Cumberford and Mott’s Light – 1981 Subaru GL Hatchback

Though there were plenty of cars before the 1980s with cyclops front lights, like the Rover P4 and Tucker 48, it seems likely the Subaru Leone of the early 1980s will be the last to offer that feature from the factory. These lights were often used as a supplementary light for turning – though most notably, the Citroen ID/DS featured two inboard lights that turned with the front wheels – but lighting technology has advanced to the point where the addition of a separately mounted turning light is no longer needed. So let’s take a moment to celebrate an example of the last cyclops-light car, this 1981 Subaru GL hatchback for sale for $3750 in Milwaukie, OR.

1981 Subaru GL hatchback left front

That’s right, it’s not Milwaukee, but Milwaukie, a city that embraces early Oregonians’ profound love of naming their towns after towns elsewhere in the country and the world, while not always getting the spelling right. The car is owned by a Subaru enthusiast, and has racked up an amazing 308,000 miles, of which the seller has added 78,000 over the last 11 years. During that time, the car has been restored to daily driver level, the seller having replaced every possible bushing and bearing – though not in the transmission, which is said to have some gear lash and shifter slop. The original goal was to build a lifted hatchback with additional ground clearance, but the seller is not expecting to have the time needed for the work.

1981 Subaru GL hatchback cyclops

Here’s the cyclops eye, only offered on Brats and GLs in the first couple of years of the 1980s. This was actually not marketed as a turning light, but a passing light to be used when overtaking other cars in your 74hp Subaru, which was apparently expected to happen frequently enough to warrant a specific passing light. Perhaps this was to say “please watch out and slow down while I attempt to pass you”? The other cool thing about the cyclops light is it recalls the Robert Cumberford & Stan Mott designed Cyclops featured in many Road & Track articles in the first 30 years of that magazine.

1981 Subaru GL hatchback rear

The car’s body looks remarkably straight all around, though it is said to have some spots of rust poking through. The flat black paint up top won’t be everyone’s taste, but it does do a good job interrupting the refrigerator-whiteness of the car. Stripes below the door bump strip are cool, though the driver’s side is missing the cool SUBARU script. The car comes with an extensive selection of spare parts, some new-in-box, others including a spare passing light.

1981 Subaru GL hatchback engine

The engine received new head gaskets at 285,000 miles, and the seller expects that with the included five-speed transmission installed, the engine would give another 100K. Upgrades include an integrated voltage regulator and upgraded alternator, starter relay bypass, Grant Sport steering wheel, 1984 front calipers and vented discs, and rear disc brakes. Further more, a recent overhaul included a rebuilt carburetor, new fuel pump/filter/lines, oil and filter, intake manifold gaskets, PCV valve, valve cover gaskets, oil pan gasket, plugs and wires, and a valve lash adjustment. Most importantly, the 5-speed transmission also comes with the necessary parts to adapt it to the older car. The only other major mechanical flaw is a torn steering rack boot. Don’t look at the other engine pics the seller provided, showing the engine with the air filter and spare removed – all those vacuum hoses and wires make it look like a hospital patient!

1981 Subaru GL hatchback interior

The interior looks quite clean, though the interior plastics are said to have uneven fading and would need refinishing. The T-handle shifter and wooden stereo mount are a little unorthodox, but should be easy enough to fix, and if you don’t like the Grant wheel, there’s a factory 4-spoke piece included. Front seats are from a late-model Mazda, and probably make the car much more comfortable, though it’s a shame to lose the oh-so-80s plaid pattern. Overall, this looks like a fun back roads car if you enjoy playing slow-car-fast and are within easy reach of some dirt roads – what would you do with this one?


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