You owe the WRX STI to this car: the 360.
Subaru didn’t always make ultra high performance blue rally machines that capture the dreams of whoever sees them powersliding over dirt. This Car of the Week was genesis for them.
It’s 1958 and Japan is doing everything they can to get back on their feet, but this is difficult when you haven’t got a way to move. Most of the Japanese population could simply not afford a new car so the government planned to produce a small car for the masses in the likeness of the VW Beetle and the Isetta, the first of which was the Subaru 360.
Unlike most of the recent Cars of the Week, this wasn’t obscure in any way. More than 390,000 were sold in its run from 1958 to 1971, and while it never had such thing as a presence in North America, it more than made up for it in native Japan.
Since it was designed to be affordable to the masses, it goes without saying that it was a very simple car. The engine itself was a 2 cylinder 2-stroke and produced a simply incredible 16 hp. As time progressed, the engine got bigger and bigger until the last ones had a 420 cc engine with 36 hp. Top speed was 60 mph. It also came in a number of variants.
Apart from the estate model there was a pickup, a convertible and a sport version. Needless to say, it worked, and it was the only people’s car for the Japanese up to 1961, when it was joined by the Mitsubishi 360. All of the above makes it worthy of being the Car of the Week.
It also marked the birth of the company which gave us this:
Photo Credits (Numbered from top to bottom):
Photo 1: Yasuhiko Ito / CC BY 2.0
Photo 2: Wikimedia Commons
Photo 3: Rex Gray / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Frog 4, the green Subaru 360 convertible pictured above now resides near L.A., CA. and was purchased from my friend Ralph of Long Beach, Ca. after he passed away. This is the first Subaru 360 I have owned in 20 years. Previously owned 5 sedans and 2 vans.