Rarest Star In The Universe: 1971 Subaru FF-1 Star

These Subaru ancestors rarely come up for sale, because there aren’t many of them left. This incredibly rare 1971 Subaru FF-1 Star is listed here on eBay on the opposite side of the US from where I thought it would be: Amherst, Virginia. I always think of Subarus being in the Pacific Northwest but this one is original to Amherst. The current bid price is under $900 but with four days left on the auction and being such a rare car, I’m guessing that it’ll go for much more than that.

We all know about the Subaru 360 and what a failure that was, at least for those segments of the population who aren’t into such unusual vehicles. The Subaru 1000 was Subaru’s first front-wheel-drive vehicle and the FF-1, known as the Star or the FF-1 Star in the US, came along in the spring of 1969 and in 1970 and ’71 for the US market. Almost everything about the Subaru 1000 and later FF-1 was the opposite of the 360. The doors opened the normal way, they weren’t rear-hinged doors. They were a more livable size and were relatively nice and comfortable. The biggest change was the drivetrain and its configuration – the 1000 and FF-1 had a front-engine and front-wheel-drive as opposed to a rear engine and rear-wheel-drive as the 360 had. The 360 comparison is just too interesting to not mention since they were made at the same time.

The 1000 and FF-1 were finally real cars for Subaru, although the company had more than just the 360. That’s just the model that most of us know about for early Subaru vehicle history. For choosy American customers who weren’t used to wackadoodle little oddball microcars, the 1000 and FF-1 was a big feather in Subaru’s cap. They sold like hotcakes, but the problem was that they weren’t cars that people generally treated as future collector items. Not to mention that having front-wheel-drive gave them incredible traction compared to a lot of rear-drive cars at the time so they were used in snow country, and the aftermath of salty roads ate through that micro-thin sheet metal like Todd Fitch at a KFC buffet.

You can see that this car needs a lot of work. The seller isn’t hiding anything, they show photos of almost every area, although most of them are rotated in the listing or verticals for some reason. A pogo stick is the only vertical vehicle that I can think of, cars are horizontal, but I digress. The underside looks solid although it appears to have been coated and painted blue. There is rust almost everywhere, some of it is not too scary but some of it is very scary. The backseat may actually be usable in this car unlike in a Subaru 360. This car was bought brand new at a Subaru dealership in Amherst, Virginia in 1971 by two sisters who kept it until they got a new car in 1986 and gave this one to their brother.

The engine almost couldn’t be any more different from what the Subaru 360 had, since that was a two-cylinder, air-cooled two-stroke with 25 horsepower. This one is Subaru’s EA-61, a 1.1L boxer-four with 60 hp, a very early boxer engine for Subaru as the 1000 was the first time they used them. Sadly, this one needs work. The two sisters who owned this car gave it to their brother in 1986 and he started to restore it but lost interest. I know the feeling. It sat for years and the engine is locked up. This car won’t be of any interest whatsoever to a huge population of Barn Finds readers but to those who are interested, I hope that you’re as excited as I am to see such a rare car for sale here in the US. Have any of you seen or heard of a Subaru FF-1 Star?

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Comments

  1. Car39

    Learned to drive on one of these critters when they were new. The front drum brakes are mounted inboard, and the heater core is next to the radiator. The advertisements compared it to a Lotus 72 with twin radiators and inboard brakes. Not quite. Peppy, great in snow, and they didn’t rust as much as evaporate.

    Like 4
  2. rosseaux

    While I had a few relatives who refused to buy Japanese cars because of Pearl Harbor, I’ve always heard the biggest obstacle Japanese automakers faced was the perception of shoddiness that “Made in Japan” had for Americans accustomed to cheap consumer goods coming out of post-war Japan. Yet, the big 3 also had quality problems at the same time, plus these little econoboxes offered bucket seats, 4 speeds, great mileage–all the things most American cars lacked.

    And who could resist that cute little face!

    Like 2
    • Frank Sumatra

      @ rosseaux- Spot on! The Japanese eventually taught America about building a high-quality car. Post WWII they learned Quality from W.Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran. Both of those learned gentlemen could not get past the front lobby of the “Big Three” until the clowns running those companies woke up. Too late of course, but at least they started paying some attention to Quality.

  3. Michael Anderson

    Had an uncle who bought odd cars, in 1970 owned a F1 4 door, purchased from a dealer in Williamsport, PA. Traded a Renault on it.

    Like 4
  4. JoeNYWF64

    I would say the “Plymouth” Cricket & Arrow are as rare today as this Subie. Considering ALL other avail in USA small cars were rear wheel drive back then, i can’t believe the “Star” here is front wheel drive. & how high that roof is!
    Is this the last AFFORDABLE 2 door(for single people) with a trunk that Subie made for the USA? I wouldn’t be surprised. Guess if i’ve(never married) ever bought one.
    I still can’t believe this company still sells cars here, & Pontiac/Olds who sold a ton of firebirds/cutlasses in ’77/’79, etc. for GM are not. & that Subie STILL reFUSES to make a 2 door WRX – & again, lower that roof!
    IMO, 4 door cars are fine if they are fast, but spoilers & hood scoops have NO place on ANY of them. Period.
    Too bad Honda, etc. didn’t stick with(or also offer) rear wheel drive – so much better balance & underhood accessibility.

    Like 3
    • Skorzeny

      Wow, Joe, I couldn’t disagree with you more. If I am going to buy a performance car, I want it to have four doors. Spoiler? Check. Hood scoop? Check. They just have a more balanced look to me. Every time a WRX goes by, I look at it. Accord, Civic, same… my favorite car is a 4 dr so I’m biased. Yes I love American muscle/pony cars, but if it’s an import, I want 4 doors. If you don’t like them, don’t buy one.

      Like 6
      • JoeNYWF64

        Can i assume everyone here agrees with Skorzeny?
        How can you compare what a 4 dr WRX looks like(more balanced?) – to a lowered roof 2 door WRX, when the latter does not even exist?!

        Don’t you realize Subaru(& recently most everyone else)
        couldn’t care less about styling cars for non rich single people, & just wants to save a lot of money in design & certification by not bothering with a 2 door? & on top of it, the ungainly high roof is there to sell to as many people(including the very tall) to maximize profits – also with a lot of unnec expensive std features? To me, avg height people driving these 4 door imports with like a foot & a half of empty space between the roof & their head make them look like 12 yr olds driving! lol

        The guy who designed the WRX must have also been hired by by Chrysler to create the equally ungainly 4 DOOR ONLY Dodge Neon SRT-4! & he might have had a bad back or was too hefty &/or too tall to bother with a 2 door. & Dodge even HAD a TWO door Neon!!!! – tho it too was ungainly with the same ridiculously high roof.

        Anyway, any guys here wanting(or wishing that they made INSTEAD) 4 DOOR ONLY 1970 Nova SS’s, GTO judges, GSXs, 455 Old Hurst 455 HOs , SS Chevelles, Rebel Machines, Road Runners, & Torino Cobras?

        If Australia also got the USA TWO door boxy falcon, i would BET big money that ONLY THE 2 DOOR would have gotten the shaker & spoilers & hi po 351 – tho it too is a bit ungainly in stature & proportions, & nowhere near as sporty as the lower roof fastback type maverick. Imagine if down under got the latter & what would happen to the coon.

      • Steveo

        Pretty sure Subaru is making good money by building cars folks want to buy.

        Like 5
    • nlpnt

      Subaru had at least one 2-door model in the line (counting 3-door hatchbacks) until the late ’90s. I think the first-generation Impreza was the last and even it is vanishingly rare today while the 4-dooe and wagon models are reasonably common.

      Like 2
  5. Marc Mendoza

    360 for sale at Quail Lodge auction next week with a $30k to $50k estimate.
    https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/26887/lot/1/?category=list&length=139&page=1

  6. Quidditas

    Did you know that Subaru bought Borgward’s flat four design and went on to greatness whilst Borgward went down the drain?

    The much published story that Subaru looked at VW et al maybe true but is not well known is that they bought the Borgward’s flat four design and based their flat four on it. The Borgward / Hansa’s combination of flat-four and front-wheel drive pre-dated the Lancia Flavia by four years – Citroen GS and Alfasud by more than a decade.

    Subaru just did a better job. If I wasn’t in the southern hemisphere and a few thousand miles away, this would tickle my fancy.

    Like 5
  7. TnTom

    simple to work on,, I worked at a AMC Dealer in Stuart FL when these came out, we sold them, at the time poor parts network,, but, the cars didnt break, solid little things, unless you lives by the water, most that we sole, we put AC on them, about a 2 hour job,,

  8. Gunner

    Thanks for enlightening me Scotty. I would have thought Todd to be more of a bucket guy than buffet. Extra crispy please…….

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha!

      Like 1
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Double-ha! I resemble that remark. Bucket or Buffet; I’m always ready for a KFC throwdown. As for the Subaru, uh, LS-swap? Just kidding of course. Thanks for the educational post and bringing this little star to our hallowed halls, Scotty. Speaking of star-themed small cars I remember test-driving a Toyota Starlet, RWD hatchback. At the time I was used to American cars that sounded like they were about to lose their dashboard and three suspension parts every time you hit a pothole, but that Starlet was tight as a drum. I didn’t buy it, but maybe I should have. I believe I passed on it due to pure lack of gravity. Priorities.

  9. Duane Barry

    This Subaru was actually a north German Lloyd 1000 caled
    They’re Ella. Lloyd went bankrupt and Subaru bought the
    Complete manufacturing from backrupsy.

    Like 1
  10. 4spdBernie 4spdBernie Member

    Motor seized. Head gasket leaking. Subaru didn’t learn a thing, lol.

    Like 6
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I think you’re onto something, 4spdBernie! My old Outback (that we bought new in 1997) with a 2.5L blew the head gaskets at 140,000 which is later than most do, and most 2.5s do go through head gaskets, unfortunately. That was a fun $2,800 about 18-20 years ago. Oddly, it went another 230,000 miles before it literally rusted to death and was donated. How Subaru got away without paying for those head gaskets I’ll never know. My wife’s 2016 Crosstrek went through a $6,700 CVT a couple of thousand after the warranty ran out but they paid for it, thankfully.

      Like 4
  11. FOG

    I’m one of those who keep a varied stable of muscle, antique, sport, and mini vehicles. This Subaru Star has a lot going for it as is, worth just making it a daily driver, then the metal work later.

    Like 1
  12. DLegeai

    Bought one of the very first ones in the Chicago area in 1971 after attending the Auto Show. Subaru had one hanging from the rafters at Mc Cormick with large signs that read: “a WHAT…?….a SUBARU!”. We were a young family of 4 and bought the station wagon version, 4 doors plus tail gate in 2 parts, like most US wagons of the era. We paid extra for the dealer installed AC which worked quite well even though it did slow the car down when turned on. Long story short…..we kept this car for 6 years, had minimal mechanical issues, but it rusted away to end up like metal lace. A great design though!

    Like 3
  13. Paul B

    @JoeNYWF64 I enjoyed your comments, but there were other front drive cars available in the US in 1971. Saab had been in the US since the mid-’50s and offered the 95, 96, Sonett and 99 in 1971. Honda offered its 600 front-drive two-cylinder model. Citroen offered the DS/DSpecial and SM models. Renault 16 debuted in the US in 1968 and was followed by the 15, 17, 12, 5 (LeCar) and 18, all of them FWD. Fiat brought in the 128 starting in 1971, and I owned one of them and a Honda 600, plus numerous Saab 96s. There may be other FWD cars I’m forgetting.
    It was a strange time in the US auto market, I will say that.

  14. angliagt angliagt Member

    Did Marc mention that they’ll be a 360 for sale at
    Quail Lodge auction next week?

    (Probably his car)

    Like 1
    • Marc Mendoza

      Might be better to rein in the cynicism…I’m in UK, not my car. Just thought it was a similar car, interesting how $900 for this one played against $30k for auction listing.

      Like 2
  15. Gary

    Dr Demento used to sometimes play a song on his program, “Making Love In A Subaru”. Anyone remember that? I always hum that song when I see an old one like this.

    Like 1
  16. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I’ve never seen a 1971 Subaru FF-1 before. I’ve seen pics of the car. And to be honest, at the time, I didn’t find the FF-1 as attractive as the later car, the Leone (Subaru 4wd sold here in the USA). However rare this car may be, I hope whoever buys it and enjoys it.

  17. Terrry

    I remember the Star, but not the FF-1. I also remember, Subaru offered a 4WD wagon in 1975 called the GL. It was the predecessor to the Outback and put Subaru on the car-making map.

  18. Frank Sumatra

    An early Subaru story with no mention of Malcolm Bricklin??!! Did I miss something? Didn’t he bring them to the US market?

  19. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this rare Subaru sold for $2,450!

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