One of my holy obligations as a Jalopnik writer is to make readers aware of quirky cars for sale at low asking prices. Think of me as an automotive match-maker—arguably one who will introduce you to a car that will ruin your life, but hey, it’s a free service. You don’t get to complain. Anyway, let’s talk about this Subaru 360 for sale in Minnesota.
The 360 is the car that started it all. It was a quirky, unibody, rear-engine, air-cooled, rear-wheel drive econobox from Japan that eccentric entrepreneur/hardware store giant Malcolm Bricklin decided to import and sell in the U.S. in the late 1960s. It was the start of Subaru’s existence in the U.S., and it wasn’t exactly a great start. The car, with a 356cc air-cooled twin-cylinder engine and a curb weight of under 1,000 pounds (this weight exempted it from passing NHTSA safety standards), was dirt cheap, but it also was apparently not very good.
That was according to Consumer Reports, who called the microcar “not acceptable” in a review, which you can (and should!) read in full here. To get an idea of how much Consumer Reports detested the tiny, new, underpowered economy car from Japan, here are some quotes from that review:
The car’s tiny engine simply cannot accelerate the car fast enough to keep up wit today’s faster-moving traffic, judging by our tests. From a standing start, the Subaru took an agonizing 37.5 seconds to reach 50 mph. A 1968 Volkswagen Beetle got to 50 mph in 14.5 seconds; our 1969 Rambler, in 11.5 seconds. Worse still, the Subaru ate up almost half a minute in accelerating from 30 mph to 50 mph. That’s a lot of time to spend on the wrong side of a two-lane road, should one ever try to pass another car.
The story goes on to discuss the downsides of the car’s rear swing-axle design:
The Subaru’s emergency handling was even scarier. If one had to make a sudden steering correction at top speed (at about 55 mph) to avoid an accident, the result would very likely be an accident. Under such circumstances the car’s outside rear wheel tucked under as the car’s rear end hiked up, causing sudden violent oversteer. The front wheels lost their cornering bite almost simultaneously.
Keep reading the story, and you’ll see negative comments about the vehicle’s braking performance, you’ll learn about the machine’s defroster that was “only capable of defogging a small triangular patch of condensate from the interior of the windshield,” you’ll see talk of bad safety performance in crash tests, you’ll be told that the $400 More Expensive VW Beetle offers a better value, and then you’ll learn that Consumer Reports got absolutely burned by the vehicle’s suicide doors while driving.
Again, read that story, because it’s great. Brutal, but great.
The story definitely didn’t help Bricklin sell cars, because the businessman ended up with thousands of 360s sitting on lots—cars that he tried selling via a wacky scheme called FastTrack. The idea was for Bricklin to sell franchises that offered folks the opportunity to race modified 360s on race tracks around America. It was an absurd idea, but possibly also brilliant. The jury remains out on that.
Anyway, there’s a decent example of the “Cheap and Ugly,” Subaru for sale in Minnesota for $2,200, which seems like a deal and a half, though I have to say I’m using the term “decent” quite liberally.
The body has a bit of rust, but it looks workable (though the undercarriage is a big mystery). The interior looks to be all there. And the powertrain is apparently complete, though the motor is seized. But who knows, maybe a bit of Marvel Mystery Oil will take care of that? Probably not, but I bet you could source some new engine jugs and pistons for dirt cheap. After all, that 356cc engine found its way into quite a few vehicles.
Honestly, if it were me, I’d try to snag this 1970 360 for $1,500, do a bit of tinkering to get it driving, and just whip around this “Not Acceptable” egg-shaped car as-is. Even though it’s a bit rough around the edges, it’s still tiny, it’s still cute, and you know it’d still be a hell of a lot of fun to drive with that mini engine and that floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission.
Let me know which one of you decides to buy this car, and please send footage of it back on the road, bringing joy to the world. Also, let me know what happens when you take a “Not acceptable” car that has aged 50 years and corroded onto a highway. Surely it doesn’t reach the next category down from “Not acceptable,” right? What would that category even be?