GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our Subaru 360 Van Film Shoot
It’s not a shrunken Type 2 VW, but rather an adorable little import built in Japan in an era long before Subaru started to earn its modern granola-crunching and power-sliding fanbase. Sun-soaked Arizona is an altogether alien terrain if you’re arriving from Japan, and as far as U.S. cities go, Greater Phoenix is not wanting for space—certainly not when compared to the tightly-packed streets of Japan’s metropolitan hubs—and a tiny van with an even smaller motor is no way to experience these wide-open desert highways if your version of the American Southwest requires a V8. But traversing the ramps and right angles around the city? This little UFO is quite handy indeed. The Subaru 360 Van is an efficient use of of space and it gets the kind of excellent mileage you’d expect from a barebones and mostly utilitarian machine, and yet its value lies more in its charm than its function.
After the war, the Subaru 360—which was built in a few variants alongside the Van—was the company’s first mass-produced vehicle. It’s historically relevant for anyone who’s a fan of the brand like Scott Coletti. Indeed, he’s owned and driven Subarus almost exclusively since he purchased his first back in college.
He’s got a few now (notice the Brat in the background), but the 360 is one of the more unique. It’s a driver’s car that involves you in a very different way than say a factory hot-rod from Porsche, but it still requires a good deal of preparation before you take it out into traffic. Sitting right on top of the front wheels, which are more golf-kart-sized than you’d expect to find on a car that can legally merge onto the freeway. Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit scary to be half-perched, half-wedged into the very front end of this pill-shaped box that looks like either end could be a viable place for the front seats.
You’ve surely heard of or experienced the pleasures of driving a slow car fast, and you know such fun is only amplified when the slow-poke in question is vintage and has three pedals. This Subaru looks pretty whimsical and novel from the outside, but get in it and get it up to speed (it might reach 60 if you’ve got a minute of space in front of you) and it can be a bit out-of-control feeling if you’re coming from a modern level of tolerance for things like road noise and the ability for gusts of wind to change lanes for you.
Revving up the 356cc engine sounds more like playing around with a leaf blower—it is a two-stroke after all—and it’s not even close to capable of reaching 100mph with the two cylinders working together to put out 25hp, but getting to top gear feels a lot like triple digits despite what it says on the gauge on the dash in between your knees.