Subaru’s first automobile, the incredibly efficient Subaru 360’s aerodynamic lines garnered it the nickname “Ladybug.” With its 1,000 pound curb weight, swing axle rear suspension, rear hinged doors, and fiberglass roof panel, the Subaru 360 represented one of the most progressive automotive design of its day. It was one of Japan's most popular cars, available in two-door, station wagon, "convertible" and sport model variations. 10,000 were sold in the United States utilizing a most unique advertising campaign. The attempt at counter-psychology is as legendary as the car. “Cheap and Ugly” was the tagline in a series of commercials that are available on the Internet even today.
This Subaru 360 has undergone an extensive restoration by a Conneticut Subaru dealership. After the restoration, it looked so good, it spent 10 years as a display car at the same dealership. It is in excellent condition and one would be hard pressed to find another as well maintained.
The Subaru 360 is a rear-engined, two-door city car manufactured and marketed from 1958 to 1971 by Fuji Heavy Industries’ Subaru division. Although production reached 392,000 over its twelve year model run, only 6,000 were sold in the United States with US emissions standards. Designed as part of the Japanese government’s light car regulations (Kei car), the idea was to assist post WWII Japanese civilians in becoming motorized.
The Subaru 360 featured an air-cooled, 2-stroke inline 2-cylinder 356 cubic centimeter rear mounted engine. Initially, oil needed to be pre-mixed with gas and the fuel tank lid served as a measuring cup. By 1964, the "Subarumatic" lubrication system provided automatic mixing through an under-hood reservoir. Subaru designed the 360 to be as efficient as possible.
“While driving it may appear to be flying like a ladybug, but its gas mileage will not sting like a bee.”
Its floor mounted controls included a manual choke, heater controls, and fuel cutoff valve which used a gravity fed fuel system, eleviating the need for a fuel pump. The 360 is an amazing little car, achieving 66 mpg with an incredible acceleration rate of 0-50 mph in 37 seconds.
Initially, the 360 featured a full metal dashboard and three-speed manual gearbox. Subsequent models featured a partially padded dash with an open glove compartment, pop-out rear quarter windows, split front bench seat, map pockets, a four-speed manual and optional three-speed-based 'Autoclutch' transmission that eliminated the clutch pedal. Engineers at the former Nakajima Aircraft Company (the predecessor to Fuji Heavy Industries) decided to give the 360 its "suicide doors" which are hinged at the rear.
When originally imported in 1968, this beauty sold for approximately $1,300. After slow sales,one dealer offered a bulk sale of six for $2,000. Today they are considered collectibles and are affectionately referred to as Ladybugs and typically sell to enthusiasts for $10,000-$15,000. Often compared to Volkswagens, some believe the market mirrors demand for the Beetle. If so, this Subaru 360, one of the finest 360 specimens available, will appreciate greatly in price.
This Ladybug, with its rear hinged doors, smooth, aerodynamic lines and incredible fuel mileage is certain to turn heads as it floats down the lane. It will make a nice addition to any collection.