Propane Power! 1983 Subaru SanFu LPG 600

SanFu LPG 600, that sounds like a Japanese bullet train or a Godzilla nemesis, but it’s actually a 1983 Subaru Sambar van that has been converted to propane power and imported by a company in Texas. I know, confusing. This cool and clean little hauler can be found here on Craigslist in Huntington Park, California with an asking price of $5,000. The seller says that there are “only 24 in the world 18 make it to the US”. Pat L. hits another home run, thanks for sending in this great tip, Pat!

The evolution of the Subaru Sambar/SanFu BIC LPG 600 reads like a novel, a long one. Longer than the name even, if that’s possible. I’m in love with the Subaru Sambar van and truck, but you already knew that. I especially like the third-generation Sambar when they were imported by Jet Industries in Austin, Texas and converted into the Electra-Van 600. Yes, a battery-powered Sambar. The seller has this van listed as a 1983 and I’m not sure if it’s a fourth-generation Sambar or a held-over third-generation since it’s right on the border of the two. I’m guessing that it’s a 1982 Subaru but maybe a later model of the SanFu BIC LPG 600. Let’s look into that name, it’s confusing.

A company called SanFu Industries in Taiwan, which was heavily into industrial gas production, imported a number of the third-gen Subaru Sambar vans (1973-1982) and converted them to propane power. The seller says that it’s “great for indoor use”. While that may seem absurd, it isn’t. I started and ran a commercial cleaning service after high school for several years and our floor buffer of choice had an 11-hp Honda engine on it that was powered by propane so they could be used indoors. They were clean-burning with no exhaust smell and since we did a lot of grocery stores and other food-related accounts they had to be clean. I could see this propane-powered van being used in a big manufacturing plant, but I’m sure that a new electric vehicle would be much better and easier to use and recharge rather than filling propane tanks would be. They say that this van is in “Excellent running condition, no rust, two cylinders water cooled engine, manual transmission, stereo CD player mp3. Recent service, complete brake restoration rebuild, ready to go”.

Then, a company called Bales International, Corporation (BIC) out of Austin, Texas – coincidentally where Jet Industries, the maker of Electra-Vans was from – imported those SanFu LPG 600 vans and put their BIC logo on the front, such as this van has. Badda-bing, bodda-boom there ya go. Wait, don’t say “boom” when talking about a propane-powered van. The seller hasn’t provided any close-up interior photos and there are no engine or other detail photos so it’ll take a call or email to get more photos and info on this little unique van. If this were an Electa-Van 600 I’d have a hard time not going for it, but I have never owned a propane powered vehicle other than a floor buffer! Have any of you owned a vehicle powered by propane?


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    Unusual is the left hand drive…..on a JDM vehicle. My guess as soon as the write up it’s long gone. What a buy!

    What an unusual little creature. Manual shift a plus. Doesn’t say it’s a 4X4 but my guess it is.
    I had a Sanbar right hand drive mini truck about five years ago. Fuel mileage? Who calculates? 65 mpg? Who cares.

    Mine had a title (rare at the time) and was able license and drive on the road. 65 mph is as fast as it gets on the highway. Very useful and fun in town. Heat and A/C made it way more fun then a Razor off road not to mention less then half the cost.

    Like 1
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      My apologies for not mentioning that it was rear-wheel-drive, AMCFAN. Still, even without being a 4×4, it was super cool and a good buy, especially with the left-hand-drive! I hope they didn’t talk the seller down any on the price, I’d really be bummed. I need to get one of these or something like your former mini-truck to haul the minibikes and scooters to shows.

      Like 2
  2. Suttree

    The ad is gone. I knew this would sell fast.

    Like 1
  3. Rosco

    Propane vehicles suck, fuel is hard to find and you lose about 1/4 or more of your power. I am pretty sure you would not take this on a highway without losing some hair.
    Not that this would be used in the cold but after -40 propane will not come out of the tank.

  4. Metoo

    Sambar photos ALWAYS need a person standing next to them for scale and a good laugh.

    Like 1
  5. Rick McKee

    I had a Chevy pickup that was dual fuel it would run on gas or LPG I never had a problem finding a place to fill the propane tank but then I live in Texas so maybe it is easier here. The performance was not that different but the MPG on propane sucked. I had a supervisor who also had one before I did and if I remember right he said the same thing.

    Like 1
  6. Steve

    to take get propane mileage up to normal standards, the engine compression
    ratio must be significantly increased, so that dual fuel is not an option.

    Like 2
  7. James Martin

    Propane is bad thing for engines. My small engine guy said dont buy anything propane operated. It wears motors out much faster than with gas. Anybody know what size motor was in these? Horizontal inposed?


      I don’t think the buyer is worried about wear and tear. When there are heavy duty parts on the market today to combat that problem. They are buying it for the Cool and Wow factor. You can customize the Hell out of this little eye catcher..

  8. Chad milner

    I think I have a sanfu converted by bales international, It has 217 original kms.. It is left hand drive. How do I tell what generation it is?

    • Gary L. Mcbride

      Did you get any responses on your sanfu question?

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