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Pint Sized Project: 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe

The Subaru 360 is a car that I’ve always wanted to drive, but it is one where I have my doubts that this will ever happen. Our resident Kei car specialist, Scotty Gilbertson, has said in the past that he could probably never drive one due to his height. I don’t have that problem. Mine is more a case of width. I’m not the lightest of lads, and I have visions of me having to be removed from somebody’s immaculate 360 with the judicious use of a can opener. Still, maybe if I could find one like this, then I might just reconsider the whole idea. Located in Elizabeth, Colorado, it is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set the sale price at $2,000 for this classic Kei car.

The 360 is largely complete, but the pieces that are missing may cause the new owner a headache or two. The biggie is the windshield, but it does appear that a replacement might be available with a bit of searching. There actually isn’t a lot of rust in the car, but it appears to be confined to the passenger side front floor, and some around the windshield frame. There is a crack in the fiberglass top, and the owner believes that this is how the water entered the vehicle and caused the rust in the floor. The rest of the car is solid, so is a small but sound base for the new owner to commence restoration.

It’s when you look under the hood of the 360 that you begin to realize just how great the journey has been from this little car to the current WRX. It is a testament to Subaru as a manufacturer that they have been able to achieve this level of development in such a short time. However, when you look at the development of the 360, you realize that the engineering ability was there for many years. What is hiding under the hood of this little car is a 2-cylinder engine with a capacity of 356cc. This sends the drive to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. When it was introduced, that engine produced a mere 16hp. However, over the following 12 years, Subaru engineers managed to squeeze more than 50% more power from the engine, pushing it out to 25hp. There was even a twin carburetor version available that produced 36hp. That might not sound significant, but that meant that the engine was actually producing the equivalent of 100hp per liter of engine capacity. For many decades this was considered the “Holy Grail” of performance figures and was a figure that many felt was the domain of exotic car manufacturers such as Ferrari. So the makings of the WRX really did exist in Subaru all those years ago. The engine in this car doesn’t run, but the owner says that it does turn freely and that it appears to have good compression. There is also a spare engine included with the car, and while it is locked, it could be a good source of spares. There are also a number of other mechanical components included, so the new owner will have access to some additional spares.

The other task awaiting the new owner will be to assemble a new interior for the car. The seat frame that is included is said to be pretty weak across the middle but may serve as a template to have a replacement made. Apart from the dash and speedometer, it looks like the rest of the interior trim is missing. However, this is one area where replacement parts seem to be relatively easy to source.

If you are a person who is looking for a project car that isn’t particularly complex, then this Subaru 360 might be just the car for you. The engineering on these is remarkably simple, and a project car like this isn’t likely to consume a lot of workshop space. Anyway, once it is restored, it will certainly earn you your fair share of attention.


  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    And in the background is a Honda motorcycle with twice as many cylinders, close to 8 times the horsepower!
    It’s amazing the speed the mechanical evolution attained once the market opened up, especially here in the Americas.

    Like 7
  2. Ralph

    Wow….seems like its been hours since I’ve seen a Subaru 360 on this site…..

    Like 1
  3. John

    This was a very cute but otherwise horrible little device with little or nothing to recommend it. In spite of its miniscule motor, it got miserable gas mileage. I’m sure someone could tell us how many miles it got to the gallon, but it so seldom managed to burn an entire gallon at one time that few owners ever managed a calculation. Many rusted away before an entire gallon was used. The car would accelerate 0 to 40 in mere minutes. No one had a 0-60 time for it, no one ever got one to 60. I suspect that its warranty was measured in Days and Yards. Many owners wanted to immediately return the cars to the dealer, but the cars wouldn’t go that far. It remains the only vehicle ever devised which provided the owner with a reason to upgrade to a Yugo. But they were cute.

    Like 5
  4. Ian

    ,,,forgotten about these. In this day an age a reworked retro style ie Fiat 500 would work rather well and with advanced technology maybe an electric city version. Mini VW and Fiat need a bit more opposition in the market !

    btw- here in London UK the new congestion charges for an older car up to 40 yrs is now £24.50 – per day all and every day so small cars reign here-generally

    Like 1
  5. David V Morris

    We have this nice restored sample at our local Subaru dealer in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I can not imagine the value it may have

    Like 7
  6. Daniel G Rawinsky

    There is a 360 in the front of the Subaru dealer near Gigs Harbor Washington, State. For parts and cars for sale try the Subaru 360 Club. I was a member trying to sell my 1971 Subaru 1100 ff1. I still got it along with several engine and trans-axles. All for free if you come and get them.

    Like 0
  7. Sunshine

    Adam, the biggest football player in high school had one of these Subaru 360’s. While not much bigger than a gas powered golf cart, he and 3 friends would literally drive across the campus green space, bouncing over bumps, and up & down ditches. Give it a drive!

    Like 1
    • Adam Clarke Staff

      Sunshine, thanks so much for that. Now I might be game to give it a go. I’m pretty brave, and I’d love to have one of these on my list of unusual cars that I’ve managed to drive. They look like they’d be a fun little thing. What I find interesting is that the US managed to sell 10,000 of these, but in Australia, I believe the total was only 73.

      Like 0
  8. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Ahhhh Yes, the Subaru 360. The only car Consumer Reports ever rated as “Unacceptable”. They said the front bumper was only capable of stopping a rolling watermelon. [Or did they say it WASN’T capable of stopping a watermelon?]

    Like 1
  9. Christopher

    When these first came out, Cal Worthington (Go see Cal) in Los Angeles would give one with a purchase of a car. I remember this being called the Subaru Star.

    Like 0
  10. Barry

    I bought a 360 for $50.00 that didn’t run right due to mechanics
    Not knowing what they were working on and how to fix it.

    After short tme I had it working right.. Drove to work for around
    Six years and never had a problem with it. Took it out on the
    Interstate once and it got up to 65,very scary but in town it was
    A good little car.

    Sold it to a guy inMinnesota and he but it on a 4 wheel drive mud

    Like 2
  11. MG Steve

    I attended Reserve meetings on Terminal Island, in the LA Harbor. This is where many, many imported cars made entry into the U.S. It was always an interesting drive into and out of the Reserve meetings. There were acres and acres of these things–I’m guessing several thousand cars, they had ’em packed in pretty tight. I think they were all gray. They virtually never moved. Sat there for what seemed like several years, and then one weekend they were all gone. Word was they sent them back to Japan.

    Like 0

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