The competition has never been harder for a Best in Show award at JCCS. We did the perhaps obvious thing by giving the JNC award to a Datsun 510, but the JCCS judges collectively gave the coveted Best in Show award to Jay Ataka’s fully restored 1969 Subaru 360. It was with good reason, too.
This is almost certainly the finest Subaru 360 restoration in the world. It was flawless. It was possibly even better than when it left Subaru’s Ota plant 50 years ago. The question you might be asking, however, is “Why?”
If you know Jay you know he has been a regular in the vintage Japanese car scene. As a former appraiser of the types of Ferraris and other exotic iron you might find at Monterey, Jay knows how fastidious owners can be.
So as he started his own company reproducing unobtainable car parts for classic Japanese cars, called JDM Car Parts, he took great pains to replicate them in exacting fashion. Jay’s 240Z is already well known among Z circles, but he has since expanded his business to make parts for various Nissans, Toyotas, Mazdas, and now the Subaru 360.
There were many parts parts that Jay created for this car. They would be tremendously expensive for a one-off resto, since the cost of the molds can be in the tens of thousands, but through his company he is able to spread the cost around by making the reproductions for sale to other restorers.
So why the 360? The models Jay’s company creates parts for make a lot of sense — Zs, Skylines, Celicas, Honda S-Series, and more. Those are highly desirable performance models with dwindling factory support. The Subaru 360 isn’t a sports car, but it is still beloved in Japan.
It was the first best-selling kei car, and as such was the first car for many Japanese families. It was the car that put Japan on wheels, and was so popular that its production run lasted 12 years, from 1958-70. There are many clubs in Japan devoted to the tentoumushi, or ladybug, as the 360 is nicknamed.
Jay’s Subaru 360 also had an amazing presentation, with a model train encircling the car while Showa Era Japanese music played from a stereo. The train, of course, was carrying model 360s as well. Incidentally, the wheel cover i one of the many reproduction parts Jay made for the 360.
A picnic set with vintage Coca-Cola bottles helped evoke the 1960s part of the display. The rest of the cabin was absolutely stunning. The Subaru 360 was built to a price point (they sold in the US for $1,297) and did not wear well, but every surface of Jay’s 360 looked brand new.
If memory serves us correctly, this is the first time a Subaru has won Best in Show of JCCS, but the win was much deserved. Jay’s might have been the first Subaru 360 restored to a concours standard, but thanks to him it won’t be the last.
To be continued…
We will have more 2017 JCCS coverage coming up but in the meantime, in case you missed it, here’s Part 01 — JDM Goodness, Part 02 — Race Cars, Part 03 — Stock as a Rock, Part 04 — Shakotan Sleds, Part 05 — 80s and 90s, Part 06 — Datsun 510s, and Part 07 — Trucks, as well as a JCCS Spotlight feature.