A Big Idea: 1970 Subaru 360

1970-Subaru-360

If an automaker wants to make a big dent in the market quickly, there’s no better way to do it than by building a car for the masses. Volkswagen did it with the Beetle, and Ford with the Model T. But it’s not always a recipe for success. Subaru’s most famous microcar was imported into the U.S. in 1968 to an untested market with a small dealer network, limiting its appeal. Barn Finds reader Isaac spotted this 1970 Subaru 360 here on craigslist in Michigan, which is listed as a rolling project for $3,000 or trade for a pinball machine!

360-rear

When the Beetle was introduced, Volkswagen wasn’t just kicking the tires: it soon had marketing in place (perhaps one of the most clever campaigns of all time), a growing number of dealers and servicing resources and a lineup of cars that appealed to consumers at a rock-bottom price. For Subaru, the trial by fire was a bit tougher in the U.S. since the car was imported by Malcolm Bricklin rather than an established manufacturer, and the vehicle was odd-looking to consumers not familiar with Japanese K-class cars.

360-side

Still, like many of the first automobiles from Japan to grace our shores, the Subaru was packed with innovative features. The 360 featured an air-cooled, 356cc, two-cylinder, two-stroke, 16 b.h.p. engine with seating for four and claimed fuel economy of 75 m.p.g.! Suicide doors and a fiberglass roof section rounded out the distinctive components of the Ladybird, and additional models were eventually introduced in the Japanese market. The seller of this 360 bought it five years ago and then never used it; he claims it ran well when he took delivery and it’s still 99% rust-free.

360-corner

To take on a project like this, you’ll likely have to be patient while you hunt around for parts and specialists who can help fine-tune the driving experience. Since you won’t be going fast, but that means you’ll have plenty of time to identify areas for improvement! The seller provides some good information but the unknown condition of the engine is a downer and no mention is made of the state of the interior. While there are some resources online for restoring Subaru’s first foray into the U.S. market, parts were hard to find when new and it’s not likely gotten any easier. Despite that, would you take this 360 on as your next microcar project, or should it remain a static reminder of our first flirtation with compact cars? Leave your comments below.

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Comments

  1. Dan h

    Luv it!

  2. René

    I would rather walk than driving this!

  3. stan

    love subaru 360

  4. CArmudegeon

    Not exactly our first “modern” flirtation with compact cars; don’t forget the American Austin/Bantam and the Crosley, as well as the BMW Isetta and the Goggomobil, to name just a few, all of which predated the Subaru 360.

    Not one of Malcolm Bricklin’s better efforts…

    • Tom Stewart

      Well, Bricklin isn’t known for his taste in cars, as the Yugo and the SV1 would show.

  5. Barry

    I remember seeing one or two of these back in the day. Not the prettiest car in the world, the only modern car I can think off hand that is uglier is the Nissan Leaf. I wonder why they had to make it so ugly.

  6. Dennis Member

    A buddy had one of these in high school and a van with the same drive train. There was nothing like them in our town, they were a blast to drive and as dependable as anything else we could afford at that time.

  7. Desi

    Sue Baah Roooo.
    Here’s the famous Golden Shower commercial from Subaru…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmr40y8yM-c

  8. Tim

    That little Subaru is an important piece of automotive history. As well as being the first imported to the us market, it should also be noted that they killed people in record numbers, and nearly caused Subaru to pull out of North America completely. Glad they didn’t.

  9. Jason

    This posting has been deleted by its author.

  10. RickyM

    They are ugly, but there is something about them I like. Love it that he will swap the car for a pinball machine !

  11. DT

    I like these and this looks like a good project,Id rather have a pinball machine also

  12. DT

    I went to a car show in 1968,Subaru was introducing the 360.They gave me a card with Lenticular animation,
    There was a picture of a 360 on the bottom of the ocean,and when you moved the card, fish would swim by and bubbles would float to the surface from the Subaru.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      I’ll bet there’s a Subaru enthusiast somewhere who would pay big money for that giveaway!

  13. Tom Stewart

    They were so light, they were classified as motorcycles. Bricklin had Subaru strip of anything that would put it over the weight limit, easier to get it imported. He then went on to nearly sink Subaru in America, of course Consumer Reports crapping all over the car didn’t help. Subaru bought Bricklin out in order to save the company.

  14. tim

    Consumer Reports crapped on them because they were poorly built, incredibly dangerous in a crash and were, essentially, a piece of shit. In fact, if a bird flew over one, and shit on it, the bird shit actually became part of the subaru and was indistinguishable from the car itself.

    • Tom Stewart

      Oh yeah they’re were junk, dangerous junk, and really shouldn’t have been on the streets. they deserved everything Consumer Reports said about them. At one point. Bricklin was developing a a business called ‘Fast Track’ a sort of midget racing course that would use these cars. when Subaru kicked him out (he guy had a fur-lined James Bond gadget ridden office) he kept the Fast Track idea and some cars, which they couldn’t sell anyway.

      Of course, there are 360 clubs, dedicated to the car. Don’t know about any SV1 or Yugo clubs, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

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