Microcar Bundle: Four Subaru 360s

Subaru 360 Bundle

Before Subaru was building AWD rally cars and station wagons, they were building small and adorable microcars. The 360 was their very first automobile and it set the company up for future success. Subaru built the 360 for ten years, with around 10k being sold here in the States. Of those sold here, there aren’t many left. We haven’t featured many of these, but when we have come across them they tend to come in multiples. Reader Randy N tipped us off to this bundle of four here on craigslist out of Forest Lake, Minnesota. The seller is asking $2,000 for all four cars and two motors.

Subaru 360 motors

The 360 was born out of post-war Japan’s need for transportation and the Kei car regulations. To be classified as a Kei the car needed to be lightweight, powered by a 360 cc motor, and be no more than 10 feet long and 4 feet wide. Subaru’s Kei weighed in around a thousand pounds and was powered by their 356 cc two-stroke two-cylinder. This tiny motor only put out 16 horsepower, but was more than adequate for busy city driving. Later models saw power increased to 25 hp and top speeds over 60 mph. We don’t know if we would want to go that fast in one of these, but it would certainly be thrilling!

Subaru 360 Ladybug

We have mixed feelings about the looks of the 360, but in some ways that’s what makes it so appealing. We wouldn’t mind having one for trips to the grocery store and local car shows, although we would be sure to avoid high speed roadways. The seller didn’t provide photos of all four cars, so we would be sure to take a look at the entire lot before making an offer. Hopefully there are enough parts here to put together at least two complete cars, but without seeing the other ones it’s hard to say. Anyone else thinking a Smart motor swap might be a fun idea?

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Comments

  1. Dick

    I have owned several of these great little 360’s, sedans and vans. I bought one sedan new in 1970.
    One of my sedans i drove from San Diego, California to Portland, Oregon and it did just great.
    If I were younger and in better health I would sure go after these myself.
    I hope they find a good home and get restored. Join the Subaru 360 owners club, they are a very good place for all the help you need.
    And do not be afraid to drive them, it is a total blast.

  2. jim s

    there was one of these for sale at this years Spring Carlisle. the asking price was about $7000 i think. they are very small and your feet/legs are right behind the front bumper. fun to look at for sure. nice find.

  3. Rev. Rory

    Has nobody mentioned Huyabusa yet? (Seems to be the microcars SBC solution) better yet, Yamaha R6.

    • Jim-Bob

      Well…I thought about it, but why not a smaller bike engine, say 600 cc? With the short wheelbase and 4 wheel tiny drum brakes this thing would be terrifying with such a swap. Better yet… use a Smart Fortwo as a donor. Similar packaging and about 4x the original horsepower all hooked to a transmission with the reverse gear the bike lacks. Then again, my impulse is to make an electric car out of one using batteries scavenged from hybrids to get a good energy density to weight ratio. The motor would be from a forklift and hopefully put out 25-30hp.

  4. Barry Thomas

    Malcolm Bricklin (of Bricklin car infamy) originally imported these without much success, after Consumer Reports called it the “Most unsafe car in America”. I thought I once read that he turned them into bumper cars or something like that, but maybe i’m dreaming?
    Barry Thomas’ “Wheel to Wheel” blog

  5. Rick

    Back around 1970 I remember seeing a new Subaru 360 for $995 in the Seattle Times weekly ad for one of the local car dealers, think it was Chuck Olson Chevrolet. Anyhow . never had a chance to drive one, but saw a few around the Seattle area, seemed like they all disappeared by about ’73. Far as repowering one, find the most powerful motorcycle engine that would fit easily. My first thought would be to install a Kawasaki 1000, but that’s pretty old school. I know Ducati makes bikes now that are over 200 hp. Would turn it into quite the road rocket.

  6. Dick

    I paid $1345.00 for a new one with auto clutch. The size never did bother me. The one I drove from San Diego to Portland did the hills at about 30 MPH and it would go right at 64 MPH out on the flat. It mixes the gas and oil with an oil pump.
    This is the only ticket I ever have had when I was on the Costa Mesa freeway 405 in So. Calif. and going flat out at 64 MPH and a Highway patrol pulled me over and gave me a ticket for going to slow. The ticket didn’t cost me anything. California did not like these cars because as with most 2 cycle engines they smoke and they were not fast enough for their traffic in the days of 75 MPH speed limits. I drove these in all kinds of freeway traffic and as I said before they are a blast to drive. I would never think of converting one to anything else as all of mine served me very well.

  7. Mark E

    FINALLY!! Something that:
    -I’m interested in
    -It’s affordable
    and
    -It’s on the ‘right coast’ – actually about 35 miles away from me!
    I get the impression these are very simple cars and should not be terribly difficult to restore, though finding actual parts may be problematical. If the one in the ad is the best of the three, I think I’d only plan on making one runner out of the three, but we’ll see.
    I emailed the seller, see what he says. Maybe I can run up there later this week and take a look at them. If I do and decide to pass, I’ll send along pics and more info as I find it out. Wish me luck…(?)

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Please let us know how it goes Mark. We will expect occasional progress updates if you do end up buying them!

    • Dick

      Have you read my posts on these cars? Yes they are very easy to work on but do take some special tools or someone who can work without special tools. It isn’t hard to do. I would recommend going on line and contact the 360 owners club, a lot of great folks there and very willing to help. There are more of these cars out there but some parts are getting very hard to find. The club can help with what will work and get you on the road.
      I sure wish you well and look forward to hearing what you find out.

    • jim s

      yes updates would be very nice. i hope it works out well.

  8. Mark E

    BTW, forgot to add…with 1971 license plates on it, the one in the pic could not have been more than 5 years old when it was shoved off in the woods for storage!

    • Dick

      OH yes, I forgot to mention get a shop manual and it really helps. I have seen them on Ebay or again the club can help.
      Pull both plugs and try to turn the engine over by hand. If it moves then squirt some ATF in each cylinder and let it set for a while.
      While that is working, remove the 2 cycle oil reservoir on the right side of the engine and clean it out real good and refill to the line with new 2 cycle oil when it is re- installed .
      There is no fuel pump on the sedans as the fuel is gravity feed. The fuel tank is easy to remove for a good cleaning and fresh gas. Clean and set the ignition points and install new plugs and my bet is it will start up. This is all providing that it turns free by hand first.
      Happy motoring in a Subaru 360.

  9. DT

    I think they are Suzuki motors to begin with.looking at the motors, looks like they come with a shovel,might need that!

  10. Alan

    Compact little buggers!

    I’m thinking: SCCA E-Modified class for Autocross…. :-)

  11. Mark E

    Well here’s my progress report: about 24 hours after sending the email and…nothing.

    There’s no phone #, just a CL contact thingy so I’ll be sending him another email.

    Thanks for the support, unless I missed something, the 360 owner’s club website has not been updated since 2011. Is the club still active? By that I mean do they have a ‘live’ Internet presence somewhere?

    And yes, I was just supposing that since the basic car first came out in the early ’50s that they could not be more difficult to work on than say an MG-TC/D or a Bugeye Sprite.

    Meanwhile I was daydreaming about engine swaps for the engine-less cars if they could be restored. Actually my thoughts went directly to a two stroke engine from a Saab 93 but realized I’d have to deal with radiator(s) for the water cooling. Boy, thinking of air cooled engines leads you directly to VW and Corvair. Oh, and I suppose Renault Dauphine. No. Stop it! Don’t even THINK that!! Okay, ahem, VW and Corvair. Either would triple the displacement and double the horsepower. Personally I’m a bit skeptical at using a MC engine as they would be optimized for the MC’s transmission. Actually, it would be a bit pricey perhaps but they do make air cooled 15-20hp engines for lawn tractors. Those would be designed to operate at constant speeds though. Sigh… Thoughts anyone?

    • Brian

      Sounds like a typical CL email contact experience for me. If I email 10 car owners, I’m lucky to hear back from one seller. I don’t know if these e mails are unreliable and never make it to the sellers mailbox, or if the seller get so bogged down with junk and scams that they stop reading them, or if the sellers are just too lazy or unconcerned about selling to be bothered to answer.

  12. Mark E

    Oh and I have yet to check for actual specifics with my friends in Japan who says “I see a lot of semi-junky 360’s that could be used for parts.” and suggests I contact 2stroketurbo, which appears to have an interesting youtube channel of 2-stroke 360s, Isettas, Honda 360s, you name it, but little factual info. :(

  13. Kevin

    Mark,
    I’m a member in the 360 drivers club. The website has not been updated for a long while but the forum is pretty active. I happen to own 7 360s. 2 of which run. One is on the road. The other is just for farm fun. I think if you’ve driven a 65 vw bug the 360 is the same driving experience and maintenance proposition. Very simple, frustrating drum brakes and loads of fun. They take a bit of time to sort out one that has been sitting for years but once that’s done the fun begins. Unless your like me and enjoy the hunt for parts. As for repowering, I’m planning basically an FF 818 approach. Slap a boxer four in where the back seat goes, follow that with a 5 speed shortened wrx trans or old 2wd subie trans, mount the radiators over the trans in the back with fans. Put subie knuckles at all four corners with disks readily available add some frame rails and tubing for safety and mounting points. stretch the fenders over the wheels, some kickin paint and wa la 360 horse wild ride. This is what happens when you have an extra body just sitting around.

    • Bo young

      Hi Mark,
      I have a sambar truck and I need a complete engine. Carb distributer and all.
      Any chance you want to sell one?

      • Kevin Jones

        I have one I recently took out of a 360 Young. All I know is it turns over and is basically complete. It’s a direct replacement but of unknown condition. The previous owner said it was driven to the place it was parked and never started again. Based on my experience with others if it hasn’t been taken apart it will most likely run. I also have one from a 360 with less than 2000 miles on it. I’d have to look that up to give you the correct # but It runs but has been sitting in my garage for 2 years. My email is ssi_kjones@wvdsl.net

  14. Dwayne

    Would love to hear if anyone (Mark) gets to see them. I have some students interested in a Senior project of them… I would love them, to see more pics of them, whatever , we are 800+ miles away down south. But hey, drive up, load them on a long carrier, and bring them back to restore here in the mountains of NC. The Nash Metro’s posted today would be nice too…. But I love these little buggers!

  15. Mark E

    Kevin: I’m beginning to be glad you don’t live near me. You have lots of cool, interesting ideas. Expensive but interesting. The kind of ideas I’d be tempted to act upon if I had a 360 or two around to play with… ^_^

  16. Brian

    These make our ’64 Beetle look like a ’77 Lincoln Towncar! Seems like I once heard that a local dealer was selling them new by advertising them as being sold at $1.00 per pound! It would be fun to have one around to play with, but not for “serious” driving. It would be more fun than a golf car to drive to the community pool!

    • Dick

      Brian, these little 360’s are great for “serious driving”. See my previous posts here. I have owned several of these and driven them all over the California freeways and even on long trip’s. Awesome for their size.

      • Mark E

        Dick: the first 360 I actually came close to buying was in the early days of ebay and it was located in GA. The owner said it had been in storage for years but he ‘thought’ it could make the trip from GA to MN.

        I often think how I passed on what would undoubtedly have been one of my great life experiences right there… ^_^

  17. Brian

    I’ll take your word for it Dick, but I think I’d pass on a Freeway drive in Atlanta let alone in LA! I’m not saying that this little car doesn’t have it in it, I just don’t like my chances with the other drivers! Somedays, a Sherman tank doesn’t sound safe enough!

    • Dick

      I do have to agree with you about today. Just from my own driving background I would still prefer to drive in LA over where we live now, Seattle. This area is so bad.
      Just a funny story about the little 360 on the trip to Portland, Oregon, the 360 did great and when we got to the Grapevine out of LA I got behind a semi in the next to slow lane. We then both came up behind more semi’s and some came up from the rear. Well we were down in the middle of all these semis and all I could see were hub caps and going right at a hot 28 MPH. Well this went on for several miles and all the while the truck drivers were blowing their air horns in fun and we were laughing and had a real good time. I thanked the Lord that both of the 360 cylinders kept working without a miss. We got to the summit and headed down the other side at almost 70 (downhill ) and came out on the flat country at a full 64 MPH. About that time we saw an elderly couple driving one from Arizona
      and we honked and waved and passed them by. We pulled into Portland without a single problem and have had fun memories from that trip._

  18. matbo

    Remember seeing a full lot of these in San Fran in early 1970 — being loaded on a ship BACK to Japan.

    • Kevin

      You wouldn’t remember what type of ship it was or the company name on the ship? I’m very curious. If you have a picture I’d love that. Also do you remember what town hat was in? The reason I’m so curious is that There has always been a rumor in the 360 drivers club that 3000 of these cars that had sat unsold at the docks were loaded on a barge and dumped in the pacific off Catalina Island. Please if you could shed any light or expand on your experience of these cars being loaded on a ship I’d love to have any leads I could follow to find out and either verify or or nullify this rumor. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

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