Junkyard Classic: 1986 Subaru GL Coupe 4WD – The Shy But Prettier One

I don’t believe we have featured one of these here on CC yet and I know this is the first one I’ve come across in the junkyard so this was a pleasant surprise when I saw it a few days ago.  It’s hard to believe that in 1986 Subaru offered three different two-doors at the same time; those being this one, the then-new very polarizing XT “cyber”-wedge as well as the then-old GL Hatchback based on the prior generation of cars to this one, one of which we featured over a year ago in this series.  Of the three this one seems by far to be the least common so we should be honored to be in its presence.

Introduced to the US market for the 1986 model year, this is a first year example whose coupe shape built on the GL (Leone in other markets) sedan and wagon that debuted here a year earlier.  Eventually those sedans and wagons would be renamed Loyale, but by that time the coupe was already discontinued.

As with the sedan and wagon, this was probably the first Subaru that could be considered conventionally attractive, without any really jarring details and to my eye the blocky shape is well toward the appealing side of the ledger.  If I needed to cast a stone, well, then the hatchback glass here is perhaps a little too much on the large side and gives it a slightly unfortunate resemblance to the Nissan Sentra Coupe of the same vintage.  The Nissan may have done the hatch slightly better in fact.  But that’s my only real nit to pick, no worse than Cindy Crawford’s mole.

Of course, no snow climate dweller would ever look twice at the Sentra Coupe when this Subaru was available with 4WD and not just that, but also a choice between 4Lo and 4Hi, just like on a big pickup truck.  Manually selectable with FWD as the default, this system was robust and gave the Subaru lineup the ability of a mountain goat, as long as the mountain was fairly smooth going.  And not too steep.  But for snow, mud, gravel or dirt roads, this thing has you covered.

From the front it’s hard to tell the difference vs the other shapes but large headlights, clean lines, and no nonsense make this an eminently respectable ride.

Sadly the old “Cyclops” center headlight wasn’t available anymore, but Subaru’s logo still stands proudly front and center.

Underhood there’s still space for the spare, mounted atop the horizontally opposed 4cylinder displacing 1.8liters.  With 84hp it wasn’t ever in much of a hurry but that’s the same as non-turbo Subaru 4-cylinders these days as well.

Heading around back I’m struck by what is happening to the paint.  It didn’t seem to have been repainted but that’s the most egregious fading I’ve seen in a long time with the paint still remaining on the metal.

It does however make for some interesting art where the logo used to be.

Opening the massive hatch lets us take a gander at a fairly spacious cargo area complete with rollaway cargo cover.  While not overly deep at least the seats can be folded down separately.  I wonder what happened to the one seat, perhaps a dog got hungry one day?

The interior itself, besides being a chocolate brown that doesn’t really go with a red exterior, looks to be in quite good condition.  The seat material is from that Japanese high point era in which ALL the seat material on any car looked and felt good.  This is Honda Accord quality stuff right here.

Subaru moved some of their weirdness inside for this generation, especially with the dashboard which incorporates some unconventional but still perfectly functional ideas.  The left side of the binnacle has six buttons, in this case only the top left is used (for the standard rear defroster), so at least your passenger can’t see the blanks that you didn’t spring for to be filled with other toys.

Here you can note the HVAC controls on the right of the instrument binnacle, perfect to swat away the hand of a meddling spouse that didn’t take your advice to wear a cardigan.  Baby, I told you it’s cold outside!  The Hi-Fi has lots of knobs, buttons, switches, all the better to listen to side two (auto-reverse!) of Dire Straits’ new tape.  You didn’t pay all that Money For Nothing!

No, it’s not that low-mileage, I couldn’t get the leading “1” into frame but that’s still not a very robust number for a Subaru around these parts.  It should have racked that up by the mid-90’s in fact.  Still, look at that instrumentation, we even have a voltmeter here.  The left side hides the temperature gauge and an oil pressure gauge as well making for a full display along with everything else we see here.

The back seat area looks pretty comfortable, well padded, and all the cloth in excellent condition.  There are even handy recessed storage areas for the +2 set’s illicit contraband or whatever else may need to be stowed in a hurry.  Alas, no opening windows back here though.

As with any Subaru, the obvious suspect for it being here are the head gaskets.  But this still made it almost 34 years, so it’s possible it’s actually fine and yet simply another unwanted manual transmission “old” car.  If a 35-year-old bought it new and kept it all these years, they’d now be pushing 70 and perhaps nobody else in the family wanted the old car, who knows…

Made in Japan, those were magic words in the 1980’s.  I wouldn’t have thought (and didn’t in my +2 note above) that they figured on three abreast in the back seat but this tag indicates so.  Still, with five people aboard these days that 810lb maximum load number would likely easily be breached.  Oh hey, maybe they had trouble finding 175/70-13 tires and that’s why it’s here!

I wonder if I’ll see another one of these, there weren’t common when new, and obviously even less so now.  This may be the most likely way to see one in fact, who knows how many cars are out there not necessarily running around anymore but just tucked away in a barn or a field and eventually cleared out when the property goes for sale.  Still, I had just gotten my driver’s license when this was built so I’m starting to feel the age as well.  At least I’m still running around and my skin hasn’t turned a chalky orange.  I’m just not sure that I’m Inexpensive And Built to Stay That Way.