Car Lust Subaru 360

21 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Car Lust Subaru 360 отключены
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Subaru 360

Remember that but dorky (or is it dorky but cute?) subcompact with the air-cooled mounted in the rear? Didn t like much, slow and compared to the full -sized dreadnoughts and fire -breathing it shared the road with, but sold enough of them to get a in the US market. It proved to be the humble to something much bigger: the manufacturer is an established player well over a quarter vehicles in North America year—building a goodly number of in its ecologically friendly US trans-plant .

And no, I m not talking about Volkswagen and its Beetle. though there s a lot of between today s topic and the in appearance, engineering, and purpose.

The of today s lesson is the first car sold in the US, a car you might think of as the Beetle: the Subaru 360.

The 360, nicknamed the Ladybug in the market, was one of the first kei cars, in 1958. By North American even by Japanese kei car standards—the 360 was tiny. It was only 117.7 long overall—that is, shorter the wheelbase of a typical Detroit of 1958. It weighed in at a mere 900 making it lighter than an microcar.

It could nevertheless four people, as long as weren t too husky and/or and really liked sitting to each other. The prime was a 356cc two-cylinder two-stroke air affair, essentially a repurposed engine, producing a thunderous horsepower. Like the Beetle, the 360 had its mounted in the rear and driving the wheels through a three-speed transaxle.

Despite its minimalist nature, the was a relatively sophisticated design. It unibody construction with a fiberglass roof, and boasted a independent torsion bar suspension. the styling was unchanged over the production run, the engine was improved to 25 horsepower in base

From 1964 on, it was equipped the Subarumatic system, which fed the oil into the engine automatically an on-board reservoir so you didn t to fiddle with bottles of oil and cups every time you up.

On the outside, it bore a certain to the VW Beetle—or, rather, what the would have looked if it had been styled by the production from the Gamera film and then given a suicide conversion. Like the Beetle, the 360 was from the very start as an people s car for those who, up to time, had been unable to a car. Consequently, the price was low and there were very few

When the 360 first went on in 1958, customers could any color they wanted as as it was white.

As time went on, Subaru available other paint an optional semi-automatic transmission, and other body styles: a wagon. a convertible. and pickup and delivery van derivatives called the There was eventually a more sport version of the base dolled up with bright paint, a 36 HP twin-carb engine, -speed transmission, and tachometer. By several hundred thousand and Sambas were puttering around Tokyo and Sapporo and places, and the car would stay in until replaced in 1971 by the more sophisticated Rex .

That be the end of the story there, but for Malcom —yes, that Malcolm the man who would later give us the but ill-fated Bricklin SV-1. the Bertone X1/9. and the pathetic In 1968, he formed Subaru of and began importing the cheap and 360, which he introduced to the public with these TV starring lovely Subaru Grooviechik McBellbottom:


(By the that is the correct Japanese of Subaru, with the accent on the syllable. The accent on the first what you re used to hearing, is the (mis)pronounciation.)

That $1,297 tag (about $8,500 today, for inflation) put the 360 squarely into the Nano market segment. It was $400 (equivalent to $2,600 cheaper than the VW Beetle, its equivalent in the U.S. market, and or so ($4,500 today) cheaper a base-model Rambler American. the priced domestic compact on offer. How did they get the price so

The answer is simple: other the (relatively simple) re-engineering to move the steering wheel to the left, there were no costs. The sheetmetal and basic were unchanged from the original, the tooling had been for long ago, and there was no to do anything to federalize the Ladybug. it weighed in at less than pounds, the 360 was, as a matter of law in effect at the time, not technically an This meant that it was from federal automobile regulations requiring a bunch of the Japanese market 360 didn t side marker lights, a master brake cylinder, and

Social critics of North automobile culture often that the world would be a place if more of us were smaller city cars on trips, and point to things kei cars and Goggomobils and Smart as shining examples of what be. Problem is, cars like have only a limited on this continent. Except for a few areas, population densities are lower in North America in Europe or Japan; streets are and less crowded, and average distances are much longer. Americans are, on average, larger than European and people (insert social of fast food and childhood here) and don t fit into smaller as comfortably—and a smaller car that s a fit becomes progressively less in proportion to the length of the trip.

North American car buyers with some justification, smaller cars to be less than larger ones. was especially true of late-50s like the Isetta and Goggomobil and 360, which didn t enough sheetmetal fore and aft to for meaningful crumple zones.

For all of reasons, the Beetle and cars today s MINI, Fit, and Sonic are probably at the lower of size for a car hoping for anything than niche market on this continent—as the makers of the Fourtwo seem to be finding out the way. Still, on the surface at the cheap and ugly 360 certainly had a chance of becoming popular the counterculture crowd. the way the Beetle and the 2 Microbus already were.

It that is, until Consumer got hold of one.

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The review in the magazine s April, 1969 rated the 360 as not acceptable. CR savaged the car for its acceleration—0- 50 in 37.5 seconds, seconds in the quarter mile a 47 MPH trap speed! —poor handling at high speed, and fuel economy well of the claimed 66 MPG. They criticized the miserable ergonomics of the s position, the inadequate windshield the annoying tendency of the suicide to live up to their name by open at speed, the shockingly structural integrity, and bumpers were virtually useless anything more formidable a watermelon. The review did conclude on a note, however:

It was a pleasure to squirm out of the Subaru, the door, and walk away.

As you expect, sales of the 360 collapsed afterward.

Even if it had gotten positive reviews, the Ladybug was too for American roads to ever be than a novelty item or a car. Subaru and Malcolm had apparently already realized and weren t relying on the 360 as their product for the American market. In Subaru of America began the FF-series compact. giving it the name Star.

The Star/FF-1 was a car looked a lot more like the we re used to today. It was powered by a four-stroke flat-4 engine is the mechanical ancestor of today s prime movers. Riding on a wheelbase, it was far better suited to the road and the American driver.

It was FWD only, but in 1971, Subaru an order of FF-1 station for the Tohoku Electric Power equipped, at customer request, all-wheel drive. These set the pattern for Subaru s future You can think of them as the ur -Forester .

As for the while it was not really suited to American road and market usually shows up on the list one of the magazines or car blogs runs a cars of all time piece—it was enough to get Subaru started in the market. Given that now sells around a quarter vehicles in the U.S. every you could even say that the and ugly little Subaru got the laugh on Consumer Reports.

The 360 itself now something of a collector s a cheap and cheerful fair-weather toy. The Subaru 360 Drivers boasts a membership of nearly 500 and a thousand Ladybugs. Its stated is “to keep our favorite vehicles on the and running on both cylinders.” One at the club website is all you need to see these are Car Lust s kind of


—Cookie the Dog s Owner.

All came from the Subaru 360 Club website s collection of photos and the galery of vintage materials at Steve s Subaru 360 .

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