New Car – Part 1

When I got back from California in 1984 the VW minibus was on it’s last legs. (Or wheels!) After 14 years of loyal service to my family it was put out to pasture. It had been with us since 1970 when my sister Gabrielle was born. We went everywhere in the van, and it passed from my dad, to Janice and then me.  We had a lot of great memories in the van, but it’s time was done.

1969 Volkswagen Minibus – 1969 to 1984 – Part 1

1969 Volkswagen Minibus – 1969 to 1984 – Part 2

My dad hooked me up with a vehicle to get around in now that I was back in New Jersey.  It was a German built Ford called the Fiesta, that was built to compete with the popular VW Rabbit at the time.

It was a weird green color with a brown interior.

I liked that little car. The Fiesta got great gas mileage and served its purpose to get me back and forth to my job at Home Video Centers in Northfield, New Jersey. (Even though it looked like a granny smith apple.)

I drove that car for a couple of years, until it too began to fail. I wanted to pick out my own car and make the payments. I had saved a little money for a down payment on a car, and wanted something cool. I talked to my dad about it, and having a job but no credit, he agreed to co-sign on the loan for me.

After some thought, I decided on this.

The Suburu XT Coupe.

The Subaru XT was a 2-door coupé that was produced from 1985 to 1991. The XT was sold as the Alcyone in Japan, the Vortex in Australia and New Zealand, and the XT (with the EA-82 four-cylinder engine) or XT6 (with the ER-27 six-cylinder engine) in North America and Europe. All were available in front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, depending on the year.

The Subaru XT was launched in February 1985 in the American market, followed by a June debut in Japan. The Alcyone name comes from the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster, on which the Subaru logo is based. The XT range was replaced by the Subaru SVX in 1992.

XT series 

By the time the XT was launched, Subaru had already produced vehicles with very different styling compared to other vehicles of the time period. The XT, first introduced in February 1985 in the United States (June 1985 in Japan), was a wedged-shaped departure from the 1970s-influenced curves of the previous models, aimed directly at the styles emerging in the 1980s. The XT Turbo 4WD made its European debut at the March 1985 Geneva Motor Show. When introduced, the New York Times called it “the ultimate in jazzy design”, in contrast to Subaru’s older “cheap and ugly” offerings. The XT was the first Subaru to stray from earlier models that offered a practical application, in that the XT wasn’t designed to carry loads or for commercial uses. The 2.7-litre flat-six sold in Japan was the first Subaru to exceed government engine displacement regulations due to the engine being over 2000 cc, and as such was regarded as a luxury vehicle. It also obligated an elevated annual road tax due to the engine’s size.

Aerodynamics

The extreme wedge body shape was possible due to the engine’s flat horizontally opposed cylinder layout shared by all Subarus. Extensive wind tunnel testing was used to lower wind resistance and even “aircraft type” door handles were used that were totally flush with the outside of the door. To open the door, it was required to push a hinged panel out of the release mechanism’s opening. There is one 22 inch windshield wiper, when not in use tucks under the hood, and rubber spoilers before each wheel well opening doubled as “mud guards” but really acted to direct airflow smoothly past the tires and wheels. The result was one of the most aerodynamic production cars of its time with a coefficient of drag or Cd. of 0.29, improved fuel economy, and a quieter ride due to reduced amounts of wind noise.

Aircraft-inspired cockpit

The inside of the car had many aircraft-like features such as pod mounted lighting, climate control and wiper controls. The standard tilting-telescoping steering moved the instrument panel to keep it lined up with the steering column when tilting. The shifter was joystick-shaped and had a thumb trigger interlock and “on-demand” four-wheel drive button. The approach to steering wheel adjustment was also seen in the Isuzu Piazza and the Ford Probe introduced earlier in the 1980s. Turbo models featured a sort of artificial horizon orange backlit liquid crystal instrument display with the tachometer, boost indicator, temperature and fuel gauges seen as three-dimensional graphs tilting back out to the horizon. The aircraft cockpit approach reflected influences from Subaru’s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, which also manufactured aircraft, such as the Fuji FA200 Aero Subaru.

The XT was loaded with features rarely found on small cars, such as a turbocharger, a computer-controlled engine and transmission, adjustable height suspension and an optional digital instrument cluster. The air suspension was inspired by various manufacturers who used Hydro-pneumatic suspension, such as Citroën, and Mercedes-Benz. The XT also had some features found on few other cars, such as an electronic in-dash trip computer, retractable flaps covering the door handles, and a single wiper blade for the entire windscreen. Pass-through folding rear seats and racing style front seats were standard equipment.

While the XT was an interesting design exercise, it did little to grow Subaru’s sales. The company has seen much more widespread success in the significantly more mainstream Legacy, Legacy Outback and Impreza WRX models introduced in recent years.

More tomorrow!

 

 

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