The Subaru SVX is one of the Bubble Era greats. The sleek grand touring coupé epitomized the ambition of Japan’s carmakers at the tail end of the Showa Era. But you know what would’ve been even cooler? An SVX shooting brake, and Subaru delivered just that with the Amadeus concept. Sadly, parts of the one-off concept showed up on an auction site earlier this year.
The SVX shocked the automotive world when it debuted as a concept at the 28th Tokyo Motor Show in 1989. Fuji Heavy Industries’ carmaking division had, until then, been known mostly for 4WD utility vehicles. No one expected an AWD spaceship with lines from ItalDesign to emerge out of the same company that made the BRAT. But Subaru doggedly took the advanced aero coupé, notable for its 0.29 Cd, from concept to actual production, reportedly losing money on each one they sold.
At the 29th Tokyo Motor Show in 1991, Subaru showed the production SVX, which remained remarkably faithful to the concept. But they also wanted to take things to the next level, and did so by headlining their stand with the Amadeus concept. The two-door wagon was based on the SVX, retaining even its window-in-a-window calling card.
Among its unique design traits were a massive rear hatch and roof rails that blended into a spoiler atop the rear hatch. It wore a glorious two-tone paint job as all the classiest Bubble Era sleds did, and even had some kind of rear integrated under-spoiler to add to its sleekness. Under the hood sat the same 3.3-liter flat six that powered the SVX, but with an added output to 250PS (247 horsepower) and 231 lb-ft of torque over the production SVX’s 230 horses and 228 lb-ft.
Subaru supposedly considered the Amadeus for production with some level of sincerity. It wouldn’t have gone to market as a three-door shooting brake, but Subaru was apparently serious enough that they developed a five-door wagon variant. Unfortunately, as the bubble burst the SVX didn’t sell in the numbers Subaru had hoped, which killed any possibility for the Amadeus.
— のぶさ (@nobu_azuma) June 7, 2020
Unfortunately, the Amadeus seems to have met an ignoble end. In June 2020 someone going by the handle @nobu_azuma posted some photos of what looked like the Amadeus rotting in a field. The paint and clear plastic looked sun-faded; it had clearly been sitting there a while. The caption placed the location as somewhere in Ota, Gunma Prefecture, home of Subaru’s manufacturing hub, with the time simply described “a long time ago”.
Parked nearby were two other Subaru vehicles. The red SVX looks like an early prototype, with LHD, grille, and aero bits taken or replicated from the original silver SVX concept from the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. Its thicker front bumper, side skirts, integrated rear spoiler, and its SVX decal on the lower rear quarter panel all match with that car. It might even be that very car, just repainted.
Behind it was another concept called the Subaru Jusmin, an 800cc and CVT-equipped compact from the 1993 Tokyo Motor Show. It was planned as a successor to the Subaru Justy, but Subaru ended up pulling that model from the sub-1.0-liter market after a single generation. Its second-generation replacement was a rebadged Suzuki Cultus (aka Swift).
Sadly, the Amadeus appears to have been dismantled. Its distinctive 8-spoke white-with-polished-lip wheels appeared on Yahoo Japan Auctions earlier this year, The center cap even reads “Subaru Sports Wagon Amadeus”. There were at least two sets of these wheels produced, as Subaru also showed a body-less mock-up of its AWD system using these wheels at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show. However, it has been pointed out that bits from the red SVX prototype were sold on YJA in 2019.
— のぶさ (@nobu_azuma) June 6, 2020
Another Twitter user recognizes the field as part of a company owned by a neighbor of none other than Chikuhei Nakajima, founder of Nakajima Aircraft, the company that would eventually become Fuji Heavy Industries (and thus Subaru). This person recalls that other Subaru concepts, including the Rioma, Estremo, and Sagres had been parked in the field as well.
It’s sad, but scrappage is often the fate of concept cars, one that Nissan knows all too well. Japan’s laws classify them as assets and continues to tax them even if they’re just sitting in a warehouse. What’s particularly sad about the Amadeus is that it was actually a running mule, as evidenced by video released around the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show. A lot of wild concepts are evolutionary dead ends or are totally unconnected to the company’s production portfolio, but the Amadeus was kind of the platonic ideal of a Subaru of the era — an elegant, powerful, all-wheel-drive touring wagon. It would have served as a marvelous reminder of what Subaru’s best and brightest minds were thinking at their most ambitious. This isn’t the Boxing Day story we were hoping for, but it’s still an important part of Fuji Heavy history.