52 Years “Young”: 1969 Subaru 360

This is a Subaru! A 1969 Model 360 to be exact. Prior to about 1980, I had probably never heard of, much less seen a Subaru – or at least, gave little thought to the up and coming brand. Looking like a combination of a toon car and the rider compartment of a kiddie Ferris Wheel, this Subaru is located in Rush, New York and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $2,050 with twenty-one bids tendered so far.

Introduced in 1958, the Subaru 360 was a sub-compact coupe weighing approximately 1,000 lbs. While not immediately noticeable, the 360 was quite a bit smaller than the Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle) though it mimicked the Bug’s layout with its rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. This particular Subaru carries the model designation “Young” which means it has a slightly more powerful engine than its non-Young (Old?) counterpart as well as an extra gear in its transaxle. Three-body styles were offered, a coupe, such as our subject car, a cabriolet with a retracting canvas top, and a station wagon. Production of the 360 continued through 1971 and total output reached almost 400K copies.

The seller suggests, “This car deserves restoration, and nearly everything is in place. I can find no rust through or Bondo. The only things I can find that need replacing are headlight bezels and rear side windows“. The body is a bit rough but agreed, it doesn’t appear to be rusted beyond the surface stage. There are minor dents spread across its diminutive flanks but they are not serious. The minimal amount of trim is mostly present though some of the windshield’s reveal molding is missing. Of note, the roof panel is fiberglass.

The Subaru 360 is so named due to its engine size, 356 CC’s, which kept it, barely, under a higher 360 CC and up Japanese tax bracket. It is a two-cylinder air-cooled affair good for about 36 HP and attached to a four-speed manual transaxle. The seller, who has owned this Subaru for five years, adds, “I have not tried to start the engine, but this car is light and rolls easily, so shipping should not be a problem“. The old “not tried to start it” saw has become an eBay, craigslist, Facebook Marketplace listing standard. The head-scratcher, however, is, “But they are a blast to drive – the automotive equivalent of taking your puppy out for a walk” talk about a non-sequitur…And that, of course, engenders another question – if this one hasn’t been started, how would one know that it’s a “blast” to drive? Experiences with other examples, I guess.

There are no telling images of the interior included but this one of the instrument panel was a surprise as it includes a tachometer – one of the features of the “Young” trim level. Then again, motorcycles of this era had tachometers, so maybe it’s not such a surprise. The 18K mile reading is probably a once around, and if that’s truly the case, 118K miles is an impressive total for a car of this nature.

From what can be seen here, the interior is a typically spartan affair, the kind of environment found in economy cars from over a half-century ago. There appears to be a shelf located under the dash – a place to put whatever.

The racing stripe made it go faster!

While a car like this Subaru 360 seems strange, and yes, foreign, especially when compared to what most Americans were driving in ’69 (think Impala, Galaxie, Fury, and yes, VW Bug), it’s an important component of automotive evolution and a radical departure from today’s Subaru. It’s also a telling example of where the Japanese auto industry was at the time. Back to the comment regarding this car deserving restoration, I completely agree!  Do I want to take it on? Nope! But how about you?

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Comments

  1. Terrry

    Here’s a perfect candidate for a Corvair engine conversion-then go from there!

    Like 2
  2. Brian Ashe

    I highly recommend the book “The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History”. It’s about Malcom Bricklin, who founded Subaru of America and imported these before making the famous gullwing SV-1 under his own name and eventually founding Yugo. Regarding the 360, “Because the car weighed under 1000 pounds, it was exempt from normal safety standards” (Wikipedia) so he didn’t have to worry about any pesky regulations and he was able to sell them cheap. He was quite a character (generous term) and that book is as funny and entertaining as it is informative.

    Like 4
  3. Gerard Frederick

    The Subaru 360 was not inspired by the VW bug but rather technically copied from the Goggomobil , mirroring the layout, concept and 2-stroke Twin engine configuration. Where it fell short was originality, performance, styling and quality – all of which the Goggomobil, especially the TS 400 Coupé had in spades. All things considered, it is quite miraculous this transportation disaster was as successful as it in fact ended up being.

    Like 2
  4. Troy

    This is one of those cars if you get it running and driving then you mount a wind up key to the back of it and jump out at stop lights to wind it up. Just to mess with the people around you

    Like 1
    • WH

      HA HA! Great idea. Maybe the driver should wear a clowns outfit 🤡😆

  5. John

    I hope someone “videos” the process of trying to source the two missing side windows. It seems unlikely that they are stocked by the local Subaru dealer. Come to think of it, I don’t suspect the local dealer will stock ANY parts for this car – most will never have seen one of them.

    I exhausted the things I had to say on the last one of these to appear here and I was terribly wrong. The thing actually did sell. Someone will have fun trying to get this one back on the road. Hopefully that someone will be a person who has deep pockets and takes the project on just for the fun of it.

    • MikeH

      Those side glass pieces look to me to be flat glass. If so, any glass shop can make them for very few $s.

      Like 1
  6. That AMC Guy

    As I recall the main things that distinguish the Young from the regular 360 (aside from color) are tubular bumpers, tachometer, bucket seats, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. I don’t think there are any differences in the engine. It looks like this one has an alternator installed in place of the standard generator.

    The Subaru 360 Drivers’ Club can help with parts for these.

    http://www.subaru360club.org/

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      … and the roof is indented to hold a surfboard. No, really. The engine in a Young S is a little bit peppier than the 25-hp Deluxe engine. The Young S is absolutely the one to have if a person wants a left-hand-drive version, otherwise, the Young SS is the one to have. It’s the halo car as far as Subaru 360s go.

      Like 1
  7. Steve Clinton

    It’s a Subar-P-U!

  8. Jane

    He knows how it drives because he has more than one of them.

  9. Charles Sawka

    I drove several of these while stationed in Okinawa in 1970/71. If you think it’s a cute toy and want to restore it, we’ll ok. As for me, I will spend my time and money elsewhere.

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