Monday, April 12, 2010

Subaru 360

Subaru 360, 1958

The Subaru 360 was the first automobile mass produced by Fuji Heavy Industries' Subaru division. The 360 was produced from 1958 to 1971.

The 360 featured an air-cooled, 2-stroke 356 cc engine mounted transversely at the rear. The engine was designed with a capacity of less than 360 cc so that the Subaru 360 would qualify for Japan's keicar class. The body was of monocoque construction and featured a fiberglass roof panel, which was considered very advanced in 1958.

When introduced in 1958, the 360's engine turned out 16 hp and Subaru claimed 66 mpg fuel economy; by the end of production, power had increased to 25 hp with a 36 hp 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, 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 truck and van called the Sambar were also produced using the 360's engine. Many small businesses became very successful thanks to the pickup's small size for tight streets, quickness, ease to drive and great fuel economy.

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.

The Subaru 360 was replaced by the less popular but more advanced R-2 which was quickly superseded by the long-lived Subaru Rex model.


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