Our classic cars

Subaru 360 Van

Subaru 360Here is my second generation Subaru 360 Van, also known as the Sambar Van, which was based on Subaru’s first car the 360. The 360 was designed and built to meet Japan’s Kei Car specification, a category of small vehicles are designed to comply with Japanese government’s tax and insurance regulations. In certain rural areas of Japan, they are exempt from the requirement to certify that there is adequate parking for the vehicle. There are strict specifications for Kei Cars and at the time the Subaru 360 Van was built, the engine size could not exceed 360cc.

The second generation Subaru 360 Van appeared in 1966 and boasted a rear mounted air-cooled 2-stroke engine with a capacity of 356cc and just 25 horse power. The tiny van is less than 3 metres long and weighs just 535kg (1180lb). There are ‘suicide’ doors to the front, while the rear doors were conventionally mounted. The van runs on 10-inch tyres and the rear seat, which can accommodate two people, folds down for extra luggage space.

Subaru 360 02In the late 1960s, before there was a Subaru of America, Malcolm Bricklin began importing small numbers of the 360 into the United States. Three models were imported, the saloon, the rare van and the even more rare pick up. According to what I can find, there were less than 10,000 units imported into the US and there is a rumour that some were dumped into the ocean. The 360 was lambasted by Consumer Reports magazine who labelled it as “unacceptable” and this almost ended Subaru before it took off in the States. It took a long time to climb back into good graces, but even today, Subaru is a very small car company in the US, still not reaching the 500,000 annual sales mark… ever. Toyota sold around 410,000 Camrys in 2013 while Subaru sold just around that for all of its lines.

I acquired my Subaru 360 Van in August 2013, so she’s relatively new to me.

Subaru 360It might get up to 60 mph, but not without scaring the bejesus out of the driver and it needs a very long runway! It’s a fun car to drive, but safety was not a major concern when this wan was built like it is today. This van has about 33,000 miles on the clock. I’m still restoring it inside and out, now that I have it mechanically sound.