Subaru’s 1986 XT Turbo Restoration

Strolling the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center at last month’s SEMA show, we were blown away by Subaru of America‘s impeccable 1986 XT Turbo. It’s not every day that you see a fully restored 1980s tech wedge, so we contacted our friends at Subaru to get the back story of how this blue beauty came to be.

The project started because Subaru, like many Japanese automakers nowadays, is on a quest to collect significant models from its past. Subaru’s count is currently up to 30 cars, including concepts, rally cars, a 360, FF-1, 1975 4WD Wagon, 80s Turbo Sedan, and an SVX. These currently sit in a warehouse at their Cherry Hill, New Jersey headquarters.

Of course, no collection of iconic Subies could be complete without their 80s flagship, the XT. When it debuted in 1985, the XT was the most aerodynamic production car in the world, boasting a drag coefficient of 0.29. Top-of-the-line XTs were equipped with all-wheel-drive and a turbocharged 1.8 liter boxer good for 110 horsepower.  Subaru searched high and low to find one, and ended up uncovering this example pretty close to its New Jersey HQ .

The XT Turbo was literally a barn find, stowed by the original owner for several years. The odometer showed only 38,000 miles, but the underside was covered in surface rust thanks to the barn’s dirt floor.

Autobody Enterprises of West Collingswood Heights, New Jersey took custody of the car and began a full rotisserie restoration. The engine was removed and handed over to Subaru technicians, who had access to the company’s entire inventory, for a rebuild.

Still, after 25 years even Subaru had trouble locating all the necessary parts. They had to scour warehouses, dealers, and those counterparts in Japan. The windshield proved the most difficult piece. Subaru had only one in their inventory — which broke before it could get to the car. Luckily, a Subaru employee had a spare and donated it to the project.

The body was completely repainted in its original shade of 659 metallic blue. The plan was to debut the finished XT at launch of the Subaru BRZ, but Subaru says that they weren’t specifically looking for a blue one. The beautiful hue of the XT was simply a happy coincidence.

All in all, the restoration took nine months and the XT debuted ahead of schedule at the SEMA show instead. We asked Subaru what’s the one piece of advice for those wishing to restore their own XT, and they said, “Start with the most complete car you can find.”

See more restoration photos in the gallery below and on the Subaru Drive website.

Photos courtesy of Subaru of America.

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21 Responses to Subaru’s 1986 XT Turbo Restoration

  1. Drew3x says:

    simply stunning.
    I love that blue.
    too bad they used a 3-speed auto though…
    still lovely car.
    our forum at
    has actually had a few new members looking to buy XTs since this car was shown at Sema.

  2. cesariojpn says:

    “Start with the most complete car you can find.”

    Unlucky for many of us, who have to contend with parts cars, rusted junk, banger park-and-abandon jobs, or an idiot who thinks that Old = $$$$$$$.

  3. dave says:

    WOW. I LOVE that car. They should also go find and restore a flat-6 version. What a sweet car…

  4. Lincoln Stax says:

    It’s nice to see the Japanese automakers taking pride in their heritage. That’s a great car and a great restoration.

    And dig that asymmetrical steering wheel!

  5. Drew3x says:

    Almost extinct? Visit Washington state some time.

  6. Ben says:

    First car I ever drove was a GL-10 Turbo, in Texas! 🙂

  7. Drew3x says:

    Lucky. I learned on a some cheap generic chrysler sedan

  8. Lukas says:

    Why is there no scale-model, if the third generation Leone is that popular?

  9. jon says:

    +2 on WA state, there everywhere particularly in seattle. my first car was an 82 gl 2-dr! seattle loves subies!

  10. 47hako says:

    I used to have one! I’m gonna post a pic on your FB page!

  11. Levy says:

    Hy , car looks amazing , well done

    A question : where did you buy control arms bushing and mounts , couse i can find them online , did you buy them online or from local dealer , id be very greatfull if you would send me an email with a website or something , thanks a million 🙂 (

  12. Hank says:

    Hi, actually, Subaru got them for us from Japan – old stock of theirs. I did hear that there are aftermarket ureuthane bushings available from an online source somewhere, but I don’t know where exactly. Sorry. Hank

  13. Dan B. says:

    I owned a red XT-Turbo 5 speed for quite a while. Loved the car until the air bag suspension started going bad. Then it went down hill quickly.

    Till then, it was an awesome car. I even took it up to Michigan’s Silver Lake dunes and proceed to park it at the top of the big dune. I never had more people stare and take pictures of me in my life!

  14. Karen Wentz says:

    I’m looking for air bag suspension for our 1985 turbo 4×4. Where dig they come up with all the discontinued parts? These are really awesome cars to drive and not to mention fun!

  15. Richard Tattersfield says:

    there is a scale model -picked one up last year, still platic wrapped in box

  16. ian mclellan says:

    it would make a great K.I.T.T from Knight Rider

  17. Robert says:

    I have just owned XT 1987. Tried to register at but have not received activation link for two weeks. Is this Forum still alive?

  18. john martinez says:

    yo tengo uno igual quisiera restaurarlo

  19. Jeremy says:

    Chasing parts in down under Australia.

    I’m into restoration of one myself.

    I need a set of front guard indicators.

    Have noticed two different types, one that protrudes and one that sits flush with guard.

    I need the right hand one that protrudes or set that are flush.

    Wouldn’t know where to look?…….. ..

    Thanks for help.

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