QotW: What’s the greatest nostalgic Subaru?


With the Legacy squarely in the 25 Year Club and Subarus being the best mode of transportation available to much of the snowed-in country right now, it may be a good time to ask:

What is the greatest nostalgic Subaru?

Subaru doesn’t have quite the varied history of a Nissan, Toyota or Mazda, but that doesn’t mean its models aren’t influential. The company might be small, as was their first car, but the Subaru 360 became a symbol of the Showa Era and had a lasting impact on Japanese culture.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the most anticipated “Class of 1990″ JNC?

1992 Geo Metro convertible

Well, the 1990 Geo Metro convertible certainly isn’t the car everyone was expecting, but reader Jim-Bob certainly had the most entertaining answer.

1990 was still a banner year for the:Barina/Cultus/Firefly/Metro/Sprint/Swift/Justy platform (GM G chassis) in that it marked the arrival of the Geo Metro (among others) convertible! No longer were you forced to have an inordinate number of cylinders/rotors if you wanted to go topless! Now you could have a reliable Suzuki paint mixer three thrumming away under the hood with the wind in your hair. Better yet, it could leave your neighbor’s mid 80’s 3.8 liter Cutlass in the dust thanks to a 7 second faster 0-60 time. Not only that, but the heavier convertible model also came with the shortest geared version of the MV2 5 speed gearbox, meaning that burnt exhaust valves were just a road trip away at the national 55 MPH speed limit.

Happily though, the ones that survive today are likely to be owned by those of us who cherish simple motoring in a simple car and many have seen simple changes that make them simply reliable on modern roads. My own 4 door FrankenMetro has seen nearly 300,000 miles and retains at least some of it’s original parts! (Does the roof count?) Sadly though, I have yet to own the convertible version and so it remains on my automotive bucket list along with the legendary Trabant 601, Zaporozhetz 965 and Honda N600.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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14 Responses to QotW: What’s the greatest nostalgic Subaru?

  1. cesariojpn says:

    I call for immediate dismissal of the winner’s entry given many Geo Metro’s have fallen victim to “Hypermilers.”

    • Jim-Bob says:

      Yes, but hypermilers are enthusiasts too! Many of us who hypermile also enjoy fast and interesting cars as well. Fuel mileage is just another metric to optimize much like quarter mile times, top speed, off road performance, etc. Some of us also rescue these old fuel misers from the crusher and let them live another day. My medium quasar blue metallic 1991 Frankenmetro is indeed a hypermiler’s car as it was built to maximize performance in a pizza delivery environment (fuel economy/ turning circle/reliability).

      How? Well, it is now a three seater with the front passenger’s seat removed so that the pizzas can lie flat on the floor. This lets me take corners faster because I don’t have to do the mommy thing and hold them in the seat when braking or cornering. It is also good as I am a guy and it would be hard to ever be a mommy! I also gave it taller gearing with a different transmission that I rebuilt myself (3.79 like an XFI but from a 95 Swift 4 cylinder with the correct speedo gear for the tires) and tires (155-80 13 from a 95+ Metro). This cut the cruising RPMS to 3050 from 3500 at 70 MPH and helps keep the stock valves alive on the interstate. For driving enjoyment and safety I also added the later Metro/Swift’s bigger brakes and sway bars as well as KYB struts. Other mods include a Metro convertible gauge cluster with tach, a digital voltage gauge I built into a spare seatbelt warning light spot in the binnacle, and a modified binnacle that seamlessly integrates a 16×2 LCD screen for a home built trip computer based upon the MPGuino project (in progress). Also in progress now is a new engine with more low end torque with more compression, a 3Tech economy cam, chrome rings, ported head and stainless exhaust valves. When finished, the car should be both quicker and more fuel efficient than when new.

      I also built a 134a A/C system using bits and pieces from several Metros and Swifts as well as rebuilding the whole ventilation system to reseal it. The air vents can now put out air at 45mph as verified with a hand held anemometer that I keep in the car for just such purposes (and storm chasing). Lastly, I put in a 2 row A/C, automatic radiator for additional cooling in the hot Florida sun. However, cosmetically my car looks like a stock 2014 Pakistani Suzuki Cultus as many of the mods mine has are now standard in Pakistan (wheels, tire size and folding mirrors). It’s had no aero work and I refuse to hack up rare parts just for a few more MPG. The only aero mod I am contemplating is adapting a 1991 S-10 front air dam under the front nose, but it would be temporary. I would only use it for long trips as ground clearance is more important in pizza delivery that aero. Now if only I could get out of pizza delivery…

      • Randy says:

        I don’t think I’d call you a hypermiler… Those cars seem to have been modded strictly for mpg, like gutted, whereas you’re going for utility, and you have 45 mph wind coming out your vent. Well, the CAR’S vent. Don’t wanna know about the wind speed from YOUR vent! 🙂

        Oh – do you have the smoothy disks for highway, or just leave the wheels open?

  2. sublime says:

    Quite obviously the most nostalgic Subaru is the original 1972 Leone 4wd wagon (mostly 1975 for those outside of Japan).

    It was truly original in concept, resulted a many copies by other manufacturers (only in the 1980s after sales took off) and ultimately defined the brand. So much so that most Subarus are now predominantly AWD only (accepting the BRZ).

    Without that little wagon Subaru would be a very different company today! What other Japanese car company ended up in a pop song (Blondie – Rapture)?

    • Yoda says:

      This. Add in the fact that people who bought them did so to USE them and that road salt is the handmaiden of snow, and you have a car that’s rare out of proportion to its’ significance.

  3. I am going to have to say EA82 Generation GL-10 because it is the predecessor to the entire Subaru line. It originally was replaced by the Legacy (which spawned the Outback, Legacy GT, and Forester), then the Impreza (which spawned the Outback Sport and WRX/STi).

    The GL-10 was the top of the line model with Pneumatic suspension (air ride), velour interior, digital dashboard, and even a Turbocharger.

    Along with the GL10 the EA82 also saw the Alcyone (Subaru XV), which is the spiritual predecessor to the BRZ and also Subaru’s first dedicated sports car.

  4. JHMAB2 says:

    I like that photo of the Geo Metro. I feel like the car looks like it was made for fun, the way cars were meant to be.

  5. canalnoises says:

    This is a no-brainer! The greatest nostalgic Subaru? Definitely the BRAT. I mean, c’mon, a pick-up truck the size of a Yaris with T-tops, dual-range 4WD, plaid seats, a third-eye passing light, AND hard plastic jump seats in the bed? Doesn’t get any better than that! Or at least it doesn’t get any weirder than that… But really, especially once you’ve driven one it’s impossible to not love the BRAT.

  6. Kane says:

    Im going to have to go with the subaru brumby (BRAT), there is just somthing so awsome about a little all wheel drive ute, i would have got one my self but i needed back seats so i got an impreza wagon instead. I love the shape and styling of them, there fairly boxy and a timless design i feel. Plaid seats are a pluss and you do not see it enough, along with seats in the back that i wish where legal to use. The final thing i love about them is that a WRX motor with go straight in…… install your new WRX engine, tune and mod it a bit and you will have one of the best sleeper cars going.
    Got to love the suabru brumby.

  7. Greylopht says:

    This is quite a tough one I have to say. Owning a great many Subarus at the moment. I am not going to go into what is in the collection. But the greatest nostalgic Subaru can mean many things. From what people in different regions say, to what a purist would say, and even what modern folks would say. But really there is only one Subaru that I have found pretty much is the most widely known current Nostalgic Subaru. It would have to be the second generation of the Leone, in wagon format. Yes the trusty EA81 if you go by engine designation.

    This is the platform of Subaru I have owned more of than any other. And when you ask someone about there first Subaru experience, well the 1981 to 1984.5 platform is fondly remembered. Most of the time. I think it helped at the time that the Olympic Ski team support and as well media support from that helped thrust the little wagons (And to a lesser extent, the coupes, hatchbacks, as well as sedans) into the more main stream American culture.

    So that is America…

    You can almost apply this to other places. Granted in Japan, there are more favored cars, as well as in Ireland and the UK.

    As for really cementing a global reputation with one platform. I would have to say however the Legacy is a bit more of that genesis. Spawning many things from it’s birth.

    Yet I digress, I do own a FF-1 Star wagon. And I can see the progress and thought from where things get interesting, with inboard drum brakes and many idiosyncrasies that do not seem to make much sense in terms of modern autos. (The heater matrix, is under the hood) But at the time, it worked just fine. Today it still works just fine, it is just a bit more.. Special. But with out the FF-1 there would be no hot 1300G , there would be no Leone. So is it the greatest?

    I am not sure, I guess it is all perspective, because they are all great.

  8. Sammy says:

    I’m not sure what the proper measure of the “greatest” would be; sales, styling, lineage, engine, speed, least rusty, most plaid, ugliest, prettiest, my head is about to explode.

    Well, my vote is for the Subaru 360 Van (Sambar). It is quirky and weird, ugly but handsome. I don’t know what it is about them but people seem to adore them. It’s like nothing Subaru has made since, it’s totally unique in a sea of ubiquitous and pedestrian econo-cars from Japan. I heard it called a refrigerator on wheels for styling and a chainsaw on crack for the engine. But, without a doubt, it’s a head turner and everyone needs to know what it is then wants a ride.

    It’s a 356cc, 25 hp, air cooled, two stroke engine with a top speed, depending on the angle of the hill you’re going down, of around 65 or so. The fuel is mixed on the fly (at different ratios depending on speed) with an oil injector to save you from having to mix it up first. It sits on 10″ tube tires on a split rim. And, there is a little flap up front that let’s in cool air when things heat up. Yeah, you have to be moving, but who wants to be stopped at a light anyway?

    My nomination, the Subaru 360 Van (aka, Sambar).

  9. ish parken says:

    Technically the Subaru SVX isnt 25 years old yet. But seriously we cant make this list without the SVX mentioned. Half windows and all, it one of the strangest/coolest cars to ever his subaru lots.

  10. Mcdumpster says:

    The word greatest can be interpreted in many ways like others have already mentioned. For me, a lover of history, I would have to say it means genesis of something. That being said I would have to say the greatest nostalgic Subaru would have be the 1000. This car was the first for Subaru in many ways, number one it was the first non-kei car produced by Fuji Heavy industries. (Note: I don’t really the 1500, as there were only 20 were produced). Second it was the first Subaru to have the boxer engine. Lastly the 1000 was the first Subaru to use a FF configuration.

    I also personally really like the way it looks and I love the wagons. The 1000 was then preceded by the Leone and then the Impreza. So if not for the beginning; the Subaru 1000 we might not have cars like RX Turbo, SVX, WRX, and such. So in conclusion i nominate this car be cause it was the first of many things for Subaru and it looks cool.

  11. Cody says:

    For me it will always be the first generation Legacy, but I’m biased because I got one for my first car in 2010 and just recently sold it. Mine was an L Option 1 which included AWD and 4-Speed Automatic with Manual Overdrive. It had the indestructible 2.2L EJ22E motor. The car was a great car while I had it. Even though it was N/A the car had quite a bit of potential. I did several performance upgrades (full exhaust, pulleys, intake, etc.) as well as suspension upgrades (steering rack, struts, trailing arms, etc.). Mine made around 180awhp but it was more than enough. Mine had a curb weight just below 3,000 lbs. The car was nothing but fun and always put a smile on my face. I was able to outrun quite a bit of newer cars too. The nice thing is that many of the parts on the car swapped out between the 2.5 RS, LGT, WRX, and STI. So I had a lot of parts to choose from for a car that wasn’t extremely popular, especially where I live in the Midwest.

    Also, an honorable mention would be an XT.

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