Home » Guess Which One Is 4WD: 1982 Subaru GL vs 1991 Honda Civic

Guess Which One Is 4WD: 1982 Subaru GL vs 1991 Honda Civic

Sbsd 12 13 2023
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Welcome back! I guess if we were continuing with the clever alliterative names for things I would call this Wagon Wednesday. Actually, you know what? Screw it; I am calling it that. Welcome to Shitbox Showdown’s Wagon Wednesday! Today we’ve got two cool old Japanese longroofs with manual transmissions. One of them is even four-wheel-drive!

Yesterday’s Mopars weren’t fair of me, I know. Neither one of those cars is likely a good deal. The van is close, but a lot would depend on the condition; I’ve seen Caravans with a lot fewer miles on them listed for the same amount. The Charger is, well, it’s a used Las Vegas taxi. You’re all probably right about the horrors that back seat has seen. But a couple of you suggested a solution to that – eliminate the back seat altogether.

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Really, I just wanted to showcase that 416,000-mile Charger. As the owner of an LD-platform car that just crossed 70,000 miles, seeing one the same model year with nearly six times as many miles is encouraging. But yeah, please don’t anybody pay four grand for that car.

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All right; let’s take a look at some little wagons. The prices on these feel really high to me, but I think that’s just because I’m still thinking of them as cheap old cars rather than the up-and-coming classics they are. Yeah, I said classics – the world of “classic cars” is a big tent, and getting bigger all the time, and while neither of these is a showpiece, they’re both good-running examples of unusual old cars that you can enjoy, and get some compliments on. Let’s take a look.

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1982 Subaru GL wagon – $4,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter overhead valve flat 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Bend, OR

Odometer reading: 183,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Like a top”

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Subaru has made a name for itself for its all-wheel-drive systems, but there was a time when most Subarus weren’t so equipped. AWD didn’t become standard on Subarus until 1996, and for a long time, only part-time 4WD was offered. The 4WD models were popular in snowy regions, for obvious reasons, but a lot of other markets did fine with the simpler, more efficient front-wheel-drive models.

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The flat-four engine configuration has been around for a long while as well, though back in 1982 when this wagon was built it was a simpler overhead valve pushrod design, like a Volkswagen engine, but Subarus were always water-cooled, not air-cooled. This one displaces 1.8 liters and is backed by a five-speed stick, driving only the front wheels.  It is said to run flawlessly, and comes with a stack of service and repair records going all the way back.

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Cosmetically, I think the term that best applies is “nice survivor.” It has a few tiny rust spots outside, and some grubby upholstery inside, but generally speaking, it looks quite nice. The white 8-spoke wheels are a trademark of this era of Subaru, but they’re more often seen on the 4WD models. I’m not generally a Subaru fan, but this era I quite like.

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The lack of 4WD may discourage some of you, but it’s not like you’re going to be driving a 40 year old Subaru in the snow anyway, and 4WD Subarus of this era were never really off-roaders, despite a few cool features like adjustable ride height and a dual-range transfer case. 2WD is fine for getting to Cars & Coffee, and it is still a wagon, so it’s perfectly capable of earning its keep on weekend chores.

1991 Honda Civic Wagovan – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, six-speed manual, AWD

Location: Taos, NM

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Odometer reading: 152,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Great”

Honda’s fourth generation Civic was a cool little car. It had good looks, great handling thanks to a double-wishbone suspension setup, and fantastic visibility thanks to a low beltline and huge windows. It’s the first generation of Civic discovered by tuners, and it enjoyed massive aftermarket support. But two special versions of the fourth-generation Civic stood out: the second-generation of Honda’s delightful CRX, and the Wagovan, available with Honda’s “Real Time” 4WD system, and a six-speed manual gearbox with a “granny” low gear next to first.

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Powering this clever drivetrain is a 1.6 liter 105-horsepower four cylinder. Lots of Civics ended up with hotter engines swapped in, but there’s no need for that here. You’re not going to race anyone with a 4WD Wagovan – unless, of course, you want to race them in the snow, which might be funny. This Civic runs great, according to the seller, and has just been tuned up.

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The seller says this car has “perfect New Mexico sun patina,” which is a nice way of saying it’s faded all to hell. The paint is more or less gone from the hood, and probably the roof too, although we don’t get a good look from the photos. It’s banged up and rusty here and there too. But somehow it all kinda works, and what should be a crusty nasty mess actually comes across as patina.

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Inside, things look intact and functional, and it has that perfect ’80s/’90s Honda ergonomic design: not flashy, not fancy, but sturdy and logical. It’s pretty sun-bleached in there, and who knows what’s under those front seat covers, but at least it comes with a cool wool blanket in the back.

It is strange to think of cars this age as “classics,” especially since I was in college by the time one of them was built. If it’s a classic, what does that make me? Wait – don’t answer that. Just choose one.

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
3 months ago

4WD Subarus of this era were never really off-roaders

Sorry, Mark, gotta revoke your “PNW card” based on this. Even stock 2WD Subarus could get all over the place, and there plenty of peeps all up and down the West coast in the late 90’s putting mild lifts and larger (Peugeot) rims on these things for mud tires that would go out, have fun, and make Jeep owners’ brains explode.

Is Travis
Is Travis
4 months ago

That GL takes me back, I briefly drove one that a neighbor just straight up gave me when I was 17 and without a car because it was just collecting rust on their property.
It was an indestructible and determined but slow beast. So slow.
So goddamned slow, in Colorado, trying to drive I-70 to go snowboarding, anemic. Dangerous.
I loved it, it was dark green thus dubbed The Turtle. El Tortuga.

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