Micro Project: 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe

Like a lot of microcars and other unusual vehicles, a car like this 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe doesn’t usually go over real well in the hallowed halls of Barn Finds where it’s more about American muscle cars and trucks, for the most part. There are those who enjoy seeing unusual vehicles and this one is for you. This tiny tot can be found here on eBay in Norman, Oklahoma where the current bid is just over $1,000 and there is no reserve.

These cars aren’t made for American freeways. I just thought that I’d get that out of the way because it comes up.. Every. Single. Time. They were made, of course, for crowded post-war Japanese city streets and for that purpose they worked great. Whole families would crowd into one of these cars. I can’t fit into the driver’s seat and operate the pedals because my legs are too long so you’ll have to be shorter than 6′-5″ tall unless you have a different leg-to-torso ratio than I do. Hagerty is at $3,300 for a #4 fair condition car, which this one isn’t quite at yet. But, with some work they list a #2 excellent car as being valued at $10,100.

The Deluxe was the version that we got in the US, other than a few Young S editions with front bucket seats, a tach, and an indent in the roof to carry a surfboard. No, really. That’s the one that I want but I may as well wish for world peace, there literally are none: A) In perfect condition. B) For sale. C) In perfect condition for sale. The Deluxe never came in yellow, it was a one-trick pony – they came in white with red, textured vinyl seats, that’s it. This example has been painted and I love yellow cars so I might stick with that given that almost every other one you’ll see is white.

There are a lot of exterior photos which is great but there are only two interior photos, both of them are close-ups. But, this is a small interior and unless a person has a wide angle lens it would be hard to get good photos inside. The seats have been redone in black vinyl and they look like they’re in good shape. That’s the least of your worries as this car needs a full restoration. Here is a photo of me attempting to sit in a 1969 Subaru 360 Young S edition in 2016 that I was sure I was going to buy before finding out that my knees hit the dash and I couldn’t even touch the pedals. The seat would have to be removed and mounted as far back as it would go and then maybe I could drive one.

This is a running car which makes it a worthy project for Subaru 360 fans and there are actually a lot of them out there. The Subaru 360 Driver’s Club is fantastic, they’ll help any owner find parts to keep their vehicles restored and on the road. The 360 has a 356 cc twin which is a two-stroke air-cooled rear-mounted engine. I know, cool! Despite the 25 hp, they’ll keep up with traffic on city streets but you’ll want to have a flag with flashing LED lights on it like a bike maybe, they are really tiny. Being yellow helps this one be as visible as possible to those texting SUV drivers. Have any of you owned or driven a Subaru 360?

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Comments

  1. mark

    Great find. With a little work this would be a great attraction at a car show. Great write up as well.

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  2. Cncbny

    As I heard it, if the engine was warm, and you coasted down a long downhill, the air cooled cylinders would contract and the engine would seize. So… Ya know…. Don’t do that. Cool little “car”, that I would own if I had time, money, and space.

    3
    • Rosko

      If memory serves, this car played a role in Malcolm Bricklin’s first automotive effort in the U.S. Then came the SV-sportscar and then the Yugo. They guy made some questionable moves but I’ve always admired his ability to think big and willingness swing for the fences.

      2
    • Dave

      Nobody told you that if you’re gonna use Mexican overdrive to shut the engine off? That’s how we used to save gas back when cars were sticks and the only thing powered was the radio!
      I totally agree that this is quite a unique little car. I wonder if Subaru Corporate would fab up the unobtanium bits for it.
      It deserves a museum quality restoration.

      2
    • CJinSD

      I think the reason 2-strokes seize when you coast is because all their lubrication comes from oil mixed in the fuel. When you coast, nothing gets lubricated so they seize. That’s why Saabs had freewheeling transmissions. 2-stroke engine braking and engine breaking are the same things.

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      • dr fine

        I had cousins who bought four Honda 50’s in the early sixties, and had a ball riding them up Stone Mountain. Coming down the mountain, all four brand new engines seized. They quickly realized that by not goosing the accelerator, they had been starved of oil.

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  3. JBP Member

    Why is that site now working so bad on smart phone. I have to log on everytime i open a new write up. It dosnt remember me. That bar there constantly come up im buttom of screen the x to close work so bad. If i dosnt constantly log on, i have no ad free surfing, and no instant find. The same as getting nothing for my membership money
    If that isnt being better, it makes no sence to pay membership. So i can be member again later, if ist ever being good.

    • Howard A

      The site has it’s ups and downs, but aside from having to “log in” after a couple days, it’s actually been pretty good on my laptop. Maybe it’s a phone thing.

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  4. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    Lovely and thank you! I didnt know these existed.
    Something fresh and completely different. I would love to own this.

    2
  5. Capriest Member

    All I know of this scoobie is that if you modified it in gran turismo for PS1 it totally lived up to it’s name! I’ve never seen one in the flesh. I was trashing 84 gl’s at the dump when I was 9 in 1990 because they were rotted out already.

  6. Howard A

    Hey everybody, what do you say, we all chip in a buck, and buy this for Scotty. Being a good friend, and I feel the most talented writer BF’s has ( nothing agin you other guys) I know he’s secretly wanted one of these for quite some time. It would be rather comical, as he’s a tall man, could probably sit in the back seat and drive this.
    Buddy, if I had the cash, it would be on it’s way to the upper midwest yesterday,,.
    Years ago, I had a friend with a car like this, she said it was fun to drive, but horribly underpowered, topped out at maybe 45 with the hammer down, just couldn’t hold the hills, the brakes went out, and she parked it in the proverbial barn. Like driving an Isetta, sheer novelty, fun for about 15 minutes.

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  7. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Nice one, Scotty! I’ll keep my eyes open for the Young S. Does the “S” stand for “Surfer Dude?” I’m sure we can customize a seat for you. I think Wilt Chamberlain used to drive a VW Rabbit. I can picture this 360 in white with red seats — very Italian — a sporty alternative to a golf cart and a great conversation-starter for my cottage in the Hamptons. You know, after I acquire one. Great write-up as always. And Howard A. – I’ll chip in on the Scotty Oddball Car Gift Fun.

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  8. That AMC guy

    A buddy of mine has one of these, though currently taken apart for refurbishment. I’ve driven it – basically it is like having a street-legal go-kart. Fun on local streets but terrifying on the highway. The 360 will do 50 mph or so on level ground. (As I recall the “cruising speed” is specified by Subaru as 51 mph.) The 2-stroke engine uses oil injection so you do not have to mix gas and oil.

    The 3-point “safety” belts and dash padding are cruel jokes. Remember, your legs are the crumple zone!

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  9. ken tilly

    Mine was a barn find in South Africa and although it eventually became a great fun car for motor shows, as a road car it was an accident looking for a place to happen as it was so small, and slow, that it was very difficult to see until nearly too late. I spent more time looking at the rear view mirror than I did looking where I was driving!

    3
  10. Ivan

    LOVE LOVE micro cars!!!! Keep them coming!!!!!

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  11. Fernando Abruña

    I collect microcars and the Subaru 360 is the one people love the most along with a BMW Isetta. It is underpowered for sure and the breaks need always be checked before driving, but… it is so much fun to drive. The rear, faintly resembles the one in a VW Beetle, I guess that’s (and it’s front roundish edges) why it was also known as the Lady Bug.

    4
  12. moosie moosie Member

    A Watch fob on wheels is how a friends Dad described these when he first saw these.

    2
  13. Will Owen Member

    I had a 360 window van. It was a reasonably decent ride and very roomy, but the chassis was not quite up to handling the 17 or so horsepower. The problem was the front suspension, which had a single trailing arm on each side with the steering kingpin welded to its end. Get that picture in your mind … then notice that when the car turns right, the left-side arm will move up relative to the body, and suddenly that wheel is in a state of reverse caster and wanting to flop over to full right lock. It never actually DID fall over on its side, but the driver’s door (rear-hinged, of course!) would frequently fly open at that point …

    The sedans, being a lot lower to the ground, are probably not that scary, but I would hate to drive one down any twisty mountain roads. Driving UP would be boring, but I can guarantee that going back down would be anything but!

    2
  14. Barry

    I owned a 360 for about 5 years and drive it to work every day.
    I bought it from a guy that was Movin and paid him $50.00 for it.
    The only problem I had with it was spark plugs and wires.
    I sold it for $350.00. The guy put it on a four wheel drive pick up
    Chassis for a mud racer. Good little put put car and on the highway
    Went fast enough to scare you especially when the wind was blowing.

    1
  15. Steve D

    “Looks like both the Hamsters are still there.
    Anyone else remember FasTrack? They had a bunch
    of these 360s with a roll cage welded around the bodies.
    They ran on a dirt track – $1 a lap,almost like Malibu Grand Prix.
    I remember seeing one of these tracks,next to Orange-
    County International Raceway,in 1970.”

    1

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