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Advice on buying an ’85 Subaru GL Sedan


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20 replies to this topic

#1 mark bellhorn

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 01:21 PM

I thought I would go to the experts and ask some advice on buying an ’85 Subaru GL Sedan with low miles form a friend of mine.

It's been mostly garaged and used by his grandfather sporadicly, about 45k. There are no apparent problems with it, yet it does not have an inspection sticker.
That's all I really know.

I like the car and Subarus in general, but I don't have all that much car knowledge.

Any advice, certain things I should look into that are specific to this model and age? What do you think this car is worth?

thanks for the help

#2 Durania

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 01:26 PM

Whats the details on it, 2WD, 4WD, Turbo, AT?

Let's start with that and we can help narrow down a price range for you.

#3 mark bellhorn

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 01:33 PM

Whats the details on it, 2WD, 4WD, Turbo, AT?

Let's start with that and we can help narrow down a price range for you.



It's a 4 door, automatic, but I'm not actually sure if it's 4 or 2 wheel drive.

#4 misledxcracker

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 04:45 PM

Me personally? I'd pay $300 at most.

Automatic transmission just kills it.

#5 Quidam

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 06:48 PM


Any advice, certain things I should look into that are specific to this model and age?

thanks for the help


See if and where it leaks fluids. Cars that set with that low mileage can be leakers. I would want to pull a valve cover with this mileage and age and history. That would tell me something about all those years, and few miles.

#6 SQ93

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 03:25 PM

Me personally? I'd pay $300 at most.

Automatic transmission just kills it.


Why is that (that automatic transmission kills it)? Thanks. -SQ93

#7 crazyhorse001

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 04:13 PM

Why is that (that automatic transmission kills it)? Thanks. -SQ93

Most likely personal preference.

Take the car out & drive it. Don't bother with the stereo until you get the test drive over with. Listen to the car, is it quiet? Pay attention to the car, does it drive true? Is the steering wheel centered? Does it shift crisply? Use your nose, do you smell oil burning, or antifreeze? Make sure you get the whole car up to operating temperature. Also make sure the weather is clear the day you drive it.

During the drive pull into a CLEAN parking space, shut the car off, & sit for a few mins. NOW check out the stereo, wipers, and any other ancilliares. Take your time & sit there around a 1/2 hour. Before you leave, back up & take note if there are any fluids on the ground, that weren't there before you pulled in.

Subies in general are known to leak a little oil. A spot or two under the valve covers isn't generally terrible. In 30 mins a dime sized spot is ok, but could use some looking into. Anything bigger than a quarter is cause for worry. ANY coolant on the ground is a bad thing. Clear water behind the passenger front tire is from the A/C & is normal. (the ac compressor runs when in defrost mode)Trans fluid spots smaller than a dime are curious, but not terrible.

On the restart pay close attention to how the car turns over. It should sound just like it did cold. A dragging starter when hot could indicate some issues.

These are general used car rules, with a few Subie specific pointers thrown in.

#8 ivantruckman

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 04:38 PM

An automatic transmission subaru runs at a higher rpm, at 55 mph. (my auto subie runs at 4000 rpm at 55mph) its quite noisy and you can feel more vibration. i also had a catotrosphic transmission falure at just 150,000 miles, I kind of like it for around town use, but its a little uncomfortable for hiway use, i feel as if im pushing it too hard. it is a little slower on excelleration too. i find it to be an excellent city /commuter car, great for traffic james. less work bending the ole knee. i guess it all depends on the price and what you plan on doing with it. even an automatic trans subie is better than no subie

#9 ivantruckman

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 04:45 PM

oh i forgot if its a auto 4x4 try to go on a dirt road. wile driving straight tru accelerating in 4 wheel drive from a start, than shift back into 2 wheel drive, you should notice a difference, this is to make sure it shifts in and out of 4 wheel drive, also make sure that it has all the same size tires on it. different size tires are hard on the rear clutch pack of the transmission.. i know im rambling... good luck

#10 Andy FitzGibbon

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 06:05 PM

Because the three speed auto transmissions don't have overdrive, the engine runs faster (as was mentioned above). That leads to more engine noise at highway speed, more wear and tear on the engine, and decreased fuel mileage, compared to the five speed. The auto also sucks up some of the 1800's already scant power, making it even slower off the line than the five speeds are. Consequently, the autos aren't generally worth much.
Andy

#11 hatchsub

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 07:31 PM

not to mention they shift like poo. Mine had 52,000 miles on it and would shift "ok" when warm and barely shift at all when cold. I hate the 3AT with a passion.

#12 crazyhorse001

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 07:43 PM

The 3AT in my '86 XT GL-10 was a sweetheart of a tranny. Nary a whimper out of it at over 150k mi when the car was totalled.
Mind you it wasn't any kind of a powerhouse, but it was a REALLY fun car to drive. Considering the PO swapped in a carb'd EA82.

#13 85T-REX

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 08:08 PM

With the 3AT in my wagon, it tachs at 3,000 at 55. That's the same as all of my 4MT d/r old gens. At 200K, it rides very smooth at highway speeds and always shifts good as long as it's maintained well. Vibration usually isn't due to the tranny. More than likely it's somewhere else in the drivetrain.

If this one is a 4wd, it's probably worth about $2k. If not, $300. Maybe up to $1,000 depending on overall condition. I'm a big fan of sedan's and this should be a really nice one.

#14 jbecker

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 09:30 PM

[quote name='85T-REX']With the 3AT in my wagon, it tachs at 3,000 at 55. That's the same as all of my 4MT d/r old gens. At 200K, it rides very smooth at highway speeds and always shifts good as long as it's maintained well. Vibration usually isn't due to the tranny. More than likely it's somewhere else in the drivetrain.

My 5 speed ea82 turbo, tachs at 3,000 at 55mph. Why is this. It should be better

#15 85T-REX

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 09:37 PM

My 5 speed ea82 turbo, tachs at 3,000 at 55mph. Why is this. It should be better

Check your rear diff and see what number is on it. Mine is a 3.7. Yours may be a 3.9.

My RX turbo 5MT tachs at 2,400 at 55. Must be something with the gearing.

#16 Andy FitzGibbon

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 10:42 PM

My RX turbo 5MT tachs at 2,400 at 55. Must be something with the gearing.


The three speed autos don't have an overdrive gear like the 5 speed manuals do. That's why the engine runs faster in an 3AT car vs. a 5MT.
Andy

#17 85T-REX

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 10:49 PM

The three speed autos don't have an overdrive gear like the 5 speed manuals do. That's why the engine runs faster in an 3AT car vs. a 5MT.
Andy

Right, my wagon runs at 3,000 and my RX runs at 2,400. I was comparing my RX 5MT turbo to jbecker's ea82 5MT turbo. The only reason they would be different is the gearing.

#18 buzzcon

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 08:51 AM

My wife has an '86 gl sedan, with 110,000 miles on it and it runs great. The only thing I've had to do with it is replace the timing belts and it needs a new radiator. As far as power is concerned, it's a sube. :rolleyes: Mine's a 5 speed turbo and it still doesn't have any power. More than the automatic, but that's still not saying much. It's a 23 year old car. If you can get it for $700 or so, you're probably doing good, IF it's rust free and running good. You can't hardly get a car that's in running condition for much less.

#19 bigjim5551212

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Posted 29 November 2007 - 12:59 AM

the automatic saps so much power. Did you find out if it is an 4wd?

#20 SakoTGrimes

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Posted 29 November 2007 - 06:24 AM

With only 45K on the clock I can't see even a poorly built autobox going out, especially if the car is well kept. Even if it does, you can always have the joy os swapping a 5spd d/r.

#21 daeron

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Posted 30 November 2007 - 04:57 PM

An automatic transmission subaru runs at a higher rpm, at 55 mph. (my auto subie runs at 4000 rpm at 55mph) its quite noisy and you can feel more vibration. i also had a catotrosphic transmission falure at just 150,000 miles, I kind of like it for around town use, but its a little uncomfortable for hiway use, i feel as if im pushing it too hard. it is a little slower on excelleration too. i find it to be an excellent city /commuter car, great for traffic james. less work bending the ole knee. i guess it all depends on the price and what you plan on doing with it. even an automatic trans subie is better than no subie

I have to check this against my car because that sounds grossly inaccurate.. should be more like 3200 RPM for 55. 3AT right?
EDIT I posted before I finished reading the thread, heh. what I hate about the 3AT is the other end; the gearing, RPM to MPH wise, is identical in second gear to my old Z car in second gear.. and the Z car had a fivespeed! BUT, first gear tops out at a HIGHER speed on the soob than in the datsun! And THEN, the datsun gets three gears after second to finish driving the car, where the 3AT only has one...

Plenty of these automatic boxes are in good shape; if they are well cared for then they can last a perfectly acceptable service life. How many people properly care for an automatic trans, though? The fivespeed is a superior choice UNLESS you simply cannot drive it.




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