Live Auctions

Foreign Concept: 1979 Subaru DL Wagon

Two front-wheel drive, red Subarus in the same week?! How lucky can we get?! Or, what is this world coming to?! Depending on your outlook. I’m in the first camp, of course; hopefully not everyone else is in the second camp. Although, when I see this wagon I want it to be 4WD. A front-wheel drive Subaru seems like such a foreign concept.. This front-drive 1979 Subaru DL Wagon is listed on eBay and it looks like a great project. The bids are over $1,000, but the reserve isn’t met. I can’t believe that the reserve is much higher than that single bid. It’s located in Nampa, Idaho. If this were a 4WD I might ask a couple of guys that I know there to check it out for me – you know who you are! (I’m still looking for that rust-free, 4WD, 5-speed, fuel-injected Justy, by the way)..

This car looks really good, at least compared to a lot of these old Subarus that have been beat to death and/or modified to death. I absolutely love the stock look of these cars with their plain-Jane wheels. It does have some rust to deal with, as most of them do, but it appears to just be on the driver’s side and it doesn’t look too debilitating. And, seeing that Front Wheel Drive script on the front fenders hits me in the gut. I would never, ever, ever, ever drive a “classic” car in the winter in the Midwest with our horribly salty roads, but I still like to have the option of having 4WD.

The bumpers are almost as big as the car itself is. Luckily they are because this one has seen its share of bumper-bashers, it looks like. I’d rather try to source a new (preferably smaller) bumper than to have to fix bent body panels.

It’s hard to asses the condition of the seats, front or rear, due to those seat covers, or drapes, or swaddling clothes or whatever those things are on the front seats. The driver’s cover is peeled back a bit revealing a split seam next to the shifter with a ripped boot, but those can be repaired. The dash is another story. A dash cover will have to do for this car. There are quite a few rough areas inside this car, unfortunately.

The seller says that this “engine bay its insanely clean and original.” I….. um.. er.. I… well, that just proves that each of us sees the world through a different set of eyes. I see a pretty nice engine bay, complete and not rusty or horrible, but “insanely clean” is a stretch in my world. That being said, it does look original and pretty nice. This 1.6L EA-71 boxer-four would have had around 68 hp when new, and this car has AC! Of course that won’t be functional, but it’s nice to have the option. They say that this car “just came of retirement so will need mechanical tune up.” It would be a somewhat scary proposition to buy this car sight-unseen, unless a person really knew their Subarus and had a good source for parts. I would love to have the 4WD version of this exact car someday. Have any of you ever owned a front-wheel drive Subaru? It seems like such a foreign concept, so to speak..


  1. Miguel

    It is interesting you didn’t comment on the car being in a Copart yard, or the like, and it having a bad title.

    Vehicle Title: Rebuilt, Rebuildable & Reconstructed

    Bids are already over $1000 with the reserve not met for a gamble on a salvaged car.

  2. erikj

    I have had lots of subes. most where the 85-94 loyal,gl ect. and quite a few of the earlier like this one. Of the 50 at least, never counted a hand full where front wheel-drive only. These where so simple and very easy to work on. I never like the automatic trans. With a manual shift they got great mileage and the wagon had lots of room. Great cars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Mark

    Looks like mikes stings bought it at co- Parts title is rebuilt, you can register but value of Car is zero til nil. It would be buyer to buy for their enjoyment. Price doubtfully will go much higher. But in ct no title needed since 25 years old.

  4. Rube Goldberg Member

    I agree, this seems odd. Subaru touted it’s all wheel drive, and Subaru became synonymous with small all wheel drive vehicles. It, in my mind, was the only reason to buy one of these. They had the market cornered,,,for a while. Come to think of it, coming from the midwest, I don’t think I ever saw a 2 wheel drive Subaru. Now about that Justy, I only saw one in my life, and it was a 4 wheel drive, and the owner wouldn’t part with it. These early Subaru’s were the best, before the infamous “check engine light” sidelined many Subaru’s that couldn’t pass emissions with that light on. ( take your pick in the back row of car lots in NY) Cool find.

  5. That AMC guy

    I had a ’78 4-door DL sedan that was much like this, purchased new. Lasted a good long time until the tinworm finally got to be too much. Back then these were just disposable cars although about as funky as mass-produced cars available in the US got at the time.

    This one has a black interior. If you had a lighter color interior (mine was blue), the sides of the seat bottoms, bottoms of the door cards, and carpeting were all still black. A friend has a late model Outbook that is similar in that it has light interior with black lower door cards and carpeting.

    Air conditioning on these is dealer-installed. The evaporator takes up most of the glovebox and turning the AC on you’d think the car just started slogging through mud. (Better not try it while chugging uphill!) Looks like an old-school 2-cylinder York-type compressor in there. Upgrading to a more modern, efficient compressor like a Sanden would probably help.

    In 1978 these still had breaker-point ignition, not sure about ’79. No catalytic converter, at least on 49-state cars. Air injection was used for emission control and was powered by exhaust pulses. (“SEEC-T” system, no engine-driven air pump.)

    Legroom is sketchy on these for full-size Americans. I had extension rails installed on mine that gave a couple of inches more legroom for the driver at the expense of course of making the back seat even more useless.

    Those early pushrod Subaru flat fours (based on the Borgward/Lloyd Arabella) were low powered but danged near bulletproof. As I recall the camshaft was a direct gear drive, no chain. An issue I recall is that exhaust Y-pipes would develop rust holes after a few years and replacements were very expensive. A cottage industry arose of shops that would rebuild/patch the pipes at a fraction of the cost of new.

    That’s about all I can recall about my experience with the car. (After all it was like 40 years ago!) Overall it was positive given the state of small economy cars at the time. Unless there’s some hidden issues this one looks like it could be brought back to its full late 1970s funkiness with moderate effort.

  6. John T

    At 6PM EST (5PM CST, 4PM MST, 3PM PST) today the bidding is at $1500 with an hour remaining in the auction, AND THE RESERVE IS OFF! Hey Scotty G: This old Subaru Wagon is going to sell, Watch for heavy bidding activity at the last minute … Will it reach $2000?

    • John T

      Much to my surprise, there were no additional bids. The reserve came off at $1500 and that appears to be the winning bid.

  7. Rob

    I had an 83 wagon. It was maroon, front wheel drive and it had a ventilated floor panel on the right side. Paid $800 for it and the only thing besides oil was an alternator. It was a great hoopty for the daily commute. It was dead reliable. Until I gave it to my grandparents, who gave it to my aunt. Her kids used it to get back and forth to school north of Spokane. Her husband successfully killed it dead. Everybody was POed to say the least. This is the same guy who burnt down his rig by catching a load of hay on fire.

  8. irocrobb

    Subaru are not very popular where I live but I was hiking in the mountains in Tennessee and they seemed to be at every trail head. This one looks okay but I doubt 68 hp would climb the mountains very well.

  9. chad

    Mine was probably a few years younger – when it seemed 90% of em were in that beige.
    There was a shop, down in the ‘factory/wearhouse section of town, that did the cat. Back then they’d split it with a chisle, remove the ‘platnimum beads’, put in new, & weld it up again (pre ‘honey comb’ style). It was legal & the guy would sell the cleaned beads @ $/lb.
    Mine was frnt drive only too.
    Hey? was there ever a straight 4? Or has Subbie always been the boxer since early import?
    I saw a factory Subbie boxer in a Saab. Not sure what yr the two co.s worked that model out.

    • That AMC Guy

      They have used inline two and three cylinder engines in small Kei-class models over the years, as well as the subcompact Justy, but the flat four has been the mainstay of Subaru’s larger vehicles since the Subaru “1000” debuted in 1966. I don’t think they’ve ever used a straight four.

    • Shane

      You were probably looking at the Saab 9-2x, which was just a Subaru Impreza (or WRX, depending on the trim level) with a fancy interior and Saab badges. GM owned a chunk of both companies at the time and decided that Saab needed something like the Impreza in its lineup, so instead of starting from scratch, they chose “badge engineering”. I’ve heard them called “Saab-arus”. At the end of their run, when Saab was disappearing, they were cheaper than their more basic Subaru siblings.

  10. Ed

    Had one, forest green AWD. Lived in western Colorado at the time the AWD came in handy, little car was amazing. It did every thing just like it should. However the radiator had a nylon petcock that broke apart on it’s own draining the antifreeze. Lucky for me I caught it before the aluminum motor was damaged, they saved 10 cents by using plastic. I replaced it with a brass plug.

  11. Keith davis

    I daily an 85 standard that’s ea-71 powered and also front wheel drive. I also own an 89 justy that’s also front wheel drive. I’m a rare breed in that I only like front wheel drive Subaru models. Their fun and not to mention 2 clicks of the parking brake and about 1500-2k and let out the clutch in second makes for fun donuts on wet or snowy pavement….

  12. Shane

    Hi Scotty-

    Justy — check.
    AWD — check.
    Fuel Injected — check.
    Rust-free — looks like it.(yes, hood/rt fender need a little body work; might be easier to source junkyard replacements than to repair/repaint)
    On craigslist for nearly a month now, so he may have some wiggle room on price too.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Hey, Shane – It’s gone already, dang. Thanks for trying, though, much appreciated. I’ll keep looking. I just missed one in Montana on CL a couple of weeks ago that still gives me nightmares.

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