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Parked in ’79: 1969 Subaru 360

UPDATE 11/20/2023: It is not unusual for a seller to fall foul of a non-paying buyer, and that seems to be the case with this 1969 Subaru 360. It hadn’t made a splash when we initially featured it, with the bidding at $100 and a BIN of $9,500. It appeared to have sold for $8,500, but the same seller has relisted it here on eBay. The basic details remain unchanged, but one crucial difference could tip the scales for some. Bidding sits at $1,028, but there is No Reserve in play on this occasion. That raises the possibility that someone could walk away with an affordable Kei Car.

10/15/2023: There’s something quite cool about Japanese Kei Cars. Manufacturers produced them to fill a niche in the domestic market, and some remain coveted years after the last one drove off the showroom floor. One of the more notable examples is the Subaru 360. Nearly 400,000 of these little gems rolled off the line during a twelve-year production run. Our feature 1969 model is 1-of-10,000 imported to North America by Malcolm Bricklin. It has been in storage since 1979, but the time has come for it to shake off the dust and return to its rightful place on our roads. The seller listed it here on eBay in Latham, New York.

The first 360 rolled out of the Subaru factory in Ōta, Gunma, Japan, in 1958. The company produced it to comply with the Government’s Kei Car regulations, and it soon earned itself the nickname of the Ladybug. It is easy to see why because its styling is even more insect-like than the Volkswagen Beetle. Malcolm Bricklin saw potential in the 360, importing and marketing the car with the advertising tagline “Cheap and Ugly does it.” Admittedly, it isn’t the most stylish car to grace our roads, but its appearance is quite endearing. The fit and finish are nowhere near what buyers expect today, but this car wins my heart courtesy of the company’s decision to produce it with suicide doors. These have all but disappeared from modern offerings, which I believe is a shame. The seller indicates this Subaru has sat patiently in storage since 1979. Its paint shows its age, but the panels are straight, the floors have no rust, and the seller describes the car’s overall condition as solid. Panel gaps are all buyers expected from a Subaru 360 as the company grappled with building its first car after a history of producing motorcycles. It is hard to believe the same company would eventually unveil classics like the WRX, but every company must start somewhere! The vinyl top, chrome, and glass are in good order, and it appears that whipping this survivor’s panels and paint into shape should be straightforward.

Kei cars are considered a marvel of design and packaging efficiency, and the Subaru 360 is no exception. Its overall length is under ten feet, but the company managed to squeeze in a rear-mounted engine, a trunk in the front, and space inside to seat four people. Admittedly, the trunk is small, and at least two cabin occupants should be children, but it is an impressive accomplishment. This interior is complete, but the seller admits the seats require new covers. Other flaws and defects include a cracked dash pad and dry and crumbling weather seals. I think the new owner should be able to stretch and glue the pad back into place, but new seals will go on their shopping list. The door trims and vinyl floor mats look pretty good, and the painted surfaces are free from significant marks. The 360 represents motoring at its most basic, meaning comfort and convenience features are limited to a heater. Luxuries like a radio and air conditioning never made their way onto this car’s options list.

Subaru designers decided that what worked for Volkswagen could work for them with the 360. Therefore, they powered their new model with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine that sent its power to the road via a four-speed manual transaxle. However, they elected to utilize two cylinders, giving the motor a capacity of 356cc to remain within the Kei Car design regulations. That placed 25hp and 25 ft/lbs of torque at the driver’s disposal, although an SS version was available that boosted those figures to 36hp and 28 ft/lbs. The journey down the ¼-mile took a relatively leisurely 22.8 seconds, but a favorable wind could see these little gems hit 68mph. The seller indicates they have coaxed this engine back to life. It runs and yard drives but needs brake work and a thorough inspection before being considered roadworthy. Still, it appears the new owner will commence that process from a sound foundation.

The BIN figure for this 1969 Subaru 360 may seem high at face value, but its solid nature and healthy engine justify the price. Tidy examples consistently sell for over $15,000, while pristine cars can command twice that price. It won’t appeal to everyone, but that is true with any classic. The bidding, to be polite, has been subdued. However, I won’t be surprised if it intensifies as the auction progresses. Do you think the seller will achieve their price, or do you see this car selling for less? Only time will tell, but monitoring this auction might be worthwhile.


  1. CarNut Dan

    I used to see just a body of one of these in Corinth NY on a stack of pallets or blocks not knowing what it was. With cars being so large here even back when these Subarus were new, I am surprised these got the green light (pun intended folks) to sell. I like these a electric conversion might even give it more pep and speed.

    Like 1
    • bob

      The amount of space in that car might hurt it’s ability to be a viable electric. Not to mention a conversion would probably damage it’s value.

      Like 3
      • Big C

        You could put those lithium-ion flame throwers right in the back seat. Easy Peasy. Plus, there’d be no need for a heater/ defroster system. And yes, that conversion would damage the cars value, and possibly, your house’s.

        Like 6
  2. It's not me,,it's you

    Anyone remember the song on Dr Dementos radio show, Making Love in a Subaru? Classic stuff, fits this car perfectly.

    Like 3
    • Memphis

      Living in honolulu I see japanese import cars and vans regularly. Their styling and diminutive size impressed me right away. Like the fiat 500 featured this week I think it’s well worth the asking price. I love mini cars and basic cars. I love barn finds. I’m addicted. Wonderful find as always every week. Mahalo from Hawaii.

      Like 7
  3. That AMC guy

    I used to have one of these. You really don’t want to drive it at 60+ miles per hour even though technically possible to do on level ground given enough time. The engine is screaming its guts out at that speed. (I burned a piston on mine doing that.) As I recall the owner’s manual said “cruising speed” is about 50 miles per hour.

    It looks like this one has an oil tank cobbled together (the white tank in the middle of the engine photo) to feed the oil injection. The original, off to the right, might have cracked. Either that or the addition is a gas tank with pre-mixed fuel in it.

    Remember when driving one of these that your legs are the crumple zone and the seat belts are a cruel joke!

    The distributor cap and rotor from a Suzuki Samurai LJ-10 will fit. (Not that those are common either!) Anyone buying one of these cars will want to join the Subaru 360 Drivers’ Club for parts sources and technical info.

    Like 4
  4. Connecticut mark

    Is that plastic tank the gas tank ?

    Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      That looks to be the 2 stroke oil tank. Gas tank is seen behind the front seats in the back.

      Like 5

      the plastic tank is for 2 stroke oil to be fed into the fuel system via the subarumatic oil injection system .
      it is injected directly into the main bearings .

      there is a variable rate pump with a rod to the carburetor
      so when you step on the gas , you also step on the oil .

      quite sophisticated !

      Like 2
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        It sounds like the Autolube system that came on my ’74 Yamaha DT400 2 stroke single in that the oil was injected based on throttle input.

        Like 1
  5. TomD

    Had one of these in the early ’80s. Perfect for commuting to work down 101 from Redwood City to Mountain View. I was a founding member of the Arcane Auto Society. A requirement for membership was that your vehicle had to elicit the question “What kind of car IS that??!!”

    Like 8
  6. Howard A Member

    $100 bid with a BIN of $9500? Nice, not too far off, gotta attribute that to good old American greed. I’d laugh, but pretty sad instead. I like the 1st pic, whatever car that is next to it, like the 4 tires are the only thing in common, a Buck Rogers spaceship compared to the Subie. What is comical, is THIS is how the mega car giant began, and took a long time to get these out of peoples minds. The car was more of a novelty, really, and this was more than likely sidelined due to a parts issue. I had a friend that had one, same thing, parked early on because she couldn’t find a master cyl. Most times, it wasn’t worth the hassle to even fix it. It sat in her barn for years. She replaced it with a Justy, 4wheel drive and a marked improvement, but it wasn’t until the DL and Outback, did Americans finally forget about these, and the rest is history. These had a list price of $1295( for $400 more you could have a Bug), 10,000 were initially shipped by Bricklin here, but poor sales, a “2 for 1”, and were even given away by Olds(?) dealers with every new car. Still, rumor has it, many unsold 360s were loaded on a barge and pushed overboard at sea.
    THIS? $100 is generous, I had to laugh, researching the car, the manual said not to exceed 45 mph for the 1st 500 miles,,my friend said it struggled at 40. I suppose it has a place in a museum of classic “swing and miss turned mega”, if there is a place like that, but unfit for modern US highway travel. It could work in a situation where all the cars on the roads are this size, but I think modern car/truck owners would kill themselves before driving this. WHAT? $11.99/gallon? We’ll see what happens then, huh.

    Like 6
    • bob

      As is the case with any micro car, they are fun on the back roads and weren’t designed for high speed interstate travel. No one buys a car like this to go cruising down I-80. For fast driving with the trucks, you use your oversized SUV or one of the many massive ol’ American classics. I own and drive a micro car on the back roads and enjoy it immensely. No need to kill yourself. Another benefit of small cars is the ease of working on them.

      Like 11
      • Phil Parmelee

        Back in 1970, my parents and I took a L-O-N-G trip (in a Renault 10) from Michigan to Arizona and I spotted a 360 headed up a mountain pass on the freeway just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. I thought, “REALLY???” (It was maintaining forward motion, by golly! LOL!)

        Like 0
    • Neil R Norris

      Impossible to drive the ugly off that thing.

      Like 0
  7. Doug M

    Back about 1975, (I would have been 18 YO) four of us were out on the town one weekend night and saw a 360 parallel parked on the side of the street between two other cars.

    We sized it up, had never seen one before in MT. I went and started to lift it by its front bumper, it didn’t weigh much.

    So, all four of us picked it up and moved it over and set it on the sidewalk. The driver could still drive off, he just had to drive down the sidewalk a a few dozen feet to a driveway apron to get back on the street.

    Like 4
  8. PairsNPaint

    I remember seeing these for sale at LaChina’s Fiat dealership in College Park, MD around 1970. Hard to compare them to the more lovely and practical Fiat 850’s also on the showroom floor.

    Personally, if I wanted something (almost) that small, I’d rather have had a Mini Cooper.

    Like 2
  9. Threepedal

    If I remember correctly when sales flagged the remainder of the stock were used for bumper cars, hoping they would last long enough so that rental receipts would roughly approach MSRP

    Like 2
  10. Tony Townsend

    I had two of these back in 1972. OK, one was a parts car. We could routinely get four of us into it and go motoring around the back roads, but as other commenters have said you didn’t want to be out on an interstate in this thing.

    I think I paid less than $500 for the pair.

    Like 3
  11. Nelson C

    I’ve always liked small peculiar cars but these leave me a bit cold. There is no redeeming beauty in this car. As if they copied off Fiat’s paper but missed the important point of the answer. My respect to all who love and appreciate this car. I’ll enjoy the comment thread.

    Like 1
  12. Billyray

    If these are going for 15-30k then they are already getting the last laugh! My 1969 Marquis convertible in great condition would hardly attain those prices! My car is gorgeous, has a powerful high compression 429 V8, can pass anything it wants on the interstate in smooth floaty comfort, and yet my model routinely sells for around 15k on the high end! And it’s just as rare…

    Like 6
  13. bobk

    Picture this. Our local Ford dealer in Emporia, KS in the early ’70’s. Driving by, I notice 6 of these lined up on the front row. What the heck! The gentleman that owned that dealership was known for occasionally coming up with some strange autos, but these took the cake.

    Like 1
  14. MG Steve

    No doubt I mentioned this the last time one of these came up on BF. While in the Coast Guard Reserve, our monthly meetings were held on Terminal Island. Thousands of these, all gray, were stored there. Month-after-month, they seemingly just sat there. The dust and grime got thicker. After about a year, they were all gone. The persistent rumor was that they were shipped back to Japan.

    Like 2
  15. Roy Marson

    In the mid 50’s in Santa Barbara, a Packard dealer showed sticker price of $998. Cheap even then.

    Like 1
  16. Michael

    I seriously considered buying one in 1970, when it was being advertised in the New York Times, brand new, for $1297. But since I was moving to LA and needed space for my stuff, might have to sleep in the car and was driving on the interstate highways in winter, I opted for the AMC Hornet for $2080 instead.

    Like 4
  17. 67Firebird_Cvt 67Firebird_Cvt Member

    They made an SS version!
    I’d get the badging for that and make this an SS clone! :)

    Like 4
  18. Big C

    Malcolm Bricklin used these evil little things to wet the public’s palette for his next big garbage mobile. The SV-1.

    Like 1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      And don’t forget his next big garbage pile: the Yugo.

      The guy could never hit a homerun, no matter how hard he tried.

      Like 0
    • jwaltb


      Like 0
  19. Nelson C

    LS swap!

    Like 2
    • AC

      have already done that with a twin turbo in my freinds 1970 young same body

      Like 0
      • jwaltb

        I hope your friend’s young same body survived that.

        Like 0
  20. Budster

    I too turned 16 in 1968. I worked at a used car lot in So.Cal. All of a sudden this small lot next to where I worked brought all these in for sale. I watched people test driving these with their smoke cloud behind them. I walked over to check them out. I wasn’t very interested too much with the 360 but I did like that little mini-van, the van was was $1099, the 360 was $899. Damn I should have bought a couple and put in storage, but I was young and dumb back then. Thanks for the memories!

    Like 5
  21. Paul Alexander

    Back in the day, I worked on a couple of these cars when I owned a foreign car repair shop. The owners of these vehicles loved them. They weren’t perfect cars by any means, but I’ve seen a lot of worse designs.

    Like 4
  22. MrBobbbb

    This has to be one of the “95% of all Subarus are still on the road”, still waiting for AAA service. Gotta love truth in advertising.

    Like 2
  23. Chris Eakin

    There is a guy on youtube that has a small collection of these and other weird and wonderful small cars check out “2stroke turbo” and his projects. I think one of them is a Suzuki 1000 swap. There is another guy whose name escapes me who has done similar swaps with imported Kei vans and motorcycle engines – they do make for interesting project vehicles IF you buy one but don’t want to keep it stock.

    Like 1
  24. Greg in Texas

    You couldn’t build it for $15k, and it wouldn’t be a collector car. BIN price seems reasonable. Rubber everywhere is going to be gone, as will be fabric. If I’m a Subaru dealership anywhere, how could you resist not wanting this in your showroom? No, don’t “Put an LS with nitrous baby!” or anything else. One thing (if you preserved the existing drivetrain) maybe go to a 4-stroke water cooled twin and make it look retro, but even then, not even sure if you want it driving around any old time. It’s a museum piece. That doesn’t take much space.

    Like 0
  25. Tennis Tim

    Behind Subarus, corporate headquarters in Pennsauken, New Jersey, they had a small race track where for one dollar and you could race and beat these up and race them around the track. A total blast of fun. I think it was around 1972.

    Like 2
  26. Joe Meccia Member

    “Fill up the oil and check the gas!” (that’s for us older folk who remember the attendant as the filling station). I don’t know these cars very well as growing up on the east coast…. better to drive this on the back roads of Vermont as it is liable to get run over by a beast SUV on the highway!! Lots of comments for this diminutive little ride. I love the suicide doors!

    Like 0
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Run over by a Suburu SUV, most likely.

      The (un)official vehicle of Vermont.

      Like 0
    • john

      I was an attendant at Esso back then… Cleaning the windshield was the first thing.Then we also offered to “put a tiger in your tank” too !!

      Like 0
  27. Phil Parmelee

    I came somewhat close to buying a used one in Springfield, Mo. back in ’76. It sat outside an auto salvage, needing a clutch plate they said. They wanted $150 for it, so being the broke college student I was, tried for many months to come up with the money. I kept an eye on it and it sat there for many months. I finally sold a Ford wagon and eagerly took the money to the place, but it had been removed/sold shortly before then. I was crushed, but also relieved, as I didn’t have the money nor the skills to replace the clutch. I didn’t even have a space to park it or even store it, so it all went as it was supposed to, I guess. I was only 24 at the time and had 3 kids by then. Wouldn’t have been the wisest of decisions, anyway. I was just excited at the possibility of owning one! :)

    Like 1
  28. Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

    I bought one off a trailer that was on it’s way to the scrap yard. Overhauled the engine, new tyres, re spray and sold it to the local Subaru dealer for more than ten times the price that it cost me. I last saw it, still in his showroom, about 10 years ago, still looking like new! Drove it once only, horrible little car.

    Like 3
  29. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    I looked it up…it takes 4 AA batteries.

    Like 1
  30. Chris Cornetto

    My 84 Carolla is bad enough on I 20. With that said I am not sure what would be worst this or my Vespa ape. It’s cool nonetheless. I honestly have never seem one up close.

    Like 0
  31. chrlsful

    boy, co came far in 4 yrs.
    I hada ’74 wagon (was it “DL”?).
    By that time it hada i4 alu motor using steel sleeves. Forgot if FWD or rear (4WD/AWD not out till ’74). Seemed U could get them in beige only as so many around were this color (in NE usa). I had wagons the nxt 50 yrs (no more subies tho, wolwo, MB, ford, etc). This thing is too small, underpowered cept for in-town use. Now as i age it might B “da right thing”, keep the others for leaving town &/or cruising.

    Like 0

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