$2,990 Small Giant: 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe

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Swansea, Massachusetts, right on the Rhode Island border, 15 miles southeast of Providence, is the location of this microcar. This 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe is listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $2,990. This car helped to put Japan on the road after WWII, it’s a giant in automotive history. Jeff wrote this same car up back in June!

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We probably all know the story of the Subaru 360, how Japanese “360cc era” Kei car regulations were enacted to help post-war Japan get back on its feet again, or get back on wheels, is more like it. In 1955, engines could be as “big” as 360cc, and overall length could be up to ten-feet, in hopes of attracting more companies to make cars. A need for a national car was fulfilled partly by Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru 360s, the first mass-produced Kei car in post-war Japan. The company made almost 400,000 of these tiny cars from 1958 until production moved on in 1971. The US only got around 10,000 of them, thanks to Malcolm Bricklin, from 1968 to 1970 and they were about as popular as the measles. Subaru made four different variations of the 360, the Deluxe (base model seen here), the Young S with bucket seats, 4-speed instead of 3-speed, a tach, and a striped roof indent for a surf board (!), and the super rare Young SS with covered headlights, twin carbs, and a smokin’ 36 hp compared to 25 in the other models! The Young SS was never available in North America so you’ll have to import one and they’re all right-hand-drive. They also made a “Custom” which was sort of a wagon; again, super, super rare.

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The blue car is the one that the seller is thinking will be restored, possibly using some parts, if needed, from this white car. The white car looks like a skeleton with not much left on it, but there will always be parts and pieces that you’ll need for these cars so it’s good to have one or more carcasses lying around. The Subaru Deluxe only came in white with a red interior, so anytime you see a non-white car it’s been painted, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just so you know. The Young S edition came in white, yellow, and red.

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I’m guessing that the 15,371 miles seen here are actual miles, I can’t imagine that this car has 115,371, although it looks like it has 1,015,371 miles on it… There aren’t any overall interior photos, just snippets, and this one will need work, of course. Parts will be hard to come by and I would highly, highly suggest joining the Subaru 360 Driver’s Club. I’ve been a member for a while now and they’re an unbelievably helpful and fun group of folks.

The top car on my wish list for quite a while was a Subaru 360 Young S and I finally found a nice one locally, owned by a member of the 360 Club. I was ready to jump on it like nobody’s business. I went to look at it with a wad of $100 bills in hand, 99.9% positive that I would buy it. But, after spending an hour with the owner going over the whole car and what it needed and what had been restored already, it came time to sit in it. And, yes, horror of horrors, I didn’t fit! Not even close. Being 6′-5″ tall may seem like a cool thing to a lot of people, but at that moment I was wishing that I was 5′-5″ tall instead. I could not get my legs under the steering wheel and there was no way that I could operate the pedals, or even touch them! The Young S model has bucket seats, compared to a bench seat in a Deluxe, so I could have removed the driver’s seat and remounted it back about 4″, but I wasn’t sure if it was worth the risk of buying a car for several thousand dollars on the off-chance that moving the seat back 4″ would help me to operate it safely, or at all. I had to pass it up and I was crushed, believe it or not. I know that for most of you these are clown cars and they’re a joke, but to us enthusiasts they are very serious vehicles and we’re as passionate about them as you may be about your Mustang, Camaro, or Corvette.

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This is Subaru’s EK32, 356cc air-cooled, two-stroke twin with 25 hp! It’s not a lot of power even though the car only weighs 900 pounds. Expect 0-60 times of over 30 seconds, and then you’ll be at its top speed. This is a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car and you may have noticed how high the front end looks; that made for some interesting handling characteristics, to say the least. We’ve probably all seen, or at least heard of, the Consumer Reports article that came out in 1969 calling the Subaru 360 unacceptable. Consider what was on the streets in 1969 and then there’s a two-stroke, 900-pound car getting in the way. These tiny cars were never, ever meant for freeway duty; that always comes up when there’s a story on these tiny cars. They were intended for narrow city streets in Japan where they were designed. These two cars will be a heck of a project, but that’s the beauty of tiny vehicles, they don’t take up as much room as a “normal”-sized vehicle in your garage. The Deluxe model rarely sells for more than around $10,000 in top condition so you’ll have to do most of the work yourself if you’re planning on flipping this one for a profit. Do you think you could even fit in this car? Have you ever driven a car this small before?

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Comments

  1. Scooby Dan

    Isn’t this the exact same car as the one posted in jun 2016?!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Dan, Scotty noted that in the article.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks for noticing that, Scooby Dan, you’re correct, sir.

      • RayRay Botts

        i’ll take it

  2. Howard A Member

    Scotty sure loves the 360. When ever I see this car, and the Honda 600, I always look at how the company started out, and what they’ve become. This has absolutely nothing in common with a new Subaru.( like the 600 with a new Honda) I had a friend that had a 360, and she claimed it was downright dangerous on US roads. Handled poorly, so-so brakes, no power, to speak of, maybe 40 mph tops, still, it got the name out there, and the rest is history. Living in the country, everything is a drive for me, so I’d have no use for this. Fun small town car, big city, not so much.

    • MarkB

      Sorry I have to correct a little misinformation in your post. Having owned two 360’s I can attest that they do 60 mph on flat ground. My hopped up 360 van is a little faster and I take it on the freeway occasionally.

      • RayRay

        wow, i’d love to get one of those!

  3. AutoArcheologist

    Now there is a great little car that needs saving.. and although it may not be “worth it”, it still needs to be saved and hopefully, the person with the needed skills will find her and do just that.

  4. junkman Member

    You’d think a local Subaru dealership would step up and restore it for their showroom, a great tribute to how far they have come in 46 years.

    • MikeH

      There is/was a Subaru dealer in Dallas that had a restored 360 on the showroom floor. Every person that walked in the door went right to that car.

  5. G 1

    In 1970 White Bear Dodge in Minnesota was a distributor for these. They had a ton of them.They sold for $995. My girl friends uncle bought one. What a joke, didn’t last long. Unsafe at any speed for sure.

  6. KeithK

    As a VW enthusiast in the 1980s I thought I would add to my collection of air cooled things by purchasing a 360. The seller tossed me the keys and told me to give a whirl and we would discuss the deal later.
    I got in, sat down , and was immediately attacked by about a zillion mad hornets. Ran away screaming like a girl. Just looking at the listing makes swell.

  7. Ken Nelson Member

    Scotty, with your height you should try an NSU Prinz I, II, or III – I’m 6′ 4″ with long legs & get into mine easily. Better yet is a Fiat Toplino – amazing legroom and great ergonomics for us tall guys. I can also fit in my Panhards, but not my Matra Djet nor the Caravelles I once had! The Caravelles were designed by the shortest Frenchman ever in the business.

    • Buck Steele

      Just came across a 360 young s in michigan , haven’t seen one since 1970 in Denver Colorado as a teen checkin out the country with my thumb! I’m 6’4” 250lbs and own a classic mini , had to move the seat back to fit , other wise the next smallest car would prolly be an old vwbug , sure do think you could modify and fit in it if you really wanted to! Everyone waves points smiles honks and gives the thumbs up !
      Thinking bout starting up a micro club here in the midwest MMMC , Midwestern Micro Motor Club.

      Like 1
      • RayRay

        2990? I’ll give you $3000 for it! I’ve restored 2 of these up before.

  8. Tre Deuce

    A friend by the name of John Cool bought a new Subie 360 and brought over to my house to show me. While he and his long legged blond went into the house to get a beer, I looked it over. I came to the conclusion that I could pick up the front of the car, so I made the attempt. I could, but I wanted more lift, so I developed a technique where I pushed down on the bumper and lifted on the spring back. After a couple attempts, I got it up to chest level and was able to hold it up in this position, basically almost balanced and sitting on its rear bumper.

    When John and his lovely came out to see what I thought of his new ride, I showed him the wheel stand it would do. For some reason he was embarrassed by my being able to do this and got PO and left. I didn’t see him for months, until hunting season when he showed up in his newly acquired 49′ Chevy sedan delivery which is another story…or two.

    That Subie 360 was probably the only one that ever did a wheel stand.

    John … you still out there?

  9. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    A friend had one of these he used for going back and forth to college, about a 30 mile trip.

    The 0-50 times needed a minute hand to record.

    While we both graduated to far more sophisticated machinery, this car still holds a place for both of us. There was something of a back seat but knowing the speed of it with two of us meant the rear seat would only be filled with books.

    Not sure why a 360cc two stroke was picked, have always wondered if that engine and transmission was made for some motorcycle originally.

    Have driven both versions of the Honda 600, those were different cars also an enjoyable driving experience. Felt the Honda was more of a driver’s car as the edge it had in power made it more useful. The Sub 360 could not keep up with highway speeds of 60.

    The Subaru was for the person who grudgingly wanted a car and didn’t care about driving, high unfortunately meant they likely didn’t have the necessary skills to match shifts to their rpm and anticipate things much farther ahead to avoid the disadvantages of the small power plant.

    While this was the wrong car for rural New England, especially in the winter, as a city vehicle in a more temperate climate, but not too hot. This would not be a bad car as long as it was limited to certain roads.

    Seem to remember 50 mph of a good day with just the driver and a hair under 45 with driver and passenger, guessing full up with 4 people, would be the equivalent of going backwards in time.

  10. whippeteer

    While not necessarily well suited for American roads. A friend told me that when hers would slide off the road in winter, a few well placed kicks were all it would take to push it back onto the road.

  11. Mark in WNC

    I think these engines were also used in snowmobiles !

  12. justajoe

    For a couple of months in the late 70s, a friend of mine had a Deluxe painted yellow, as I recall. He loved it. Another friend had a Honda 600 coupe. He also loved it. I had an Isetta. I was fond of it. The Honda was by far the best.

    Somewhere there’s a picture of all three in one parking spot, facing outward.

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