Subaru 360 : 1958

The first automobile mass produced by Subaru.
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MSRP Engine HP Manufactured
n/a 2-stroke 356 cc 16.0 1958 - 1971
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The Subaru 360 was the first automobile mass produced by Fuji Heavy Industries' Subaru division. The 360 was produced from 1958 to 1971.

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

The 360 featured an air-cooled, 2-stroke 356 cc engine mounted transversely at the rear. While this was one of the more notable cars which adopted an arrangement similar to the Volkswagen Beetle, the car is much smaller, less powerful, and was not nearly as well accepted in the world marketplace. The body size and the engine capacity were designed to match within Japan's keicar regulation of the time, and was the very first of its class to have 4 seats for adults with no excuse. The body was of monocoque construction and featured a fiberglass roof panel, which was considered very advanced in 1958. Those ideas came from the engineers know-how in Nakajima Aircraft Company, which is the origin of Fuji Heavy Industries.

When introduced in 1958, the 360's engine turned out 16 hp (12 kW) and Subaru claimed 66 mpg fuel economy; by the end of production, power had increased to 25 hp (19 kW) with a 36 hp (27 kW) twin-carbureted engine as an option.

Several variants were produced, including a station wagon (called the Custom), a convertible, and two sport models known as the Young S, which had a slightly upgraded engine and transmission (4 gears instead of 3), bucket seats and a tachometer along with a black, white striped roof with a dent along the middle to put one's surfboard. The Young SS, which had dual carburetors and chrome bores, produced 36 hp (27 kW). From 1961 onwards, a flat-nosed truck and van called the Sambar were also produced using the 360's engine, with arrangements similar to the Volkswagen Transporter in a smaller size. Many small businesses became very successful thanks to the pickup's small size for tight streets, quickness, ease to drive and great fuel economy. In the United States, these were used in parks, such as in Washington State Parks, and as small vehicles used in large manufacturing sites.

The 360 was imported to the United States by Malcolm Bricklin, but the Subaru 360 received notoriety in 1969, when Consumer Reports magazine branded the automobile "Not Acceptable" (because of safety concerns and lack of power), and sales collapsed. There were various rumors of Subaru 360s being tossed overboard or being shredded to pieces. It was also reported that many 360s sat on dealers' lots for two or three years without ever being purchased. Despite this, Subaru gained popularity in the United States with its later models, and remains profitable there today.

The Subaru 360 was replaced by the less popular but more advanced R-2 which was quickly superseded by the long-lived Subaru Rex model.

(images: Subaru. text source: Wikipedia)

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

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1958 Subaru 360. (source: Subaru)

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Promotional piece to find dealers to sell the new Subaru 360 in the USA. Malcolm Bricklin was the man behind this project, later the builder of the Bricklin car in Canada and importer of the Yugo. (source: John Lloyd)

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