There was a lot of excitement in the cluster of rusty, discarded FEMA trailers that forms Jalopnik’s world HQ about Hoonigan’s new Gymkhana car, styled to look like an ‘80s Subaru GL wagon. My first thought when I saw the car was, of course, to wonder if it had Subaru’s cyclopean Passing Lamp Some of our newer writers weren’t familiar with what this was, and when I showed them a picture, the telltale sound of shock-urine spattering on a dirt floor told me all I needed to know: People need to be reminded about the Subaru Passing Lamp.
I’m actually pretty amazed I’ve never fully covered this before, though I definitely have referenced it in articles before. In case you’re somehow and sadly unfamiliar with this late 1970s to early ‘80s Subaru feature, I’m happy to describe it for you.
Well, even better, I’ll show you, in the same place I think I first encountered it, an ‘80s Subaru commercial:
Oooh, new, Subaru! Okay, did you see that? Did you see how that Subaru on a turntable somehow summoned powerful dark magick that caused its badge, depicting the Pleiades star cluster, to gracefully flip upwards, revealing a brilliant alabaster lamp!
It was shown in various brochures of the era, yet somehow the option doesn’t seem to have been all that popular, a fact that causes me complete bafflement. What kind of fools were people in the 1980s that every single fucking Subaru ordered didn’t have this glorious feature?
How can you not be delighted by that little secret third eye? If you had a Subaru equipped with one, wouldn’t you find reasons to use it every chance you got? It’s sort of strange to think of it as a “passing light,” but if I had one, everyone I passed would be informed of my bold attempt to overtake with that little reverse-wink of light.
I get that some of you might think this is just a silly affectation and wouldn’t have much real world use. If that’s what you think, I invite you to consider this real world scenario:
You’re driving down a dark desert highway, when all of a sudden a pair of large desert weasels emerge from the underbrush on the shoulders of the road and, slaves to their instincts, fling wads of their sticky wastes at your car, spattering on either side, their inky, goopy darkness obscuring your headlamps.
Well, if you had a Subaru equipped with the Passing Light, you could simply flick your hand over the control stalk and turn the central light on, banishing the darkness at the center of the road and revealing the massive, yawning chasm you almost drove into — the Passing Light saved your life!
See? Not so useless now, is it?
I think if I were car shopping in 1982 and looking for a sensible Japanese hatchback or little wagon, I would have gone with Subaru just for this feature. And I wouldn’t have regretted it for a moment.
Has any other mass-market carmaker ever offered such a wonderful lighting option right from the factory? There have been some interesting things — sequential indicators, cornering lights, fake lights, cool side markers — but who else has done a little hidden Easter Egg surprise of a lamp like this?
Let’s all just take a moment to appreciate the Subaru Passing Lamp.