Micro Barn Find: 1970 Subaru 360

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In the car world, when you’re low on power, you better hope to have an interesting personality. The Subaru 360 was the company’s first attempt at gaining a foothold in the U.S., and despite being a bit of an outlier on the automative landscape, the 360 has a lot to do with Subaru’s commercial success and legacy in the United States. Check out this recently unearthed example here on eBay with a starting bid of $3K and no reserve. 

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Tiny and light, the 360 was known for being exempt from U.S. safety regulations. Despite this, the cheerful cruiser’s reputation was damaged badly by rumors of poor crash performance. However, with a top speed of 60 m.p.h. and needing 37 seconds to get there, I’m surprised any consumers or watchdog groups expected this Japanese city car to be a solid performer at anything other than fetching good fuel economy!

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While early cars made do with a mere 16 horsepower,  later editions jumped up to 25 b.h.p. This air-cooled, two-cylinder motor wasn’t entirely different from the original Beetle in terms of purpose: it not only was needed in order to give citizens access to a cheap, reliable car, but to also help ignite a rebuilding phase in post-WWII Japan. The 360 was intended as sort of an everyman’s car, an essential tool for a population that needed transportation in the wake of war and new economic opportunities.

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The seller freely admits he’s in over his head with project cars, and his wife is sick of looking at the ones that rarely move. One of those cars is the parts donor for the Subaru you can see above that will be included with the final sale. This car may also have some good floors to donate to the blue 360, which needs some minor rust repair. Personally, I think this 360 is a perfect candidate for a sport bike engine swap, but with prices on the rise for microcars in certain collector circles, it’s probably wisest to leave it stock for now.

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Comments

  1. Rick

    Back in 1970, I remember Chuck Olson Olds in Seattle advertising these for $997; this was back in the days when a new Ford Maverick only cost $1995

    • Yellowjax Member

      I was there. $29 a month. When you shifted into 3rd your hand would hit the head light switch and turn them off. Walked down the street and bought a fiat 850 spider.

  2. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty G Staff

    Dream car! No, really. Well, maybe not one in this condition.. Of course, it would be a lawn ornament because I literally can’t fit behind the steering wheel, unfortunately. This one is definitely restorable, and the parts car is a huge bonus as some parts are tough/hard/almost-impossible to scrounge up. Nice find!

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty G Staff

      Ha! WOW, I got a thumbs down for a comment with no negativity in it, just that I can’t fit in the car! Boooooo for being too tall!

      I’ve seen everything now, I didn’t think my day could get any worse, until now.

  3. Grr

    These really were awful. Sport bike restomod is the way to go – if not the crusher.

  4. Christopher

    25hp is about the top you should really put into these…that swing axle rear scary high speed cornering

  5. Ralph Terhune

    Has to be one of the ugliest cars ever produced. We should nuke ’em for this abomination. Oh, wait…..

  6. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    I believe it was Malcolm Bricklin who first set up to import these Subarus into the US when nobody had ever heard of them. I think that got Subaru their foothold in No America, and the rest is history.

    He sold out his interest in Subaru imports and used the money to start his own car brand…guess what it was called, and you get only one guess. The factory was set up in New Brunswick, Canada, which badly needed the jobs, so put in a big chunk of the money for the factory. After a couple of thousand cars that project was history.

    Then he started importing the Yugo, which was the cheapest car in the country. I think it was about then that I lost interest in what he was doing.

    Folks who like these 360s aren’t going to like this, but it has to be said—-these look like the perfect clown car. Makes me wonder how many of them could fit.

  7. John K

    Well if there’s rust in the floors might as well go whole hog on the engine swap. Factory 5 isn’t far from the town this is being sold in. Just grab this body, then swing over to Factory 5 and grab a frame for an 818 (mid-engine, RWD WRX kit car) and find a way to make the 360 body fit. Yeah, I know: easier said than done. But restoring this to stock isn’t going to be a walk in the park either.

  8. brakeservo

    Don’t forget, in 1968 there was an Official Subaru Factory Racing Team as well – I saw them running at Riverside and Willow Springs, doing their best to stay out of the way of the Mini-Coopers and Sunbeam Imps! I don’t think their goals were any more ambitious than to simply finish the race!

  9. David

    There was one on display in the Sacramento museum when they had a micro car display. Several Japanese visitors had fond memories of them, of being able to afford a car. They said they called them “Ladybugs”. How would this one look in orange with black spots?

  10. rangeroger

    When I was autocrossing in San Diego, the local sanctioning body flat out banned these from ever competing. They tended to fall over on their sides in a tight corner. My Honda N 600 however, kicked butt.

  11. Badnikl

    The motto for these is “If it ‘s not smokin, It’s broken”
    The 360 Forum is an active bunch too.
    There are a couple of guys in my neighborhood and they
    both have some nice examples of these and a truck.

  12. Andy Frobig

    The huge GE plant in Schenectady, NY, had several Subaru micro micro buses and pickups to get around the grounds. I saw plenty of them in the Williams Auto Parts junkyard at the far north end of town, and a restorer in nearby Rotterdam had one or two mixed in with Citroens and Isettas.

  13. Greg Bly

    Seen one of these pull up at a car show.Plus heard it.It didn’t sound like a tiny little motor.The guy had put a Chevy 2.5 four cylinder in the back seat.With over size tires and wheels,and a nice red paint job,it was pretty cool.

  14. Bill McCoskey

    Ahhh yessss…. The Subaru 360. The only automobile to receive an “Unacceptable” rating from Consumer Reports!

    In the late ’60s, when the Subaru dealer opened up in Rockville, MD, Larry, an older friend of mine who owned an original 1935 Packard 12 rumble seat coupe, decided to play a joke on the dealership owner/salesman/mechanic/parts guy [yes he was the only one there!]. I should point out that Larry was quite tall at 6′ 8″!

    I was there when he drove “Sweetheart” [the Packard 12 coupe] into the dealership, and suggested he was ready to trade it in for a car that got better gas mileage! The salesman took him very seriously, as he really wanted that Packard! [He offered to do an even trade!]

    My friend was encouraged to check out the Subaru, but try as he did, there was no way his tall body was gonna fit into that tiny car. The salesman said he could drill additional holes in the floor and mount the seat rails back until the driver’s seat would be back against the rear seat, but we realized that while this meant he could probably get his legs into the car, there was the problem of his head sticking out the door window!

    The salesman, trying to make a sale, finally offered to remove the fiberglass roof panel & mount a “Brooklands type” windshield at the leading edge of the roof, and mount 4 latches so he could install the roof panel when not driving!

    Larry finally said no, and suggested the car didn’t have enough luggage room. I remember once we got about a block from the dealership, we both broke out in laughter, laughing so hard he had to pull over to the curb!

    Note; this is a VERY true story!

  15. brakeservo

    As I recall, there was not real Subaru “Dealer Network” as we would expect today, you could find these cars being sold out of gas stations, hardware stores etc.

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