Rust-Free 4WD Hatch: 1985 Subaru GL

Across the internet and social media groups, I’ve increasingly seen love for old-school Subarus kept in mint condition. The ideal combination is a car with a manual transmission and 4WD, such as this clean 1985 Subaru GL here on eBay. The frequency with which these cars were used in brutal climates or pushed to their limits of daily use has left very few in survivor-grade condition, so it’s not surprising to see the high levels of interest. This one is listed with a Buy-It-Now of $8,500 and the reserve unmet. 

From a features standpoint, this GL is as good as it gets. The roof rack, mud flaps and white rally wheels are all perfect fits for a Subaru hatchback of this era. The 4WD badges still present good color, which is a surprise given most of them are faded or stolen by now. The rust-free body is the bigger shock given these cars were meant to be used when the roads were saltiest, but the seller claims despite its Colorado origins and current Michigan location, it is not a rust-bucket.

The interior presents as well as the outside, which is really surprising considering the type of folks who bought cars like these had active, outdoors-oriented lifestyles. The unusual airplane-style 4WD handle may come as a surprise to younger readers who would assume “full-time all-wheel drive” is all Subarus ever came with; however, the old-school models featured this lever for 4WD selection. The console, dashboard and seat upholstery all present quite well and the seller claims the car needs nothing.

Subaru’s reputation for quirkiness is well earned, with the jack and spare tire mounted in the engine bay giving the GL bonus points in the weirdness category. While everyone says older Japanese cars are poised for a spike in prices (me included), I just don’t think Subarus will get there as quickly as cars like the All-Trac Celicas and Mitsubishi Starion. While any car in preserved condition is worth a look, the biggest driver of price increases I’ve seen is fun-to-drive AND rarity. While Subarus like this one are certainly rare, I don’t know if they qualify as engaging driver’s cars. Would you agree?


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  1. RoKo

    Nice little rig, but that price seems very optimistic.


    What’s with these prices lately? Is it because Barrett Jackson is going on or what.

  3. John T

    Has Scotty G. seen this yet? I’d like to hear his take on the price. In my opinion it is a little bit high, but only just a little. The ask is $8k and the bid is currently at $4k … I’m thinking that somewhere in the middle would be reasonable. That being said, it really is a nice looking desirable car that appears to be in great shape and if the 62k miles is for real then it should command a premium, plus its a 4WD hatchback with a stick!

  4. Mark S.

    I once had an ‘84 gl wagon. The dual range 4sp was really neat, you can split shift those things like a truck (8 speeds fwd, 2 in rev.).
    I literally thrashed that thing for years and had very little trouble. It finally got so rusty I couldn’t find a solid place to jack it up to change a tire. After that I sold it and was surprised to see it still driving around 3yrs later.

    • Scott oconnor

      Scored my neighbour 84 gl wagon.has like rust but is all orig n has 161.000 don’t get the dual range split shifter? I paid $1000 to the old guy to help him fix his roof,orig wagon wheel rims ,despite dash sun damage great lil car,let me know this shifter ya speak of.. appreciate it..thnx.giid far story too,had 60,s cars like that,stop signs ect for floor boards haha..

  5. Ray

    I don’t think $8500 is out of line. There was a wagon on here last year that sold for over $10k.
    These cars are becoming increasingly difficult to find in such good condition.

    • John T

      Looks like you are right, Ray. Dwindling supply and increasing demand. See my comment below.

  6. 68custom

    it would be so cool to slap an WRX/STI powerplant in this one!

    • RichS

      sayonara smokeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

  7. erikj

    I love these subes and the next gen. loyal type. I,ve had well over 50 at least. It is crazy to see the prices getting to this level though. Mine where free-$500 for most.By accident I figured out how easy they are to work on(my true passion are 60s-80s American muscle , and I have had A LOT!!!) most people gave up on subes and just wanted them gone.Me , I fixed them and drove the sh$%#@ out of them.great on gas,comfy to drive and the wagons are perfect to camp in!!!
    Hate to see others have caught on,now $$$ for one. Oh, almost forgot to mention that they are like snowmobiles in snow. great cars all around.

  8. Harry

    We didn’t get the two door version here in Oz, but I had an 85 four door Touring Wagon that was similar to this in that it had the 4 rectangular headlights. It had the 2 speed gearbox, digital gauges and electric windows. I paid 500 bucks for it and drove it everywhere for years, but it didn’t survive my teenage sons driving habits.
    Most people would stop when they blow a heater hose and the engine over heats….but not my Knuckleheads!

  9. XMA0891

    (Almost) indestructible, spartan, rugged, durable, great little cars. Yep, sure am glad Subaru saw to it to stop making them like this… Nice car at a pie-in-the-sky-price. But I’d bet the seller’s going to get his number.

    • ray

      I have to disagree with your statement about the pie in the sky. There was a wagon on here not long ago with the Desert decal and it went for over $10K. The reason these cars are going up is because most rusted away and very few are left in this shape. They were cheap and people didn’t bother to baby them. I think any 70’s or early 80’s Japanese car that is well cared for will be worth at least $4-$5K.

      • XMA0891

        Exactly. $5,000 is a little more in-line for a 34 MY-old “throw away” car.
        Don’t get me wrong – She’s a beauty – The seller’s still going to get his number and probably then-some.

  10. ray

    Apples & Bananas. The white one is an Automatic with 2WD. And I would deduct at least $1000 for the ugly interior. LOL

  11. Vincent

    The tire next to the engine was not unusual for cars like this.

    The Yugo is another that comes to mind. 😁

  12. Will Owen Member

    The Yugo had its spare there because the Fiat it was derived from (the 128, NOT the 127!!) had its spare there too. As for this, can you think of a better-protected or more easily-accessed location? Too bad the later ones (my Forester, for instance) didn’t have enough room under their hoods.

    The first 4WD Subaru I knew personally was the rather uglier previous version, and its four-wheeling was supposed to be used only in slippery conditions, since there was no central in-line differential. Is that the case with these or not? I know that the 4WD Justys had the same limitation.

    I must say that this is a remarkably pretty car, and I like the color too. I wouldn’t replace the Forester with it, but I sorta wish I had some extra garage room.

  13. BOP Guy Member

    Very cool ! Although I am a GM guy (hence the BOP Guy name), when we’re talking about the 80’s, I’m mostly anything but. My Dad bought a Subaru exactly like this one, only blue. He would buy “new” cars around every two years, always buying them around a year old. I learned to drive stick on this car, so great memories! Seems like a steep price, but with the new wave of younger collectors buying up 80’s cars as “cool” collectibles, cars I NEVER thought would be collectible now are. I guess that’s how the collectors of the pre-WWII cars felt about my generation loving and buying the 60’s cars.

  14. Nevis Beeman

    If I was allowed to live/work in the USA I’d track this down to enjoy forever more. (I’m a former Subaru owner…’78 estate car 4wd.)

  15. Neal

    Nice car! Tttttalkin’ bout my generation……

    Funny how the hatchback stayed in the old style while the other models in 85 got the boxier look.

    In either case, stay away from turbo models. Ask me how I know.

  16. John T

    It appears that somebody out there agrees with you, Ray. When I checked eBay this morning, It said “This item is no longer available” which I take to mean that this 1985 Subaru GL has been SOLD for the full Buy-It-Now price of $8500. Looks like this has quickly and dramatically become a seller’s market where prices will only go higher.

  17. Steven L

    My dad had one of these when I was a child. 88 or 89. The last year for the hatch like this even though the sedan and wagon had gone to the boxy shape. His didn’t have dual range, though. It was push button.

    I wish I had snatched one up years ago when they were dirt cheap. It would look quite nice parked next to my 2013 Impreza.

  18. chad

    looks like he ‘pulled if’ @ 0 bids & $1K. Couldn’t tell if it was up the full # of days.
    Considering all the forgoing in my statement I think it was a “test run’. His add verbiage states something to the effect: I am selling only 4 a project so aint in any rush to sell – a flipper.
    I guess the autos don’t have that lill lever to engage the AWD? I wanted to look inside & C. It wasn’t the twin stick w/the econo/regular was it (like the colt/vista)?

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