Curbside Outtake: 1978 Subaru GL – “Quadrozontal” Front Wheel Drive Tow-Mobile

Having once been common, this generation of Subaru (Leone/GL 1971-1981) has been conspicuously absent on the streets hereabouts for some years. But just when I think a certain car is gone forever, representative of the species appears, giving me comfort. What’s a world without narrow body Subarus?

And this one sports a bit of a massive surprise on its tiny little butt:

A very solid home-brew steel bumper with integrated tow hitch. It looks sturdy enough to pull a horse trailer. It was a different world in the seventies, for more reasons than the stereotypical ones.

I don’t know what this 1600cc “Quadrozontal” (as Subaru called its boxer four in ads back then) actually hauled, but I used a similar vintage Corolla 1600 to flat tow my busted VW from Indiana back to Iowa. It never broke a sweat, but then it was a fairly flat stretch of interstate the whole way.

The 1.6 L “wasserboxer” four belted out 67 hp, about average for the time. These engines were tough, and helped establish the rep Subaru developed at the time as being the perfect replacement for a VW. I wonder if anyone swapped in one of these into a Beetle back in the day?

This is a Front Wheel Drive Subaru, in case anyone was wondering. The Four Wheel Drive version, especially the wagon, was of course coming into its own at the time, and for good reason; there was nothing remotely comparable then. The arrival of a small, light, efficient, affordable, durable 4WD wagon was like manna from Japan. For folks living in serious snow country like Vermont, Maine, Colorado, the Sierra Nevadas and the Cascades, this was a revelation. But the majority of Subarus back then were the FWD variety, as 4WD was still seen as something only for those that really needed it, not as a necessity for driving to the mall in Texas.

Yes, slide the seat all the way back and recline the seatback some, and you’re practically sitting in the back seat. Such was life back then with these small cars.

One of the styling flourishes of the )Japanese) times.

Subaru had a relationship with Nissan at the time, which influenced its styling. I rather like this, actually. It’s very much of its time, but without the odd proportions and excesses that some of the Datsuns were burdened with.

Related reading:

Curbside Classic: 1975 Subaru 4WD Wagon (Leone) – The Revolutionary Four Wheel Drive Wagon That Started The Subaru Legacy

Trailhead Classic: 1978 Subaru BRAT – Subie Doo