Thursday, July 9, 2009

1969 Subaru 360

The Subaru 360 accounts for a lot of "firsts"... This is the first mass produced Subaru. This is the car that Subaru first brought to the US. Importing this car was Malcolm Bricklin's first automotive venture. On the down side it was the first car Consumer Reports gave a "Not Acceptable" rating to.

Unless you've stood next to one of these cars you can't imagine just how small it is. It had a rear mounted (said to be DKW inspired) 360cc two-stroke engine. There's really no reason to talk about the performance of this car, it's all theoretical. No one bought this car for its performance and handling characteristics. According to road tests done at the time, top speed was around 60 MPH, but it took 37 seconds to get there! Subaru claimed the car got 66 MPG. (Magazines reported that 25 to 35 MPG was more the norm.) According 360 Drivers Club the 360 engine is "essentially a snowmobile engine".

Malcolm Bricklin got his start in the auto industry by importing this car. He claims to have sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 360s in the US. That number is hard to believe when you think about the fact that Subaru was an unknown name in the US and this was a weird, tiny car that was often sold in hardware stores (I'm not kidding). It's been said that many of the cars imported remained unsold for almost 3 years.

The Consumer Reports "Not Acceptable" rating had to do with its crash worthiness. It reported that the 360 fared badly in a test crash against a large American car with the bumper ending up in the passenger compartment of the Subaru. Ouch.

Whatever, it was the foot in the door Subaru needed and, of course, they went on to build and export some very interesting (if still slightly weird) cars.

This Subaru 360 has been completely restored. It comes with a parts car.

Like so many other cars I've written about, there's no real good reason to buy this car except for the fact that it's a piece of history. Completely impractical for everyday use, it would be a great car to take to shows. The seller describes it as a "head turner". I'd say that's an understatement.

Located in Sunbury, PA, click here to see the eBay listing for this 1969 Subaru 360 Deluxe.

The 360 Drivers Club has some great info and pictures of the 360. Click here to find the website.

1 comment:

hoov23 said...

I love these little buggers! Someone had a really cool custom convertible 2-seater on eBay a year or two ago, it looked like something out of a Disney cartoon. Kind of like a Fiat Jolly buy much smaller (!). Gotta love microcars. One of my favorite Subies, though - the 90's Sambar Classic (pic through my name link). Saw one in Holland for the first time a few years ago, and at first glance I actually thought it was vintage. That's a MINIvan.