KIDNEY, ANYONE?: 1979 Subaru DL “50 Shades of Brown”

After a series of seriously expensive kidney candidates ranging from a Fairlady Z432 to the entire Toyota campus, it’s high time we offer something for the proletariat. Seen on Craigslist Milwaukee is a 1979 Subaru DL Wagon, a perfect candidate at just $7,500. It’s a wonder that this auto journalist’s wet dream hasn’t been blown up by every car website on the internet. After all, it’s brown, manual, a wagon, has an unconventional engine, and 4WD. 

The 70s is strong with this one, its body lines accentuated by organic curves and an out-of-place dip in the beltline right where the B-pillar sits. It’s so of-the-era, especially with that brown-on-tan color scheme. Images of shuttling adolescents to KISS concerts or Dungeons & Dragons night at the local comics store come to mind. I can only imagine the original owner being Red Forman having replaced his Vista Cruiser with one of these dang imported cars because he’s finally accepted that American malaise was here to stay.

It seems the driver’s seat has lived a hard life from the condition of it’s vinyl surface and the plastic dashboard shows no less than seven different shades of brown. The 1970s was the first wave of the plastic interiors thanks to Ralph Nader’s incessant hatred of anything you could possibly bump your head against, and the formula for durable plastics had not been perfected yet.

Luckily the rear seats seems fine, so it would be great for color-matching some fresh vinyl and re-dying the dashboard. While it would be easy enough to re-dye the front seats, the major issue would be that the interior bits look so brittle that they just might disintegrate into powder. Conveniently, there is a strong community of EA71 enthusiasts throughout the world who would gladly help in sourcing parts should the need arise.

One of the more under appreciated aspects of the EA71 is how Subaru avoided the obvious physical abnormalities found in the era’s bumpers. Subaru integrated the 5-mph crash beams much more gracefully than most automakers of the time.

While the wagon is not concours condition, mechanically it should be near perfect with only 72,000 miles on the clock. 1979 was the last year that Subaru was seriously utilitarian. After that, Subaru would begin continuously adding creature comforts. With its simplicity, this car would make a fantastic driver or a very cheap restoration project.

As we’ve been proselytizing, early 4WD Subarus are criminally undervalued. This car, even at its most basic, is Subaru’s brand identity in its purest form. It’s honest, simple engineering, elegance in utilitarianism.


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10 Responses to KIDNEY, ANYONE?: 1979 Subaru DL “50 Shades of Brown”

  1. Scotty G says:

    Ugh, I almost bought this one (eBay) for $4,500 a couple of years ago. It instantly went back on for $9,000, if I remember right. Now, down to $7,500. It’s a beaut, no question about it, other than some obvious interior work (dash/seat/s) and who knows what else. Would it be worth $10,000 if it were in mint condition?

    • bob says:

      Yep, my friend almost bought it at $4500 as well. I was pretty annoyed when I saw it up for $9K almost immediately as well. Didn’t even use new pictures for that second auction.

      • Scotty G says:

        Of course now we’re all kicking ourselves for not grabbing it. If it was drop-dead perfect $7,500 would be a no-brainer, but it’s not, and at that price it’s a gamble. I’d love to have it but not if it needs thousands more in work done to it.

  2. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    I’ve always liked the 1st & 2nd generation Justy. I was considering them for a winter work car but I decided the support by then was a bit shaky. I still really think they would make an awesome snow-rod. I’m also starting to see more off-road modded 80’s GL wagons & hatchbacks lifted with knobbies. The working man’s antidote to a $40,000 WRX. Like the discontinued Suzuki Samurai, they might really find their stride after production ceases. The key would probably be the size of following for a parts market. I ultimately went with a Tin-Top Samurai that averages a couple of offers a month to sell to somebody (Nope, period.).

  3. Dimitry says:

    $7500. Damn. I remember seeing an old, slowly rusting ’88 DL back in Jerusalem for 1k NIS.
    That was 13-14 years ago.

  4. BlitzPig says:

    That’s from Wisconsin and it still has a floor left under it?

    Amazing. Must never have been actually used in winter.

    • Bob says:

      It’s from Texas, the seller bought it on eBay 1-2 years ago, brought it north, and immediately tried to flip it for twice the first selling price.

      The guy who sold it in Texas had a story and pictures with it too, he had worked at the dealership it was sold new at and actually had a picture of it on a car hauler being delivered to the dealership brand new in 1979, which was also in the ad. He knew the buyer and it had been serviced at his dealer forever, so he bought it when it came up for sale finally.

  5. Ben Hsu says:

    Great Kidney Car, Ryan. This one had me chuckling throughout.

  6. nlpnt says:

    One detail – these didn’t have 5 mph bumpers, they were classed as “light trucks” by NHTSA (which used different definitions than Customs) and had the international-style bumpers. Those on USDM 2WD Subarus were *much* bulkier.

  7. Francis says:

    That was my first car. Drove it across the country 16 times! Mine was the hideous beige with the stripe down the side. I put 150,000 miles on that little screamer of an engine.

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