Snow Mobile: 1986 Subaru XT Turbo 4WD

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Never seen snow! Just kidding, of course, this is one car that can handle snow, it’s a 1986 Subaru XT Turbo 4WD. This one is listed on eBay with no reserve and the current bid price is just under $1,000! Unique car lovers, this one is for you. It’s located in Uxbridge, Massachusetts and it’s reportedly a west coast car which hopefully has helped to keep any rust issues out of the picture. The seller talks about the only real rust to deal with is at the sunroof: “only issue is that there is minor rust where the sunroof is. When I purchased the car the entire roof had been flex sealed, this is because the roof has a minor leak and will need new gaskets and body filler if you want to fix it right.” Let’s check this one out a little more, shall we?

This is a good looking example, but there are a couple of dings, dents, and some missing trim. But, it has a very rare body kit which is fairly highly-prized by Subaru aficionados. Our own Jeff Lavery had a Subaru XT-6 with a 5-speed that he mostly restored and he may be running for the corner with the sweats when he sees this post. While he and his shop did a fantastic job on the restoration, it was just a highly-rare and hard-to-find-parts-for car that he may have PTSD to this day whenever he sees or even hears about a Subaru XT. He really tracked down some rare parts including rear window louvers which are like trying to find original parts for a Ford Quadricycle.. almost..

This car looks like it’s in real nice condition. There will be the usual scratches and nicks and trips to the dent-doctor, but overall it appears to be solid. The seller is reportedly a Subaru fan and thought that it would be fun to get a nice one and restore it, but they’re really used to working on American iron and parts for this car will not be in a dozen parts catalogs like a lot of American muscle car parts are. Subaru made the XT starting in 1985 with a turbo and non-turbo 4-cylinder boxer engine. The turbo only had around 15 hp more than the non-turbo, but it’s still the one to have. Even more so, this car has a 5-speed manual, another feature that box-checkers like myself look for. Truthfully, this car checks just about every box for me: it’s a Subaru, it has 4WD, it has a turbo, it’s in nice condition, it has a 5-speed, and it’s highly-unusual. I may be seriously going for this car if it wasn’t for Jeff’s experience with his car. Dang you, Lavery!

The early XT Turbo cars are sought after for their crazy high-tech digital dash cluster. The pistol-grip shifter is cool, too, as are the seats. Another “dead mint pair of original front bucket seats and factory trip computer” go with the car, too. An offset steering wheel? Yeah, that’s cool, too. Everything about these cars were and are cool to me. I know that they aren’t for everyone, just like not everyone likes Mustangs and Camaros, but if a person were into unusual cars, it does not get much more usual than a 4WD, 5-speed Subaru XT Turbo. There are no engine photos, a fairly rare case for eBay listings, but this car should have Subaru’s EA-82T 1.8L boxer-four cylinder turbo with around 112 hp or so; not a very big bump from the 97 hp non-turbo engine. The seller took it to “a Subaru specialist and was told the car will need a water pump as it is leaking.” Jeff? How hard is that to fix? (cringing).. They say that other “than that, there are no mechanical faults to my knowledge with the car shifting beautifully with fluid acceleration” Have any of you owned a Subaru XT? Jeff, are you still reeling from your experience?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. kev

    that’s awesome, love seeing rare cars

    Like 1
    • Alex

      I had one and it was my first car. Best memories ever. Would love to drive again for nostalgia, but would probably not own one again lol

      Like 0
  2. Billy 007


    Like 1
  3. 86 Vette Convertible

    Pretty nice looking ride. I was never a fan of sunroofs, so if that was welded up it wouldn’t tear my heart up. Could be fun in snow country.
    Only notable damage I saw was in the front below the bumper.
    Now for the money question – why do you think there was not a single engine photo (at least that I saw).

    Like 0
  4. Jeff LaveryStaff

    Those are actually my seats and trip computer! I sold the seller those items when he was hot for the XT. Guess he’s not as excited as he once was…hopefully, I didn’t sour him on the experience.

    Like 0
    • Ralph Smallwood

      I am in the market for a subaru xt turbo. Where do you recommend I look?

      Like 0
  5. Jeff LaveryStaff

    As per the water pump: there were quantities in the single digits left in the US for the one I bought for the XT6. No idea if they are just as hard to find for the turbo models, but it would’t surprise me. I have a beautiful, brand-new dual-core radiator that would be perfect for this car if anyone’s reading who might be buying….

    Like 0
  6. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I’ve never experienced these myself but I’ve always been intrigued with them since once seeing Car and Driver put these 4wd XT Turbos on a list of top 10 all time rides.

    Like 0
  7. DRV

    Are those 2 emergency brakes, right and left?
    Maybe left is the ejection seat?

    Like 0
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      I believe the one on the left fires up the afterburner.. no, I’m guessing it’s a hood release? Jeff? How do you like being a free consultant on Subaru XT posts?.. (crickets)

      Like 0
      • Jeff LaveryStaff

        I believe upper one is for adjusting the steering column height; lower one is for the hood release.

        Like 0
  8. Tiki Vegas

    Unfortunately these cars get bought by VW Vanagon owners so they can transplant the engine and junk the rest. So it will be worth more as a parts car to them.

    Like 0
  9. Jeffro

    Loved these when they came out.

    Like 0
  10. Christopher Wenz

    I thought only French cars had wierd steering wheels! Lol. Saab’s, Subes and Volvos here in Massachusetts everywhere. Can’t remember the last time I saw an XT.

    Like 0
  11. CanuckCarGuy

    Great find, I’ve not seen one live and in person for decades. Thank you once again Barn Finds for sharing another modern automotive obscurity.

    Like 1
  12. Zapp

    Had a roommate who owned a mechanically similar Subaru GL-10 Turbo Full-Time 4WD sedan from about the same vintage. That motor put out some decent torque and moved the GL-10 around with real authority. It stuck to the road like paint no matter what the weather. The air suspension with adjustable ride height was quite the trick setup, too.

    This car deserves to get driven ’til it’s totally used up. I’d love to own it, if only I had the room.

    Like 1
  13. Neal

    I wanted to comment with a cut and paste of some other comments I’ve shared when other Subarus have been listed here. Sorry if my repeating concerns anyone.

    I’ve loved these older Subarus. A friend in college had an XT6, and that was a spaceship dreamy ride. Stay away from the early turbos, though.

    The wagon version was a favorite. I had a top-of-the-line GLT (Turbo) ’85 wagon that I bought used in ’93 as my first car. It had led a pampered life and was a trade-in with low miles and no rust even though it was “old” for a northeast daily driver, but it had loads of problems in the several years I owned it.

    His name was Jake. Never name your vehicles because you get too attached. My low-mileage ’85 had been lovingly cared for and maintained. I continued to care for it, religiously letting it idle for over a minute as instructed each time before turning off the ignition to ensure proper cooling and lubrication of the turbo bearings. They should have never added a turbo to that engine: it had a habit of cracking the aluminum cylinder heads from heat and boost. Needed y-pipes, cylinder heads that cracked because of the heat and boost of the turbo, oil leaks that dropped onto the exhaust and smiled like crazy, a differential rebuild. I actually replaced the heads TWICE and then I gave up. I sold it when the replacement heads failed again. I refused to sell it to a single mom who was looking for reliable transportation. Buyer knew what he was getting into when he swung circles in a parking lot to check for cv joint clatter and left plumes of white smoke from burning coolant in rings around us. They should have never turbocharged that engine.

    I’ve stayed away from Subarus since (I hate the grindy whine of their boxer engines, even on the new ones) and turbos in general ever since.

    I still have the heads and differential pieces in my basement for some reason. Always wanted to make them into andirons or something.

    I swore off turbos and Subarus in general, but someday if the right Scout with an intercooled 4BT comes along, I might change my turbo vow…

    Sounds like I rode it hard and put it away wet a lot, but I actually took good care of it. Ol’Jake let me down and cost me a lot of money I didn’t have back then.

    I’ve moved on to minivans…

    Like 0
  14. davew833

    The EA82T found in this XT is not nearly as rare as the ER27 H6 used in the XT6, so I wouldn’t sweat finding a water pump or other engine parts for it. The EA82T was used in a number of other Subaru wagons, coupes and sedans and the ER27 was only used in the XT6 if I remember right.

    I had a Loyale wagon with the EA82T. When one of the two timing belts gave way, I junked it, after fighting for several years to keep up with the rust around the windshield that had actually eaten through the roof sheetmetal.

    Like 0
    • Jeff LaveryStaff

      That’s correct. If you really want to have a laugh, go to any Subaru dealer and ask them for parts for an ER27. Most the guys working there weren’t even alive when the car was made. I literally had one parts counter tell me that Bob or Dave or someone had died and he was the only one who could help me with such wizadry as a water pump for an XT6.

      Like 0
  15. DayDreamBeliever Alan (Michigan)

    $3251 end, after 46 bids.

    I hope someone has a lot of fun with it!

    Like 0

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