Ghost Dealership: Mothballed Subaru Dealer in Malta

The premise of an abandoned automotive dealership with cars still in the showroom wearing delivery-only mileage is one of the more romantic fantasies of the barn find hunter. Sometimes, they are just as they seem, with cars seemingly lost to the sands of time (see the Toyota dealership in Greece, the AMC dealer in North Carolina and Lambrecht Chevrolet in Nebraska). Others are more ordinary in their manifestation, tied to court proceedings and wealthy owners who see little value to giving the cars a chance at living. This time capsule Subaru dealer on the island of Malta and featured here on is a case of the latter but no less tantalizing. 

Although I didn’t enjoy my experience owning one, it still gets my heart rate up to see a new-in-the-wrapper Subaru XT Turbo 4WD with next to no miles on it. This one is also right-hand drive, as the island nation was once under British rule so many of the cars still bear the reminders of how the English prefer to sit and steer. This example would surely bring significant money (for an XT, at least) given the recent rise of interest in these weird 80s icons.

A brand new Subaru Sambar! Although these are popping up more and more stateside thanks to the 25 year exemption, I haven’t seen too many wearing lime green paint and in new condition. Most of the ones being imported are the pick-up bodies as well, so a delivery van set-up is also a bit unique. There’s at least one other Sanbar in the showroom, which actually is of the two-seater cab / pickup bed configuration.

Here’s the one our own Scotty G. will likely swoon over, as he’s been on the hunt for a mint condition Justy for years! This car and the low-spec Impreza it’s parked next to appear to have shed some fluids over the years, but it doesn’t matter – this is still a Subaru fanatic’s dream find. I love the old-school dealer artwork still on the walls as well. If I had endless money, I might do something stupid for the XT and the Sanbar, but if you read the story at the link, the commentators have deduced the owner has no interest or need in selling.


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  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Hmm.. (scratching chin, wondering how long it would take to get to Malta..)..
    Great story, Jeff!

    • Dan

      Quick flight from Paris. Paris is 7 to 8 hours from New York, so…

    • Dave

      Somebody’s watering the plants, washing windows and generally keeping the place in good shape . . .

  2. Gavin Tittle

    Man…. I drive an 02′ WRX (first year in america) five speed wagon…. and this was bad for my wallet… how far is malta? HA!

    • Stephen

      60miles South of Sicily and about 100miles north of Libya.
      Roughly speaking!

    • Mark S.

      Just south of Sicily. Shipping would probably be a killer.

  3. John T

    If nobody drained the coolant, I can only imagine the internal corrosion.

  4. UK Paul

    $2000 should ship it

  5. John F

    What’s up with that motorcycle in a Subaru dealership though ?

  6. MSG Bob

    Cool story bro… But I think you mean “deduced” in that last sentence. Really, Jeff, I wouldn’t have noticed except that you write so elegantly. Let’s blame it on AutoCorrect!

    • grant

      Thank you for not making me say it. Been fighting the urge…

      Like 1
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Ugh. Sorry to have caused any grammatical consternation! I try hard to avoid those. Correcting now….

  7. Beatnik Bedouin

    I’d be happy with either the Sambar van or truck.

    In practical terms, I’d be better off buying one ex-Japan; it may have had a lot of use, compared to those ones in Malta, but would be able to be imported and then driven in NZ without having to go through replacing all the hoses, hydraulics, etc…

    …yes, I am thinking about doing exactly that…

  8. Pa Tina

    How come the tires aren’t flat? Ghost mechanic?

  9. DB

    Soooooo, any of these are APPARENTLY more than just a road trip with a trailer trip away. Still kinda neat though, I like the van and pickup.

  10. Andrew not amember

    That seems an extraordinary long time for a commercial property to languish.

  11. Lee Hartman

    When you said Malta, I was thinking Malta, Montana.

    Like 1
  12. Eduardo Rodrigues

    Hi guys,

    I follow your publications and I really enjoy the comments. now that I read about this ghost dealer I want to warn you that there is one like this in the south of Brazil. here is the link for anyone who wants to see the story and the photos.

    Ghost dealership’ owner preserves cars and goes to work every day
    Car rental in Estrela remains as preserved as if it were active. Local turned species of private museum, still with cars 0 km.

    From RBS TV, in Estrela
    Beetles are among the relics preserved by the owner of the resale (Photo: Luciane Kohlmann / RBS TV)
    Fuscas 0 km are among the relics preserved by the owner of the resale (Photo: Luciane Kohlmann / RBS TV)
    In Estrela , in the Taquari Valley, 115 km from Porto Alegre, there is a concessionaire that closed its activities about 10 years ago. To the less attentive eyes, however, the place seems to be working. Recent painting, well-kept plants, monitoring by cameras and four cars 0 km. There are three Fuscas and a Santana never used, rarities among vehicles. It’s like a trip to the past.

    When arriving near the window of Commercial Gaucha, one detail draws attention: the exposed cars are no longer manufactured. Known as a “ghost dealership”, the store belongs to Otmar Walter Essig, 79. Discreet, he does not like to appear or give interviews, but opened the doors of his office to tell the story that many doubt in the city. It is there that his Otmar still fulfills daily expediency, even if he has not been selling a car for years (see more in Teledomingo report).

    In front of the resale door, is a Santana GLS 2000, year 1996, which is one of the vehicles he has been driving lately. In the office, dozens of files and documents on parts, materials and employees are still lined up on shelves. A collection of key chains leaves a more informal tone.

    “I arrive here every day at 6:15 a.m., 6:30 p.m., and I take my mate”
    Otmar Essig
    “This collection was of Susi. I brought here to be closer to me,” says the G1 your Otmar, referring to the woman, who died six years ago. In a Post Office box over a counter, she keeps old photos of the woman and also old family cars, such as the Karmann-Ghia. Religious, he set up a small chapel in a corner of the room and left his Bible on the work table, where he also rested a gourd of chimarrão.

    “I arrive here every day at 6:15 a.m., 6:30 p.m., and I take my chimarrão. Sometimes some early friends come here too,” he explains. Otmar says the concessionaire has existed since 1969. At the time, he was one of the partners, until he took over the operation completely in 1974. According to him, it was a reputable resale in the region.

    The problem began in the early 2000s, when Volkwagen raised its sales target. He traded 25 cars a month and would have to move to 60, number “almost impossible,” he said. That’s how much you decided to stop. He fired and indemnified all 33 employees and made the shutdown with the automaker in 2004. Some say it was in the late 1990s. What’s certain is that nothing has changed since then.

    Proud of what eventually became his private museum, Otmar shows the cars that are for personal use: a totally original white 86 Beetle, a 1994 pickup truck and the SP2 sports car, year 1975, which is his xodó. The three cars are in an old garage where reviews and repairs were made. The tools are organized on the wall. The dot-card machine seems to wait staff. In a mezzanine, you can see carcasses of old cars that are slowly consumed by rust.

    The concessionaire still preserves 0 km cars that are no longer manufactured. In the exhibition hall, a metallic blue Beetle, year 86, engine 1.6, displays the “last series” plate. The vehicle never left the place, but continues with the painting shining. The model, which features new front-wheel disc brakes and redesigned rear stabilizer bar for better aerodynamic performance, keeps the smell fresh even after 27 years. Beside him is a Santana Quantum, year 96, which preserves even the factory plastics on the benches and on the floor.

    Santana Quantum, year 96, preserves even the plastics factory from the banks (Photo: Luciane Kohlmann / RBS TV)
    Santana Quantum, year 96, preserves even the plastics factory from the banks (Photo: Luciane Kohlmann / RBS TV)
    In a closed room, far from any curious, are stored other two relics 0 km: two fuscas color silver, year 96. They are two units of the so-called “Gold Series”, last batch of 1,5 thousand vehicles manufactured in Brazil. In this model, the factory superequipped the version, with differentiated upholstery, rear defroster, mile headlights, panel with white background, green glasses.

    Proof that rarities have never spun on an asphalt is the thick layer of dust that hides most of the luxury details. To top it off, the German descendant still preserves more than 200,000 pieces, most of the vehicles of the 80s and 90s.

    Blue Beetle, year 86, is preserved in the
    On the outside, the climate is even abandoned. There is the space where the washes were done and a giant patio without any trace of dirt where plating and painting were done. The land has almost 5 thousand square meters.

    Directly across the street is the Enio Schwingel workshop, which has been in place for 23 years. In the past, Comercial Gaúcha was its main supplier. You now have to go to other counties for spare parts. The man says no one understands why the owner of the resale has kept the routine so long if the store no longer works.

    “I come here at 7am and he is always in the resale with his little chimarrão, we wonder why a man with an advanced age maintains this patrimony.” Actually, we think it’s a hobby, “Enio speculates.

    When asked why he continued to repeat the routine for over 30 years, Otmar Essig just says it’s his pleasure, his hobby. “I have enough money to live,” he says. And so, around 4:00 pm, he closes his private file and returns home.

  13. glen

    Either those plants are fake, or someone is keeping them watered. I’d like to see the motorcycle, I wonder if it, too, has been sitting for years.

    • Pa Tina

      “Ghost Gardener” He is a buddy of the Ghost Mechanic

  14. Adam T45 Staff

    When you look at something like this it seems appropriate that the music from Twilight Zone plays in your head. Oh, so it’s only in MY head then? No surprises there!

    Like 1
  15. Tim

    Looking for a “mint condition Justy”? Seriously? Now you’re just messing with us!

  16. Brian Whitmore

    Oh memories! My Justy was one of the best cars I ever owned. My Jeep will go thru any snow, but my Justy was so light it would ride on TOP of the snow. And that 3 cylinder had the coolest sound. Great find!

  17. King Brude

    There’s a similar dealership in the abandoned town that straddles the the Cyprus/North Cyprus border.

    Also occurs even within cities. Here in Edinburgh, Scotland they have just uncovered a number of abandoned motors in what had been a cutting edge robotic parking lot. Fiat Unos, Austin Maestros and an old Volvo estate that had been hidden away for over a decade.

  18. Jason G.

    100 % Maltese Baby.

  19. alan

    I wouldn’t start any of these before changing the timing belts.

  20. Bill Owens BillO Staff

    Jeff, thanks for the story and the links to the others. I live 50 miles from Collier AMC in Pikeville, NC (and grew up 18 miles from there), it immediately came to mind when I saw the title and pictures of this story, and you provided the link for it from 2013. Quite an interesting story.

  21. John Taylor

    Did you folks notice, they are all right hand drive, :)

    • 86 Vette Convertible

      Former British Territory, to be expected.

  22. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    The link to the story contains comments from people that have seen this dealership firsthand.

    The cars are moved quite often, and the owner has no interest in selling them.

  23. Ryan

    Original poster has now shared a tour on this place –

  24. Susan

    Oh please bring me the Subaru XT Turbo 4WD. I need this, actually I deserve this, or maybe my princess crown is pointing to it. mmmmmm hmmmmmm.

  25. Ryan

    I’ve revisited this place earlier this week and the same cars are still there with a few more sprouting up –

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