This is an interesting survey R&T held among Subaru owners- would the results be similar today?
You’d be the judge. This is from the 1979 November issue:
I remember my grandma owning a Loyale in the very early 90’s, the refined GL so to speak. It was a trouble free car and survived until 2013 with 182000 miles or so, they’re such angular little cars.
Dad had a 78. Never a problem and had it for years. He had tried to buy a Chevette and the salesman couldn’t be bothered to show him one. “They’re over there”. Same thing with Ford when he asked about the Fairmont.
It pissed him off so much he went across the river to Rock Island or Moline and bought a 2 door Subaru DL with dealer installed wire wheel covers and an off brand Ziebart type rustproofing package. Only months later did he realize they’d charged him twice for those hub caps.
I liked that car a lot. Can’t get past their touchy feely marketing these days though.
Parents had a ’78 GF 2 door in brown with tan velour interior. Very reliable car, unstoppable in snow. It served us well until it was stolen and recovered in trashed condition. The A/C which was dealer installed actually chilled the glove box and you could keep soda in there on a trip.
My moms white ’79 was stolen as well. They ripped the dashboard to pieces in the process of stealing the radio. The dealer was a Ford/Subaru dealer so while waiting the 6 months for a new dashboard to arrive on the slow boat from Japan she got to drive an assortment of loaner Fairmonts and Granadas and for a couple days a fox body Mustang.
Seems the good mojo for Subaru has persisted, even taking into account things like head gasket failures on the NA 2.5 motors. It’s one of the brands with phenomenal owner loyalty–everyone I know who has one loves it and plans to buy another.
The head gasket issue is why I won’t consider a new one. A couple of years for a major issue when a car is new until they figure out the problem and create a fix is normal and expected, to have it last this long means they don’t care.
Seems to be an weak point on boxer engines in general. Even these early cars had a few head gasket failures, and the waterboxer VW engines were also head gasket failure prone. The design of these types of engines in general doesn’t seem to lend themselves to adequate sealing.
The current FA/FB series engines don’t have the EJ25’s head gasket issues or the need for the ritual ~105K timing belt replacement.
Oil consumption OTOH……
New motor no more head gasket problems anymore
My Father bought a ’76 DL 2 door new (he was an early adopter…it was FWD not 4WD, and we were living in Vermont (he bought it in Winooski) well before it became “the” car to have there. He later gave it to my sister, whose boyfriend at the time (now husband, that was 35 years ago) poo-pooed the car until he found out it was the car of the national ski team and they had promotions like free parking for Subarus, at which time as a skier the car went up in his eyes in terms of worth).
Anyhow, my Father has not bought another Subaru since then. It was typical of other Japanese cars back then in that it was very lightweight and on the “tinny” side…he ended up with a bucked hood once when the hood latch didn’t catch and the wind pulled up the hood and bent it (not sure what happened to the secondary latch). My Father never replaced the hood, instead we had bungee cords stretched from wheelwell to wheelwell on the front to hold down the hood.
My sister has never been great with cars, plus despite the Rusty Jones treatment when new, these rusted pretty quickly so she didn’t have the car too long….I think
by ’82 or ’83 she and her now husband no longer had the Subaru, I think it was probably junked by that time (my brother in law to this day likes to buy older cars cheap and fix them up, though he’s not big on maintenance. I think he’s owned 30-40 cars in the same time interval that I’ve owned 4 (yes, only 4 cars in 40 years of driving…I don’t let go of cars very quickly))
Four cars in forty years – sounds like me!
I had lots of cars in my earlier years. But since ’91 I’ve had the same car. Had one truck for 30 years. One motorcycle since ’94. Second truck is the newbie, only had it since ’04. I plan on having the same fleet until it’s time to hang up the keys,
Well, in my family my Mother holds the distinction of having owned the same car for the longest time at 21 years (1988 Tempo till 2009) though my sister isn’t too far behind (1998 Nissan 240SX she’s still driving)…I’m a couple years behind that with my current (2000 VW Golf) car.
My brother in law usually trounces us by having by far the oldest car in the family, but as he frequently buys older cars, keeps them a few years than sells them (well, maybe junks some and sells some) but ends up owning the car short period of time. Wonder who ends up with the lowest cost of ownership/year (buy new and hold a long time or frequently buy old but depreciated cars)?
We live in the sunbelt, so rust isn’t much of an issue, but dried out plastic and rubber (weatherstripping) is. Fortunately most of our cars are garaged, at least in the evening
Absolute rustbuckets, but so was every other Japanese car in those days.
Friends in Colorado bought 2 his n hers because they were more reliable, much cheaper, and much less thirsty than the 4×4 domestic pickups, which were primitive contraptions even for that time.
Subaru still a market leader there today 30+ years later.
Always liked those cars. Test drove a then-brand-new for Erie, PA ’74 GL coupe and liked it a bit better than my Vega (which was still running fine at the time). Only negative in my eyes back then was it didn’t handle as crisply as the Vega, and seeing I was living, eating and sleeping SCCA B-sedan autocross at the time, I kept the Vega.
Still like the brand, but like DweezilSFV I can’t get past the cloying, touchy-feely, “I’m so liberal, hip and politically correct” advertising. And I see way too many of them parked down at REI on my infrequent trips there.
Very Prius like, Syke, which gives me the same reaction. Shame. It’s not the only demographic they could target.
FWIW, it seems to be working. Subaru has been the fastest growing popular brand, and keeps setting records year in and year out. And that’s without almost any incentives. Subaru is on a massive sales roll.
Much as the “Love” campaign sometimes drives me nuts (as a Subaru owner no less), it has been wildly successful. Record sales year after year and even gains in non-traditional markets (thanks largely to the SJ Forester) such as the Southeast and SoCal.
The challenge for SOA is to attract “non-traditional” buyers without turning off either of the “traditional” subsets of owners (the “Birkenstocks and bumper stickers” folks or the WRX/STi “brahs”).
It’s also interesting to see just how “conventional” (as opposed to the likes of “Love”) Subaru advertising is outside the US.
Another US phenomenon. Subaru sells very little here (Austria) – it is seen as a quirky brand for either rally fans or… farmers and people who live on a mountain top in Tirol and must have a good yet civilized 4X4. In Israel it used to dominate the market in the 70s-80s on account of its reliability and having no competition from other Japanese brands (the big ones only came to Israel in the 90s due to political grounds), but these days it’s ho-hum and completely outranked by the others.
Article about the psychology underlying those old Paul Hogan Subaru ads:
In short, Crocodile Dundee is the Noble Savage archetype, an updated cowboy character with an ostensible “authenticity” that potential customers can identify with. Head games like this are what modern advertising is all about.
This is not to say Subarus are bad cars; I’d probably get one myself if I needed more all-weather drivability. But I’m way outside the demographic, apart from age.
A lot of this generation still clattering around Spokane. Rust isn’t big here, so the mechanicals get a sporting chance. I’d say the magazine was right.
To this day the quality of the steel and paint finishes on these are abysmal. My mother is driving a 2013 Forester, garage kept, in sunny Florida, and the paint looks like it’s gone 15 years and 120,000 miles. A door ding on a Subaru looks like a parking lot fender bender would on almost any other car. This particular Forester, however, replaced a 2002 WRX with just under 200k on it and pretty much no major repairs. As I shop for a daily driver as we speak I’ve been tempted by a couple of ’99 Foresters with reasonable mileage. Here in Florida where AWD is not so coveted they’re going for $3-4k at around 100,000 miles. Unfortunately the ones I’ve spotted both have 5-speeds, and my S.O. can’t work a clutch. Great cars from a reliability and driveability standpoint, but would it kill them to put all of that stellar engineering into a shell that would last more than five years? Not much has changed in that department since the ’70’s, it seems.
I bet your mom loves her Subie when it rains out…Florida rains, like Texas, quickly draw the road oils up, leading to sloppy conditions. My Outback handles the rain with aplomb.
That’s odd about her paint. My ’13’s white paint has been fine, and we have more crap and chemicals in the air due to the petrochemical plants on the east side, as well as my car is outside 24/7.
As what Paul said earlier, Subaru is on a tear. I think its the “different, love, AWD” thing or any combination thereof. The Outback Limited is in heavy demand country-wide; our 4 local dealers have pre-sold only on the 3.6R. There are deals available, especially on the Forrester ($3-4k off), less so the Outback ($2-4k) since it’s only been on the market a year.
I think Subaru captured the old Saab crowd (different ie boxer engine, AWD) and Volvo (affordable safety wagons). They could increase their market even more if they made a small pickup (prettier than the Baja) and min-med minivan based on the Outback.
My first car was an 84 gl wagon with 4 wheel drive. It was near unstoppable in the snow covered Alberta roads. I inherited it from my mother with about 300 000 Kms on it and I think I got a couple of years out of it before the engine blew itself up in a spectacular fashion on the top of the lions gate bridge in Vancouver. I was able to convince the tow truck driver to give me $75 for it so I could afford the bus ticket back to Calgary. I have been tempted to get another one but the cost of parts and obsene used car prices in this part of the country have kept me away. Now that I live on Vancouver Island and get maybe 2 days a year of snow the 4 wheel drive isn’t really necessary, but try telling that to all the lifted trucks and SUVs I see daily plugging up the roads…
Was this around the time their slogan was “Inexpensive – and built to stay that way” ? I think these cars give the Datsun F10 a good battle in the style wars, but ultimately their functionality beats out the Datsun.
At the time my reaction was how ugly these things were. The only owner I knew (here in coastal SoCal) was a dentist with non-traditional taste in vehicles. His other car was a 1972 IH pickup with three-on-the-tree.
It is interesting that the Subarus were far more reliable than average but had a lower than average percentage of intending repeat buyers. I had a neighbor that had a Subaru in the mid ’80s. He claimed Subaru had the highest customer satisfaction in the industry. He then replaced it with a new Golf GT.
An example of “Buyers are Liars.” People often do not like to admit to pollsters what they really believe.
“I think Subaru captured the old Saab crowd”
The year I graduated HS (’78) my dad bought 4×4 wagon. I thought it was great because I inherited his ’68 SAAB 96. My brother learned that the 4×4 system really wasn’t meant to be engaged at highway speed when a slight turn on a snow packed highway sent the (non-center differential) front and rear axle fighting one another. Oh well, as far off the road as he went he just drove right back up the embankment and went on his merry way. The next year my mom seeing that my dad now owned a “wagon” sold her LTD Country Squire and bought a GF.
One difference between the SAAB and our Subaru’s was where they had power. I learned to drive in the 96 and in my first drivers ed stint (BIIIIIG chevy) I about sent the instructor through the windshield at the first stop because power brakes. My sister, who learned to drive in the GF, got in the drivers ed monster chevy in our gravel driveway and sprayed gravel everywhere because the GF had to be nearly floored when you let out the clutch to keep it from dying. Later the examiner said she had more then enough points to pass, but he didn’t want to give her her license because she didn’t seem comfortable with the car. I think the fact you could probably park 2 GFs in the space of one Caprice had something to do with it.
Both rusted away with no remembered mechanical issues. I might have bought a few along the way but for one thing. As Subarus have gotten bigger they have added lots of headroom, legroom, not so much. I’m only 6′, but a 35″ inseam. My knees dragged on the steering wheel of those ’78 & ’79 Subie’s, and the last time I tried them, in 2011, the Forester is the only model my knees didn’t still drag on the steering wheel.
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