$9,000 Kei Car! 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe Ragtop

It’s fairly well known that I’m a huge fan of small cars. The Subaru 360 is probably on top of the pile for me, even though I literally can’t even fit in them or operate the pedals with my long legs. This 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe is taunting me! This nice example is listed on eBay in Poestenkill, New York with a $9,000 buy it now price and a current bid of over $5,400, but the reserve isn’t met. Thanks to Todd for tracking down this tiny giant!

This car is in really nice condition, much nicer than most of these kei cars that we see here. This 360 has a convertible top which is highly unusual and if it is actually a factory piece it instantly turns this car into a prized collector’s item for Subaru fans the world over. And yes, there are legions of people who love and collect Subaru 360s, believe it or not.

Ugh, the winding toy car key has to go. I get it, these are tiny cars but junk like that only adds fuel to the fire for those people who don’t take these cars seriously. They were definitely serious cars for the time in most countries other than in the U.S. which they were never designed for. We all know the Malcolm Bricklin story of him importing these cars in the late-60s and they never caught on. That isn’t really a V8-juice-forehead-slapping-realization, they were never meant for U.S. highways, they were meant for tight Japanese city streets for use as inexpensive city cars.

I consider myself somewhat of an “amateur-expert” on the Subaru 360. Seeing a Deluxe sedan like this, which I’m assuming is original other than the ridiculous toy winding-key on the back, having bucket seats and a roll bar throws me off a bit. The Deluxe sedan came with a red bench seat in front, they never came with bucket seats unless it was a Young S or Young SS model. Unless I’ve missed something over the last few years of studying these cars like a graduate student. Obviously a roll bar was never a factory feature like the winding-key thing wasn’t so I would argue that this car has been modified. The seller says that this “car sat for 20 Plus yrs in a pole barn  partly exposed to elements origional [sic] 1st purchaser bought 12 new cars from a Subaru dealer  stored them & passed away before he could do anything with them.”

Here’s one area where a person could modify things a bit, the infamous 356cc (hence the 360 name) two-stroke two-cylinder with 25 hp. The seller says that this car has only 1,700 miles on it and it was “never registered for the road  previous owner only drove around gated comunity [sic] for the past 21 years.” Hagerty is at $9,900 for a #2 excellent condition example and it’s hard to know if the convertible feature adds more value than the modifications detract from the value. Or maybe they’re a wash. Despite the “clown car” comments that always come up, these were key cars in Subaru’s history.

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Comments

  1. Rube Goldberg

    1st, let me remind the author, these haven’t gotten any longer, and your legs any shorter. It’s really amazing to see how these now famous automakers got their start (Honda 600, same thing) I had a friend with one of these, she said it was a good vehicle, but it’s 45 mph top speed limited it’s use. I find it extremely odd, what this ,,,,car,,,is going for, considering, they couldn’t GIVE these away when new.(weren’t they given away free with a Cadillac, or something? And 2 for 1 deals?) Sheer novelty, maybe with a Z-1 motor, although, 100 mph in this,,,maybe not.

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  2. packrat

    I really like the styling of these. I’ve heard the only way they could be more ephemeral is if they were constructed out of papier mache. Quite an interesting and attention-getting specimen to keep alive.

    https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/classic-cars/a18198161/subaru-360-us-50th-anniversary/

    “An urban legend suggests that dealers stuck with unsold inventory would sell two 360s for the price of one, or one for $1, if you bought a different car. Bricklin himself created a franchise scheme called FasTrack where anyone could come and race a 360 around a go-kart track for a $1 per lap. The cars were given fiberglass bodies designed by dune-buggy legend Bruce Meyers, but most were destroyed.”

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  3. Ray

    only 67,68,69 were legally imported to the USA and can be legally registered to be road legal. If they don’t have a clear title, they will never be able to register this car in any other state. Hence the low price.

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  4. Mountainwoodie

    Great write up Scotty! These remind me of the Honda 600’s. Hitchhiking in 1970 near Princeton New Jersey I got picked up by a 600. I remember how I could barely get in the car and I was just a skinny teenager then. While I retain the litheness of youth , how would you coax your older body to fold in and out of the car? :)

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  5. Rspcharger

    Looks like a mashup between a VW Beetle and a Morris Mini. I really like it and is it any smaller than a Sprite? Perfect summertime back road cruiser.

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  6. gbvette62

    Subaru is currently headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ, but when they first came to the US 50 years ago, they were based a few miles away in Pennsauken, NJ. Their original location was along the Cooper River, on N. Park Drive, (they still occupy the property).

    When they finally gave up on selling the 360 here, there were rows and rows of them sitting in a lot behind the headquarters. Eventually they moved them, and built what I believe was probably the first Fastrack, behind the headquarters.

    I only lived about 10 minutes away from their Pennsauken FasTrack, and gave it a try a few times. I don’t remember any Meyers bodied cars though, but they may have come later. When it first opened, they were using stripped down 360’s, painted all sorts of bright colors. Driving by, it looked like a field full of giant Easter eggs! I don’t remember them being to strict about how you drove them either. It was pretty much, pay your buck, and go out and do what you wanted to those poor little cars. They probably got rebodied, because there was nothing left of the original ones!

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    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Didn’t the 360s used on the FasTrack circuits have external roll bars?

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  7. Andy Frobig

    I used to live close enough to this car that we’d hear on the radio when Poestenkill schools got snow days. The Albany area must have been a real hot spot for Subaru back when this was made. GE in Schenectady used to use Subaru pickups and vans to get around their huge plant, and some of them still pop up in pole barns and junkyards in the vicinity. As a former VW Microbus owner, I dug the idea of having a Nanobus that could almost fit in the VW!

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  8. LAB3

    I’ll agree with the author as to appreciating it for what it is, looks like a very clean example. Being a wirery 6’4″ though I’d need two of these convertibles, one for each foot!

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  9. ken TILLY

    I bought one of these from flipper who had stopped at my garage to fill up with gas. It took me about 6 months to restore and get it road licenced, only to discover that it couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding, so was sold within 2 weeks of completion. The enclosed pic is not of my car but is exactly the same as mine except that mine was painted metallic green.

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  10. David V Morris

    There is a yellow 360 in our local Subaru dealer. I don’t know the year but it’s pretty good shape.

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  11. Beatnik Bedouin

    I remember seeing these at the L.A. Auto Show in 1968. Even the gorgeous young woman on the Subaru stand thought they were a joke!

    These were brought to the USA by the same guy who introduced America to the joys of owning a Fuji Rabbit scooter, the Yugo and, of course, the ‘safety car’ that bore his name: Malcolm Bricklin.

    Here’s a link to the original TVCs for the 350. Sit back and have a laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLPp-NFInXw

    Scotty knows that I’d own a 360 (to go with my Rabbit motorbike) if I could actually find one in NZ that hasn’t already rusted itself into oblivion.

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  12. Sam61

    Here’s a couple from last years Great Race.

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  13. glen

    I’m thinking ,they were ahead of their time. City cars do make sense for getting to work, or just getting groceries. Lots of families have 2 cars, who needs a truck to drive downtown? Parking is easier, and the gas mileage is way better in a small car. I have an F-150, and a Nissan Micra. (The micra isn’t available in the USA). As for the windup key, I’ve thought it would be hilarious to have one on my micra! I wonder how well they would sell today, I may be alone on this, but I think these things look pretty good.

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    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Glen, Nash got BMC to produce the Metropolitan for the exact reasons you suggest, back in the 1950s. At the time, America was having its love affair with ‘longer, lower, wider’ and saw small cars as cheap and dangerous. Now, the fins and miles of chrome have been replaced with, as you put it, trucks.

      Kei cars were – and remain – city cars in Japan. They attract lower road tax, etc.

      Like your Micra, I’ve found my ’05 Suzuki Swift Sport ideal for city driving (and consistent, if a bit slow, as a Bracket car).

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  14. jeff Member

    I remember Consumer Reports rated these “not acceptable”. I can’t remember any car rated like that. Now worth 9K?

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    • jw454

      I don’t think anyone would say this thing is worth 9K. Value and price are not mutually exclusive especially in this case.
      Cute little car though.

  15. Will Owen Member

    I’ve never driven a 360 sedan or convertible, but I did have a window van for several years. One thing I learned very quickly was to take it very easy on sharp corners, as the chassis was not quite up to handling those raging 25 (I was told just 17, but what the heck) horses. The front suspension is a single trailing arm on each side, and when the body leans going left or right, the outside front wheel goes from positive to negative caster, making it want to turn inward to full lock. Very scary, especially if you’re turning right and your (rear-hinged) door decides to fly open.

    A mechanic I knew wanted to buy it and install the engine from his ten-cylinder Honda bike in it! Yikes!! But while I was pondering the right and wrong of all this he solved my dilemma by riding the Honda one night while drunk, and killing himself with absolutely no help from me.

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  16. Clay Bryant

    When I was a “young” 40some the local newspaper gal came around to photo some cars we had for sale and we had one sitting in the shop. I told her to get her camera ready and take a pic for me. I lifted the car up by the front bumper to my waist and she “shot me”. Should ask the paper if it’s hidden in the files. The rear engine helped half way up when I started to lift but wouldn’t do it now. If I had one and went to Subaru meets I’d pay for the car by “picin’ people getting a one time shot of them lifting one of these…………

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  17. Andy

    Looking at the drivers side footwell, I’m thinking I could fit one foot in there, but only with the top down and my posterior sitting on top of the seat. At 6’4″ and 230#’s, I do not envision myself ever being able to get into that thing! The wife has a Corolla that takes some interesting machinations on my part to be able to get into the drivers seat…

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  18. ChingA-Trailer

    These were RACED!!! When new you could see them on the track being out run by Mini Coopers, VW’s and Morris Minors. Their stated goal was to at least finish the race, winning was not an option. Maybe this is an old “racer” (sic) hence the rollbar. But all the racers I saw at Riverside, Ontario and Willow Springs were black.

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  19. Phillip Parmelee

    I nearly bought a used 360 way back in ’77. It sat outside an auto salvage for sale for $150. As a broke college student in Springfield, Missouri, it took me about 8 months to save up that amount, only to then find it had just been sold. I had no way to replace the clutch plate they said it needed, certainly no funds to do much to it. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. All I knew is that I had to have it, being a fan of 360’s since they hit our shores.

  20. C. Jay

    We found ours in KY junkyard, with keys and a title.

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  21. C.Jay

    I have no plans on painting it. But the interior has been done and needs installed.

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    • Alexander

      C Jay, are you in Kentucky? There is another faded red one here in Middle Tennessee in Brentwood of all places (Williamson Co — richest county in all of TN). Been in someone’s gravel driveway for at least 10-15 years. Bet it could be bought for a song.

  22. Steve Cota

    I have owned one of these for 28 years, and have worked on several in the shop. I used mine as my get-away car when I got married back in 1983. Our “Guests” thought it would be fun to put it up on a picnic table, and it made for a cool photo.
    The fiberglass top insert was considered a structural component of the body. While it was fairly easy to cut the rubber gasket and remove the top insert, removing it severely weakened the already questionable structural integrity of the unit construction body. which is probably why the Hot rodders decided to fabricate the roll bar.? The car was never intended to operate as a convertible and the factory manual advised against doing so. NO convertible version was ever offered. The top pictured here is really just a snap on Tonneau cover. The seats are definitely not Subaru, and the oversized seats combined with the intrusion of the roll cage have probably reduced the already cramped interior space making it difficult for anyone over 5 foot 6 to even fit. In my opinion, the hack job mod’s on this car have decreased it’s value over what it would be worth in stock condition (which isn’t much, nicely restored one’s are selling for about what the ask is here)

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  23. Ben T. Spanner

    I was following friend. I was driving his Honda Z600 Coupe, (I also had one) We drove 2 plus hours on an interstate. A Subaru 360 was entering the highway. I honked and he looked over with a scowl until he saw what I was driving. The Honda could kinda keep up with traffic. He couldn’t.

  24. Joe

    I just thought of a nightmare, Getting T-Bone in that car.

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