Subaru’s First Automobile, the 360

Subaru introduced its first automobile in Japan in 1958, and it was called the Subaru 360. It was produced by Subaru’s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries and was nicknamed the ‘ladybug’. It would later be imported to the US in 1968.

The 360 came in four body types: a standard white sedan, the sport model, a van, and a pickup. It had an air-cooled, 2-stroke engine that displaced 356cc and was located at the rear of the car. It produced 16 horsepower and gave 66 mpg. It also featured had a monocoque frame and a fiberglass roof, which, by that era’s standards, were highly advanced.

At the time, Japanese manufacturers were working on producing a “people’s car” as encouraged by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Subaru and Fuji Heavy Industries answered with the Subaru 360 which was their version of a small, inexpensive, economical car that can fit four.

To fit that description, the engine was designed to have a capacity of less than 360cc. The engine originally boasted 16hp, but by the end of production it increased to 25hp. The ‘ladybug’ moniker was gained because of the unusual design and ladybug-like form of the car, which drew comparisons to the Volkswagen Beetle.


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