|Manufacturer||Subaru (Fuji Heavy Industries)|
|Assembly||Ōta, Gunma, Japan|
|Body and chassis|
It was released as a replacement to the Subaru 1000 and was the predecessor to the Subaru Impreza. All Leones were powered by the Subaru EA boxer engine. Most cars were equipped with optional four-wheel drive. At the time of its introduction, the Leone was Subaru's top model until 1989, when the larger Legacy was introduced.
Although released in Japan and some export markets as the Leone, for many years, this was the only vehicle sold internationally by Subaru where the smaller kei cars Rex, Vivio, R-2, 360 and Sambar were not sold or considered road legal. As a result, in major markets such as Australia, Europe and North America, it was instead identified with a trim level designation, some of which included: DL, GL, GLF, GLF5, GL-10, and RX. This means the car is often referred to simply as the Subaru GL or the Subaru L-Series.
Subaru Leone Hardtop
|Also called||Subaru 1400
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupé
5-door station wagon
2-door pickup truck
All-wheel drive optional
|Engine||1.1 L EA61 OHV H4 (A21, Van only)
1.2 L EA64 OHV H4 (A25/65)
1.4 L EA63 OHV H4 (A22/32/62)
1.6 L EA71 OHV H4 (A33/34/67)
|Wheelbase||2,455 mm (96.7 in)|
|Length||3,995 mm (157.3 in)|
|Width||1,500 mm (59.1 in)|
|Height||1,385 mm (54.5 in)|
|Curb weight||775 kg (1,709 lb)|
The first generation Leone was released on October 7, 1971 as a front-wheel drive coupé, with trim levels DL, GL and GSR. April 1972 saw the introduction of the two and four-door sedans with trim levels DL, GL and in Japan, the Super Touring. At its introduction, the Leone was Subaru's largest car, and was the top level vehicle above the kei car Subaru Rex.
In September 1972 the four-wheel drive (4WD) station wagon was released, however it did not appear in the United States until 1974 as a 1975 model. The Leone was introduced before the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo to emphasize its durability in adverse weather conditions. Up until this time four-wheel drive had been limited mainly to off-road vehicles, although the very expensive Jensen FF had been built in limited numbers.
Subaru broke this pattern by introducing a mass-produced four-wheel drive passenger car, after having tested the waters by building a limited series of four-wheel drive FF-1 1300G wagons in 1971. Four-wheel drive was easily Subaru's most notable feature during the 1970s and 1980s, leading to particularly strong sales in places like Switzerland and Colorado. The Leone competed with the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sunny, Honda Civic, Mazda Familia, Isuzu Gemini, and the Mitsubishi Lancer. The Leone introduced a long established Subaru tradition of frameless side windows for all models.
In August 1968, Subaru entered into an alliance with Nissan Motors. The appearance of the new Leone was influenced by the design efforts from Nissan, most notably the long hood and short trunk appearance that Nissan was using at that time for their own products. The 1400 RX coupé was one of the first Japanese automobiles to be equipped with four-wheel disc brakes. The two-door hardtop (with different bodywork than the two-door sedan or two-door coupé) was introduced in June 1973 and a 4WD sedan in 1975.
The Leone was originally equipped with a 1.2 or a 1.4-litre flat-4, carbureted, OHV engine. The 1100 cc engine from the earlier FF-1 G was carried over for the Leone 1100 Van in the Japanese domestic market, but was only available in the first few years. In September 1975, as a response to tightening emissions regulations, the 1.2 was removed from the sedan lineup (although it continued to be available as a Van/Wagon version in the Japanese domestic market at least). To be able to offer as much power as the pre-smog 1.4, a bigger 1.6-litre version was added for 1976.
The Leone was available with a four-speed manual transmission, a five-speed manual transmission, and also a three-speed automatic transmission beginning in 1975. Some early models had duo-servo drum brakes at the front, however, later models were equipped with disc brakes. All models originally had rear drum brakes except the RX coupés. Unusually, the handbrake or emergency brake operated on the front wheels.
The Leone was first introduced to the United States of America in 1972 and 1973 in Australia and New Zealand, with cars imported fully assembled from Japan. In 1976 the EA63 engine was replaced with the EA71 engine. The EA71 engine was originally installed in cars equipped with automatic transmission but eventually supplanted the EA63 across the entire range of vehicles in the USA and Australia.
A print ad for the 1973 Subaru GL coupe referred to the engine as "quadrozontal"
In April 1977 an updated Leone range was released. All body panels were altered slightly and the overall look was 'smoother' and more contemporary in appearance. A completely new dashboard with altered interior were also part of the update. Despite these changes the overall effect was similar to the earlier version and mechanically identical, with the exception of the rear track which was widened by 40mm. The chassis codes were changed, with sedans now in the 30-series and estates in the 60-series. The little 1.2 continued to be available in the lowliest standard van model, with 68 PS (50 kW).
This model line was assembled from CKD kits in New Zealand by importer Motor Holdings' Waitara plant near New Plymouth.
Late in 1977 saw the introduction of the Subaru BRAT as a 1978 model. This was a two-seater with a pickup truck bed based on the Leone platform. It brought the US lineup to eight models in three trim levels. Most were in the volume DL trim except a base two-door, and the GF hardtop and 4WD models which shared a higher specification. For 1979, a decontented DL 4WD wagon and Brat were added along with fancier GL 4-door sedan and 2WD wagon models bringing the total to twelve, the original fully equipped 4WDs also getting the DL designation. The original Brat was updated in 1981 with a dual-range 4WD transmission and 1.8 L EA81 engine. This was sold alongside the second generation Leone introduced in 1979 until 1982.
|Production||1979–1989 (BRAT continued through 1994)|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupé
5-door station wagon
2-door pickup truck
four-wheel drive optional
|Engine||1.6 L H4 OHV EA71
1.8 L H4 OHV EA81
1.8 L Turbo H4 OHV EA81
|Wheelbase||2,370 mm (93.3 in)|
|Length||3,980 mm (156.7 in)|
|Width||1,620 mm (63.8 in)|
|Height||1,415 mm (55.7 in)|
|Curb weight||930 kg (2,050 lb)|
In June 1979 the Leone saw its first complete model update. This generation was released with a two-door hardtop coupe, four-door sedan, station wagon and a three-door hatchback. Export sales began in the fall with the 1980 model year.
New for this generation was a dual-range four-speed 4WD transmission with both hi/lo range gearing and manual ride height adjustment on the 4WD models. In November 1981 Subaru introduced Japan's first all-wheel-drive vehicle with an automatic transmission, utilizing the world's first "wet hydraulic multi-plate clutch". This allowed the driver to engage 4WD with a simple push of a button rather than shifting a lever as in the manual models. The electric switch activated a solenoid that pushed the clutch plates together, thereby engaging the driveshaft to the rear wheels.
A new 1.8 L EA81 engine was added in 1980. In November 1983, a turbocharger with optional multi-port fuel injection was also added to the BRAT and Turbo Wagon models. They were only available with an automatic transmission and 3.70:1 gearing. In Japan the top-spec 1800 GTS sedan was the first Subaru to offer air conditioning, power windows, and power steering. The installation of a turbocharger was to provide better fuel economy by reducing emissions and burning fuel more effectively as opposed to providing a performance oriented product, due to taxes levied by the Japanese Government on a graduated scale based on the emissions emitted from the car.
This generation of hatchback and BRAT were made alongside the 3rd generation offerings until 1987 for the BRAT in USA, 1993 overseas and 1994 in Latin America, and 1989 for the hatchback. All other 2nd generation models were discontinued by 1985. The two door sedan was replaced by a hatchback design, as an alternative to the Honda Civic, Nissan Pulsar, Mazda Familia, and the Toyota Corolla hatchbacks.
In the USA, up-level trim vehicles could be identified by headlights – early GLs had square while others had round; later GLs had quad square headlights and lower series had single squares, with 1982 being a transition year (2WD GL=quad square, 4WD GL=single square with third light, all DLs=single square, STD hatchback=single round). 1980–1982 models also featured an optional third headlight hidden behind the grille logo, using a similar approach used by Chrysler in the late 1960s called the Super-Lite. The logo moved up and out of the way when the driver activated a switch on the dash, revealing the extra headlight and activating it when the high-beams were illuminated.
The Subaru BRAT (a backronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) was a coupe utility version of the Subaru Leone introduced in 1977. The BRAT was developed directly from the company's four-wheel drive station wagon model and was first introduced as a 1978 model – following the concept of coupe utilities such as the Chevrolet El Camino and the Ford Ranchero. The Brat was also known as Brumby, MV or Shifter depending on where it was sold.
American versions also had carpeting and welded-in rear-facing jumpseats in the cargo area – serving actually to circumvent a tariff known as the Chicken tax. Although the BRAT could fairly be called a truck, the plastic seats in the cargo bed allowed Subaru to classify the BRAT as a passenger car. Passenger cars imported into the US were charged only a 2.5% tariff, compared to 25% on light trucks.
The BRAT was restyled in 1981 and the jumpseats were discontinued after the 1985 model year. The BRAT was introduced with a rise in popularity of small trucks being sold in the USA, primarily from Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda. Production continued into 1994 but ceased to be imported to North America in 1987. It was also known as the Brumby in Australia and the Shifter in the UK. Imports to Europe, Australia (from 1978), and New Zealand continued until February 1994. The BRAT wasn't sold in Japan and was manufactured for export markets.
All BRATs had four-wheel drive and the Subaru EA engine. Early models received a 1.6L EA-71 whereas 1981 and later models received a 1.8 L EA-81 engine. 1983 and 1984 models could be purchased with an optional 94 hp (70 kW) turbocharged engine. Manual transmissions were standard on all models and an automatic transmission was available on turbocharged BRATs. 1980 and earlier models had a single-range transfer case, while 1981 and later GL models had a dual range transfer case (DLs still had single range) and all turbocharged models were equipped with an automatic transmission with single range push-button four-wheel drive.
|Also called||Subaru DL/GL
Isuzu Geminett II
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||3-door hatchback coupé
5-door station wagon
4WD on Demand
All-Wheel Drive (4WD Full Time)
5-speed Dual Range manual with Differential Lock
|Wheelbase||2,470 mm (97.2 in) (sedan)|
|Length||4,435 mm (174.6 in) (sedan)|
|Width||1,660 mm (65.4 in)|
|Height||1,335 mm (52.6 in) (2WD sedan)|
|Curb weight||1,060 kg (2,340 lb) (RX)|
On July 16, 1984, the Leone saw its second major redesign. This generation was released with a three-door hatchback, four-door sedan and a continuation of the popular station wagon body style. This generation Leone made its way to the United States in 1985. The hatchback was hamstrung by a very high rear cargo lip, but did receive a split folding rear seat.
In Europe, the range was 1.3 DL, 1.6 DL, 1.6 GL, 1.8 DL, and 1.8 GL 4WD. There were also Turbo versions, with 120 PS (88 kW) in catalyzed versions. Not all versions were offered in all countries.
In North America, the 1.6-liter engine was dropped completely from the lineup, due to its lack of power. The 48-kilowatt (65 hp) 1.3 was only available in select markets. For 1987, the Leone received a facelift with a smoothed out appearance.
A new 1.8-liter SOHC engine, EA-82 was offered instead of the OHV 1.8-liter flat-four engine. The engine was available with a carburetor, single point fuel injection, multi-port fuel injection, or multi-port fuel injection with a turbocharger.
The RX three-door is comparatively rare as only 2600 units were made during its 1987 to 1989 production run. Very few remain operational today. It can be recognized by a rear wing, factory ground effects kit and white paint with white wheels. Most RXs were white, but a black version was produced in the last half of 1989. The RX was equipped with the EA82T turbo engine, as found in the sport-oriented XT Vortex mated to a five speed manual transmission (an AT version was available in 1989). The drivetrain featured a 3.70:1 rear Limited Slip Differential as well as a locking center differential and two speed transfer case. The gearbox also featured a shorter 1.192:1 low range gear set (vs the 1.592:1 found in non-turbo versions) activated via a center console mounted lever. Other characteristics were; rally tuned suspension, four wheel disc brakes, power windows, A/C, central locking differential, adjustable seats and steering wheel, split fold-down rear seats, full indicative panel, Hill Holder and 1,070 kg (2,359 lb) of weight. 1989 marked the end of the production run for the RX.
Other options found in the third generation Leone were a full digital instrument panel; self diagnostic computer, travel computer, cruise control and pneumatic suspension with selectable height,(previous generations 4WD models had manual height adjustment).
From September 1989 until 1993, the van version was also provided to Isuzu as the "Geminett II" under an OEM deal.
By 1990 the Leone name continued to be used in Japan but was now known as the Loyale in Chile, the United States and Canada; the L-Series in Europe and Australia, and as the Omega in New Zealand where the third generation was the last to be assembled locally by Motor Holdings at Waitara. The popularity of the Leone wagon was ceded to the new, larger, Legacy wagon in 1989 and was ultimately replaced by the Impreza in 1994. The Impreza was introduced with a 'hatch like' wagon which was reminiscent of the first and second generation Leone wagons.
World Rally Championship
Subaru Rally Team Japan led by Noriyuki Koseki (founder of Subaru Tecnica International STI) ran Subaru Leone coupé, sedan DL and RX Turbo in the World Rally Championship between 1980 and 1989 a few rallies per season. Drivers for individual rallies included Ari Vatanen, Per Eklund, Shekhar Mehta, Mike Kirkland, Possum Bourne,Frank Tundo, Harald Demut and Chilean driver Jose Antonio Celsi. Mike Kirkland finished 6th overall and won the A Group at the 1986 Safari Rally. That year Subaru was one of the only manufacturers combining 4WD and turbo. Jose Antonio Celsi finished eight in the 1986 Marlboro Rally Argentina and fifth in the 1988 Marlboro Rally Argentina. During 1989 Subaru entry two works RX Turbo for Jose Antonio Celsi and Possum Bourne. Celsi finished fourth, but retired on the final road section and Bourne retired during the first stage. Subaru changed the rally model to Legacy RS for the 1990–1992 period and took part in the first complete season in the World Rally Championship with the same model in 1993.
Leone Delivery Van
- "The evolution of the Subaru Leone (1971 to 1994)". SUBARU Philosophy. Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- Subaru 1600 sales brochure L57.SPA.77.4, Fuji Heavy Industries Limited
- "" Vintage Subaru Ad (1973 The Subaru GL Coupe) | Subaru News, Articles, Road Tests, Test Drives, Comparisons, Concepts, Photos, Wallpapers, Rally Motorsport / Drag & Street Racing / Drifting & Donuts / Crash Videos and more on this blog dedicated to all Subaru fanatics all over the world!". Scoobyblog.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24.
- "自動車ガイドブック [Japanese Motor Vehicles Guide Book]" (in Japanese). 25. Japan: Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. 1978-10-10: 203. 0053-780025-3400.
- Kjellström, PeO (1987-01-21). "Udda bil utan udd" [Odd car without edge]. Teknikens Värld (in Swedish). Stockholm, Sweden: Specialtidningsförlaget AB. 39 (1-2): 31–33.
- Mastrostefano, Raffaele, ed. (1990). Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1990 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A. p. xx.
- "Motorsport History – 1990". Subaru Global. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
- "Subaru Leone 1800 Details". Rallye-Info.com. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Subaru Leone.|
- Faber Rally Team
- SUBARU LEONE RX/II COUPE
- Subaru RX Fans at Cardomain
- Subaru Global History
- Everything Subaru Research Archive
- 'Before the STi...' (Subaru Leone Article) from AutoSpeed.com
- Assembly (history of New Zealand car assembly industry) by Mark Webber
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