Curbside Classic: 1988 Subaru Justy 4WD – The Mother Earth Newsmobile

(first posted 11/10/2013)

Never Buy Gas Again! How to convert your Subaru Justy into a chicken manure-fed methane powered hybrid using old washing machine parts and a garden hose.

Deep in the bowels of my closet are a stack of Mother Earth News magazines. That ever-optimistic purveyor of the self-sufficient country life had a pull on so many of us who lived in places like LA or the Bay Area in the seventies. I probably spent more on the subscriptions than we ever actually learned or saved from all their tips, but then that pretty much applies to all life-style magazines.

But the Subaru Justy holds a special place in hard core Mother Earthers: it’s the ultimate back-to the land mobile: cheap to buy, cheap to run, 4WD, tough as a mule, and infinitely adaptable to all sorts of DIY projects. I’ve just pulled an all-nighter to glean some of the more creative MEN (that acronym doesn’t sound quite right) articles, and will intersperse them with what little else I know about the Justy.

How to hook up a 1891 McCormick Deering one-horse plow to your Justy with discarded electrical conduit.

Subarus hold a special place in the whole back-to-the-land movement; they were the obvious replacements for the first wave VW Beetles and Buses and other obscure vehicles like ancient Simcas, Hillmans and Citroens one can still find rusting away behind “greenhouses”.

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Runnning An Antique Belt-Driven Sawmill with a Justy and Fourteen Thrift-Store Boy Scout belts.

The first Subaru 4WD wagon of 1975 (CC here) signaled that it was time to throw away those greasy and torn John Muir’s “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive” manuals, and make the big transition. The Subaru was embraced as deeply as tofu and ginseng. But there was a problem:

How I Make $88 A Week Delivering Fresh Goat’s Milk To The City In My Justy.

Subarus started out as skinny little tiny things, but they kept on growing, each generation bigger and heavier than the next. That was ok for those country-lifestyle newcomers, who showed up with in a shiny new Legacy wagon and a wad of cash they made in Silicon Valley. What about the hard core, trying to eke out an existence from fifteen acres? Subaru was not going to let its MEN franchise evaporate. Enter the Justy.

Communal Tofu and Tempeh Plant Runs On A Justy-powered Surplus Aircraft Generator.

The Justy appeared in Japan back in 1984, in that one-liter class of cars just one step above the 660 cc kei cars. Like the Suzuki Cultus (Metro) and Daihatsu Charade, the Justy also sported a three-pot mill, in 1.0 and 1.2 L versions. It didn’t make its way to US until 1987, just ahead of that much bigger and plusher Legacy. US version got the 1.2 L mill, which had the distinction of being the very last car sold here with a carburetor in 1990, along with the Olds 307, that is. How’s that for two contrasting vehicles sharing the same (dubious) honor?

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I Saved $649 By Rebuilding My Subaru Justy Engine With Three Briggs and Stratton 6 hp Engine Rebuild Kits.

Subaru probably kept the carb as a favor to the MEN crowd, who would be able to rebuild it using parts from a discarded film developing kit. Some 66 hp was on tap, but considering that the Justy weighed just under 2,000 lbs, it was certainly faster than the tattered VW Beetle it most typically replaced.

Convert Your Ten-Speed Bike into an Automatic Using A Discarded Justy CVT!

The smart choice was the standard five speed stick, with the available 4WD, of course. The automatic used a very early application of a CVT, as pioneered by DAF. Let’s just say that CVTs have come a long way since the Justy. Supposedly, the CVT was a bit more successful in countries like Japan with lots of slow-speed city driving. But for the non-MEN type buyers who might have been suckered into buying a CVT Justy for the freeway commute in hopes of saving enough money to eventually drive it up Hwy. 1 to Mendocino (one way), disappointment was highly likely. But MEN had plenty of article on how to recycle CVTs into creative new uses.

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How I Converted A Justy Into A Tracked Mini-Bulldozer Using Two Old Junked Snowmobiles!

Of course, the Justy is not just appreciated out in the boonies. It has a special place among that group of vehicles so much in favor in towns like Eugene, along with Tercel 4WD wagons, Nissan Stanza 4WD wagons, Syncro Vanagons, Honda Civic AWD wagons; you get the drift…and most of them have been seen here before. They’re hard to miss, literally.

High Gas Prices Getting To You? How To Disable Two Justy Cylinders – 20 MPH Is Plenty Fast Enough!

Rugged, economical (not the Vanagon), and go-anywhere capability are the prerequisites, along with not being a domestic. The Justy is of course the smallest of the bunch; the baby-Eugene mobile. And they’re all still very much in demand, as long as its not a CVT version, anyway. Of course, the Justys aren’t all that common, given that they were only sold in pretty small numbers from 1987 to 1994. They’re still sold in other countries, but the later ones were actually based on the Suzuki Cultus (Metro), with a 4WD conversion.

90 MPG! Convert Your Justy Into A Hybrid Using Our $25 Blueprints, Some Old 12V Batteries, and A Surplus Aircraft Generator/Motor.

Maybe Subaru thought they had the small end of the market covered when it introduced the Impreza about the same time the Justy just disappeared. But as you can see here, the Justy was a whole lot smaller than even the old Impreza. Today, you could stuff a Justy into the back of an Outback.

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Convert your Justy to run on alcohol made in this homemade still!

There’s no need for such a tiny little machine anymore. The ones that have expired from their plowing exertions are rotting along with the almost fully-biodegraded VW out back. All the back-to-the-landers have taken up growing a much more profitable crop than ginseng roots or kale. And they wouldn’t be caught dead in one anymore: a big-wheeled 4WD Tacoma or 4Runner is about the smallest thing you’ll find out in the country anymore. So the few Justys left have actually become back-to-the-small-city vehicles. What goes around, comes around.

How To Turn Your Old Dead Justy Into A Chicken Coop Or Solar Powered Sweat Lodge!