Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why Small Is Better: 1969 Subaru 360

As an automotive enthusiast ages, he/she tends to go through a maturing process in their tastes. No longer consumed with the need for speed, the mature enthusiast's mind opens to the endless possibilities of vehicles available. Patiently accepting of flawed design or inception. Recognizing purity and intent of purpose. Honestly realizing that their collector vehicles will see limited, if any, street use- and that if they do that the fuel bill will not be prohibitive. And affirming one can have enjoyment in a rare collector car without exceeding the value of their home.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the Subaru 360.

Like the Volkswagen Beetle to the Germans, or the Fiat 500 to the Italians, this was Japan's "car for the masses". As such, it enjoys the widespread admiration reserved for cultural icons. Essentially a cribbed design from the little rear-engine Fiat, the 360 is interesting in it's use of a two stroke motor which produced a meager 25hp.

While a hit in its homeland, a relatively small (10,000) number of units made it to America. While here they suffered the same lack of dealer support and general disdain that seems almost quaint and endearing in the age of 5 year/50,000 mile warranties. Some of the tales are legendary: unsold units being pushed off ships at the port to form artificial reefs, etc. At the peak of the misery, one dealer offered 6 brand new cars (together!)- for $2000- the same asking price for the example shown here.

At at top speed of 60 mph, the little Subaru still has enough git-up-n-go to cart you around your gated community. It features so many of those weird, derivative styling cues that seem to hallmark early Japanese car production. And you could probably show up at your local Subaru club ice race and be welcomed like an exalted emperor.

But lets face it, the best thing about Microcars is that you can have a lot of them. Normal garage limitations do not apply here...park them sideways, upways, anyways...you can always squeeze one more into the collection. And at this cheap entry price, it won't squeeze you.

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