KIDNEY, ANYONE? Flawless EA81 Subaru GL Wagon

Front quarter

On eBay this week is probably the most well-preserved EA81 Wagon in existence. This particular 1981 Subaru GL 4WD is 4-speed manual-equipped, carburetor clad, and naturally aspirated. With 102,000 on the odometer the car has seen some use, but it has clearly been very carefully cared for. 

The EA81 chassis Subaru is considered one of the best classic Subarus to own. It’s largely free of the reliability issues found on the EA82 chassis (previously noted on a Kidney Car from last year), and more readily available than the 70s era EA71 cars. They also feature a number of neat innovations such as a cyclops third headlight that pops up behind the logo on the grille, Subaru’s first ever turbocharger, as well as the second-gen chicken tax phenom, the Subaru BRAT.

Rear Right EA81 GL Wagon

It’s a rarity to see this color — which I had previously assumed was matte red as I’ve never seen one with any gloss left to the paint — in such good condition. The state of the paint probably lends itself to the status of being a single-owner southern California car, even still sporting the blue and yellow 1981-spec plate. The white steelies not only are devoid of even the smallest speck of rust, but also feature perfectly preserved center caps. Don’t over look the unfaded red lettering on the rubber mudflaps either.

Under the hood, you’ll find an unblemished pale blue air cleaner cover and what appears to be the original spare tire on a never-mounted steel wheel. Looking at the engine block itself, it appears to be lacking any oil leaks to stain its beautiful bright aluminum casting (my EA82’s engine could be this clean if I dumped my entire life savings into degreaser, and it would be back to oil-caked within a week). An interesting item of note is that this model features air conditioning, which was available for the first time as a factory installed option from Subaru. And yes, the a/c does blow cold.

Front interior EA81 GL Wagon

You might think these are just screenshots of a Motorweek review from the 80s, but it really is this clean. Even the factory floormats are untarnished! The seats sport a bitchin’ plaid print too, something that is sadly gone from modern cars outside of VW. The grey vinyl of the dashboard and red-letter gauges remind me of an X-Wing cockpit from the original Star Wars trilogy, which suits the Rebels Flight Suit Red exterior well.

The aftermarket Sanyo tape deck with matching graphic equalizer is one of the best looking era correct stereos I’ve ever seen in a Japanese nostalgic car, but those knobs look like they’re going to put an eye out.

You’d be mistaken to believe that afterthought of a dome light is aftermarket; it is actually a OEM piece and does a better job illuminating the interior than most dome lights cars of the era had.

Passanger Side view EA81 Wagon interior

Had this been an automatic, it would have featured one of the biggest innovations of this generation of Subaru — the world’s first automatic push-button 4WD system, allowed by a wet hydraulic multi-plate clutch. However, this is a feature most of us here at JNC can live without since we’d rather slam the gears manually.

EA81 GL Wagon tailgate

With an EA71 Subaru 1400 GL taking home the JNC Award last year at Japanese Classic Car Show, there is no reason to believe that these cars are any less collectible than a Toyota or Datsun. In fact, despite prices being relatively stagnant for the last five years, interest has been budding and now their low prices make for a great addition to any collection without breaking the bank. This one is going for $6,300 with 23 bids and reserve has not been met at the time of this writing. Bidding ends on February 8, so here’s your chance to grab it and park it next to your XT-6 or 2.5RS. See the auction on eBay

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13 Responses to KIDNEY, ANYONE? Flawless EA81 Subaru GL Wagon

  1. Cesariojpn said:

    Don’t let this thing be modified…….don’t let this thing be modified……

    • Scotty G said:

      My thoughts exactly whenever I see something so original and nice!

      I prefer the previous generation body style just for its funkiness / goofiness, but this is a car worthy of spinning on our red velvet auto turntable in our living room (which reminds me, I have to order a red velvet auto turntable for our living room one of these days)..

  2. Tom said:

    What’s that additional lever next to the handbrake for ?

  3. Yoda said:

    “Had this been an automatic, it would have featured one of the biggest innovations of this generation of Subaru — the world’s first automatic push-button 4WD system, allowed by a wet hydraulic multi-plate clutch.”

    Not until MY83 though. 4WD was 4-speed manual only through ’82.

    • Scotty G said:

      Not to mention the Subaru Justy with the push-button-activated 4WD on the shifter knob (technical term..) until the early-90s. But, that was a totally different animal. I love these quirky Subarus, to me 4WD / AWD is the ultimate option. Of course, I still live in St. Paul, MN.. for some odd reason.. (not bitter)..

      This red EA81 is a car that I would never, ever subject to snowy, salty public roads in winter, that would be like using a Henry Moore sculpture as a jack stand.

      • Yoda said:

        I agree, here in Vermont they were the first Subarus to be really popular and they all failed inspection on rust at around ten years old.

  4. bbbs53 said:

    I have an ’82 Brat. This car and it have the orange gauge paint. Mine came with a 5 speed and air conditioning along with power brakes and steering. It is a late year ’82. It has also had disc brakes added to the rear. That lever is not the 4wd lever but the hi/lo lever. In low it cuts the range in half. That means screaming engine in 5th gear and 40 miles an hour. You can’t shut off the 4wd. It is either in 4 wheel high or 4 wheel low. The vehicle will drive fine with the rear CV axles removed. I suspect this would run with maintenance and not being exposed to water or salt for pretty much now on. Mine runs fine and just got freshened up. Most of these are rusting in peace, too bad, the drivetrain is tops.

  5. Scotty G said:

    Someone must have nabbed up this car, the auction ended because “the car is no longer available”. Someone got a time capsule here.

  6. Steve said:

    My dad had one of these. They would rust on the way home from the dealership!

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