Not Your Usual Rusty Justy: 1990 Subaru Justy GL

When you think of classic 90’s Subarus, the Justy isn’t exactly the first model that springs to mind. It’s likely no coincidence that the Justy was discontinued in the USA the same year Subaru introduced its iconic Outback, but while it didn’t smash any sales records the Justy was an interesting footnote in its own right. Located in Arroyo Grande, California you can this find this Justy for sale here on eBay with a recent price drop to $3500 after failing to sell last time it was listed.

While it’s easy to point and laugh at such tiny little econobox being equipped with a 4wd system, do yourself a favor and enjoy some of the videos on Youtube of these things showing their stuff offroad. This one is a bit too clean to risk banging up on the trails, though it’s still nice to be reminded they are surprisingly capable cars even with their tiny tires. Being a California car, this one is in great condition with hardly any cosmetic flaws on the exterior. Paint looks to be in excellent shape save for a ding on the driver’s door and no rust appears to be present.

One of the (few) things the Justy is remembered for is the distinction of being the last car in America to be sold with a carburated engine. However, fuel injection became standard on its anemic 1.2L 3-cylinder in 1991 and this one was optioned as such a year before. This Justy features a 5-speed gearbox, notable in its own right for being one of the first vehicles in America to utilize a continuously variable transmission.

While the condition is far from perfect with some interior damage and wear, it’s always nice to see a vehicle that was obviously well-used but well-loved, complete with all the original paperwork and window sticker. This lovable lil’ 4×4 would be a great retro daily driver for a city-dweller dealing with limited parking and steadily rising gas prices, with the added bonus that it won’t get stuck on an unplowed street come wintertime.

Have something similar for sale? List it here on Barn Finds!

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  1. Wolfgang Gullich

    So is it the 5 spd manual or CVT? They were 2 separate options on the Justy.

    • glen

      He says 5 Spd., and you can see the shifter.

      • Wolfgang Gullich

        The wording is confusing: “This Justy features a 5-speed gearbox, notable in its own right for being one of the first vehicles in America to utilize a continuously variable transmission.”

  2. Miguel Member

    I remember these being very loud, but they did move OK for the time.

  3. Andrew

    How is a cvt a five speed?

  4. Mike

    As an urban green guy who likes to hunt fish and explore I always wanted one of these when I was younger. Surprisingly bad**s! But the seller claims over 40 mpg which sounds fishy especially when its rated at 30 hwy. Makes one wonder about his other claims about the car. Fun vehicle though!

    • Will Owen Member

      I was getting well over 30 mpg on my daily runs to Bowling Green from Nashville and back, with a very serious uphill stretch going north (and of course a downhill one back home). I wish my current Subaru could do that!

  5. rod444

    I sent this to a friend who likes modding trucks. He figures a 12″ lift and some 33″ tires and she’ll be good to go for the snow up here in Canada lol.

  6. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    I thought that this one would be coming home with me, I have been looking for a rust-free, two-door, fuel-injected, 4WD 5-speed Justy for years. But, when I asked the seller for additional photos some rust showed up that wasn’t mentioned. It doesn’t look super bad but I’m always worried about hidden rust on these things, especially underneath and in the cracks and crevices.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      The rust pic from the seller.

  7. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Here’s an underside shot from the seller.

  8. Oddimotive Cason

    Japanese Niva?

    • Arve

      No, not by far. Niva is a sturdy terrain car, this is just an econo box that happen to be 4 wheel driven.

  9. Coventrycat

    If this is a barn find, put it back in the barn. How about some Hyundai Accent 2 doors? Those are hot.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Is it more about being a Japanese import or more about not being a dusty barn find? I never notice “Put it back in the barn” / “How is this a barn find?” comments on American cars when they aren’t dusty barn finds, but when it’s a Japanese car it comes out fairly often. Inquiring minds want to know.

      That’s cool if you don’t like Japanese cars, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a big world with a lot of cars in it for everyone.

      • Will Owen Member

        Some cars just get no respect, especially when they are (a) Japanese, (b) small and (c) cheap. If they weren’t hot sellers seems to put the cherry on top. Mine was the successor to a ’60 Falcon 4-door, a car that kinda falls into the same category, though at least there was an active local club for those. In the Justy department there were three others locally that I knew of, with neither a club nor any interest in one. But frankly all I cared about was that it was (mostly) a sweet little car, and I wish I were at liberty to go fetch this one home.

      • Coventrycat

        You guys do a great job on this site, I was justy 😀having a bit of fun. I like em’ all no matter where they’re from – but I did comment on that American Neon a while back.

      • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

        Ha, justy having a bit of fun, nice! We’re trying to show more actual barn finds but we also like to show reader submissions. A lot of times folks don’t put their names on them, so if you don’t see a “Thanks to ___”, they may still be reader submissions. If you run across any barn finds or interesting, unusual, or rarely-seen-anymore non-barn finds, please send them in!

  10. Will Owen Member

    I had a ’90 Justy with the carbureted engine, and that “electric carb”, as they were called, was the one thing that led my son to abandon it, just a couple of years after I’d passed it on to him. Granted, he is not a mechanic, but he knew a very good one, and when HE gave up then Ben gave up.

    Too bad, because that was a delightful little car in many ways. Its previous owner had parked it for a year with old coolant, and the cylinder head fell apart the first day I drove it. Upside to that was I fell in love with that ingenious little three-banger. Exactly half the size of my other car’s at the time, a ’60 Falcon 144, its 70-some hp and 1200 lb or so weight gave it enough urge for lots of back-road fun and perfectly adequate highway use. I was commuting for a month or so from Nashville up to Bowling Green, and my mileage payments were well over twice what the gas had cost me.

    That was also FWD only, but when Nashville got enough snow to scare off much of the local traffic the Justy and I had a lot of fun. Honestly, only the facts that we have one car too many (she says!) and I value my marriage are keeping me from jumping onto this … especially as Arroyo Grande is only a few hours up the road.

    • George

      I test drove a new one. It would do 70, but barely. But winding it out was fun and it handled well. I just needed something a bit bigger.

  11. Howard A Member

    I had a friend whose wife had a 4wd Justy.( I believe they made 2 wheel drive ones) She said it was a big improvement over the 360 she had. Not sure that’s much of an improvement. It was a thin car, for sure. It remains the only Justy, besides this, I’ve ever seen. She loved Subarus. Come to think of it, she did divorce him and became a lesbian. Sorry, “Just the facts”,,,

    • Will Owen Member

      The Subaru 360 is the only sub-20hp car I’ve ever driven whose engine can overpower the chassis. It’s that single-trailing arm front suspension that does it – when the car leans into a bend the outer front wheel’s kingpin goes up into positive-camber mode and tries really hard to flop into full left or right lock.

      Mine was a van, not a sedan, so the effect was probably exaggerated by my sitting over the front wheels, but the first time it happened, on a right turn, and the door came open as well … Anyway, the Justy was a perfectly predictable handler, and a lot more comfortable besides.

  12. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    That’s all I remember about these cars: they were the first to have a CVT. As a car nerd, I was very interested in the technology.

    Now many years later, we have a vehicle in the family with one: my daughter’s Nissan Cube. It’s like driving a moped with fake “shifts” thrown in. Sufficient torque at takeoff but it runs out of steam very quickly.

  13. George

    Other than the DAF which was sold in America starting in 1958.

  14. George

    I test drove one when they were new. Pushing it along the highway, the transmission sounded like Roger Rabbit. 5 speed, I never drove one with the extra cost CVT.

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