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The Subaru 360 turns 60. It was the first model that manufactured the Japanese company and, despite its humility, was decisive for national reconstruction after the contest. It stopped being manufactured in 1971 but still very present in the memory of the country … and collectors.
After the end of World War II the Japanese motor industry sought by all means to hit a good acceleration, aware that transport would be one of the fundamental pillars for the reconstruction of the country.
With this objective, the union of five important shipowners materialized, which eventually formed the consortium known as Fuji Heavy industries LTD of Japan and one of its most outstanding results was the creation of the subsidiary car manufacturer Subaru, founded in 1953 . The meaning of the word "Subaru" in Japanese is "The Pleiades", a five-star constellation that logically refers to those five founding companies of the consortium.
In 1958 the first passenger model by Subaru saw the light . It was the 360 that was presented in three different variants: two-door sedan and convertible and three-door wagon and the three had in common their small dimensions. A tiny utility-like toy that took its name from the 356 cc . that marked the fiscal limitation that his engineering had and that it would change forever the way people understand the displacements of the Japanese population.
The vehicle was on sale from that 1958 until 1971 and was the germ of another emblematic model for the brand: the Subaru Sumo, also known as Combi, Libero or Domingo. It had a 1.0 or 1.2 3-cylinder engine, with optional 4-wheel drive.
In 1961, starting from the engine of the 360, the brand launched a pickup and a van that had a huge acceptance among the merchants, since it guaranteed them speed transporting a considerable load and circulating through narrow streets with reduced fuel consumption.
This was the inside of the Subaru 360 © Subaru
Contemplating this toy car today causes a smile of tenderness, since it is impossible to compare it with one of the cars currently manufactured by Subaru but, as they recognize from the brand, "without it we would not have reached the point where we are today. It was our first time, our first dream and our first road trip. There would be many more, and much better. But you know, to be big, you first have to be small! "
The Subaru 360 turns 60 © Subaru
Let us put ourselves in a situation to understand how the Subaru 360 responded to the needs of the moment: after the Second World War, the Japanese only had a budget to buy a motorcycle but could not face the purchase of a large utility. For that reason, and with the intention of motorizing the population, the Japanese government created a vehicle tax category known as Kei Car.
Among other regulations, these cars were exempt from the need for a certificate to park and, therefore, in addition to being used to travel comfortably through the city, they also served to speed up the mobility of local businesses. Hence its size and engine characteristics.
The Subaru 360 remained the favorite of the Japanese, becoming known as the "village car" © Subaru
Its weight was around 550 kg. and it had a 3-speed manual transmission, reaching 95 km / h, although to reach 80 km / h. It took about 37 seconds. It was manufactured with a monocoque body (now it is usual, but at that time few models had it ) and an exclusive propulsion train.
An air-cooled, two-cylinder, two-stroke engine was placed in the back. To put that engine into operation, it was necessary for the oil to be premixed with gas, so engineers and designers had to give creativity to the matter. In the early years, the fuel tank lid also served as a measuring cup and was maintained until 1964, when Subaru invented the S ubarumatic lubrication system, which provided automatic mixing.
Memory will never say goodbye to Subaru 360 © Subaru
In addition to the original 360 model, new designs were incorporated into the range such as a Subaru 360 convertible and 2 sports models: the Subaru Young S, with a slightly improved EK32 F engine compared to the Subaru 360, 4 gears, bucket seats and a roof With black and white striped design. and the Subaru Young SS, which had the improvements of the Subaru Young S, but the EK32 S engine had chrome cylinders and double-body carburetor Mikuni Solex that reached 100 horsepower of braking power per liter.
In any case, it was the Subaru 360 that would remain as the favorite of the Japanese, becoming known as the "town car". Its size, functionality and accessibility made it one of the most popular cars, as the figures show, since in total, between 1958 and 1971, 392, 000 units were marketed, getting to export very successfully to the US. UU ., Where 10, 000 units were sold and today is a highly priced model among collectors.
To get an idea of its great popular draft, the Subaru 360 appears in racing video games such as Gran Turismo or Auto Modellista, as well as in Japanese anime series such as Pokemon or GetBackers . So it becomes a sexagenarian turned into an iconic model for its simplicity, its functionality and its design that, in today's eyes, is so irresistibly retro. Happy Anniversary!