dealer still replaced the gearbox at no charge. Needless to say, I was very pleased…and somewhat surprised. The dealer did point out that the ‘boxes were a known weak point and to protect Sunbaru’s excellent reputation at the time for durable, reliable cars, the importer ensured that every gearbox issue (and that was the only problem with the SVX) was fixed without issue. Still one of my favourite cars – I’d love to find a ’96 model with low kms, but haven’t seen a SVX on the road here for years, let alone one for sale.

      PS: The Aussie sticker price in 1994 was $72,000! As you can guess they didn’t sell many (I paid way below that for a dealer demo).

  3. Dolphin Member

    I’m glad to see this SVX featured here for a few reasons. It’s a far more interesting design than the Subaru XTs that were featured recently. Another is that with the flat-6 engine it has a claim to being a genuine Japanese exotic, almost at the level of the Acura NSX but not quite because it’s a 4-seater. It would be interesting to see what it might have been if it had been a 2-seater instead.

    The main reason why it looks so good is that the designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, is a towering figure in car design, probably the greatest living car designer now. And those half-side windows are interesting for a few reasons.

    One reason is that the great Italian design house, Zagato, came up with an almost identical window design to solve the same problem as the SVX has: a large curved side window that could not be opened. The straight subsection within the curved design allows that part to slide down, and that makes it possible to make large windows become a part of a larger greenhouse. I don’t remember side windows that are any larger than the ones on the SVX.

    I can’t find a photo of the original ’50s Zagato body that pioneered a side window subsection, but Zagato did a modern Vantage design for Aston Martin in the ’80s, and it had that kind of side window, and shown in the photo.

    I think Giugiaro is right in line with the great rounded body designs of the Italian school with the SVX.

  4. Van

    Can you put an STI drive train in this
    I can’t imagine not doing that
    How does the weight compare
    Neet car though

  5. MountainMan

    Love these, even with the automatic transmission. These are like all subies (96&up) with all wheel drive they are very capable in winter weather. Van, the turbo 4 cylinder would be a doable swap but I would think a mild build on the larger 3.3 liter 6 cylinder this car came with would be my preferred method of a go fast build. I don’t know of the SVX will ever be worth a bunch of money but still a very cool car. I’m biased of course, I’ve had close to a dozen different Subaru vehicles over the years from a 1985 4wd GL 2 door hatch to a 2004 legacy outback. I’ve used some like a truck and others like a sports car. Guess they are about my favorite automobile manufacturer come to think if it!
    Nice find with this one

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