KIDNEY, ANYONE? Beautiful 1981 Subaru GL 4WD Wagon


Before “Confidence in Motion” and “The Beauty of All-Wheel-Drive,” Subaru was marketed in the US as reliable and economical. But as today’s kidney car demonstrates, the automotive division of Fuji Heavy Industry was long a pro at making singularly awesome and rugged—and, to the initiated, attractive—all-terrain vehicles. Behold this beautiful 1981 Subaru GL 4WD Wagon. 


The second generation Leone/GL is by now a classic and iconic Subaru. It continued many Subaru traditions established by its predecessor and brought other Subaru conventions to the mainstream, most notably four wheel drive. This generation also saw the introduction of turbocharging, another Subaru trademark. These Leones/GLs are thus an important linchpin in Subaru history.

This particular car is said to be in “like new” condition with a low and original ~63,000 miles. Being a 1981, it is powered by the 1.8L EA81 flat-4; the turbo wouldn’t arrive for another two years. The engine has new head gaskets, and the car is delightfully equipped with the four-speed manual transmission along with the dual-range 4WD system.

The body has been resprayed in what is presumably the original light brown color, with the emblems and badges seemingly preserved and reapplied. The interior looks to be in great shape (described as “nearly perfect”), and the plaid seat inserts alone are simply irresistible. It may lack the cyclops passing lamp, but the car does appear to be a beautiful specimen.

Subarus of this vintage are bona fide JNCs. Yet while one prime example graced this year’s Touge California, they are still underrepresented in the classic scene. That is a shame, as these old Subies are innovative and full of unique character, not to mention historically significant. Tempted? This car is in Grass Valley, California right now with an asking price of $6,300, waiting to be loved by its next owner.

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12 Responses to KIDNEY, ANYONE? Beautiful 1981 Subaru GL 4WD Wagon

  1. Car Nut Seattle says:

    I remember this generation Subaru 4wd wagon. I was too young to drive at the time, but I remember wanting one. I found it better looking than anything that came after that, until the Subaru Legacy.

  2. Taylor says:

    Wow, that’s still for sale? I was watching this one for a bit before I bought my Z31 and was entertaining all types for my next project car. This is a great looking car and I’m stunned it hasn’t sold yet!

  3. Scotty G says:

    Holy man, that’s a beauty! Being from Minnesota (i.e., snow/road-salt country), I would hate for this to actually see winter duty, but it sure would be fun in the snow.

  4. Alex says:

    Verrry pretty car.

  5. A spectacular specimen. Dang, I saw so many just like that in Australia back in the day. Where have they all gone? I can confirm their unicorn status in Japan. I think I’ve seen about 3.

    • Brett says:

      They are still around Downunder, in fast diminishing numbers.

      The condition of this one seems exceptional; so pretty are anywhere I guess.

      I am rally tempted to buy a Brumby (Brat) but the price of those is now rising here as well.

  6. Car Nut Seattle says:

    I’d love to buy one if I could find one in decent (driveable) condition.

    • Justin VanCleave says:

      I have an 1980 in pretty good shape. Needs some work but ready for the right person to finish the project. As is, 1200, but after a couple more steps, it’ll be 1750. Interested? Sandpoint Idaho.

  7. Gay Car Nut says:

    I’d buy one if its mileage were below 20k miles.

  8. Oldtimer says:

    Just reminiscing, bought one for the wife on our 25 anniversary. she loved it so did the kids.
    One of the best cars we ever owned.

  9. Wjm says:

    Any of these for sale in Australia?

    • Gay Car Nut says:

      I remember when Subaru cars looked like this. Some Subarus had twin headlamps on each side of the grille, while others only had one, depending on the model. But I’ve always found this generation Subaru more attractive than later models, except for the first gen Legacy.

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