Hannes buys a Subaru SVX - now the revival starts!

Subaru SVX

Even in a car collection that already includes a quirky round-light 1967 Citroen DS19 and somewhat obscure 1971 Opel GT, the addition of a 1992 Subaru SVX seems downright bizarre.

I love cars that look interesting, even beautiful… to my eyes at least. And I do like a car with an interesting history. I’m very fortunate to be in a position to occasionally acquire a car for my “collection”, though I’m not sure whether a 3-car garage qualifies as that. 

Subaru SVX

Back in 1994 I was still in high school and vividly remember the January issue of CAR magazine, as it featured two Japanese cars that South Africans very rarely got to see on local soil, the Toyota Supra, and Subaru SVX. I was particularly intrigued by the Subaru, mainly because the brand was then still very new in South Africa, but also because it looked different to anything else on the road. Essentially, Subaru took their 1989 concept car, penned by the legendary Giugiaro, and just put it into production without any major changes - very brave indeed! 

Subaru wanted to win over the American market with this high-spec, high-performance coupe, and threw its best tech at the car, including its biggest (at that stage) boxer engine yet (a 3.3L unit) and, of course, all-wheel drive. It came with a four-speed automatic transmission, as Subaru didn’t have a manual gearbox that could handle the torque at the time. But, as it turns out, neither could the automatic - these transmissions are known to fail often, and quite early (at around 100 000km). Thankfully the one in this car seems fine…

But what got the press (and to some extent, the public) talking, was the styling. It featured a radical “window-within-window” design, inspired by the cockpit of fighter jets, but also supposedly of practical benefit. Subaru claimed at the time that cabin noise was reduced when the windows were open. It had a long, sloping nose with a quirky glass “grille” and a squared-off rear deck that could be further dramatized with the addition of one of the few optional extras offered for the SVX - a rear wing (at the cost of just under R2000). Inside, it featured just about every feature available at the time, including climate control, a sunroof, electric seat adjustment and a CD player that was hidden behind a sliding faux-wood panel. Upholstery was a mixture of leather and (artificial) alcantara.

The price made it a hard-sell in South Africa, and it is said that 18 made it onto our roads, including this pearlescent white unit… the actual 1994 CAR Magazine road test and cover car. I’m not sure how many of those 18 are still on the road today, but I’ve only seen 3 other SVXs in my life, and one of them was possibly this very car! Just over 24 000 of these coupes were built for the world, and around 7 000 of them were in right-hand drive.

As you can expect when buying a rare ‘90s car that once was one of the most expensive cars on the market (priced at R325 000 in 1994!) for very little money today, there are some things that need attention. I’ve already had a paint correction and detailing service done at Xtreme Detailing in Somerset West, and that’s done wonders for the SVX’s appearance, particularly its very faded, sun-damaged roof. Xtreme Detailing has also significantly improved the appearance of the interior already, removing a lot of dirt from the facia, some glue from the centre console and have treated the leather, but I’ll have to have the stitching redone this year.

What remains will be more complicated. The climate control system is faulty, the sunroof doesn’t open, the electric driver’s seat height adjustment no longer works and I’d like to reinstall the original sound system, which the previous owner thankfully kept. The height adjustment of the steering has failed (as it did during the original CAR magazine test), and this SVX also suffers from a known flaw with these cars - floppy sunvisor syndrome. Mechanically the car seems sound, however, so I hope to make many wonderful driving memories with this quirky machine. 

I’ll keep everyone updated on my journey with this acquisition, which was certainly not planned. Still, I’m happy to join the Subaru family with one of its rarest, quirkiest and most interesting cars. 

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