Puny Pickup Project: 1969 Subaru Sambar

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

If you’re well under 6-feet tall and have been looking for something interesting, this 1969 Subaru Sambar Pickup is up for sale. These things are rare, especially in this condition; somewhere under “nice” but above “rusty, parts-vehicle”. It’s listed on eBay in Reading, Pennsylvania with a current bid of just under $2,000, but it won’t stay there for long. I know for a fact that I can not fit in this thing and operate the pedals so, as painful as it is, I won’t be bidding on this one. Although, it would look nice sitting on top of the dresser…

Most of you know that Subaru didn’t enter the US market until 1968 with the 360 Sedan, which was imported by Malcolm Bricklin. This is basically a kei car, even though it’s a truck, or sort of a truck. You can haul things with this one but they’ll be small and light things. The body on this truck is in superb condition, with just a few dings and dents but really no rust that I can see. The underside could use some restoration, but again, it’s not scary-rust like most of these vehicles have.

I could see a Fuji (i.e., Subaru) Rabbit scooter back there, diagonally, or maybe a local flea market find, but you probably won’t be moving your son or daughter into their dorm room with this one. One cool feature is a Corvair ramp-side-like folding ramp door on the side! The Sambar is perhaps more well known for its vans than its pickups, and a lot of Subaru collectors want to complete the trio in having a 360 sedan, a van, and a pickup. I can’t fit my long legs into any of them but I would still love to have one, or all three. A fellow Subaru 360 Club member told me that the seat can be removed and relocated back about 4″ in the sedan, and there’s a similar trick for the van, but the pickup has no room behind the seat so they’re hopeless for us tall folks.

This particular Subaru Sambar Pickup has been in storage for years so it’ll need to be gone through thoroughly. It was originally owned by a school, which did some unfortunate damage to the interior in order to be able to carry some sort of barrel on the passenger seat, so the next owner will have to source a new dash and other things. It also needs a gas tank which most of them do, and the right side glass is missing as is the ignition switch. You already know that the engine is in the rear. The body is in great condition, even with its dents and dings. It’s much nicer than the vast majority of these pickups that come up for sale are. There is no question that there is a legion of auction lurkers watching this one even if they didn’t click on “add to watch list”.

The suicide doors open wide, but you had better have legs shorter than a 36-inch inseam, more likely 30-inch or less, to be able get your knees under the steering wheel and operate the pedals. I’ve tried and failed, I just do not fit in these vehicles and it’s unfortunate because I want one. There is no question that this was a white vehicle that was repainted red which is unfortunate, but the next owner will most likely do a nut-and-bolt restoration on it so they can restore it back, or change it into some wacky color if they want to.

Under the rear engine cover is this beast: Subaru’s EK-series 356 CC twin-cylinder, air-cooled, two-stroke with around 20 hp. I say, with around 20 hp.. (crickets). Hey, this thing weighs 1,000 pounds, you don’t need an SBC back there. This truck deserves to be restored to like-new condition, it’s rare and to find a 99% rust-free version like this is amazing. If I had a second knee in each leg I’d be all over this one. Have any of you driven one of these?

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  1. Don

    Make a tiny Dodge Little Red Wagon .

  2. Howard A Member

    Leave it to the Asians to copy us, but does anybody else see a mini Corvair pickup here? I’ve always wondered when seeing these tiny Asian pickups, what, did they deliver flowers all day? I mean, no pickups full of plywood or drums of oil, 3 pallets of shingles or whatever else we Americans need a bigger truck for? Unless you ARE hauling flowers, this motor would barely propel itself much less anything more than an extra spare tire. Also, when ever these mini trucks show up, make sure to check local laws about running them on the road.

  3. Johnni B

    Never seen, heard of, drove one nor want one.

  4. JW

    I would never fit in the drivers seat but my wife would fit well and I actually think she would love it for her trips to Famous Footwear but our closets can’t handle many more shoes.

  5. Blindmarc

    A friend had the Suzuki version of this in the mid 70’s. We had to throw a big slab of concrete in the back during the winter because using the brakes on ice would be like a “tilta- worl.

  6. Jeffro

    I agree, it does not need a SBC. But can we talk about Hemi’s? LMAO

  7. OA5599

    This would look great delivering beer from a microbrewery…preferably to my house! 🙂

  8. Chebby

    1. Put Corvair Rampside on flatbed truck
    2. Put Sambar in bed of Corvair
    3. Put red Radio Flyer wagon in bed of Sambar
    4. TRUCK-DUCKEN!!!

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

      HA! It’s only Tuesday but that’s a strong contender for comment-of-the-week, sir!
      Genius, sheer genius.

  9. Adam T45

    I fail to see any problems here. We “right height” people will have no issues fitting behind the wheel and operating the pedals!

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

      I envy your normal’ness, Adam. I’ve been abnormal (more than just being too tall for the vehicles that I want or buying pants at Target) my whole life, as most of you can tell..

      • Adam T45

        Referring to me as normal may well be taking things a step too far Scotty. I once went out cruising in the car around town on a Saturday night with a group of friends (as you do). The fact that at the time I was dressed in a rabbit suit should be considered “normal” for me!

      • RIMSPOKE

        i am 6’2″ and have been driving microcars for 35 years .
        i have had four subaru 360 vehicles . two trucks & two sedans .

        i never has a problem fitting in the subaru microtruck .
        my van could haul hundreds of pounds of materials
        and deliver them in places where other trucks dare not go . it was a fantastic vehicle .

  10. John

    Disney had a bunch of these at Epcot back in the early 80s. They were really cute. I could fit in one in those days, and I sat in one for fun. Too many pizzas would preclude that today, but these were neat little runabouts. Perfect for trips to the Florist or to pick up little stuff from Lowes. As I remember, this little motor was gutless but indestructible. I’d love to have it.

  11. Car Guy

    It would take a lot of work, but imagine this with a WRX STI motor in it.

  12. Puhnto

    The university I went to used these as “grounds keepers” trucks and general all over campus work horses because they fit on the sidewalks and could go all over the place where larger trucks couldn’t.

  13. Dave Lloyd

    Cool truck, good luck registering it to drive on public ROW. I looked into buying one of these in SE Iowa and found it would end up a driveway decoration.

    • Loco Mikado

      What vehicle registration regulations do these not comply with? I would guess they were able to be registered when new or they would have not sold any. If King Midgets, Crosleys and various other tiny cats were able to be registered in the day, why not now?

  14. Richard Prokopchuk

    I had the mini-microvan version of this while stationed in Germany in 1990 through 91. It was a great ride and handled great, except for when the winds were coming across the length. I had to get some body work done for rust along the driver’s door slide in the middle. It had sliding doors on both sides. My girls loved riding in it. Since we got gas rations for the most part, the mileage it got was outstanding. way better than our euro spec 318.


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